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 is equally capable of harming 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. 

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 as well as other brain-reliant organs. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, methamphetamine use alters the brain’s dopamine regulation that 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.

Unlike other addictive substances, there is no approved medication for the treatment of 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 is Meth Made? 

Meth is typically produced in clandestine meth labs, a process in which transnational criminal organizations and individuals collaborate to produce the drug. In some locations, meth production has been regulated by law. This procedure utilizes ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, the drug’s primary ingredients, which are produced from over-the-counter cold medications and weight loss goods. 

Meth is produced by combining ephedrine or pseudoephedrine with other hazardous or combustible substances, after which they are turned into a solvent like gasoline. With no quality control system in place and no regulatory procedures, the meth produced is not guaranteed to be pure, so it could potentially be diluted with various agents. 

Meth labs are particularly dangerous, as there is a high risk of fire and explosion. Furthermore, the waste materials left behind are particularly unstable and combustible. According to the U.S. Forest Service, producing one pound of meth results in between six and 11 pounds of toxic waste. 

The 2005 Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act (CMEA) made it more difficult for domestic meth producers to employ key ingredients to produce large quantities of meth, resulting in a significant decrease in large-scale meth production. However, NIH researchers found that meth overdose deaths increased 180% between 2015 and 2019, and because meth is now being produced on a large-scale scale in Mexico with less difficulty in obtaining components, the U.S. is consuming this drug across the country in tragic amounts. Because large meth mills are no longer feasible in the U.S., production has increasingly moved to small, one-off production runs called “shake and bake” or “mom and pop” meth labs. 

Meth production can result in significant lung damage and other respiratory problems, as well as skin and eye damage caused by handling corrosive or poisonous chemicals. There are many harmful health effects associated with operating a meth lab. Inhaling fumes during meth production can cause significant lung damage and other respiratory problems, as well as damage to the skin and eyes caused by handling corrosive or poisonous chemicals. 

How Addictive is Meth? 

Methamphetamine is one of the most addictive drugs in the world. 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 and more, the euphoric feelings associated with the high become less and 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. 

Because crystal meth has such a low street value, those living below the poverty level will usually choose to take meth, over more costly stimulant drugs, like cocaine. Crystal meth is also known to increase sexual stamina and alertness, therefore homosexual men often use it as a party drug. Essentially, meth addiction can affect anyone. 

Side Effects of Meth Abuse

Methamphetamine can be smoked, snorted, injected, or taken orally. The use of methamphetamine results in a short high in which the user experiences: 

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

Crystal 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 brain health problems. These symptoms may include:  

  • Impulse control problems
  • Difficulties concentrating 
  • Problems with daily functioning 

If you’re experiencing any of these signs or symptoms, it’s important to get them checked out by a health care professional right away. Because meth use changes the chemistry of the brain, a variety of mental health issues can also develop, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Anger Issues
  • Psychosis 
Physical Signs of Prolonged Meth Use

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 area. 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 you 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. This can then be followed by an aftercare program or relapse prevention support group. 

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: 

  • 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. Our goal is to help the client reclaim their voice 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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