09.04.2020 in Psychology

Psychological Effect of Methamphetamine Abuse

Methamphetamines are among powerfully effective drugs that stimulate high energy splash and the feeling of euphoria, happiness. They affect the central nervous system and cause addiction.  In medicine, doctors prescribe methamphetamines to cure ADHD and narcolepsy symptoms. Illegal meth often appears on the street and causes many troubles for the society. It contains some highly toxic medical components such as pseudoephedrine and also many improvised inappropriate, harmful ingredients like battery acid or paint thinner that damage not only the human body but also the brain. The psychological effect of methamphetamine abuse is very harmful to the mental health of an addicted person; it is difficult or almost impossible for him or her to understand that the problem exists and search for help.

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The parent drug for methamphetamine is amphetamine, and it helps to cure nasal and bronchial diseases. The use of both medicines shows hyperactivity, less intensive appetite, the desire to talk increases and the patients feel happy and pleased. However, methamphetamine causes more damaging effects on the patients’ central nervous system and appears to be a powerful stimulant for a human brain. Because of these features meth gets abused widely among drug addicts who prepare it in the self-made laboratories and spread among people. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration named methamphetamine as a Schedule II stimulant. It means that a patient may legally get this drug only through a nonrefillable prescription to cure certain disorders and not more. For example the doctors prescribe it to cure the signs of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and as a temporary element of weight-loss programs. The government publications research group explains that the long-lasting abuse of methamphetamine causes addiction and as a result psychological and physical problems. The lawful doses that doctors prescribe for treatment are much lower and less dangerous. 


There are several ways how meth gets into the human body: through injection, smoke, oral ingestion or swallowing, and it depends on how quickly the drug affects the organism. Smoking and injecting methamphetamine are currently the most common ways of consumption, because of the high speed of the bloodstream that delivers the drug straight to the brain. This speed causes an almost immediate result. Other ways of taking the drug are much lower in speed and the time of affection verifies from three to twenty minutes that makes them less prevalent among the methods of ingestion. According to Nora Volkow, the addiction to the majority of stimulants including meth appears because of the so-called “binge and crash” pattern. (Nora D. Volkow, n.d.) This period consists of two parts: a short lasting flash of happiness and euphoria, a binge, which changes into a crash, where abusers search for any way to lengthen the binge period and become deeply depressed, anxious while not having a possibility to do it. While the organism physically suffers from lack of the drug inside the body, the mental state of an addict may be even worse because of the co-occurring disorders.

According to Kim Archuletta, a co-occurring disorder means the coinciding diagnosis of substance use disorder and psychological disease. A substance use disorder contains abuse or drug addiction. Serious mental illness may comprehend a mental, behavioral, or emotional disorders and results in functional damage with one or more life activities. There are some co-occurring mental health conditions, as for example anxiety and depression, that happen in almost case of methamphetamine addiction and worsen its symptoms. The mind of an addict does not stay clear anymore and he or she can hardly understand the danger that the drug makes to body and the brain. A patient needs professional help, but cannot ask for the treatment. The addicts may convince themselves that they do self-medication and stop some psychiatric symptoms while, but these actions only strengthen the negative symptoms and obstruct the process of abandoning the drug. The life of a person who abuses methamphetamine with the co-occurring diseases results in meeting a number of additional life problems.

Some statistics show that such addicts suffer from joblessness, often get arrested, hospitalized and become homeless more often that those with less severe complaints. Every single case needs its own appropriate type of therapy. It is vital to state a clear diagnosis and create the right complex of healing procedures, so it is important to understand how meth works inside the human.

Dopamine is a major component in methamphetamine that affects the brain of a user. It stimulates an increased brain activity, euphoria, pleasure, user’s motivation, motor functions. The increase in dopamine makes the body feel an incredible reinforcement, pleasure. When dopamine effect stops giving euphoria to the body, the body starts searching for more ways to repeat the experience. Long-term meth use may result in memory losses, damages in psychomotor abilities and failures in informational processing, learning. 

The structural and functional changes appear in the brains of constant meth abusers in areas dealing with emotions and memory. It often causes their helplessness in front of experiencing emotional and mental disorders. Some of the health damages related to meth use get caused by the decrease of the dopamine transportation inside the nervous system. Some researches show that the drug users who do not suffer from mental illnesses are less vulnerable to a co-occurring drug dependency than those who do. There are other factors that make a person vulnerable to the addiction, like biological, psychological and social stressors. It is hard to say what damages are more destructive for a person: physical or psychological. 

Depression is possibly the most widely spread co-occurring psychological disorder among meth abusers. Epidemiological data show that almost every second meth addict suffers from depression. The users, who smoked, snorted meth suffer from less depressive symptoms than those who use injections. It is important not to leave any of the depressions features untreated because for example isolation or lack of motivation makes participation in recovery programs almost impossible. It is very dangerous to become a meth addict and to feel co-occurring depression. This symbiosis increases suicidal thoughts, and a person becomes more vulnerable to self-harming activities. 

Both physical and mental harmful effects should be treated together in order to make the therapy work. Attempts to treat one of the disorders without another one are almost useless. Temporary relief from both disorders may occur, but a reversion in one often results strengthening the symptoms of the other disorder. The antidepressant bupropion can lessen cue-induced hunger. The combination of cognitive-behavioral therapy and talks that motivate together with the appropriate medications create the right recovery path that may give hope to heal the patient at least partly. 

Meth-induced psychosis sometimes gets misdiagnosed as schizophrenia because of the similar symptoms of these diseases. It makes them both difficult in identification.  Schizophrenia is among the most detectable mental conditions. Its central feature is psychosis. Both diseases are hard to treat and a lot of time passes before the patient’s conditions improve. Psychosis-type symptoms are usual for schizophrenic patients. Similarly, a primary psychosis-like syndrome is usual for the users with amphetamine-induced psychosis. There are both positive and negative syndromes that characterize meth-induced. The set of negative symptoms count speech poverty, psychomotor difficulties and an emotional lessening. The set of positive symptoms are auditory and visual hallucinations, false impression, speech hardships. A patient may completely heal the symptoms of meth-induced psychosis with self-denial from meth.

Another common symptom among meth abusers is anxiety. Users feel it both while actively using the drug and withdrawal. Some researches show that by thy year of 2010 more than seventy present of meth addicted patients suffer from anxiety disorders and twenty five percent of patients still meet anxiety after three and more years of treatment therapy. Generalized anxiety disorder and social anxiety disorder are the two most common anxiety disorders. Meth users who have no co-occurring anxiety disorder get hospitalized not as often as those who have one. Moreover, according to some statistics, the number of suicide attempts is three times lower with the patients who have separately one disorder than those with the co-occurring anxiety and the methamphetamine abuse.  

The doctors usually treat the anxiety disorders with the help of benzodiazepines, but in the case of the meth addicts with the co-occurring anxiety disorders, it becomes extremely difficult. It happens because there is a possibility of a patient to become secondarily addicted to benzodiazepines. The better way of treatment is using medications that do not contain benzodiazepine and do not result in addiction. In this case the therapy is safer for both physical and physiological conditions of a patient. 

Adolescents and adults with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, ADHD already have a predisposition to stimulants that is why using methamphetamine is dangerous because of the high risk of addiction and abuse too. Meth sometimes gets prescribed to cure some symptoms of ADHD. The former meth addicts often complain about reappearing of these symptoms. Meth-induced psychosis appears more often among the users who had a diagnosis of ADHD in childhood. Some researches show that only six percent of non-meth abusers suffered from ADHD while among meth abusers the number of co-occurring ADHD reached more than twenty-one percent. The antidepressant Wellbutrin shows an effective treatment for this disease together with treating depression and lessening hunger. In the case of curing meth abuse and co-occurring ADHD, this antidepressant may become a central pharmacological resource. The best therapy for co-occurring disorders is a combination of a non-stimulant medication, behavioral treatment, and some support groups.

To summarize, methamphetamine is a very dangerous drug that causes addiction starting from the first doze. Although meth gets prescribed to heal the symptoms of some illnesses like ADHD, addicts abuse it and cook in self-made laboratories using inappropriate ingredients that cause damage both to the physical and psychological state of a person. There are several co-occurring diseases that abusers get together with addiction itself, like depression, anxiety, and others. The humanity still cannot give an answer to the question, what effect of the effect of meth abuse on a human body is worse: physical or psychological. But for sure the results of co-occurring diseases together with meth addiction are damaging for a person. Almost in every case of meth, abuse a person suffers from the co-occurring diseases that may cause troubles to the patient long-term after the drug therapy, and it is much easier to avoid drug addiction than to cure it or its symptoms.

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