Meth addiction is a problem that has spread to all areas of the United States. During 1999 4.3% (9.4 million people) of the U.S. population reported trying meth at least once in their lifetime. The highest rate of meth use was among adults ages 18-25. Although meth use is an epidemic across the United States, nowhere is it a bigger problem that in the Midwest. Meth accounts for nearly 90% of all drug cases in the Midwest, and is most prevalent in Oklahoma. Meth is surpassing cocaine as the drug of choice in Oklahoma. The state medical examiner's office reports the number of death cases testing positive for meth have been higher than cocaine for the past three years. The office also reports meth is found in more and more cases of homicides, and motor vehicle accidents.
Meth is a stimulant that imitates the way the chemicals in the brain manufacture and transmit messages of gratification to the brain's pleasure center. An individual can become dependent on meth almost immediately after their first time using the drug. Researchers believe that this is because meth is able to produce a manufactured sense of pleasure due to the way it interacts with the user's brain. Similar to the body's natural hormone adrenaline, meth raises heart rates, blood pressures, and breathing rates. Due to the body's physical as well as physiological reactions to meth the brain begins to expect the immediate gratification that it has become accustomed to. Because the use of meth produces this sense of instant gratification it becomes harder for life's normal rewards to create the same sense of pleasure.
Over time, the individual places more trust in meth's effects while other areas of daily life seem diminished and unimportant. Initially this takes place on a physical level then on a psychological level. One the physical level of dependence the individual continually strives to achieve the initial "rush" they felt the first time they used meth. This is not possible though; due to meth's ability to suppress and deplete the brain's production of normal chemical messages that create pleasurable feelings. Continual meth use changes the brain. It is forced to adapt to the presence of meth and lowers the production of other normal chemical messengers.
Psychological meth addiction is due to its tight hold on the individual's pleasure center. Meth begins to rule over the individual's life, demanding attention at all times. This in turn leads them to resent circumstances when they are unable to use meth, such as with non-using friends, work, school, and family. As this resentment builds the individual will push others away who no longer "fit" into their desired lifestyle.
No one wants to be a meth addict, but this doesn't stop people from getting addicted. The most commonly asked question is simply - how? How could my son, daughter, father, sister, or brother become a liar, a thief, someone who cannot be trusted? How could this happen? And why won't they stop? To understand an individual's fixation on meth you first must understand why a person uses. Most people use meth to change how they feel because they want to feel better or different. They use meth for the perceived benefits, or the benefits experienced, not for the potential harm. People use meth to have fun, to be part of a group, out of curiosity, and to escape from physical and/or psychological pain.
There are numerous reasons why an individual would begin using meth. One common thread throughout all the reasons is that using meth produces pleasurable effects which the individual likes. The individual knows that each time they use they will feel good ("high"), so they seek out this feeling. At first, using meth is about the pleasure obtained through taking it. As time goes on though, the individual begins to feel they need to take meth to feel normal. The individuals fall into meth addiction is unintentional and usually unforeseen by them.
Individuals who struggle with a tendency to use meth do not set out to destroy themselves, everyone and everything in their path. These disastrous consequences are the effect of the vicious cycle of a meth habit. For many, meth use seems to be a means of averting emotional and/or physical pain by providing the user with a temporary escape from life's sometimes uncomfortable realities. Example, a person tries meth. The drug APPEARS to solve their problems. They feel better. Because they now SEEM better able to deal with life, meth becomes valuable to them. The person looks at meth as a cure for unwanted feelings. The painkilling effects of meth become a solution to their discomfort. This release is the main reason a person uses meth a second or third time. It is just a matter of time before they becomes fully addicted and loses the ability to control their meth use. Meth addiction, then, results from excessive or continued use of the drug in an attempt to resolve the underlying symptoms of discomfort or unhappiness.
Over time, a person's ability to choose not to take meth can become compromised--soon enough the person rationalizes the need to use consistently and will do anything to get high. They are now caught in the vicious cycle of using to alleviate pain and creating more pain by using. They now display the physiological symptoms of a fixation with meth. They become difficult to communicate with, are withdrawn, and begin to exhibit other strange behaviors associated with a meth habit.
In addition to the mental stress created by their unethical behavior, the addict's body has also adapted to the presence of the drug. They will experience an overwhelming obsession with getting and using meth. This is when the newly-created addict begins to experience meth cravings. Ironically, the addict's ability to get "high" from meth gradually decreases as his body adapts to the presence of foreign chemicals. They must take more and more meth, not just to get an effect but often just to function at all. At this point, the addict is stuck in the vicious dwindling spiral of meth addiction. Meth use has changed them both physically and mentally. They have crossed an invisible and intangible line.
The compulsion to use meth can take over the individual's life. An individual's gravitation to meth often involves not only compulsive drug taking but also a wide range of dysfunctional behaviors that can interfere with normal functioning in the family, the workplace, and the broader community. Meth addiction can place users at an increased risk for a wide variety of other illnesses. These illnesses can be brought on by behaviors, such as poor living and health habits, that often accompany life as a meth addict, or because of toxic effects of the drug.