Methamphetamine is an illegal drug that is highly addictive and has many names, including speed, meth, tweak, uppers or black beauties. The drug is taken in pill form, or snorted or injected in powdered form. Crystallized methamphetamine, a more powerful form of the drug, is smoked. Methamphetamine causes an immediate feeling of increased activity or a “rush” along with decreased appetite.
Many teens and adults become interested in methamphetamine because they want to get high or a burst of energy to get them through life. When the drug starts to wear off, however, abusers face two options:
- Suffer through what can be a three-day bottoming-out period of irritability, listlessness, and headaches.
- Take another dose and risk the beginning of addiction.
Addiction sets in quickly because of the way the drug is taken. Most methamphetamine users either smoke or inject the stimulant; both methods of ingestion rapidly bring on euphoria (extreme happiness). Addiction is closely tied to how quickly a user feels a drug’s effect.
The euphoria is followed by up to 12 hours of overexcited energy. Everything speeds up. Users don’t need sleep. They talk a lot, they have plenty of energy, and they don’t need to eat.
While all of this is going on, methamphetamine coaxes the body to work harder. The heart pumps faster and the metabolism speeds up. The brain’s balance of sedation and activity breaks down. This speed-up can lead to heart failure or aneurysms. (An aneurysm is a balloon-like bulge in an artery that can grow large and burst or dissect. A broken aneurysm causes dangerous bleeding inside the body. A dissection is a split in one or more layers of the artery wall. The split causes bleeding into and along the layers of the artery wall.)
Methamphetamine remains in the body for a long time. People who are chronic methamphetamine abusers can suffer long-term health effects. In particular, areas of the brain that control speed of muscle movement, verbal learning, emotions and memory can be damaged. Some of the damage may be reversed if a person quits abusing the drug, but recovery can take years. Methamphetamine abuse also increases the risk for stroke, and this damage can be irreversible.