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How Crystal Meth Abuse Impacts Mental Health

Crystal Meth Abuse

15 Feb How Crystal Meth Abuse Impacts Mental Health

Crystal Meth Abuse Impacts Mental Health

Few illegal drugs have a reputation for being as malignant or as dangerous as crystal meth, or crystal methamphetamine. Known as ‘ice’ or ‘glass’, crystal meth induces euphoria as the brain is flooded with dopamine and noradrenaline – neurochemicals responsible for feelings of wellbeing and pleasure. However, in a vicious catch 22, repeated crystal meth abuse – whether smoked, snorted, swallowed, or injected – depletes those same neurochemicals in the brain and can even destroy the dopamine receptor sites, meaning users can only feel normal when they have ice in their system. It also means relapse is common among users in drug abuse recovery.

Use of crystal meth promotes ego inflation and a sense of invincibility, as well as triggering a surge of energy that dissipates relatively quickly. With repeated use, as the body stops making its own dopamine, users in withdrawal feel anxious and confused, experience mood swings, and have a decreased appetite and need for sleep. Over time, crystal meth abuse and insomnia make users vulnerable to paranoia and psychosis. This is a potentially violent cocktail when combined with the increased assertiveness characteristic of crystal meth that can spiral into a rage.

Crystal meth highs can last up to 12 hours and repeated bingeing on the drug can keep a user awake for days. One user’s description of the intense craving for the drug is typical: “Everything in the end just revolved around how I was going to get ice, how I was going to use it and then how I was going to find the ways and means to get more.” That all-consuming craving can often lead to crime to feed the addiction.

A national problem

Much of the crystal meth found in the United States is manufactured in Mexican ‘superlabs’ and other home laboratories using common cold medications that contain pseudoephedrine and ephedrine. Scarily, however, the drug may also be laced with other chemicals such as fertilizer, ammonia, and drain cleaner. Though in its purer form, crystal meth has no odor or color, ‘fillers’ can give the drug a yellow or brown appearance.

According to the US Department of Justice’s 2017 National Drug Threat Assessment, 897,000 people 12 and over currently use meth, nearly 6000 died as a result of an overdose in 2015, and the rate of crystal meth abuse-related deaths rose 225 percent between 2005 and 2015.

Meth and addiction

People suffering from long-term addiction to crystal meth exhibit a range of conditions that inform the popular imagination about crystal meth abuse. These include so-called ‘meth mouth’ (extreme dental problems), ‘crank bugs’ (users scratch at their skin to alleviate the sensation of bugs under their skin), and dramatic weight loss and malnutrition that seem to age the person prematurely.

The link between mental health and drugs is well established. Because of its serious impact on the normal functioning of the brain, meth users who have not sought drug abuse help are found to have a higher incidence of brain damage, often linked to schizophrenia. People addicted to crystal meth frequently meet the criteria for a dual diagnosis of both addiction and mental health issues. Many exhibit symptoms of psychotic, mood and anxiety disorders. The matter of whether or not a user was predisposed to mental illness before the onset of crystal meth abuse is debatable with no consensus among researchers.

Meth and treatment

Due to the stigmatizing and stereotyping of crystal meth users in the advanced stage of the addiction, there is a danger that some users may not seek drug abuse help earlier. The relapse rate among people in crystal meth recovery is high – especially in the beginning stages – necessitating a comprehensive detox and residential rehabilitation program. While women tend to use the drug at a younger age, men often combine crystal meth with other drugs and alcohol, adversely complicating treatment. ViewPoint Rehabilitation Center offers additional support and close supervision during the crucial early stages of crystal meth recovery. Despite the reputation of crystal meth, successful rehabilitation is possible with commitment, reinforcement, and high-level ongoing support.

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