University of Arkansas System
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Effects of Methamphetamine on the Human Body What Cases Have Been Seen to Prove this and How It Leads To Addiction
Effects of Methamphetamine on the Human Body What Cases Have Been Seen to Prove this and How It Leads To Addiction
What effects does the over dependency to methamphetamine cause to the human body.
Are there any cases that have been reported to prove this and if yes which ones are they?
Methamphetamine is a powerful, highly addictive stimulant that is a bitter tasting white crystalline powder devoid of smell. In street language it is popularly known as ice, chalk, crystal or meth with high solubility in water and alcohol making it an easy target for packaging into various forms. Methamphetamine affects the central nervous system and once it is in the body system, it creates a short but intense rush and users start experiencing a sense of increased activity, decreased appetite, and strong feelings of well being, high energy levels and sense of more power with the feeling lasting from a period of 20 minutes to 12 hours. When the effects start to where off, the user is left with a feeling of drained helplessness and depression this effects leads to the user having a high craving for the drug to maintain the state of euphoria. This craving for a sense of well being, hyper activity sense of power is what leads to addiction. Addiction to methamphetamine has to a large extent been classified as a moral issue by the public while to medical practitioners it has also gained weight as a medical issue.
Methamphetamine causes development of side effects which are increased activity, euphoria and decreased appetite with methamphetamine being more potent because it passes through the blood brain barrier and enters the brain cells. The effects are more long lasting making it more dangerous on the central nervous system. It has been reported to have effects lasting as long as eight hours. This inquiry will focus mostly on the scientific research that has been carried out on methamphetamine addiction, its side effects and how it causes them and any remedies.
By the end of this learning process, the following objectives should be met.
- Reasons that lead to use of methamphetamine should be clearly understood.
- The various side effects should be well outlined and possible causes explained.
- Mechanisms involved and leading to methamphetamine addiction should be comprehended.
Medically methamphetamine was developed for the treatment of nasal blockages and clearance of bronchioles in the lungs. Lately it has been used in low dosages for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and also in weight loss programmes but in a controlled manner and prescriptions is usually not refilled.
Effects of methamphetamine vary and they mostly depend on the dosage type. For small doses, the drug causes strong and quick addiction, lack of sleep, increased blood pressure, pulses and respiration with decreased reaction times. This effects leads to a desire for more and in large doses, it causes convulsions, overheating of the body, and in more severe cases stroke and even heart attacks. The side effects are grouped into the following major categories (Methamphetamine in Jefferson County, 2008 p 3).
The most noticeable are muscle weakness, tremors and seizures dental decay, weight loss, anorexia, coughing, dry mouth , facial aging, brain damage kidney, heart and liver damage, skin sores and infection and also increased risk of stroke.
This effects lead to decreased ability to recognize and recall words and pictures, make inferences manipulate information, learn from experience and users have the tendency to ignore irrelevant information
These effects are classified into two depending on the duration for short term effects; users experience increased sense of euphoria, high confidence and increased alertness. The users become more talkative, they are not bored easily and have an increased sex drive.
Increased confidence Increased alertness Increased good mood Increased. Long term effects include increased aggression, lack of sleep; they become over anxious and are confused most of the time. Meth users become moody and they develop psychotic behaviours characterized by false delusions, they become paranoid and become suicidal.
When ingested by pregnant women, the methamphetamine dissolves in the blood stream and is able to pass through to the fetus. The effects on the unborn children are diverse and so serious since they affect the normal development of the child. The most common effects are premature child birth and low birth rates for long time users, low birth weight since the mother does not eat enough food due to poor appetite and in most severe cases brain damage. Nutritionally, the baby is disadvantaged since the mother does not care a lot apart from craving for the next fix.
Mechanisms leading to methamphetamine addiction
Addiction to methamphetamine is caused by the drug’s pharmacology mainly how it is ingested, absorbed in the body, broken in the body and excreted (Otero et al., 2006 p. 4). The pharmacology of the drug is quite a complex process which involves the peripheral and central nervous actions. The drug belongs to the group of drugs known as amphetamines with a structure closely related to that of epinephrine norepinephrine and dopamine (Kish, 2008 p. 2).
Due to its structure which is close to that endogenous neurotransmitters the drug is classified as a sympathomimetic drug and as such it interacts with sympathetic receptors of the central nervous system. Specifically, methamphetamine interacts with pre-synaptic receptors and induces effects by competitive antagonisms.
There are different modes of methamphetamine usage and they determine how long the effects take to kick in and also increase the chances and easiness of addiction. When ingested the effects may take up to twenty minutes to be effected while I snorting the effects set in much quicker as fast as five minutes. The two routes of usage are not so much addictive. Highest rates of addiction have been reported when the route of intake was intravenous injection and lung inhalation through smoking. These last two routes potentiate risk of addiction since the drug is absorbed more rapidly in the brain.
Effect on the central nervous system
The amphetamines potent central nervous system appear as a result of the release of biogenic amines from the nerve terminals. This enhanced release of norepinephrine results in the anorexia effect of amphetamine and together with release of dopamine it creates a feeling of euphoria. When higher levels of dopamine are released to the mesolimbic system, it results in increased levels of serotonin which is responsible for mental disturbances and the psychotic behaviours.
When the high dose of reaches the brain, it leads to a decrease in the levels of dopamine and serotonin and this is achieved through the activity reduction of the enzymes used in their synthesis mainly tyrosine dehydroxylase and tryptophan hydroxylase respectively.
The following table shows a list of websites that were visited for the purpose of this research
Title of report Website Retrival date
Medication and behavioral treatments (2004) www.psattc.org11-11-2014
Children at clandestine methamphetamine labs: Helping meth’s youngest
NIDA Community Drug Alert Bulletin: Methamphetamine (n.d.). www.drugabuse.gov10-11-2014
Methamphetamine – Drug Facts 2005 www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov11-11-2014
Parenting Children Who Have Been Exposed to Methamphetamine (n.d) www.orparc.org10-11-2014
The sites used for this study are from various government departments, and organizations that carry out various health and substances abuse researches. From the websites, they end with either gov. or org. meaning they are reputable websites. Hence, the information obtained from these websites is also reliable and thus they were considered for this paper. In addition, the sources have evidenced based reports where quantitative or qualitative research were used to write the reports thus making the data included in this paper very reliable and viable.
Data from various website sources on methamphetamine and journals published online was used to come up with this report.
Table showing the various side effects for methamphetamine users
Physical effects Cognitive side effects Short term psychological effects Long term psychological effects
Weight loss Failure to recall pictures Increased good mood Mood disorders
Kidney and heart damage Failure to learn from experience Increased alertness Lack of sleep and increased anxiousness
Increased risk of stroke Decreased ability to make inferences Increased talkativeness Confusion and aggression
Skin sores and infections Decreased ability to manipulate information Increased confidence Increases psychotic behaviour
Tooth decay Increased sex drive Hallucinations and increased suicidal tendencies
Increased transmission of HIV due to sharing injecting needles Table showing usage of methamphetamine in terms of age (a 2003 survey on methamphetamine users among college going children and non-college attending children obtained from NSDH, 2005).
Ages/ grades Used at least once Used in the past year Used in the last 30 days
College students 5.8% 2.6% 0.6%
Young adults(19-28) 8.9% 2.7% 0.7%
Table showing use of methamphetamine in USA (NSDH, 2005 n.p)
Used at least once Used in the past year Used in the last 30 days
12+ YEARS 4.9% 0.6% 0.2%
Table showing use of methamphetamine in school going children (NSDH, 2005 n.p)
Grade Used at least once) Used in the past year Used in the last 30 days
8th 2.5% 1.5% 0.6%
10th 5.3% 3.0% 1.3%
12th 6.2% 3.4% 1.4%
Comprehensive data obtained from various government and non-governmental websites, show that methamphetamine abuse cuts across all ages and social classes with the high-risk groups being people with low self-esteem, social pressure such as weight loss to gain an athletic or modeling body, depression, and those traumatised. While continued abuse leads to addiction, amount and ingestion routes are also determinants with smoking and injection contributing greatly to addiction. Though used medically for nasal and bronchial blockages, its abuse is the main concern due to the resulting side effects and the damages it causes.
Methamphetamine side effects are as a result of it passing through the brain blood barrier into the brain cells, where its main action is to decrease extracellular monoamine neurotransmitters, especially dopamine, via interfering with their reuptake and promoting their release at the nerve endings (Fleckenstein, et al., 2007 p. 687). Dependency on methamphetamine is a serious issue with major medical, psychiatric and social economic impacts in the society (Lapworth, et al., 2009 p. 383). Withdrawal from methamphetamine also results in impaired social functioning, fatigue and aggressiveness and more craving for the drug. This menace affects most people and users should not be alienated but helped to overcome the vice by taking them to rehabilitation centres.
While it has been used medically to solve medical conditions such as nasal and bronchial blockages, it misuse is the main problem. Methamphetamine abuse cuts across all ages and social classes with the main contributing factors being low self-esteem, peer pressure, social pressure, depressions and even people suffering from traumas. The resulting side effects vary from person to person but prolonged abuse results to both physical defects such as tooth decay, weak limbs due to poor appetite, damages of organs especially the heart, kidney and liver and also psychological effects. The psychological effects are usually aggressive behaviors which endangers their lives and of those around them and psychotic behaviors which leads them in committing suicide.
Fleckenstein A., E., Volz, T., J., Riddle, E., L., Gibb, J., W., and Hanson, G., R. 2007. New insights into the mechanism of action of amphetamines. Journal of Annual Review in Pharmacology and Toxicology. 47: 681–698.
Kish, S., J. 2008.Pharmacologic mechanisms of crystal Methamphetamine. Journal of Canadian Medical Association, 178 (13):1679-1682.
Lapworth, K., Dawe, S., Davis, P., Kavanagh, D., Young, R., Saunders, J. 2009. Impulsivity and positive psychotic symptoms influence hostility in methamphetamine users. Journal of Addictive Behaviours ,34: 380–385
Methamphetamine in Jefferson County. 2008. Methamphetamine in Jefferson County. Understanding the Impact of Methamphetamine Abuse: Issue Paper and Recommendations
NIDA Community Drug Alert Bulletin. n.d. Methamphetamine. www.drugabuse.gov.
Office of National Drug Control Policy. 2005. Methamphetamine. www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov.
Otero, C., Boles, S., Young, N. K., & Dennis, K., 2006. Methamphetamine Addiction, Treatment, and Outcomes: Implications for Child Welfare Workers. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Center for Substance Abuse Treatment
Substance abuse department. 2008. National Survey of Drug Use and Health: National Findings. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
US Department of Justice. 2004. Children at Clandestine Methamphetamine Laboratories. www.ojp.usdoj.gov.