Meth: Dangerous Unpredictability
Methamphetamine (meth or crystal meth) is powerfully addictive and severely affects the central nervous system. Made in illicit labs from readily available ingredients, meth use is spreading rapidly across the U.S. Meth is highly addictive psychologically during binge and high-intensity crystal meth use, and one of the greatest dangers of crystal meth abuse is the dangerously unpredictable, irrational, violence it can produce.
Methamphetamine is a white, odorless, bitter-tasting crystalline powder. It can easily dissolve in liquid such as water or alcohol. Meth can be snorted, smoked, injected or swallowed to get the user high. Methamphetamine is also called meth, speed, ice, crystal, crank, glass, or chalk. Crystal meth usually refers to the form of meth that is smoked and is one of the most common terms used to refer to methamphetamine.
Originally Developed from Amphetamine
Meth was originally developed early in this century from amphetamine for use in nasal decongestants and bronchial inhalers. Methamphetamine’s chemical structure is similar to that of amphetamine, but its effects on the central nervous system are more exaggerated.
In its pharmaceutical form, meth is prescribed for obesity, narcolepsy and attention deficit disorder on rare occasion. In this case, a medical professional must closely monitor the prescriptions, which are not refillable.
In the 1960s and 1970s, meth abuse was associated with white, male, blue-collar workers in San Diego. But today’s crystal meth users include women and other social groups and ethnicities across the country, in rural and urban areas.
Rapid Tolerance and Other Effects of Methamphetamine
Like amphetamine, methamphetamine causes increased activity, suppressed appetite, and a sense of well-being. Crystal meth stimulates the release of dopamine, activating the brain’s pleasure center, as most illicit drugs do.
Chasing this pleasurable feeling often prompts users to stay awake for days, even weeks, centering their lives around getting more crystal meth and smoking or snorting it.
Meth users develop an instant tolerance to the drug, constantly needing more and more crystal meth to get high as the body adapts to its effects.
Three Patterns of Methamphetamine Use
Methamphetamine abuse has three typical patterns that users fall into: low intensity, binge, and high intensity. Crystal meth users can progress from one level of use to the next as tolerance and addiction to meth develop.
Low-Intensity Abuse of Methamphetamine
Low-intensity meth abusers are not yet psychologically addicted but use methamphetamine casually. They seek extra stimulation, in the way that caffeine or nicotine is sometimes used to stay awake, gain more energy, or suppress the appetite.
Meth users in this category include those who seem to function normally, holding jobs and raising families. A busy mother may take meth to keep up with overwhelming demands from job, family and household. Truck drivers may resort to meth to stay awake while driving. Other people may use meth to aid in losing weight.
Low-intensity meth users usually swallow or snort it. Meth abusers in this stage are only one step from binge use – if they should smoke or inject crystal meth, they will be drawn in by the euphoric rush that they have not experienced in their low-intensity use pattern.
Binge Abuse of Methamphetamine
Crystal meth users who binge on methamphetamine are psychologically addicted to its euphoric rushes. Binge and high-intensity crystal meth abusers prefer to smoke or inject methamphetamine for a faster, stronger high.
There are 7 stages in the cycle of crystal meth bingeing:
1. Initial Rush from Smoking or Injecting Crystal Meth
After smoking or injecting methamphetamine, crystal meth users experience increased heartbeat, metabolism, and blood pressure. The adrenal gland releases adrenaline and the pleasure center of the brain releases dopamine explosively, which may produce pleasurable feelings that surpass those of multiple orgasms. A crystal meth rush can last from 5 to 30 minutes.
2. The Crystal Meth High, or Shoulder
The crystal meth high lasts 4 to 16 hours. Meth often makes a user feel more intelligent and confident, and they may become more aggressive and argumentative than usual. They may interrupt others and finish their sentences for them.
3. The Crystal Meth Binge
As the end of the meth high approaches, the user seeks to continue the high by smoking or injecting more methamphetamine. However, the euphoric rush is diminished each time after the initial dose, as tolerance is experienced immediately.
A binge meth user will continue to use crystal meth over a 3 to 15 day period, seeking the pleasure of the original high, until no rush or high is experienced. Throughout the crystal meth binge, users become mentally and physically hyperactive, avoiding sleep. A crystal meth user may comment that they never sleep, although they may force themselves to take short naps if they feel the need to try to keep up normal appearances.
4. Crystal Meth Tweaking
Toward the end of the crystal meth binge, the meth user experiences a crash with feelings of sadness and emptiness. Nothing seems to take the feeling away, even more crystal meth, resulting in extreme frustration and irritability. This state is called “tweaking”. While tweaking, crystal meth users may take alcohol or heroin, to relieve the dismal feelings.
Signs of Meth Tweaking
One of the dangerous characteristics of methamphetamine tweaking is that the user may appear normal, with clear eyes, concise speech, and brisk movements. However, looking more closely reveals that the crystal meth tweaker’s eyes are moving about 10 times faster than normal and may roll back. The tweaker’s voice is steady but quick and slightly quivering. Movements are quick and exaggerated. Thoughts are scattered and paranoid.
Dangers of Crystal Meth Tweaking
A crystal meth abuser who is tweaking can pose a serious danger to those around him or her, especially to police officers, who are perceived as a threat by the tweaker. Meth tweaking can produce extremely unpredictable, violent behavior. Confrontation increases the chances of a violent reaction, but even the sight of a police uniform can cause an agitated response. Crystal meth tweaking can produce hallucinations and paranoia, altering perception as if the crystal meth user is in a different world. The actions and words of those around the tweaker are subject to his or her altered reality. If the tweaker feels significantly threatened, they may take a hostage and physically assault the hostage, in extreme situations.
Crystal Meth Tweaking and Alcohol
The dangers posed by a crystal meth tweaker are intensified with alcohol. Inhibitions are diminished and a tweaker becomes unconcerned about consequences of their actions. Reasoning with the tweaker is less effective. Identifying a tweaker becomes much more difficult, too. The effects of the crystal meth and alcohol counter each other, so the user’s actions and speech slow down but do not become as impaired as under the influence of alcohol alone, appearing almost normal. A meth tweaker who is on alcohol can sometimes be identified by odd eye movements – jerking their eyes back and forth, looking out of the corners of the eyes. If you smell alcohol but the person doesn’t seem to be drunk, be careful.
Methamphetamine Tweaking – Dangerous Situations
Reports show that domestic violence associated with methamphetamine use is on the rise. A tweaker’s unpredictability makes domestic disputes even more hazardous for responding law enforcement. Paranoia and hallucinations from meth tweaking can contribute to traffic violations and accidents. Crystal meth users may drive fast and carry a weapon to evade perceived threats and protect themselves. Tweakers can also be found at raves or parties. Crystal meth users may commit impulsive crimes to support their habit, including purse snatching, strong-arm robberies, assaults with a weapon, burglaries, and motor vehicle theft.
5. The Crystal Meth Crash
A crystal meth binge user eventually crashes when their body’s supply of epinephrine is depleted. They require immense amounts of sleep to replenish the body, often over 1 to 3 days. The crystal meth user becomes almost lifeless, and the threat to those around the crystal meth user is over.
6. Return to Normal
After crashing and replenishing the body, a crystal meth user returns to normal. However, the user’s condition will be somewhat deteriorated from that before using methamphetamine. As frequency of binging increases, the length the crystal meth user appears normal decreases, shortening the cycle of crystal meth use. The normal phase can decrease from 14 days to 2 days.
7. Withdrawal from Crystal Meth
Withdrawal from methamphetamine often sneaks up on a crystal meth user – 1 to 3 months may pass after using meth before withdrawal symptoms are recognized. There are no acute, immediate symptoms of physical distress. However, the crystal meth user in withdrawal will slowly become depressed and unable to feel pleasure, lacking energy. Craving for methamphetamine can hit suddenly, and combined with the feelings of depression may lead to suicide.
Methamphetamine Addiction and High-Intensity Use
Withdrawal symptoms end as soon as crystal meth is used again, making it extremely difficult to break the cycle of meth use. Methamphetamine produces an extremely strong addiction. The success rate for traditional methods of methamphetamine rehabilitation is very low – only 7% escape the methamphetamine abuse cycle.
Those who continue to use crystal meth become high-intensity abusers, or speed freaks, pursuing the rush they felt the first time they smoked or injected crystal meth. Instead of finding it, they experience less euphoria with each rush, using more and more crystal meth. Each high is successively diminished, with more frequent binges on more methamphetamine.
Drug Treatment for Methamphetamine Addiction
Transitions Recovery drug treatment center offers hope for those suffering from crystal meth addiction and withdrawal, combining leading medical assistance with cognitive-behavioral therapy by licensed counselors to treat meth and crystal meth addiction and its harmful consequences.
Our professional drug treatment center staff is experienced in helping youth and people of all ages recover from drug and alcohol abuse. We provide a compassionate, supportive environment in our North Miami Beach, Florida, drug treatment center.
We work individually with patients suffering from methamphetamine addiction as well as in group sessions and a Family Program, after crystal meth detoxification. Emphasis on recovery from methamphetamine addiction and maintained sobriety helps prepare the patient for gradual re-entry into society.
Admissions can be accepted 7 days a week. Trained addiction professionals conduct individual assessments that address each individual’s treatment needs. You’ll find our crystal meth treatment programs offer access to a continuum of care that provides the intensity of therapy appropriate throughout each stage of methamphetamine recovery, from extended residential care to lifetime aftercare services. The individual program incorporates leading forms of therapy that have proven effective in addressing underlying causes of drug use, dual diagnosis, and issues with family, employers, school and the legal system.
Methamphetamine treatment does not need to be voluntary. Often, a family member, employer, or the court system can be the motivating factor for an individual receiving drug treatment for meth.
If you think that you or a loved one may be addicted to methamphetamine, please contact us right away. We’re here to help. Call us at 1 (800) 298-1783 or request more information.