Crystal meth is a form of the drug methamphetamine. Typically snorted, smoked, or injected, it produces a euphoric “high,” but it also has serious mental and physical health effects. While molecularly similar to cocaine, crystal meth lasts much longer and has a more dramatic health impact. According to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 4.7 percent of the population of the United States (over 12 million people) have tried methamphetamine. Read on to learn more about crystal meth and its ravaging effects on the body and brain.
What Is Crystal Meth Made From?
This drug is a processed form of the combination of chemicals known as methamphetamine, which is commonly cooked in underground, illegal “laboratories.” One of the primary ingredients is pseudoephedrine, which is found in many over-the-counter cold medicines. While methamphetamine is usually a white powder, crystal meth is clear, hard rocks that resemble crystals.
What Are the Drug’s Psychological Effects?
The high produced by crystal meth is caused by an overload of a chemical called dopamine. When meth is ingested, dopamine floods the areas of the brain that regulate pleasure, causing feelings of euphoria, confidence, and power. Many users become addicted to crystal meth almost immediately, and quickly build up a tolerance for the drug (meaning they must use more of it in order to get high). After addiction develops, physical and mental side effects will occur when use of the drug is discontinued.
With long-term use of methamphetamine, serious brain damage occurs. Users tend to experience anxiety, confusion, insomnia, mood swings, and violent behavior. Psychosis often develops, characterized by paranoia, hallucinations, and delusions. Experts have found that chronic crystal meth abuse causes permanent molecular changes in the brain, leading to memory loss and other cognitive loss of function comparable to those who have Alzheimer’s disease.
What Are the Physical Effects of Crystal Meth?
In the short term, crystal meth users experience increased physical activity, decreased appetite, increased respiration, rapid or irregular heart rate, high blood pressure, and elevated body temperature. Chronic users of this drug quickly develop serious physical side effects. Many appear to age rapidly, developing sores and sagging skin as well as rotting teeth and gums and extreme weight loss. They are also at risk for stroke, heart attack, and liver, kidney and lung damage. Crystal meth users have an elevated risk of contracting serious infectious diseases, including hepatitis and HIV (particularly if they inject the drug).
If you or a family member are addicted to methamphetamine, inpatient treatment is the most effective way to discontinue use and remain sober moving forward. Talk with your doctor, who can recommend a licensed treatment facility for you.