Addictive substances may be defined as either an “upper” or a “downer.” Most drugs of abuse fall into one of these two categories. These terms refer to the mental, physical, and emotional reactions a user experiences while under the influence of a specific substance. Uppers are stimulants that increase energy, generate feelings of invincibility, and sharpen focus, while downers act as depressants that impair motor skills, produce lethargy, and relieve discomfort. 

While uppers and downers generate opposing side effects, each can equally harm the user. Complications associated with uppers include rapid heart rate, aggression, and high blood pressure, whereas downers contribute to breathing suppression, low blood pressure, and impairment of motor skills. 

In this article, we will discuss all the things you should know about methamphetamine, including is it’s an upper or a downer, how it’s made, the addictiveness, and the side effects of meth use. 

Is Meth an Upper or a Downer? 

Methamphetamine, commonly referred to as meth, is a highly addictive stimulant, classifying it as an upper. Due to its energizing properties, meth was a popular diet aid and antidepressant in the 1950s. By 1970, The U.S. Government ruled the drug illegal, citing its destructive and addictive nature. Since being criminalized, illegal production and drug trafficking remain solely responsible for the availability of meth today. Today, methamphetamine is among the top 5 most addictive illicit drugs in the world. According to the CDC, an estimated 1.6 million U.S. adults reported past-year methamphetamine use.

When methamphetamine is ingested, it manipulates brain chemistry and activity. With prolonged use, irreversible damage can be inflicted on the brain and central nervous system. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, methamphetamine use alters the brain’s dopamine regulation, which is associated with reduced coordination and impaired verbal learning, resulting in an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, a disorder of the nerves that affects movement, among users. Despite efforts to control its production, the dangerous consequences of meth production persist, impacting both those directly involved and the broader community. 

man holding up a meth pipe

How is Meth Made? 

Meth is primarily synthesized in covert meth labs, often involving collaboration between transnational criminal groups and individuals. These labs use ephedrine and pseudoephedrine from over-the-counter cold and weight-loss medications to create the drug. The manufacturing process involves combining these ingredients with other volatile substances, transforming them into a solvent like gasoline. Due to the absence of quality control measures and regulatory oversight, the resulting meth may lack purity and be mixed with various agents.

The production of meth presents severe hazards, with a significant risk of fires and explosions within meth labs. Additionally, the residual waste generated is unstable and prone to combustion. According to the U.S. Forest Service, producing a pound of meth generates between six and 11 pounds of toxic waste. While the 2005 Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act (CMEA) curtailed domestic meth production by restricting access to key ingredients, large-scale production has shifted to Mexico, leading to a surge in meth overdose deaths in the U.S. Despite the decline of major meth mills in the country, smaller “shake and bake” or “mom and pop” meth labs have emerged.

Unlike other addictive substances, there is no approved medication for treating methamphetamine addiction or methamphetamine overdose. Some side effects of methamphetamine abuse are irreversible, and the withdrawal process is typically unaided. A recent increase in methamphetamine overdose fatalities illustrates the real danger of this stimulant. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, approximately 15% of all drug overdose deaths involved methamphetamine in recent years.

How Addictive is Meth? 

Methamphetamine is one of the most addictive drugs in the world. It is so addictive that methamphetamine addiction can occur after just one use. The flood of dopamine during meth use is responsible for the rush users feel, and the sensation is hard to stop wanting to repeat. Many individuals become addicted to meth due to the way it boosts performance, increases feelings of satisfaction, and energizes. 

Before long-term damage is visible, many people have already become addicted. When a person uses meth more often, the euphoric feelings associated with the high become less frequent, leading them to consume larger amounts. A tolerance to methamphetamine is growing throughout this period, in addition to the body’s ability to tolerate bigger and bigger amounts of the chemicals.  

man sitting down smoking meth

Side Effects of Meth Abuse

Methamphetamine abuse inflicts many devastating side effects on both physical and mental health. These effects stem from the drug’s powerful stimulant properties, which lead to alterations in the central nervous system and brain. Some of the most common side effects of meth abuse include: 

  • Increased Focus
  • Agitation
  • Decreased appetite
  • Sense of invincibility
  • Weight loss
  • Rapid heartbeat 
  • Increased strength and stamina
  • Facial scars or ‘picking’ scars 
  • Tooth decay 

Dangers of Prolonged Meth Use

Meth changes the brain immediately after a user gets high. This alteration does not end with the high, however. Over time, meth usage may alter the structure and function of the brain, resulting in cognitive function issues. These issues can also cause various mental health conditions to arise. These dangers may include:

  • Impulse control problems
  • Difficulties concentrating 
  • Problems with daily functioning 
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Anger issues
  • Psychosis

If you or a loved one are experiencing any of these signs or symptoms, it’s essential to get them checked out by a healthcare professional right away.

physical signs of meth use graphic

Physical Signs of Prolonged Meth Use

Prolonged methamphetamine use leaves a distinct and concerning trail of physical signs that reflect the drug’s toll on the body. These signs serve as a reminder of the deeply destructive nature of meth abuse, highlighting both the immediate effects and the lasting impact on an individual’s physical appearance and overall health.

  • Meth Sores: Meth sores are a well-known symptom of meth addiction. They are very visible skin ulcers that develop on the hands, arms, and legs, particularly in the face and mouth. This is one of the most obvious signs of meth addiction. Meth addicts may develop sores if they use meth frequently, but they do not occur if they use meth once, twice, or rarely. It is also possible to develop meth sores if you use meth frequently over a long period of time. 
  • “Meth Mouth”: Meth users often suffer from tooth decay and gum disease, which results in teeth falling out or breaking. Meth teeth are blackened, stained, rotten, crumbling, and falling apart. Frequently, teeth cannot be saved and must be removed. This most likely happens because of drug-induced psychological or physiological changes causing dry mouth and poor oral hygiene for long periods of time. 

Can Meth Addiction be Cured?

There is no quick fix for meth abuse or addiction, but substance use disorders can be dealt with using physical and psychological strategies. The best approach for combatting meth addiction would be to start with medically supervised detox, then transition to inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment, or a partial hospitalization program. An aftercare program or relapse prevention support group can then follow this. 

The most productive meth addiction treatment programs include medical detox, cognitive therapies, and coping skills training. The individual can develop coping abilities to avoid relapse by recognizing cravings early on and identifying situations that might put them at risk. By recognizing cravings early and identifying situations that might put them at risk, the individual can develop effective coping strategies for managing their addiction. 

Knoxville Recovery Center Can Help 

As an upper, methamphetamine addiction is very dangerous to the user if left untreated. Fortunately, help is available for those battling this addiction. Depending on the stage of an individual’s addiction, they may require detox, an intensive treatment program, or both. Fortunately, Knoxville Recovery Center offers various services to those struggling with this addiction. 

Services offered: 

  • Medical Detox: Our on-site detox clinic accommodates and supports clients as the body sheds all residual traces of meth. Clients are under medical supervision during the detox process to ensure that they remain safe and comfortable. 
  • Addiction Treatment:  During our addiction treatment program, clients will engage in introductory therapies and exercises that work to prepare them for continued, more intensive treatment outside of our facility. The goal of our addiction treatment track is to stabilize clients so that they are treatment-ready. 
  • Mental Health Treatment: Our mental health treatment program introduces behavioral therapies rooted in self-expression and holistic exercise. Art therapy, music therapy, and yoga are just a few forms of therapy we offer at the center. We aim to help clients reclaim their voices and expose them to treatment within a professional facility. 
  • Aftercare Planning: Aftercare is designed for individuals who have benefitted from our introductory addiction services and are transitioning into a more intensive addiction treatment program. Once a client is stabilized, they will be encouraged to pursue continued addiction treatment. Our experienced case managers will then work with our clients to place them in a program that addresses their specific wants and needs. 

Addiction is difficult to overcome alone. If you feel that you or a loved one is struggling with meth abuse, our specialists are on standby and ready to help. Call Knoxville Recovery Center and speak with an addiction expert today.

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