Methamphetamine is a highly addictive chemically compounded stimulant. Similar in chemical structure to amphetamine, meth is widely and illicitly manufactured using a variety of production methods. Methamphetamine is a white, odorless, bitter-tasting powder. It can easily be dissolved in water or alcohol for rapid absorption.
Methamphetamine can be smoked, injected, snorted, dissolved, or taken orally. A majority of meth users consume the drug by heating and smoking the crystalline substance. Regardless of precise route of administration, methamphetamine’s stimulant effect arises directly from its molecular influence on certain brain and other central nervous system regions.
Using methamphetamine, regardless of method, impacts a number of neurotransmitter systems throughout the brain. Meth’s addictive potential is seen as a consequence of its chemical elicitation of rewarding euphoric sensations and mood enhancement capabilities—mediated in part by increased dopamine release in key brain areas.
This can produce an incredible sense of well-being that may be difficult to replicate. Your brain produces dopamine when you engage in activities that please you or benefit your survival (such as eating or sex).
Meth essentially hijacks this system—manipulating your body into producing that rewarding feeling even though you receive no actual benefit from the drug. Essentially, your brain craves this rush of dopamine because when it is produced naturally it indicates some sort of life benefit.
Meth abuse can cause your brain to believe that you are experiencing a survival benefit when in fact you are causing widespread harm to both your brain and body.
The methamphetamine “high” can produce desirable effects, such as:
Prolonged periods of energy.
Long periods of wakefulness.
Increase in libido.
These seemingly beneficial effects will decrease as tolerance develops with repeated or frequent use. Tolerance refers to the state of needing more and more of a drug to achieve similar effects. The development of tolerance presents a significant risk for the eventual progression towards full-blown addiction to methamphetamine.
Tolerant users may also change the method of use to intensify results, such as turning to intravenous use when smoking the drug no longer produces the desired high.
Tolerance often happens very quickly as persistently elevated meth levels eventually lead to desensitization of dopamine receptors, influencing the user’s ability to experience pleasure. Some users may begin to fall into increasingly depressive states if they do not continue to increase the amount of meth used, the frequency with which it is used, or if they stop using it altogether.
The development of tolerance and the inability to retrieve that initial high can lead the user to continually “chase the high”—putting himself at risk of increased health hazards, including overdose.