Progression of Use: From Honeymoon to Hell
"Poor Man's Cocaine" is one slang term for Meth - for good reason. Meth generally costs the same or less than crack cocaine (ranging from $25 to $100 per gram) but because the user's body metabolizes it more slowly, the high lasts much longer. Users tend to believe they get "more bang for their buck" with Meth. An intense rush is felt almost immediately when a user smokes or injects Meth. Snorting the drug affects the user about five minutes later; it takes about twenty minutes for the rush to kick in if a user ingests Meth.
"Honeymoon" on Meth
Meth initially sends a message to the pleasure center in your brain. When you first use Meth, you might feel alert, full of energy and self-confident. Your brain is releasing dopamine - a brain chemical that carries messages between brain cells. Dopamine is associated with feelings of pleasure, usually after food or sex.
Hours after taking Meth, your brain cells release an enzyme that stops the dopamine flow. If you keep taking Meth, you will potentially lose your ability to experience pleasure.
Continued use of Meth does more than destroy a person's ability to experience pleasure naturally. Chronic use can create a tolerance for the drug, leading a person to try to intensify the desired effects by taking increasingly higher doses, taking it more frequently or changing their method of getting high. To support their habit, Meth users often participate in spur-of-the-moment crimes such as burglaries. Under the influence of Meth, people become agitated and feel wired. Their behavior becomes unpredictable from moment to moment. They may start doing the same thing over and over, like taking apart and reassembling bits of machinery, or continuously picking at imaginary bugs under their skin (Please see Meth Mites).
Meth users suffer the same addiction cycle and withdrawal symptoms as do crack cocaine users. Both drugs lead to binging - consuming the drug continuously for three or more days without sleep. While cocaine binges rarely last longer than 72-hours, Meth binges can last up to two weeks. The user is then driven into a severe depression followed by paranoia and aggression (known as tweaking). When heavy cocaine users experience paranoia, it almost always disappears once the binge ends. With Meth, severe mood disturbances, bizarre thoughts and behavior may last for days - sometimes weeks - and the user loses a grip on reality.
Meth use causes both short- and long-term affects, physical and mental. Some people mistakenly believe Meth is less harmful than crack, cocaine or heroin, but because of the ingredients used in its manufacturing, there is a greater chance of suffering a heart attack, stroke or serious brain damage with Meth than with other drugs. It is far more dangerous than the Meth that was popular back in the 1950s and '60s. Today's ephedrine-based Meth can kill you.
Information adapted from National Institute on Drug Abuse and Midwest HIDTA