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General overview

Methamphetamine is the shortened form of N-methyl-alpha-methylphenethylamine. It is a recreational drug which stimulates the central nervous system.

In the United States, methamphetamine hydrochloride (Desoxyn) is approved by the FDA as a medication which is used to manage conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and obesity in adults and children. Due to the dangers of central nervous system overstimulation, this drug is rarely prescribed and other substitutes are rather recommended.

The issue with methamphetamine is that at low doses it can induce euphoric feelings, increase the user's mood, increase alertness and concentration, increase energy levels in fatigued individuals and can decrease appetite and stimulate weight loss. Due to these situations, methamphetamine has been abused by scholars and students to help them study during exam times and by individuals looking to get that 'high' feeling from this drug.

Major problem with methamphetamine

When taken at high doses, this drug can cause psychosis (detachment from reality), muscle breakdown and even cerebral hemorrhage

The following are symptoms and behaviors which can be experienced by chronic users of this drug:

  • Unpredictable and rapid mood swings.
  • Delusions.
  • Violent behavior.
  • Increased sex drive and thus high risk activity with possible exposure to HIV and other sexually transmitted illnesses.
  • Irritability and restlessness.
  • Anxiety.
  • Depression.
  • Suicidal thoughts and behaviors.
Methamphetamine is known to be highly addictive which leads to persistent drug use and also results in dependence of the drug which can lead to withdrawal symptoms if use of it is stopped.

Physical effects caused by the drug

Side effects of methamphetamine use can include the following:
  • Rapid breathing.
  • High body temperature.
  • Excessive sweating.
  • Dilated pupils.
  • Fluctuating blood pressures.
  • Tremors and twitching.
  • Irregular and fluctuating heartbeat.
  • Dizziness.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Hyperactivity.
In pregnant women who use methamphetamine, the babies are born with smaller heads and lower weights. The baby can also undergo withdrawal symptoms and can experience agitation, excessive crying and fast breathing. These symptoms are relatively mild and tend to resolve on their own fortunately.

Drug overdose

A massive overdose of methamphetamine can be fatal. Should the following symptoms and signs be experienced or noticed then one must contact 911, your local emergency services or the affected individual needs to be taken to an emergency room immediately.
  • Convulsions or seizures.
  • Coma or unconsciousness.
  • Very high body temperature.
  • Very irregular heartbeat.
  • Shallow breathing or difficulty breathing.
  • Chest pains.
  • Severe lower abdominal pain.
  • Very aggressive behavior that can't be controlled. The police need to be called if the person is a danger to themselves or others.
Methamphetamine overdose can lead to bleeding on the brain, cardiogenic shock, severe urinary retention, severe psychosis, serotonin syndrome or death.

Management of drug abuse 

Like any addiction, methamphetamine abuse needs to be managed in a drug rehabilitation clinic where the offending product is removed from the patient. The person will then be given medication, such as benzodiazepines, which help to relieve anxiety and nervousness which are as a result of the withdrawal process. Psychotherapy and occupational therapy will also be offered to help the patient understand and deal with any stressors which may have contributed to the initial use of the drug. A social worker will also be involved in helping the patient get back on their feet and to be reintegrated into the community.

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