There are four ways people can take methamphetamine, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
You can inhale or smoke it, swallow it in pill form, snort it, or inject it in its powdered form when dissolved in water or alcohol.
What is Methamphetamine?
Methamphetamine, or meth for short, is a stimulant drug that floods the central nervous system and penetrates the brain. It increases the amount of dopamine which affects body movement, motivation, pleasure, and reward. When high levels of dopamine release rapidly, a rush or euphoria is a byproduct.
It is mainly used as a recreational drug and branded to affect the brain to a greater degree than amphetamine, also a stimulant drug used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
The U.S. Government reported that approximately 13 million people over age 12 chose to use meth in 2008. Of this number, 529,000 are regular users.
In 2007, 4.5 percent of American high school seniors and 4.1 percent tenth-grade students tried the drug at least once.
Is Meth Addictive?
Meth is highly addictive. Drug treatment admissions for meth addiction saw a 300 percent increase from 1996, recording at nine percent in 2006. The state of Hawaii had higher percentages at 48.3 percent in 2007.
The effect of meth starts and fades quickly. Doses are taken in a “binge and crash” pattern.
Meth use has short-term and long-term effects that negatively affect health. Even small amounts of methamphetamine can cause an increase in alertness and physical activity, a decrease in appetite, faster breathing, an irregular and rapid heartbeat, and increase in blood pressure.
When meth is frequently used, it can lead to extreme weight loss, skin sores, anxiety, sleeping problems, violent behavior, paranoia, and hallucinations. It also increases the risk of contracting infectious diseases like HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C.
Continued meth use can change the dopamine system of the brain. Thus, this can reduce coordination, impaire verbal learning, and cause adverse effects on emotion and memory.
A person who overdoses on the stimulant drug can suffer from a stroke, heart attack, or organ failure. One also has a higher chance of death when taking the drug.
What is “Meth Mouth”?
Meth addiction can also take a toll on the person’s oral health. Characterized by severe tooth decay and gum disease, “meth mouth” is a devastating consequence of meth use on oral health. It can lead to tooth loss and damage.
In a study funded by NIDA and published in The Journal of the American Dental Association, 96 percent of the 571 examined meth users had cavities. Additionally, 58 percent were found to have tooth decay. Also, 31 percent of them had six or more missing teeth.
Meth addiction can cause the teeth to blacken, stain, or even crumble. In many cases, one may not be able to save the teeth with damage, requiring permanent removal.
Meth mouth is usually a result of the combined drug-induced psychological and physiological changes that have led to dry mouth and extended periods of poor dental hygiene. Meth is also acidic which contributes to the deterioration of the teeth and buildup of bacteria.
The high from the drug often makes the user crave high-calorie, carbonated, sugary beverages. Additionally, it can cause grinding and clenching of the teeth.
Treating the teeth while the addiction persists is difficult. Meth mouth may involve cosmetic surgery and concentrated fluoride treatment to slow down teeth decay from the drug. Severe cases can lead to teeth extraction and the need for dentures.
It is recommended that counseling services be availed to address the addiction first before subscribing to dental treatments.