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Methamphetamine Addiction and Interventions


Methamphetamine was synthesized in 1919 by Ogata, a Japanese scientist. In the 1930s, Temmler Werke’s pharmacists in Berlin developed the stimulant called Pervitin. Since 1938, the substance has been used systematically and in large doses, both in the army and defense industry: tablets of Pervitin were officially included in the combat ratio of pilots and tank crews. During World War II, it was used by the German troops as a regular psychostimulant and by Japanese Kamikazes for their suicidal missions (Hanson, Venturelli, & Fleckenstein, 2012). In 1985, an illegal form of methamphetamine was first observed on the illicit drug market in Hawaii, which was crystalline methamphetamine. It was similar to pieces of crystalline salt and, therefore, was called ice. Beginning in the 1990s, many laboratories in Mexica, the US, Myanmar, and other countries produce this drug. Today, methamphetamine, also known as crank, speed, meth, and glass is one of the most widespread drugs worldwide because of its ease of manufacture.

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The global drug supply and abuse determine the key problem of methamphetamine to society. While it is completely prohibited in some countries, US doctors can use it in medical practice as a second-line drug in case of the ineffectiveness of amphetamine-containing first-line drugs, such as Adderall and Dexedrine. Stoneberg, Shukla, and Magness (2018) report that the problem is deteriorated by the fact that methamphetamine is a synthetic drug that does not require gathering some parts of plants. This poses legislative difficulties since many items needed for glass production are permitted. The rise in amphetamine-type stimulants and the increasing involvement of transnational criminal networks in this business pose a threat to the safety, health, and well-being of all people.

Among the problems surrounding methamphetamine, there are severe health effects on those who abuse it. As stated by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “about 15 percent of all drug overdose deaths involved the methamphetamine category” (What is methamphetamine?” 2019, para. 16). This sets an additional burden on the healthcare system to provide required services to them and their families. The addiction makes people spend more money to buy the drug, which leads to unemployment, poverty, and other negative social issues. The economics also incurs significant losses from the fact that the methamphetamine-spreading industry is illegal.

Adverse Health Effects

Methamphetamine is a white crystalline powder or white and yellowish tablets with various images. Its mechanism of action is associated with the activation of the central nervous system and causing euphoria. It provokes the production of dopamine in 1200 units, which is 3.5 times more than under the action of cocaine, and 6 times more than the normal rate, which the body produces on its own (Huang et al., 2017). The simultaneous action of adrenaline and dopamine also gives the effect of clarity of mind, stimulates creative thinking, and sharpens the perception of colors and sounds. After that, a stage when an addict ceases to feel happiness and satisfaction, both with and without methamphetamine, occurs (Courtney & Ray, 2014). Methamphetamine is utilized in different ways by inhaling through the nose, smoking, and taking injections, and tablets.

The given drug is highly addictive in terms of psychological and physical dependence that may appear even after the first use. If a person injected 3-5 times or a week – took another pill, then it is unlikely that he or she will be able to quit independently. The physical changes are a lack of appetite, tachycardia, irritability, hallucinations, insomnia, et cetera (Galbraith, 2015). Methamphetamine harms the human reproductive and urinary systems. The increased sexual activity leads to uncontrolled sexual relations, increasing the likelihood of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV infection. Drug addicts also suffer from serious organic changes in their internal organs and systems (Hanson et al., 2012). After several months of regular use of the screw, the liver and kidneys begin to break down, the heart and lungs suffer, and the cerebral blood supply is disturbed.

The addicts depending on methamphetamine also present some psychological disorders. Their thinking becomes deformed, while moral and ethical qualities tend to lower. A feeling of complete uselessness and emptiness as well as a long apathy and depression are also characteristic of the signs of being meth dependent (Radfar & Rawson, 2014). Aggressiveness is common in chronic drug addicts. Even with short-term use, the drug can lead to psychosis, impaired brain function, hypertension, violation of the cardiovascular system, hyperthermia, and death.

Combating Methamphetamine and Addiction Treatment

Current harm reduction initiative exists in many countries on local and national levels. For example, the social campaigns of the Montana Meth Project against youth use of drugs, in particular, methamphetamine, were launched in the US (March, Copes, & Linnemann, 2017). It clearly explains that this drug is dangerous, sometimes fatal, and unpredictable. The posters with the slogan “Meth. Not Even Once” focus on the process of involving new people in the community of drug addicts to assist them. As for the practical steps that were taken to restrict meth drugs, experience related to heroin was adopted, including needle exchange to prevent HIV epidemics and social support services that offer free food and overnight stay.

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Considering the fact that methamphetamine forms a strong psychological and physiological dependence, the experts state that it is almost impossible to recover without professional help (Radfar & Rawson, 2014). First of all, because severe depression comes with the refusal of the drug, one cannot exclude possible suicide attempts. To avoid this, as well as facilitate the break-up, a patient must be placed in a specialized hospital. Moreover, this is not to be done by force, but by preparing him or her beforehand, having convinced that the problem exists and should be solved. The addiction treatment includes three components, such as drug therapy, psychological support, and further rehabilitation. Emotional help allows combating psychological dependence and the restoration of the patient’s mind (Radfar & Rawson, 2014). The psychologist and the psychiatrist meet daily with the patient, and this recovery continues after discharge until the complete elimination of dependence. The stage of rehabilitation implies the social adaptation of the former drug addict based on creating or remembering social ties.

Drug therapy focuses on the excretion of toxins from the body, recovery of the organs, and symptomatic therapy. Buproprion and Naltrexone are two drugs approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), the effectiveness of which is related to limiting meth-induced dopamine (Courtney & Ray, 2014). However, the full recovery of a patient is not possible without human support. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is another method that is aimed at the awareness of the problems underlying addiction. In particular, the methods of self-control, situational analysis, and switching attention to other issues can be noted among the key techniques of CBT.

Recommendations and Conclusion

The prevention and education of people, especially adolescents who can often try methamphetamine due to their age-related specifics, are critical. In case of suspecting strange behaviors, it is essential to keep the trust of a person since fear can make one resort to threats or intimidation (Courtney & Ray, 2014). This will repel a person, making him or she withdraw. The provision of support is the main idea that one should bring to the loved one. For example, a child must feel that no matter what happened to him or her, he or she will be able to speak frankly about this. One of the prevention strategies is to encourage the interests and hobbies of a teenager as an alternative to the drug. Finally, it should be remembered that personal examples will act most strongly on the adolescent. A specialist should be contacted if one is convinced that a person cannot cope with addiction, be it a psychologist or narcology expert.

To conclude, methamphetamine is a synthetic drug that is highly addictive and causes serious psychological and physical deterioration of human health. Since it is quite easy to produce, the global trade of this drug is widespread worldwide. Currently, it is considered that the combination of drugs and CBT therapy is the most effective treatment for addicts. It is important to recommend initiating education for youth on the adverse impact and consequences of methamphetamine abuse to allow them to understand it before they try. In addition, various social campaigns on the assistance to addicts and prevention of HIV epidemics, illicit trade, and social struggles should be developed and implemented by organizations and governments.


Courtney, K. E., & Ray, L. A. (2014). Methamphetamine: An update on epidemiology, pharmacology, clinical phenomenology, and treatment literature. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 143, 11-21.

Galbraith, N. (2015). The methamphetamine problem: Commentary on… psychiatric morbidity and socio-occupational dysfunction in residents of a drug rehabilitation center. BJPsych Bulletin, 39(5), 218-220.

Hanson, G., Venturelli, P.J., & Fleckenstein, A. E. (2012). Drugs and society (11th ed.). Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

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Huang, X., Chen, Y. Y., Shen, Y., Cao, X., Li, A., Liu, Q.,… Arias-Carrion, O. (2017). Methamphetamine abuse impairs motor cortical plasticity and function. Molecular Psychiatry, 22(9), 1274-1281.

Marsh, W., Copes, H., & Linnemann, T. (2017). Creating visual differences: Methamphetamine users’ perceptions of anti-meth campaigns. International Journal of Drug Policy, 39, 52-61.

Radfar, S. R., & Rawson, R. A. (2014). Current research on methamphetamine: Epidemiology, medical and psychiatric effects, treatment, and harm reduction efforts. Addiction & Health, 6(3-4), 146-154.

Stoneberg, D. M., Shukla, R. K., & Magness, M. B. (2018). Global methamphetamine trends: An evolving problem. International Criminal Justice Review, 28(2), 136-161.

What is methamphetamine? (2019). Web.

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