The invention of methamphetamines (also called “meth,” “crystal meth,” “ice” or “speed”) followed the original creation of amphetamines in Germany in 1887. Methamphetamines are a class of very strong stimulants that was originally marketed as a stronger, cheaper version of amphetamines. This crystalline substance is water-soluble, easily injected, and it use skyrocketed after WWII. In the 1950’s and 1960’s, methamphetamines spread into the world of diet supplements (for losing weight) and athletics (for improved performance). Teenagers and partiers began using the drug to keep awake through the night, and its original medicinal use turned into massive abuse. In the 1970’s, methamphetamines were outlawed as a Class A drug after having become one of the most popular and dangerous drugs in America.
Prevalence of Methamphetamine Addiction
Recent law enforcement tactics of targeting the substances used to create methamphetamines have been successful in slowing its popularity. It’s still quite popular, however, as reports indicate about 400,000 regular users in the United States today. Similarly, usage among adolescents and other new users has declined over recent years and Emergency Rooms are reporting less methamphetamine-related visits. While this is a good start, methamphetamine is still among the most common illicit drugs, behind cocaine, marijuana, and heroin.
Methamphetamine addiction has been successfully narrowed down, in terms of demographics, on a statistically significant scale. Meth addiction can hit just about anybody from any walk of life, but there are some commonalities in typical users. The first profile tends to be high school or college students and/or college athletes. The second profile includes white, blue-collar workers or people in their 20’s and 30’s who are unemployed. The most prevalent age groups for meth abuse are 18-23-year-olds, who make up 35% of all methamphetamine use in the United States.
Outward Symptoms/Signs of Methamphetamine Addiction
Methamphetamine is one of the most powerful stimulants on the market. While it can be smoked, injected, or inhaled, its effects are essentially instantaneous. Symptoms of methamphetamine use include:
Addicts are also prone to other, more dangerous symptoms after using for significant periods of time. Violence, extreme paranoia, and irrational thinking processes are hallmarks of long-term meth addiction. They may also suffer seizures or heart issues which can onset rapidly, including heart attacks.
How do people use methamphetamine?
People can take methamphetamine by:
Typical Cost of Methamphetamine Addiction
As with most illicit street drugs, the cost of methamphetamines can vary greatly. Generally speaking, one hit of methamphetamine will cost roughly $25 but can rise as high as $80. As an addict develops a tolerance to methamphetamines, they will need increasing doses to satisfy their craving, and the cost will skyrocket, as a result.
While the street price for methamphetamines is relatively high, meth addicts are extremely prone to suffering greater costs in the form of legal problems and health issues. Methamphetamine is a profoundly mind-altering chemical, which impairs the judgment centers of the brain, leading even ordinary people to commit gross acts of crime and violence.
Methamphetamine users very often become poor students, unfit for gainful employment. Their unpredictability, their aggression, and their paranoia all combine to render them useless in a classroom or job setting. As a result, they frequently turn to property crime, e.g. breaking and entering. The purpose of these endeavors is typically to fund their addiction. Additionally, methamphetamine produces highly irrational thinking. As a result, methamphetamine addicts frequently engage in violent crime unrelated to funding their habit. Both of these crimes carry heavy legal consequences and can destroy the lives of an addicted teenager.
Effect of Methamphetamine Addiction
Methamphetamine is a fast-acting stimulant with a wide-range of immediate side effects. Firstly, methamphetamine is an appetite suppressant, which can lead to sudden, dangerous weight loss. As a result, methamphetamine use is popular among those with eating disorders – a deadly combination.
The short-term psychoactive elements of the drug can quickly tear apart a person’s interpersonal life. Paranoia and irrational obsessions often leave addicts isolated and terrified of the world around them.
The longer a person uses methamphetamines, the worse these symptoms become. Long-term users frequently suffer complete breaks with reality, owing to extreme paranoia, hallucinations, and delusions. Even after long periods of abstinence, these psychotic symptoms may re-surface during stressful situations.
Methamphetamines cause severe brain damage, especially after protracted use. The drug affects motor speed, verbal learning, emotion and memory centers of the brain. This can lead to chronic emotional and cognitive disorders in chronic users which persist long after the drug is gone.
Methamphetamines are also well-known for their detrimental impact on dental hygiene. This is so common, in fact, that it is colloquially referred to as “meth mouth” in some recovery circles. Addicts typically suffer a combination of poor dental hygiene, dry mouth, and teeth grinding. They also tend to pick and scratch at their skin during psychotic episodes, leaving their face and arms permanently scarred.
Permanence/Relapse from Methamphetamine Addiction
Methamphetamine has one of the highest relapse rates of any of the illicit drugs on the market. Stimulant addictions like methamphetamine and cocaine are notoriously hard to escape. Methamphetamine addicts are often deeply immersed into the culture of the drug world and, in order to escape, they usually have to re-arrange their entire lives, from social circles to changing where they live or hang out.
Arguably the biggest challenge to recovering from meth addiction is the way in which methamphetamines re-arrange the brain chemistry. Acute withdrawal effects from methamphetamine can last as long as six months after last using. Some lingering effects can persist for years. Since withdrawal symptoms are a very common relapse trigger for addicts, this simply creates a much larger window in a methamphetamine addict’s recovery where they are particularly vulnerable and susceptible to relapse.
Detox for Methamphetamine Addiction
Methamphetamine has a mild to moderate withdrawal phase. Detox symptoms will begin within a few hours of the last dose and persist for up to two weeks. Most symptoms of methamphetamine withdrawal are mood-related and not particularly dangerous. Unlike benzodiazepines or alcohol, for instance, withdrawal from meth is very rarely, if ever, fatal.
Users most commonly experience the following withdrawal symptoms:
While the withdrawal is relatively mild, one must always watch for any possible complications. As with most addictive drugs, there is a significant tendency for the addict to succumb to cravings and return to the drug before they have fully detoxed. For this reason, it is often recommended that the detox procedure is supervised and completed in a dedicated medical facility10.
A medically managed detox for methamphetamine is typically simple: muscle relaxants and benzodiazepines for tension and/or anxiety. They may also receive intravenous fluids and electrolyte repletion to reverse the dehydrating effects of the addiction. Finally, they are often prescribed medication in order to help with insomnia.
Physical and Mental Difficulty of Recovery
Most recovering meth addicts report their greatest challenge to be recovering from its long-lasting side effects. Even after weeks or months of abstinence, addicts may still experience withdrawal symptoms or other persistent mental issues. For this reason, methamphetamine recovery is a particularly long process.
Successful meth recovery usually requires an entire re-ordering of an addict’s life. Having been deeply embedded in the meth world, they will usually need to create an entirely new social life, find new environments, and learn to live in an entirely different way. This alone takes time. When compounded by persistent health and mental issues, the process is undeniably a difficult and lengthy one.
As with many other addictions, there are dozens of support groups which are available and effective. Most of these incorporate elements of therapy, spirituality, and community and can range from 12-step programs to religious groups, all with the same aim.
Teen Challenge Adventure Ranch is a certified addiction treatment center for teenage boys that deals with methamphetamine addiction recovery. If your son is struggling with addiction issues, he needs professional help to ensure permanent recovery. This program employs experienced and well-educated therapists and counselors to make sure that his drug addiction is a thing of the past. Drug addiction has turned your son into a shell of his former self. You don’t even recognize your own child and, at times, you might even be frightened of him. These experiences are all perfectly normal. It’s important to understand that, as terrifying and all-consuming as addiction might be, there is a solution. There is a way out.
Teen Challenge Adventure Ranch has a complete course of addiction treatment, including an extensive Aftercare Program to protect against relapse. Call 888-289-6818 today – swift action can prevent your teenager’s addiction from spiraling further out of control.
“Teen Challenge gives our kids something to live for – a relationship with God, a healthy self-esteem, and a direction in their lives that finally leads somewhere.”
Former Attorney General
“Teen Challenge changes the world one person at a time.”
Founder, Prison Fellowship
“The Teen Challenge program succeeds when all of the government programs have failed.”
“Too many young [people] have already lost their lives. Teen Challenge works to change young people’s lives by changing their hearts.”
“In my opinion, Teen Challenge is doing the best all-around job of providing the kids with something meaningful in their lives. And that’s what they all need.”
Former US Drug Czar
“Of all the programs reported to the Commission, the most successful is the program conducted by Teen Challenge.”
Past Director, AT&T Corporation
“Teen Challenge is one of the most successful programs in our country.”
Darren Reynolds, MA, is a tireless innovator and team-builder. He has worked with troubled youth for nearly 30 years. He became the Executive Director of Teen Challenge Adventure Ranch in 1996. He holds a Master’s Degree in Counseling.