The Dangers of Injecting Meth – Methamphetamine (meth) is an addictive and potentially deadly drug that stimulates the central nervous system (CNS), causing an increase in brain activity, heart rate, and respiratory rate. Meth is used for its euphoric effect, ability to increase energy and attention, and suppress appetite.
However, meth use can also have severe and devastating consequences on a person’s physical and mental health, as well as the lives of those around him or her.
This drug can be administered in a number of ways – orally, or by snorting, smoking, or injecting. No method of use is safe, but some, especially injecting, pose more risks than others. Shooting meth can expedite the development of an addiction because of the immediacy and intensity with which intravenous effects are experienced.
In 2012, an estimated 1.2 million people were past-year meth users, and in 2011, more than 100,000 people visited an emergency department as a result of meth use. While the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), doesn’t include precise statistics on intravenous meth use, it does report that around 18% of amphetamine-type stimulant abusers inject the drug.
What Is Meth?
Meth, also referred to as Crystal, Ice, and Glass, is classified as a Schedule II drug by the Drug Enforcement Administration, meaning that it is considered to have limited legitimate pharmaceutical purposes. Indeed, most of the world’s supply of meth is illicitly produced.
Effects and Side Effects of Injecting Meth
Injecting meth causes the drug to reach the brain rapidly, resulting in an intense rush or feeling of euphoria. These effects, however, only lasts for a few minutes, and imminently, more of the drug is needed to continue the feelings of euphoria.
This is why meth is frequently used in a “binge-and-crash” pattern, the user repeatedly injecting over a brief period in an attempt to maintain the high. This behavior can last for several days and is also known as a “run.” Individuals may completely neglect necessary functions, such as sleeping and eating, in favor of using meth.
The intense high experienced by meth users is a product of the rapid release of dopamine in the brain. This neurotransmitter is involved in feelings of pleasure, motivation, and motor control, and reinforces drug-using behaviors due to the rush of euphoria it induces. Since meth users typically use the stimulant in a binge pattern, repeated exposure and the resulting release of dopamine leads to a profoundly depressive state when the binge ends.
In the early phases of the high, the user feels excited or elated, euphoric, and may experience a flurried thought process that results in rapid speech. The person may have an increased libido during this early stage, as well as impulsivity. Energy and alertness are elevated, and the person may also feel an increase in physical strength.
In the later phases of a meth high, the user may feel restless, nervous, and aggressive, and exhibit psychosis and paranoia. Cravings for meth are likely to manifest in the later phase, as well as depression and fatigue.
The Dangers of Injecting Meth
Injecting meth can result in a number of medical complications. These are related to both the stimulant abuse and the route of administration. Injuries/illnesses that may be caused by injecting meth include:
- Track lines/marks
- Puncture marks
- Collapsed veins
- Skin infections
Meth users also have an increased risk of contracting HIV, Hepatitis, and Tuberculosis. The risk of HIV infection is increased due to sharing unsterilized needles as well as engaging in risky sexual activity, which is not uncommon for those who use meth.
Over time, regular meth abuse can alter the user’s brain chemistry. Chronic and repeated use eventually results in tolerance, meaning the user requires ever-increasing amounts of the drug to experience the desired effects. The brain and body become accustomed to the continued presence of meth (dependence), and when the person discontinues use, he or she will most likely suffer from withdrawal symptoms.
Among the most problematic meth withdrawal symptoms are intense cravings to use the drug. In addition to cravings, there are several other symptoms associated with withdrawal from meth use. Although withdrawal syndrome isn’t usually life-threatening on its own, there is an increased risk of suicide for those going through withdrawals.
Other withdrawal symptoms may include:
- The inability to feel pleasure (dysphoria)
- Decreased heart rate
- Slowed movement
- Depression and fatigue
- Unpleasant dreams and insomnia
- Increased appetite
Once these withdrawal symptoms subside, cravings could continue for much longer due to the changes in brain chemistry created by prolonged meth use.
Meth has powerful effects on the brain’s dopaminergic system. As previously noted, using meth produces a surge of dopamine in the brain, which is associated with pleasurable feelings. Repeated use can have brain-damaging effects because the stimulant damages dopaminergic neurons, which results in reduced levels of the neurotransmitter in the brain.
Similarly, Parkinson’s disease is characterized by a deterioration of dopaminergic brain cells, a condition that is responsible for the symptoms of the disorder. Because chronic meth use results in reduced dopamine levels in the brain, a chronic meth user has an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.
Injecting Meth: Tweaking
“Tweaking” is a stage of meth use that occurs somewhere between 4-24 hours after a meth binge has ended. A meth binge occurs when the user takes repeated doses of the drug in order to sustain the high and can last anywhere as long as several days. Tweaking is characterized by disorganized thinking, paranoia, irritability, hypervigilance, and hallucinations, and occurs before a crash from meth.
Meth Treatment Options
Fortunately, there are treatment options available to those who are suffering from an addiction to meth – treatments that promote positive change and help individuals achieve sobriety.
Different types of recovery programs include the following:
Residential or Inpatient Treatment
Our inpatient programs provide a structured environment in which patients reside at the recovery center for the entirety of their treatment program. This is the best option for those experiencing a severe meth addiction because it offers an escape from the patient’s normal drug-using environment and allows the patient to focus their attention on recovery.
Intensive Outpatient treatment
For those who have a milder meth addiction, this type of recovery program provides you with the opportunity to attend outpatient treatment at a facility or hospital while living at home. It is beneficial for those who must continue working, attending school, or taking care of the family.
Although there are no FDA-approved medications for the treatment of methamphetamine addiction, other medications, such as antidepressants, may be prescribed to treat depression as a result of withdrawal or a co-occurring mental health problem.
Both inpatient and outpatient treatment includes cognitive-behavioral therapy, which has been shown to be one of the most effective approaches to addiction. During CBT, the therapists will help patients identify dysfunctional behaviors related to substance abuse and help to rectify them using several different strategies.
Our center employs caring medical and mental health staff who provide patients with the tools they need to successfully recover. Through the use of professional, evidence-based treatment, we can help you regain your life and wellness and be free from addiction to drugs and alcohol indefinitely! Call us as soon as possible!