What is Crystal Meth?
Methamphetamine, commonly known as meth or crystal meth, is a highly addictive stimulant drug that affects the central nervous system. It can be prescribed medically for attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), narcolepsy, or short-term weight loss, but it is also used recreationally.
Meth increases dopamine levels in the brain, causing a rush of euphoria. Because meth quickly enters and leaves the brain, this high is short-lived. Abusers often take meth at a high frequency, creating a high and low pattern known as “binge and crash.” Abusers may also take repeated doses in a “run” that lasts for days on end, to the point of giving up food and sleep. Meth effects include:
- increased activity and talkativeness
- rapid heartbeat
- increased blood pressure and body temperature
- decreased appetite
- short-lived “high.”
These effects, coupled with the amount of meth that enters the brain and the time it remains there, makes meth highly addictive and commonly abused. Meth abusers suffer from:
- severe weight loss
- severe dental problems (“meth mouth”)
- intense itching, leading to scratching and sores
- increased risk of HIV and hepatitis
Also, an overdose of meth can be fatal by causing heart attack, stroke, or organ problems such as kidney failure.
How is Tolerance Different from Addiction?
Tolerance occurs when the body becomes accustomed to a particular dose of a substance such that the dosage no longer affects the body. Tolerance can develop whether a person uses meth medically or recreationally. The two main symptoms of crystal meth tolerance are:
- Increased amount of meth or frequency of use needed to achieve results
- Current dose or frequency no longer produces results
Someone who uses meth recreationally would have to take higher or more frequent doses of meth to achieve a high.
Tolerance is a physical condition based on the body’s response to a substance. In contrast, addiction is a psychological condition in which a person has a psychological or behavioral response to a substance. A meth addict will compulsively use meth in spite of its adverse effects. Only meth use will relieve the craving. A person can become tolerant to meth without becoming addicted, but they often go hand in hand.
How Does Tolerance Develop?
Tolerance to meth develops very quickly because it is such a powerful stimulant and because it enters and exits the body so quickly. A person can develop tolerance to meth within a few uses. Other factors that influence tolerance include:
- Quality and purity of the drug
- Method drug is taken (swallowing, smoking, snorting, injecting)
- Individual characteristics
- Other medications or drugs used
Can Meth Tolerance be Lowered?
It is possible to reduce tolerance to meth, but it is a challenge and should be medically monitored. It is important to remember that an individual’s tolerance cannot be reduced below the original dose because this change can cause a physical response. If the meth is used medicinally, the symptoms it was treating would come back. If used recreationally, the high would disappear, and withdrawal may occur. Symptoms of withdrawal include:
- Intense drug cravings
- Shaking hands
- Rapid heartbeat
- Severe depression
Methamphetamine tolerance and addiction can be overcome through:
- Behavioral therapy
- Residential rehabilitation
- Self-help or support groups
If you have a problem with meth, or you know someone who does, help is available. Call 1-877-726-3352 for assistance in finding treatment.