You may have seen a segment on the news last month about a woman who gouged her own eyes out while under the influence of methamphetamine. What was once a highly taboo substance, partly due to the “Faces of Meth” campaign, is now becoming more regularly used by teens and young adults who see meth as a fun “party drug.” As a substance abuse counselor, I want to educate you about what methamphetamine is and what its short and long term effects are so that you can understand how very dangerous this substance is.
Methamphetamine, or crystal meth, is a highly addictive illicit drug that is becoming more prevalent as its use spreads across the country from the southwest. It is considered to be a stimulant, meaning it makes people who use it feel energized. Meth typically takes the form of a white crystalline powder and is ingested through snorting, smoking, or shooting it. Methamphetamine can cause a variety of short and long term health effects.
Short-Term Effects of Methamphetamine Use
Some short-term mental effects of methamphetamine include a rush of confidence and happiness. A person may also experience hallucinations and delusions while under the influence of methamphetamine, for example the woman from last month’s news articles who gouged her own eyes out because she thought it was a sacrifice to God. Hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia can make a person who is on meth violent.
Physically, people on meth feel as if they have a surplus of energy and are often hyperactive, meaning they cannot stop moving. They will experience an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature. While high, people may also experience insomnia, a lack of appetite, and nausea. Methamphetamine can cause a person to have convulsions, which can lead to death. The high from methamphetamine typically lasts between six and eight hours, but can last up to twenty-four hours. Users of crystal meth will experience a severe physical and mental crash after the stimulating effects of the drug wear off. Because the high from crystal meth is so addictive and the crash afterwards is so terrible, people often become addicted to meth the first time they try it.
Long-Term Effects of Methamphetamine Use
It’s important to note that because meth is highly addictive and wreaks havoc on the brain and body, the long-term effects of crystal meth do not occur over an incredibly long amount of time. Someone who uses meth over a period of time will experience an increase in tolerance. This means that they will require more of the drug in order to feel the same high that a smaller amount used to give them. Mentally, long term meth use can result in disorientation, apathy, depression, psychosis, and permanent brain damage. From a physical standpoint, people who use crystal meth experience extreme weight loss as a result of the drug’s tendency to decrease a person’s appetite. They may also experience permanent damage to blood vessels of the heart and brain as well as high blood pressure, both of which increase a person’s risk of a heart attack and stroke. Using meth over a long period of time causes damage to the liver and kidneys, and nasal passageways if it is being snorted. If it is being smoked, meth causes damage to the lungs, teeth, and gums.
Crystal meth is a powerful drug that has devastating and deadly consequences, both physically and mentally. It’s very worrisome that this drug is gaining popularity among teens and young adults, and that its use is extending throughout the country. Use this information to spread the word about the dangerous side effects of methamphetamine so that we can put a halt to its use.
Article Written by Shaylyn Forte, LPC, CAADC