What is methamphetamine (meth)?
Methamphetamine is a strong stimulant drug with high abuse potential. In fact, meth belongs to the amphetamine class of drugs with limited medical purposes; it appears in white, yellow or orange round tablets. People often use meth for recreational purposes and to fuel drug addiction.
Methamphetamine is a synthetic substance. Both illegal and legal methamphetamine are produced in laboratories. Illegal ‘rolling’ labs that clandestinely produce meth are an environmental problem because synthesis produces large amounts of toxic waste that can harm human life. Illegally produced methamphetamine appears in several forms, such as pills, capsules, powders and crystalline chunks. Solid chunks of methamphetamine appear as a whitish crystalline substance.
There are several ways to administer methamphetamine. Methamphetamine tablets prescribed for medical reasons are taken by mouth. Abusers using meth by mouth may mix it with other liquids, or wrap it in a small piece of tissue paper for swallowing (called parachuting). They also take it by other routes such as injecting its liquid form into a vein, snorting the powder, or putting it inside the rectum.
The main effect of meth is profound alertness. Methamphetamine is a potent stimulant of the central nervous system. Unlike other drugs that are denied entry to the central nervous system via the blood-brain barrier, meth readily enters the brain, where it activates noradrenergic neurons. This results in stimulation of the nervous system. Methamphetamine also activates the parts of the brain responsible for sensation of satiety, causing appetite suppression.
Meth is abused mainly to achieve euphoric effects. When injected or vaporized (smoked), methamphetamine immediately induces an intense and extremely pleasurable sensation (termed a ‘rush’ or ‘flush’). Swallowing or snorting methamphetamine produces euphoria (termed as ‘high’) after which users typically experience agitation that may lead to violent behavior. However, adverse effects of meth can include:
- increased blood pressure
- increased heart rate
- reduced appetite
Methamphetamines can also help obese individuals start reducing caloric intake, since it temporarily reduces your appetite. Therefore, doctors prescribe methamphetamine (or more precisely, methamphetamine salts) to treat ADHD and for temporary management of obesity. Doctors only prescribe methamphetamine after performing complete evaluation to the patient, and they calibrate doses regularly.
Is meth addictive?
Yes. Meth is highly addictive. Its potent action and long duration of effects attract users. When taking meth becomes habitual, loss of control often follows. Once a person gets “hooked” on meth, it can be very difficult to quit and long-term meth addiction treatment is required. The main signs of addiction to meth include:
- continued use of meth despite negative consequences to health, home, or work
- extreme cravings, compulsion, or obsessive thinking about meth
- loss of control of meth use: using more meth than intended, or in greater frequency than intended
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