What is Methamphetamine?
Methamphetamine or Ice is often created in make shift laboratories by people with no real chemical knowledge and this often results in an impure and toxic product. It is a refined, much stronger version of amphetamine and the main ingredient is ephedrine or pseudoephedrine.
This is found in many cough medications and governments have begun to restrict the availability of these. Chemicals are also extracted from things like brake cleaner, engine starter batteries, rubbing alcohol and fertilizer to make the drug. This drug can be smoked, injected or snorted.
In recent years Ice has become one of the most commonly abused illegal drugs causing more problems globally than any other. Its popularity is due to its availability, affordability and the extreme euphoric high experienced by users.
Ice releases approximately 1250 units of dopamine, a ‘feel good’ chemical neurotransmitter, into the brain compared to cocaine’s 400 units. When it is considered that about 200 units of dopamine are released naturally during sex it gives some idea of just what an extreme chemical reaction this is.
Methamphetamine is one of the most powerful and addictive drugs available. It is also one of the most dangerous, causing damage to brain neurons, which results in a rapid decline in the user’s ability to experience pleasure without it. After many years of abuse it has been known to cause irreversible harm to the way people feel pleasure from normal activities even after they are no longer using it.
Street Names for Methamphetamine
Different countries often use a wide range of slang terms for methamphetamine. In Indonesia and Asia people call it Shabu or shabu shabu while in Australia the substance is often referred to as Ice. Americans tend to prefer the term Crystal Meth or Meth.
Yaba is the only form which has a slightly different chemical structure as it mixes the methamphetamine with caffeine and usually comes in tablet form. This is found predominantly in Thailand.
- Crystal Meth
- Shabu shabu
History of Methamphetamine
Methamphetamine was first manufactured by the Japanese in 1919. This is a more powerful form of amphetamine which was first made in 1887. During World War II, Kamikaze pilots were given high doses of methamphetamine before their suicide missions.
The crystalline powder is soluble in water and easily injected. After the war Japanese military supplies were made available to the public instigating an epidemic of meth addiction. During the 1950’s and 1960’s methamphetamine was prescribed as a diet aid and to fight depression. It was also used by truckers, shift workers, students and athletes to fight fatigue.
Most countries had made this drug illegal by the 1970’s and distribution on the black market was rife because it was cheaper and longer lasting than cocaine. By the 1990’s in the USA, Europe, Australia and Asia large illegal industrial laboratories were set up for its production by different drug cartels and gangs as well as smaller ‘cook’ houses in private homes.
What are the Effects of Methamphetamine Addiction?
Taking methamphetamine makes the user feel very alert and energised as well as restless, paranoid, confused and potentially aggressive. Often it is compared to crack cocaine but the high lasts considerably longer depending on the purity of the drug and the individual’s tolerance.
Dependence on Ice can be both physical and psychological or both. People who are physically dependent increasingly have to increase the dose they are taking to combat the tolerance that their body develops.
People who are psychologically dependant increasingly find that taking this drug far outweighs the importance of any other activities in their lives. Most often the two types of dependence are combined and the cravings for methamphetamine can be intolerable.
Every addict’s path into addiction varies. This is a complex disease and has many underlying layers which coupled together with trauma, abuse, depression and anxiety make it difficult to diagnose and treat without effective residential addiction treatment.
- Premature aging.
- Increased heart rate and blood pressure
- Increased risk of stroke and heart problems (even a first time user can potentially suffer a heart attack or stroke)
- Lung problems including emphysema
- Liver and kidney damage
- Dental problems
- Elevated heart rate
- Damage to the lungs if smoked
- Seizures, strokes and the potential for irreversible brain damage
- Infectious diseases and abscesses if injected
- Changes in the brain chemistry – short term
- Changes in the structure and function of the brain – long term
- Neglecting personal hygiene
- Disturbed sleep
- Unhealthy eating habits/malnutrition
- Decreased cognitive function, problems with memory loss and decision making
- Lying to yourself/denial
- Apathy /Exhaustion
- Memory loss
- Mood Swings
- Potential increase in risky behaviour
- Financial problems
- Sexual problems
- Lack of interest in activities once enjoyed
- Lack of interest in work/school
- Lack of interest and ability in maintain relationships/friendships
- Damaged relationships with family members
- Lying to others
- Damaged self-esteem and self-worth
- Damaged relationship with self
- Lack of interest in life
- Inability to function without the drug
- Continued use despite negative consequences
The signs and symptoms of meth addiction get progressively worse over time and there will be no resolution until effective addiction treatment and aftercare are sought.
Withdrawal from Methamphetamine
Detoxing from Ice can be a challenging process because this drug is both physically and psychologically addictive.
Symptoms of Ice withdrawal can include:
- General aches and pains.
- Extreme fatigue and exhaustion
- Insomnia or Hypersomnia and frequent nightmares
- Extreme fatigue
- Severe depression
- Mood swings
- Inability to concentrate
The Two Stages of Withdrawal – Acute and Post-Acute
There are two stages of withdrawal process from methamphetamine addiction. The first stage has immediate acute symptoms and these are usually both physical and psychological. During stage two, former users experience post-acute withdrawal symptoms or PAWS.
These refer to a number of psychological symptoms which can last for weeks or months after the user has stopped taking the drug. This is one of many reasons why residential treatment is the most effective way to treat Ice addiction.
Post-acute withdrawal symptoms can include:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Lack of motivation
- Inability to feel pleasure
- Anger or emotional outbursts