This drug has a sympathomimetic and psychostimulant effects and is also referred to as, N-methylamphetamine methylamphetamine or desoxyephedrine. Common names include ‘meth’, ‘crystal’, ‘tina’, ‘glass’, ‘crank’ ‘Ice’, ‘P’, ‘shabu’, ‘syabu’(Philippines) and ‘yaa baa’ (Thailand). Dextomethamphetamine, the S-isomer, is used in the treatment of attention- deficit hyperactivity disorders, obesity or narcolepsy. The white odorless, crystalline, alcohol and water-solvent bitter powder is taken intranasally, intravenously, orally or by smoking.
Methamphetamine is illegally used to attain alertness, motivation and mental clarity for long periods as well as to induce weight loss and for leisure purposes (Ruppeth, Heaton, Carey, 2004, p. 2). The drug induces the release of very huge amounts of dopamine, a pleasure, motivation and motor function brain chemical. Long term abuse results in alteration of brain functions including changes in the activities of the dopamine system. This has been linked with distorted verbal learning and decreased motor activity (Volkow, Chang, Wang, 2001, 377-382).
Abusers may also have serious alterations in memory and emotion brain areas leading to cognitive and emotional problems. Methamphetamine affects the central nervous system and causes euphoria and excitement and this makes it highly addictive. Addiction, the chronic, recurring condition symbolized by compulsive drug search and usage, results after extended periods of abuse. Addiction is characterized by changes in brain molecular configuration and it can persist long after abuse of methamphetamine is discontinued (Ruppeth, Heaton, Carey, 2004, p.
5). It induces obsession with certain tasks in users. Withdrawal symptoms include eating, excessive sleeping, craving for the drug, anxiety, and depression. The abuse of methamphetamine results in blood vessel constriction and hence disruption of the cardiovascular system. Related effects include irregular and rapid heart rate, heightened blood pressure, heart attacks, inflammation of heart muscle, inflammation of the heart lining and damage to blood vessels. The central nervous system also is adversely affected by methamphetamine abuse.
Neuron damage and loss, psychosis, seizures, movement problems, strokes and sudden brain bleeding can occur as a result of methamphetamine abuse. Pulmonary edema (presence of excess fluid on lungs), chronic lung disease, and constriction of blood vessels can also result due to methamphetamine abuse. The kidneys, liver, muscles, liver, and gastrointestinal system are also casualties of methamphetamine abuse (Yudko, Hall, McPherson, 2003, p. 19). Agitated delirium and cardiac arrest are also thought to be related to the abuse of methamphetamine.
Open sores (‘crank bugs’), on the skins of methamphetamine abusers is another side-effect of abuse of the drug. The drug is manufactured using toxic chemicals which remain when the drug is taken. During elimination of the toxins, users experience itches and when they scratch, open sores occur (Volkow, Chang, Wang, 2001, p. 379). Addiction results into a chronic relapsing disease exhibiting itself psychologically and physically. Abusers are frequently violent, act in bizarre ways, and are overanxious and confused.
Psychotic effects of abuse of methamphetamine include; paranoia, visual and auditory hallucinations, mood swings, delusions, homicidal thoughts, suicidal thoughts and uncontrollable rage outbursts. These reactions can persist for years even after the drug use is stopped. An acute methamphetamine psychosis exhibits symptoms like; hypersensitivity to environmental stimuli, well-developed delusions, excessive fear, stereotyped ‘tweaking’ behavior and high potential to violence (Yudko, Hall, McPherson, 2003, p. 36).
Ingestion of even small doses of the drug can lead to heightened physical activity, more wakefulness, loss of appetite, more respiration, rapid and irregular heart beat, high blood pressure and hyperthermia. Negative effects of long term abuse of methamphetamine include; dental decay, confusion, dilated pupils, dry mouth, anxiety, insomnia, bruxism, mood swings, excessive weight loss and aggression. Abuse also results to decreased supply of blood to the extremities hence occasioning poor circulation which results in skin lesions (Volkow, Chang, Wang, 2001, p.
382). Major body organs also experience high temperatures due to abuse of methamphetamine. Liver, kidney and muscle damage, as well as heart and stroke attacks, are likely owing to the elevated temperature Psychotic symptoms among chronic abusers include; visual and auditory hallucinations, paranoia and delusions. Methamphetamine abuse can also result in the spread of HIV, other infectious diseases and hepatitis B among those who take it intravenously through the sharing of contaminated syringes and needles.
Users experience heightened sexual arousal and hence frequently participate in bizarre sexual activity as well as unprotected sex. Judgment and inhibition alteration due to intoxication from the drug can result into the engagement of unsafe sex. Also, methamphetamine abuse can result in the worsening of HIV progression and its effects. More neural injury and cognitive impairment is experienced by HIV positive methamphetamine abusers than by HIV positive non abusers (Rippeth, Heaton, Carey, 2004, 8). At the moment, no approved treatment modes exist for methamphetamine abuse.
Behavioral treatment, known as the Matrix Model, is the most effective strategy so far. This incorporates behavioral therapy, personal counseling, family education, drug testing, a 12-step support and persuasion to non –drug related activities. Management interventions that offer physical incentives to abusers who undertake treatment and abstain are also effective. The abuse of methamphetamine had spread from blue collar workers to college students in the 1980s in the United States (Ruppeth, Heaton, Carey, 2004, p. 11).