The dangers of crystal meth

Dr Sacrifice Chirisa Mental Health Matters
Methamphetamine is a highly addictive and illegal psycho-stimulant drug that is used for its powerful euphoric effects, which are similar to those of cocaine. There is increased use now Zimbabwe in the illegal gold panning sector to keep people alert and awake for prolonged periods of time and enable them to dig up more gold ore. This is despite the recreational use in nightclubs dotted around the major cities.

The effect lasts longer than that of cocaine, it is cheaper, and it is easy to make with commonly available ingredients. The street names for this drug include chalk, crank, ice, crystal, meth and speed among others. It is used differently ranging from being smoked, snorted, injected, or ingested orally. The most popular ways of use are smoking or injecting as this causes an immediate, intense “rush” or bliss that lasts for a few minutes. Depending on how the drug is ingested, the effects can last for six to 24 hours.

The effects of using methamphetamine can produce feelings of euphoria, but there are also dangerous side effects. These include:

Increased attention

Higher levels of activity and talkativeness

Decreased appetite

Reduced fatigue

A feeling of power and self-control

A pleasurable sense of well-being or euphoria

There may also be:

Faster breathing

A fast or irregular heartbeat

Higher blood pressure

Raised body temperature increased distractibility

Nausea

Dry mouth

Dilated pupils

Tremors

Muscle twitching

Memory loss

Aggressive or violent behavior

Mood disturbances

Severe dental problems

Weight loss

Skin sores from intense itching

Rapid or irregular heart rate

Increased blood pressure

Feelings of aggressiveness and anxiety

Crystal meth works by enhancing the pleasurable feelings — that happen when the body releases very high levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine. This is the brain chemical involved in motivation, pleasure, and motor function. The drug acts on parts of the brain involved in reward, and this makes taking another dose tempting. As with many stimulants, methamphetamine is most often abused in a “binge and crash” pattern. Users try to maintain the high by taking more of the drug before the first dose wears off.

People use methamphetamine because they enjoy the effects. However, it can have some dangerous side effects.

The following symptoms of psychosis are also possible:

Paranoia

Aggression

Visual and auditory hallucinations

Mood disturbances

Delusions, such as the sensation of insects creeping on or under the skin

Thoughts of homicide or suicide.

So many users of ‘’crystal meth’’ end up in the psychiatric services or departments. Psychotic symptoms can last for months or years after discontinuing methamphetamine use. They can spontaneously recur.

There are many general physical health risks that many users do not know about until it is too late. It can lead to the following major life uttering health issues:

Addiction and dependence
The drug has a high potential for abuse and dependence. Tolerance develops quickly, and psychological addiction can develop within a relatively short space of time. Methamphetamine is very addictive. This is because a large amount of dopamine remains in the brain cells synapses for long periods of time after use.

The dopamine keeps the cells activated, allowing the user to experience the powerful feelings of euphoria. After a while, the user is unable to produce dopamine naturally and requires the drug to feel normal, needing larger doses to experience feelings of pleasure.

Stopping suddenly does not cause a physical withdrawal rather; the person may feel extreme fatigue, mental depression, irritability, apathy, and disorientation.

Heart problems and stroke
Methamphetamine use increases the risk of heart problems, such as chest pain, abnormal heart rhythm, and high blood pressure. This can lead to a heart attack, acute aortic dissection, or sudden cardiac death, even after using the drug for the first time. These risks are higher when using the drug with alcohol, cocaine, or opioids. There is a higher risk of stroke, possibly due to elevated blood pressure or faster rate of atherosclerosis

Tooth decay
Methamphetamine abuse can also cause tooth decay so severe that most of the teeth either rot, known as “meth mouth” or need extracting. Causes are thought to include:

Having a dry mouth

Increased consumption of sugary drinks

Teeth clenching and grinding

A lack of dental hygiene

Parkinson’s disease
Methamphetamine may have neurological effects that do not go away even if a person stops using the drug. Studies have shown an increase of Parkinson’s disease, a movement disorder.

The purpose of this discourse is to educate, inform and warn users that using crystal meth is not worth it! It causes an enormous amount of pain in the life of the user and the families affected. For drug rehabilitation options please contact or visit our Facebook page; Highlands Halfway House or Borrowdale Halfway House for professional addiction care in Harare, Zimbabwe.

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