Methamphetamine, or meth, is all over the news at the moment and quite rightly so. First synthesised from ephedrine in Japan in the late 1800’s, methamphetamine was originally marketed without prolonged studies being made into its side effects. In 1944, the US Food and Drug Administration approved methamphetamine as a medical ‘cure all’ for narcolepsy, depression, arteriosclerosis and even hay fever!
Widely used during World War II by Allies, Nazis and particularly the Japanese, methamphetamine use became synonymous with heightened concentration and aggression, the German Military distributing it under the name Pervitin. After the war, it became commercially available in Japan under the name Philopon.
Methamphetamine use has a wide variety of symptoms both physical and physiological. Users may experience anything from euphoria and heightened self-esteem to mood swings, violence, paranoia and suicide. Most affected is the heart rate which can become tachycardic, bradycardic, or stop altogether. The enormous effect of meth on the Mesolimbic Pathway of the brain, the ‘reward centre’, makes addiction almost inevitable.
Because of the relative ease and low cost in manufacturing methamphetamine, its use has grown exponentially in the United States over the last few decades, its distribution being orchestrated originally by the notorious Hells Angels. It is rapidly becoming an endemic problem in the ‘satellite’ states of North America (Mexico, Hawaii, etc.) and is making its way into the UK club scene.
When someone is addicted to a mind-altering substance like methamphetamine, stopping use of the drug causes side effects that may be uncomfortable, painful, or even dangerous. This is called withdrawal. In order to recover from meth addiction, it is necessary to first get the drug out of the body. The process of doing that is called detoxification or detox. During the detox period, a person will experience withdrawal. Withdrawal is a major cause of relapse with any type of addiction.
Meth addiction is difficult to overcome, and the reality is that most people who struggle with any type of addiction will have a relapse at some point. In fact, relapse rates are similar to those seen in chronic physical conditions like diabetes. This means that, like those illnesses, addiction can be managed. If it is considered to be a chronic, lifelong condition, meth addiction can be managed with long-term treatment. The prognosis for those who have this outlook and who commit to ongoing treatment and self-care is good.