According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), approximately 1.6 million people reported using methamphetamine within the past year, and 774,000 people reported using it within the last month.
Methamphetamine, commonly known as meth, is known to be a particularly dangerous drug. Part of this is because it can rapidly release high levels of dopamine in the reward areas of the brain, strongly reinforcing drug-taking behavior and making the user want to repeat the experience.
But what is dopamine really—and why does it matter if meth impacts the “reward system” in our brains, anyway?
Dopamine is one of the “feel good” chemical in our brains. In the normal brain, dopamine is naturally produced and released into the brain by what is known as a neuron. The dopamine then finds its way to its receptor.
It helps to think of it like that child’s game with the three shaped holes and pegs, the square, circle, and triangle pegs will ultimately find their way into the right open spot. Once they match up, it is a perfect fit.
The same can be said for dopamine and its dopamine receptor. Once the dopamine has linked up with its receptor, a protein comes along and removes it from the receptor. Think of this as removing the pegs and putting them away to use another time.
When using drugs such as meth, the whole process can get all out of order. This can cause the dopamine to stay connected to its receptor longer. And when the pegs don’t get reset and removed then dopamine starts to flood the brain. This causes an amplified signal, also known as euphoria or a high. This can lead us to want to use again and again.
This means that getting the right care, including medically-supervised detox is critical. But, what is meth and where did it even come from?
What Is Methamphetamine?
Let’s start with some basic facts. Methamphetamine, or meth, is a drug that is a very powerful stimulant. Stimulants are also known as “uppers” because they “up” the energy levels of those using them. When someone is on stimulants you may notice that they seem manic, frantic, or wound up.
In general, meth can come in a variety of different forms that can then be taken in a variety of ways. In powdered form, it can be consumed in capsules or dissolved in water and injected intravenously. Another form, known as “crystal” meth, will resemble pale blue shards of glass and is typically smoked out of a glass pipe. Smoking meth is particularly common because it can lead to a faster, more intense high, but it also increases the likelihood of addiction because of how it directly affects the brain.
Scientifically speaking, methamphetamine is chemically similar to amphetamines which are currently and historically used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as well as narcolepsy, which can be characterized by excessive sleep. Some forms of methamphetamine are actually still currently used medically, like the drug Desoxyn®.
Meth is an entirely synthetic, or man-made stimulant. Interestingly, methamphetamine can actually trace its roots to the ephedra plant, despite not being directly related to the plant at all. This is because meth was originally created to be an alternative to the plant entirely, unlike cocaine, which came originally from a plant and was synthesized into a man-made drug later. In recent years, meth is most often made within “labs”. This type of concept was made more widely known and recognized from its frequent reference and visualization during the hit TV show Breaking Bad.
But, if it didn’t come a plant and you need a lab to even create it—where did it come from and how did it get so popular?
Where Did it Come From?
History says that amphetamine (not meth but its sister chemical we just talked about above) was first created in the late 1800s in Germany. Methamphetamine hit the scene in Japan shortly after in the 1900s.
It was trialed as a medication in the form of an inhaler by a pharmaceutical company in the 1930s within the U.S. to treat asthma and breathing conditions. It was quickly found that it had some additional properties.
Doctors at the time found that since meth was so soluble in water (meaning that it readily dissolves) it was a perfect drug for injection into the bloodstream. This led to its widespread use during World War II. Within Japan, there were a lot of trials related to meth use and there was widespread availability of it after the war.
Within the U.S., however, it became kick-started in our culture in the 1950s when it was touted to be a diet aid. At the time it was also still considered a non-medical stimulant, so use spread pretty rapidly. But, by the 1970s, the government stepped in and made it illegal for most uses.
In the 1990s, California became a hub for drug trafficking-related to meth, and lab seizures were especially common. All of this history leads us to the present day when meth is pretty widely available and like we saw above, commonly used in the western U.S., like California. It shouldn’t be a surprise that this also aligns with increased addiction rates.
What Is Meth Addiction?
Meth is an incredibly powerful drug with profound effects on the brain and body. Because of this, there are some telltale signs of meth addiction to look out for. Symptoms of meth addiction can range from minor to life-threatening but it is important to be aware of them.
These symptoms include:
- Loss of Interest— often career goals, relationships, sports, and hobbies may all become second priority to obtaining and using meth
- Increased attention or activity and decreased fatigue, also known as wakefulness
- Decreased appetite
Medically, addiction to methamphetamine can lead to some short-term and long-term side effects. The short-term effects include:
- Increased respiration
- Rapid/irregular heartbeat
On the other hand, the long-term effects of methamphetamine use and addiction are:
- Psychosis, including:
- Repetitive motor activity
- Changes in brain structure and function
- Deficits in thinking and motor skills
- Increased distractibility and memory loss
- Aggressive or violent behavior
- Mood disturbances
- Severe dental problems
- Weight loss
How Do You Know?
So, how do you know when someone you know is displaying the signs of methamphetamine addiction?
Some people will notice a loved one is using meth from the signs and symptoms discussed above. Others, however, rely on things like change of appearance, evidence of drug use, and behavioral changes.
A lot of people have heard of stigmas and slurs related to meth mouth, and for some this noticeable change in appearance is clear. For others, they find drugs and what is known as drug paraphernalia at their loved one's house or in their room. Of course, like we said above, some changes are behavioral and can be noticed that way.
Regardless of how you recognize the issue, the important thing is to seek help. Since meth is a strong and highly addictive stimulant, it is critical that care is given in the right setting and that detox is made a priority during early treatment.
What Is Meth Detox?
Detox is the process of removing toxins from the body, while meth detox is the method of removing meth from your body. This is important and sometimes can be uncomfortable. Since withdrawal from substances is a very real possibility during early recovery, it can be vital that detox is medically supervised during these phases.
While recreational and occasional users can experience a “crash” that lasts a few days when meth leaves their system, people who are deep in the throes of addiction can experience symptoms that can last several weeks. Acute meth withdrawal may cause a person to experience depressive and psychotic symptoms for up to a week, while meth cravings may persist for up to five weeks.
Some other meth withdrawal symptoms include:
- Increased appetite
- Anxiety or depression and an inability to feel pleasure (anhedonia)
- Anger and aggression or irritability
- Fatigue and lethargy
- Muscle weakness
- Inability to concentrate
- Suicidal ideation
Some of these symptoms can lead to continued use, which is why detox treatment usually begins with a screening and a medical evaluation by a trained and professional medical team.
Based on these evaluations and some discussions, usually a prescription for an appropriate type of detox medication is written. This part of why it is known as “medical detox” versus “social detox” which focuses on the therapy without medication or medical intervention. This type of supervision is critical, as a mismanaged detox process can be life-threatening for severe addictions. We are also proud to offer educational resources to help individuals on the path towards long-term recovery.
Pathways Recovery’s Approach to Meth Detox
Many of us are prone to wonder: “what does detox look like” and “what can I expect”, and whether you are seeking treatment for yourself or a loved one, this is a totally natural response.
In fact, this is a question we get asked all the time here at Pathways Recovery, so we’ll answer by walking you through our own process. The process usually takes seven days. If a case is severe enough, the process may take longer.
So, we provide a home-like environment where our clients undergo medically-supervised cocaine detox. In our specialized and comfortable environment, each client is closely monitored to ensure their safety during the detox process. At Pathways Recovery, we know that detox can be hard and unpleasant enough, which is why we pride ourselves on a home-like feel that makes you feel comfortable and at ease during the detox process.
Detox symptoms are managed by medication that is prescribed by one of our licensed medical providers when you receive care at Pathways. We then supervise and monitor the response to the medication. Alongside our detox treatment medications, our clients are provided with vitamin and mineral supplements, amino acids, and highly nutritious meals during their stay to lessen the drug and alcohol withdrawal symptoms and to restore the body’s balance.
Still Have Questions? Check Out Our FAQ’s
How long does meth stay in your system?
In general, meth is able to make its way through the body fairly quickly. It has a half-life of 9 to 24 hours. This means that half of the meth that was taken into the system is gone or used (known as metabolized) by the system within 9 to 24 hours. That being said, meth is detectable via urine drug screen for up to at least 72 hours after the last dose.
How long does meth last?
The effects of meth typically last from 8-24 hours at a time. The length of time that it remains in the body is determined by the health of the organs that are dedicated to removing substances from the body, like the kidneys.
Who invented meth?
Meth is not usually particularly attributed to a single person but it did make its entrance onto a world stage from Japan during World War II as a way for soldiers to stay awake for long periods of time. There are also some reports of Japanese kamikaze pilots using methamphetamine before their flights.
It’s Time to Seek Care
To find out more how we can help call our drug and alcohol addiction center anytime 24/7 at 916-735-8377 for a confidential consultation.
We can verify insurance coverage and benefit information in about an hour and can get the process of admission to our addiction treatment center started quickly.
When you need an addiction treatment center that provides high-quality care quickly, give us a call. It would be our pleasure to assist you.