What is Meth? What Are The Stages of Abuse?
Methamphetamine, or meth for short, is a potent, highly-addictive stimulant. It is also commonly known as chalk, ice, and crystal, among other names.
Its form is typically that of a white, odorless, crystalline powder that is water soluble. Other colors have been observed, including brown, yellowish gray, orange and pink. Crystal meth is a form of methamphetamine that presents as clear chunky crystals resembling ice and is usually smoked.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, meth is a man-made substance that was developed in a lab in the early 20th century as a derivative of amphetamine.
It was initially used in nasal decongestants and bronchial inhalers. Its effects result in increased activity and talkativeness, decreased appetite, and euphoria for 6-8 hours, sometimes longer.
Meth is different, however, from amphetamine, because more of the drug per dose enters the brain, an effect that makes meth a more powerful stimulant. Its other effects also last longer and are more harmful to the central nervous system.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration classifies methamphetamine as a Schedule II drug, which means it is only available legally via non-refillable prescription. Medically, it may, in some cases be prescribed for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and rarely, weight loss in very low doses.
What is Meth Use?
Meth is often consumed by snorting, smoking, injecting (skin popping), and occasionally, oral intake.
Regardless of the method of administration, however, users may get hooked on the drug during the very early stages of use due to meth’s highly-concentrated effect.
Over time, consistent meth use can contribute to serious health conditions, such as memory loss, aggressive behavior, psychosis, and damage to the brain and heart.
Like many drugs, meth use can result in tolerance, meaning that more and more of the drug is required to achieve the same effect. When dependence occurs, the user experiences unpleasant side effects upon cessation, which in turn drives the person to use more meth.
Where is Meth Made?
Methamphetamine is most often made in clandestine labs, and cold medications are used as the basis of manufacture. The ingredients are extracted by the “cook, ” and the substances are mixed with other amphetamines and dangerous chemicals such as battery acid, drain cleaner, and antifreeze.
Because these chemicals are highly explosive, cooks are often burned when their chemistry sets explode. These events can endanger others nearby, and the labs themselves produce toxic waste that is poisonous and can cause illness.
The Stages of Meth Use
There are seven commonly recognized stages of methamphetamine use. They include the following:
The rush is the immediate response the user feels when meth is smoked or injected. At this time, the user’s heart rate, blood pressure, and metabolism increase. Whereas the rush of using coke only last for a few minutes, a meth rush can last for up to a half hour.
In the meth high, which follows the rush and is sometimes referred to as the “shoulder,” the user may sudden feel as if they are very smart and become argumentative, often rudely interrupting others. Users may become compulsive and hyper-focused on a particular item or behavior, such as cleaning for several hours at a time. The high can last for up to 16 hours.
A binge is defined as the uncontrolled use of a substance such as drugs or alcohol. It is essentially a manifestation of the user’s urge to maintain the high by using more of the substance. Binges may last from 3 days to two weeks.
During this period, the user becomes hyperactive, and each time he or she uses the drug, the rush experienced becomes shorter and shorter until it, along with the high, disappear altogether.
A meth user is most dangerous when he or she is in the tweaking stage. This period marks the end of a drug binge when meth use is no longer produces the rush or high. The user is unable to relieve the horrible side effects, including depression, cravings, and a loss of clear identity.
During this stage, intense itching is not unusual, and the user may believe that bugs are crawling under his or her skin. Still unable to sleep, the user may be in a psychotic state and see and hear things that aren’t there. If hallucinations become very vivid, a break from reality can occur, and the user may become hostile and dangerous to others.
The crash occurs when the user’s body becomes unable to deal with the effects of the drug that overwhelm it, and he or she will sleep for a long period, sometimes several days at a time.
Following the crash, the user is awake but still undernourished, dehydrated, and exhausted on every level. This stage can last for two weeks and reinforces the dependency (use more meth) in an effort to avoid this feeling.
What is Meth Withdrawal?
Withdrawal may take 30 days or more to occur and results in depression, lethargy, and a decreased ability to feel pleasure. Cravings for more meth can bring the user to suicidal ideations. This painful process often urges meth users to relapse, and many who receive standard addiction treatment may return to use.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology
https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/methamphetamine/what-methamphetamine What Is Meth Use?