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Methamphetamine is a potent central nervous system stimulant that is taken orally, intranasally (snorting the powder), by needle injection, or by smoking. It affects neurochemical mechanisms responsible for regulating heart rate, body temperature, blood pressure, appetite, attention, mood and emotional responses associated with alertness or alarming conditions.

Methamphetamine (a Schedule II drug) is a central nervous system stimulant drug that is similar in structure to amphetamine. Methamphetamine also has a very high addiction risk.

 Methamphetamine is FDA approved for the treatment of ADHD and exogenous obesity, marketed in the USA under the trademark name Desoxyn. It is sold in small cubes of odorless, bitter-tasting crystals; this led to the nickname "Crystal Meth" where the word "crystal" refers to its crystalline appearance and "meth" is short for methamphetamine.

One of the earliest uses of methamphetamine was during World War II, when it was used by Axis and Allied forces.

Methamphetamine can be produced in home laboratories using pseudoephedrine or ephedrine which are the active ingredients in over-the-counter drugs such as Sudafed and Contac.

EFFECTS

WITHDRAWAL

  • Following a period of heavy use which typically last days or even weeks, a severe withdrawal syndrome lasting up to 10 days can occur, primarily consisting of depression, fatigue, excessive sleeping and an increased appetite.

  • The mental depression associated with methamphetamine withdrawal lasts longer and is more severe than that of cocaine withdrawal.
  •  Withdrawal symptoms of methamphetamine primarily consist of fatigue, depression and an increased appetite. Symptoms may last for days with occasional use and weeks or months with chronic use, with severity dependent on the length of time and the amount of methamphetamine used.
  •  Withdrawal symptoms may also include anxiety, agitation, akathisia (uncontrolled bodily movements), excessive sleeping, vivid or lucid dreams, deep REM sleep and suicidal ideation.
  • While withdrawal is not dangerous, withdrawal from meth dependence is characterized by a protracted anhedonia (inability to enjoy normal pleasurable activities) and dysphoria (feeling hopeless, unhappy, etc.) that is accompanied by severe craving for the drug.  Craving frequently occurs in response to exposure to conditioned cues (stimuli present during past episodes of meth use and euphoria).  Such cues evoke powerful craving for meth via classical conditioning principles. 

  • The likelihood of continued meth smoking or injecting appears to be, in part, related to the strength of the craving experienced from these craving-generating cues. 

  • The withdrawal dysphoria present in the context of ubiquitous meth availability and ubiquitous conditioned cues can produce a very pernicious dependence; indeed, inpatient hospitalization may be indicated to treat long-term meth dependence, at least in initial stages of detoxification

TREATMENT

  • Methamphetamine addiction is one of the most difficult forms of addictions to treat. Participation in “Drug Court” as part of the process produces the most successful treatment strategy.
  • Inpatient/residential - Typically a 28-day rehab program in a residential community with group sessions and counseling using the Matrix Model is most effective with Meth users. Long-term inpatient/residential programs usually provide residential treatment for a period of 8-18 months and may be needed. There are three levels of service that can be offered in a residential setting:  intensive residential rehabilitation services, community residential services, and supportive living services.  Community residential services provide supervised services to persons making the transition to abstinent living, providing a drug and alcohol-free environment for persons who are completing or have completed a course of treatment, but who are not yet ready for independent living.

  • Outpatient - A medically supervised treatment option that does not involve overnight stay in a hospital or medical facility.  The Matrix Model—a behavioral treatment approach that combines behavioral therapy, family education, individual counseling, 12-step support, drug testing, and encouragement for nondrug-related activities is the method of choice.

 

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