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The detrimental effects of methamphetamine

Methamphetamine use has resulted in the highest drug related imprisonments in the United States. Although marijuana is the most commonly used drug in the United States, methamphetamine has produced more legal offenses than any other drug in 27 out of the 50 states in the U.S.

The history of methamphetamine

Methamphetamine is more potent and easier to make than amphetamines. It was first produced in Japan in 1919 and was widely used in World War II to keep soldiers and fighter pilots awake during their long missions. Methamphetamine is a fine crystallized powder that can be snorted, smoked or injected that became rampant among the general Japanese population after the second world war ended.

In the 1950s, it became popular among the rest of the world and was quickly a hot commodity among college students, truck drivers and athletes as a stimulant to keep these individuals awake and focused. It was made illegal in the 1970s, even though use continued to skyrocket among rural areas across the globe because it became easy to make and was much cheaper than cocaine and other illegal stimulants. It is very common to find “meth labs” in the middle of rural locations. A simple kitchen with a stove is the only requirement to cook methamphetamines.

How methamphetamine destroys the brain

Methamphetamine is a highly addictive drug that hijacks the brain’s dopamine centers, resulting in a decrease of dopamine each time this drug is used. With the first few uses, a dopamine surge occurs, but after chronic use the dopamine decreases. More and more of the drug is needed each time to achieve the same sense of pleasure. As a consequence, methamphetamine destroys the brain synapses, resulting in addictive desperate behavior and a decrease in cognitive abilities.

Nora D. Volkow, M.D., director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), published a paper that looked at brain scans of several meth abusers after 14 months of abstinence. The NIDA found that, after 14 months, the study subjects had regrown most of their damaged dopamine receptors. However, “they showed no improvement in the cognitive abilities damaged by the drug. After more than a year’s sobriety, these former meth users still showed severe impairment in memory, judgment and motor coordination, similar to symptoms seen in individuals suffering from Parkinson’s Disease,” reported a Frontline article on Dr. Volkow’s study.

The euphoria experienced from methamphetamine creates such a pleasure high that allows individuals to feel superhuman. They develop a false increase in physical strength, can become violent and have a sharp increase in sex drive. These feelings tied together with the power of an addiction make a recipe for disaster in terms of crime and destruction of society.

How methamphetamine destroys the physical body

Rotten teeth, skin infections, rail thin figures, acne and early signs of aging all occur within months of continued methamphetamine use. Skin picking results from formication, which is a disorder defined when tactile hallucinations occur of insects crawling on the skin. Skin picking results in open sores on the body that may not heal due to the weakened blood vessels and inflammatory response, which occurs with the use of methamphetamines. Methamphetamine causes blood vessels to constrict and deprive oxygen to certain areas of the body. This results in dead extremities, such as fingers and nose, and a perforated nasal septum. Methamphetamine decreases the amount of saliva produced by the salivary glands. With a decrease in saliva, the excess acid in the mouth destroys tooth enamel, resulting in rotten teeth that eventually fall out.

Frontline also reported that dentists “who practice in America’s prisons and jails, have seen some of the worst cases of ‘meth mouth,’ and state correctional facilities are feeling the impact on their budgets.” In addition, National Public Radio reported that “prisons are having to devote a growing portion of their health-care budgets to emergency dental care,” as more meth users are incarcerated.

Methamphetamine is widely used across America because it is easy and cheap to produce. This results in increased imprisonment rates, a decline in mental health and deterioration in an individual’s physical health. Drug rehabilitation is a necessity to cure the addiction and prevent these harmful consequences from taking over one’s life.

Sovereign Health Group of Texas is a residential behavioral health treatment provider that offers comprehensive care for individuals struggling with substance addiction and co-occurring conditions. Each of our patients receives an individualized treatment plan based on his or her unique needs. For more information, contact our 24/7 helpline.

About the author

Kristen Fuller, M.D., is a senior staff writer at Sovereign Health and enjoys writing about evidence-based topics in the cutting-edge world of medicine. She is a physician and author who also teaches, practices medicine in the urgent care setting and contributes to medicine board education. She is also an outdoor and dog enthusiast. For more information and other inquiries about this article, contact the author at news@sovhealth.com.

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