Crystal Methamphetamine has several different names (i.e. Crank, Crystal, Ice, Glass, Shard, Tweak). It may be snorted, smoked or injected. While there are some users who will snort or smoke amphetamine, many, in the end will opt to inject.

Stimulants mirror the action of adrenaline and dopamine which can increase blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, constrict blood vessels, dilate pupils, release sugars and fats into the blood stream and stimulate the brain. Feelings of increased alertness, anger, fear, or agitation, and feelings of well-being, exhilaration or euphoria result from using amphetamines. When stimulation goes too high, it can produce feelings of panic, intense paranoia, hallucinations, rage, hyperthermia, seizures and stroke.

Why is Methamphetamine Addictive?

All addictive drugs have two things in common. They produce an initial effect that is pleasurable, followed by a rebound unpleasant effect. An amphetamine, through its stimulant effects, produces a positive feeling, but when it wears off it leaves a person with opposite feelings of depression. This is because of the suppression by the drug of the normal production of adrenaline. Now, a chemical imbalance is created and the result is irritability that physically demands more of the drug to go back to normal and feel good again. This pleasure/depression cycle leads to loss of control over amphetamine use and often leads to addiction.

Methamphetamine’s produce an artificial feeling of pleasure. Most addictive drugs are able to produce pleasurable effects by chemically mimicking certain normal brain messenger chemicals that produce positive feelings in response to signals from the brain.  An example of this is the class of drugs known as narcotics, which mimics endorphin (nature’s natural pain reliever).  When the drug comes in, it stimulates the reward center. This short-circuits the survival mechanism, because the reward center cell can’t tell the difference between the drug and the natural chemical messenger. This often leads to malnutrition and weight loss due to lack of hunger.

The result is a dependence on the immediate, fast, and predictable drug that, at the same time, short circuits interests in and the motivation to make life’s normal rewards work.  When the amphetamine molecule comes in through the blood stream, it bypasses the natural nerve cells and causes the artificial release of normal, chemical messengers (endorphins) for positive feelings. What happens as a result of this is a feeling of
satisfaction, well-being and relief. Then, automatically the system sends a signal of positive rewards back to the memory of this activity. The first of many pleasure “hooks” has been implanted into the memory.

The amphetamine drug lies to both the Reward Center and to the Monitor Cell. The cell adapts to the excess stimulating effect of amphetamine by shutting down production of the natural stimulatory chemistry, to try to keep the balance.

How come I’m not high anymore?

The first association with first use of amphetamine has been locked in your subconscious memory. The subconscious learns through IMMEDIATE GRATIFICATION ASSOCIATION i.e. using amphetamine gives almost immediate pleasure.  Your subconscious remembers that first initial “high” and actually forces you to want to recapture it.  A person using amphetamine never gets as “high” as he or she did on the FIRST time. This is a result of the drug’s ability to suppress and deplete the brain’s production of the normal chemical messenger on which the brain relies to generate positive feelings.

The brain adapts to the presence of amphetamine by decreasing production of the normal chemical messenger. The user begins to use more — and has to work harder to get less and less pleasurable effect. Ultimately they crash. As a tolerance develops to the euphoric effects, higher and higher amounts of amphetamine are needed to get pleasurable effects. The more used, the greater risk from the toxic effects of amphetamine.

People who use amphetamines often lose weight because the drug turns off the drive to eat. The drug produces a feeling of satisfaction with regard to food, even though no food was eaten. Tolerance to this effect develops. When the person stops using the amphetamine, there is usually a rebound increase in appetite as the body discovers it has been literally feeding off itself and consuming it own tissues.

Repetition Strengthens Memory

The memory works like a MP3 player and stores all that the body experiences. At some time later, when “signaled,” physical experiences stored in the memory can be played back. Repetition strengthens memory. Through repetition, the pleasant effects of amphetamine and the relief of painful withdrawal become strongly programmed into the survival mechanism.

Why Does Methamphetamine Take Over Your Life?

Methamphetamine, like other addictive drugs, is able to short-circuit your survival system by artificially stimulating the reward center, or pleasure areas in your brain, without anything-beneficial happening to your body. As this happens, it leads to increased confidence in methamphetamine, and much less confidence in the normal rewards of life. This first this happens on a physical level.

Then, it affects you psychologically. The big methamphetamine lie results in decreased interest in other aspects of life, as you increase your reliance and interest in methamphetamine. People, places and activities involved with using methamphetamine become more important. People, places and activities or lifestyles that worked through your normal reward system, before using methamphetamine, become less important to you. In fact, after awhile, a heavy methamphetamine user will actually resent people, places and activities not able to fit in with methamphetamine use.

In certain studies, animals would press levers to release methamphetamine into their blood stream, no longer concerned about eating, mating or other natural drives. They will, in fact, die of starvation in the process of giving themselves methamphetamine even though food is available.

Is there such a thing as Methamphetamine Withdrawal?

Yes. The severity and length of the symptoms vary with the amount of damage done to your normal reward system through amphetamine use. The most common symptoms are: drug cravings, irritability, loss of energy, depression, fearfulness, wanting to sleep much of the time, or, difficulty in sleeping, shaking, nausea and palpitations, sweating, hyperventilation, and increased appetite.  These symptoms can commonly last several to many weeks after you stop using amphetamine. With medical treatment, these symptoms can be handled and eliminated much more quickly.

We notice that as more of the drug is introduced into the body, more of the body’s natural chemistry is suppressed. Eventually, natural reward messenger chemical production is almost shut down completely. If the drug is removed at this time, there will be a feeling of panic. This extreme state of irritability, tension and anxiety is what is called withdrawal.

During this time attempts at meeting normal survival needs don’t register as satisfying in the brain’s reward system because, the messenger for satisfaction has been suppressed by the drug.  Instead, the central survival mechanism sends out a panic signal screaming that the body is in extreme distress.

Amphetamine causes false feelings of well-being.  More and more confidence is placed in the drug while other survival feelings are ignored and set aside. The result is a lack of concern for, and confidence in, other areas of life.

At this point physical dependence sets in. Notice that in the beginning, the pleasure impressions in the memory were quite small. But as the natural chemistry becomes more and more suppressed, the survival mechanism receives a greater and greater feeling of pleasure through the use of the drug. Furthermore as the drug starts to relieve the withdrawal, the addicted person feels, “I needed that.” And so the subconscious memory is learning through the body that the drug is not only something that is pleasurable, but something that is needed just to make it through the day.

If you or someone you know is alone and lost in the darkness of Methamphetamine addiction, don’t despair. I’ve been there before and I know the way out.

Liam Magnuson