Effects & Risks of Meth
If you suspect a teen in your life is using meth or is exposed to meth, the time for a conversation is now. Discuss the risks and effects of using this substance. Even without the risk of addiction, experimentation is too great a gamble.
Methamphetamine releases high levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which stimulates brain cells, enhancing mood and body movement. It also appears to have a neurotoxic effect, damaging brain cells that contain dopamine and serotonin, another neurotransmitter. Over time, methamphetamine appears to cause reduced levels of dopamine, which can result in symptoms like those of Parkinson’s disease, a severe movement disorder.
Methamphetamine is taken orally or intra-nasally (snorting the powder), by intravenous injection, and by smoking. Immediately after smoking or intravenous injection, the methamphetamine user experiences an intense sensation, called a “rush” or “flash,” that lasts only a few minutes and is described as extremely pleasurable. Oral or intranasal use produces euphoria – a high, but not a rush. Users may become addicted quickly, and use it with increasing frequency and in increasing doses.
The central nervous system (CNS) actions that result from taking even small amounts of methamphetamine include increased wakefulness, increased physical activity, decreased appetite, increased respiration, hyperthermia, and euphoria. Other CNS effects include irritability, insomnia, confusion, tremors, convulsions, anxiety, paranoia, and aggressiveness. Hyperthermia and convulsions can result in death.
Methamphetamine causes increased heart rate and blood pressure and can cause irreversible damage to blood vessels in the brain, producing strokes. One of the most serious and unpleasant side effects is “meth mouth,” where the users’ teeth rot from the inside out. Other effects of methamphetamine include respiratory problems, irregular heartbeat, and extreme anorexia. Its use can result in cardiovascular collapse and death.
Meth is often in the news because of its dramatic effects and consequences.
Meth is easily made with common ingredients and readily available household equipment, making it widely and inexpensively available. However, the chemicals used in its production can be poisonous and inflammable. Illegal meth labs often explode, creating danger to communities through fires. Meth labs tend to appear in small, rural communities, and can have a devastating impact on youth and the local economy.