Despite the widespread attention that the crystal meth pandemic has received, many facts about the drug remain outside common knowledge. Here are a few true but surprising facts and figures about crystal meth abuse, from the drug’s physical properties and chemical effects to its consequences on the body and brain.
- Crystal meth is often referred to as “Tina,” “ice,” “glass” or “crystal.”
- Crystal meth can be consumed in many states, including an injectable liquid distilled in water, powder form that can be snorted,and “rock” form that can be smoked in glass pipes or freebased (often by holding heat under metal or aluminum foil and then “chased” with a straw for inhalation). Crystal meth can also be swallowed orally or introduced to the body through the urethra or anus.
- Crystal meth can cause intense mood swings that lead to violence, largely due to alterations in brain chemistry that occur due to the drug.
- Eating disorders are common for crystal meth users, due to malnutrition, body dysmorphia and appetite loss common to methamphetamine use.
- Crystal meth highs can last as long as 12 hours and binges with repeated uses can keep a user high (and awake) for days.
- Crystal meth can elevate blood sugar to dangerous levels.
- Pregnant women or those who are nursing should never use crystal meth, due to the drug’s ability to penetrate the placenta and become absorbed by an infant through the mother’s milk.
- Three percent of high school students have used crystal meth within the last 12 months.
- Some crystal meth users experience full psychotic breaks and lingering psychosis, often taking years of sobriety to resolve.
- Crystal meth can cause a breakdown of muscular tissue, known as rhabdomyolysis, resulting in severe kidney damage and even death.
- In its purest form, crystal meth has neither odor nor color; however, many crystal meth batches contain high levels of impurities and “fillers,” causing the drug to take on a yellow or brown appearance.
- Nearly five percent of 12th graders across America have tried meth at least once over the course of their lives.
- Crystal meth is classified as a Schedule II drug, in the same class as highly addictive drugs such as PCP or cocaine. The drug’s Schedule II classification indicates an extremely high potential for addiction — both psychologically and physically.
- Crystal meth can also increase the risk for contracting blood-borne illnesses such as HIV and hepatitis, largely through risky sexual behaviors and shared needles when meth is injected.
- The household chemicals that are used in order to produce (or “cook”) meth include toxic substances such as drain cleaner, brake fluid, lighter fluid, ephedrine and lye.
Psychological Signs and Symptoms of Crystal Meth Addiction
Crystal meth affects the brain’s chemistry and individuals’ emotions, personalities and perceptions. Here are just a few ways in which crystal meth can affect personhood, mood and behavior.
- Increased Confidence and Aggression
Crystal meth notoriously inflates self-perception. Many crystal meth users experience a lack of shyness, increase in assertiveness, heightened aggression, inflated egos and even delusions of grandeur. Periods of rage may also occur with crystal meth addiction.
- Depression and Flat Affect
Many individuals addicted to crystal meth develop a “flat affect” or emotional numbness and lack of response. Depression is common, particularly during the “crash” phase that follows use, and users often feel emotionally depressed for up to a year after recovery.
- Heightened Libido and Risk-Taking Behavior
Crystal meth causes an increase in sexual appetite, as well as excitement-seeking behavior. Inhibitions become lowered and promiscuity or sexually unsafe behavior often results. Compulsive sexuality, often including those outside an individual’s sexual preference, can also be a hallmark of meth use. Methamphetamines has become notorious for its involvement in the “PNP” (party and play) scene, where anonymous, drug-fueled encounters incorporate methamphetamine use.
- Eating Disorders
Eating disorders often result from crystal meth use, partly due to the drug’s effects on the psyche, as well as the undernourishment many meth users experience due to loss of appetite. Bulimia and anorexia can also be accompanied by body dysmorphic disorder.
Physical Signs and Symptoms of Crystal Meth Addiction
In addition to the psychological and emotional effects of crystal meth addiction, methamphetamine use can also cause the following physical issues – many of which persist even after recovery.
- Meth Mouth and Dental Issues
One of the telltale signs of methamphetamine use is “meth mouth” – a host of tooth decay and gum disease caused by chronic crystal meth use. Crystal meth has an incredibly drying effect on the mouth, leading to clinical cases of dry mouth, promoting tooth decay and often leading to tooth loss. Mouth sores result from dehydration and lack of oral hygiene, and tooth grinding often leads to worn teeth and receding gums. Because methamphetamine use often leads to carbohydrate and sugar cravings, cavities often also abound in meth users. Heightened adrenaline levels also lead to jaw clenching, further wearing down teeth and gums.
- Skin Disturbances
Crystal meth users often have a gray or yellowish pallor, marked by profuse sweating due to dehydration and overexertion. Track marks may be present in those who use crystal meth in its injectable form. Another trademark sign of meth abuse is the presence of “meth mites,” in a phenomenon known as “formication,” where users experience the sensation of insects crawling on or underneath the skin. The resulting itching and picking lead to infected, open sores that often scar. Acne and rashes also often result from poor hygiene, dehydration and poor diet. Skin around the nails is often infected, as well, due to compulsive nail biting.
- Nasal Problems
Snorting methamphetamines can extremely dry out the mucous membranes in the body, further exacerbated by dehydration. Bleeding from the nose is common, as are sinus infections and pressure. In severe cases, the septum (cartilage separating the nostrils) can become punctured and deviated.
- Breathing Problems and Coughing
Meth-addicted individuals who freebase the drug often experience chronic bronchitis, smoker’s coughs and damaged lungs, due to the harmful chemicals ingested while smoking the drug.
- Urinary, Digestive and Reproductive Issues
Meth users can experience abdominal cramping, increased incidents of urinary tract infections (UTIs), and chronic constipation or alternating diarrhea. Women can experience uterine bleeding, while men often experience erectile dysfunction from chronic meth use. Kidney problems often result from methamphetamine use, due to blood vessel problems.
- Repetitive Motions
Due to the excess adrenaline produced by crystal meth, many individuals experience repetitive motions. Users may experience involuntary muscle movements, muscle twitches or handwringing as their bodies respond to excess energy.
- Heart Disturbances
Meth users often experience cardiac problems, including arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat), tachycardia (rapid heartbeat) and severe chest pains.
Crystal Meth Addiction Withdrawal Symptoms
If you are using crystal meth for a long period of time, the drug will slowly start to burn out your pleasure senses. The body is no longer able to make the chemicals that stimulate pleasure due to the damage crystal meth causes in the body. Without the natural pleasures in the body, crystal meth becomes the only way for addicts to feel pleasure. Even addicts who try to quite on their own face withdrawal symptoms that only lead to relapse. Some crystal meth addiction withdrawal symptoms include:
- Profound numbness
- Depression leading to suicide
- Relapsing back into addiction