When someone mentions methamphetamine also known as meth, the first thought that comes to mind is usually that of a notorious street drug with a flashy blue color and a distinct odor of cat in it. However, Meth is not actually a brand name; rather, it is actually a generic term for the chemical known as methamphetamine hydrochloride. Meth is an extremely powerful central nervous system (CNS) stimulant that is primarily used as a recreational substance and less frequently as a prescription treatment for attention deficit disorder and narcolepsy. Although it is highly addictive, meth is not habit-forming like cocaine or heroin and is relatively safe when used properly (1).
When used recreationally, methamphetamine temporarily increases the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain, thereby increasing the release of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. The main effect of increased dopamine levels is stimulation of the nigrostriatal pathway in the brain, which causes feelings of euphoria, alertness, and energy. As with many drugs of abuse, the long-term effects of methamphetamine use on the brain are not known, but abusers have reported major health problems, including heart attacks, strokes, seizures, liver failure, and even death. It is very important to recognize the signs of abuse and get help if necessary (2).
According to the most recent research, the drug causes neurotransmitter release in areas such as the brainstem, midbrain, hippocampus, and spinal cord. It activates voltage-gated sodium ion channels that generate a chemical reaction that produces a strong effect on neurotransmitter release. Other researchers have found that the drug has an effect on alpha-adrenergic and gamma-amino-aminobutyric acid receptors. Preliminary research indicates that the effects of methamphetamine on serotonin reuptake ability, however, are not known. In 2021, it was revealed that the drug may also act on the cysteine protein (3).
Hallucinogens, including methamphetamine, are believed to produce the same types of psychological symptoms as those produced by illegal drugs. Additionally, methamphetamine cause elevated heart rates, extreme excitement, nervousness, anxiety, paranoia, and intense desire for the drug. It is often injected but can be taken in any form such as in the form of a white pill, which can be snorted. Also, crack addicts will inject the drug because the effects of cold ice are much stronger than that of a pill (4).
There have been several studies on the therapeutic effects of methamphetamine, and several people have experienced positive results. However, because of the research theme’s long half-life, the actual therapeutic effects of the drug may take years to become apparent to the individual. To better determine the benefits and risks of a methamphetamine dosage, you can look up various research themes online.
Another symptom of methamphetamine psychosis (5), which also occurs with the abuse of other drugs, is delusions. Individuals suffering from psychosis will frequently see and hear things that are not real, or see things that aren’t there. Oftentimes these delusions are very powerful and dangerous. Commonly, people who suffer from methamphetamine abuse will start seeing and hearing strange voices in the bedroom, or voices that enter their minds while they are asleep. They may hear voices calling their family or demanding that they “get the pills now.”(6)
Neurotransmitter systems control communication between neurons in the brain, and dopamine is one of the neurotransmitters affected by methamphetamine abuse. When a person who is abusing methamphetamine uses it, the dopamine in the system is altered and alters the regulation of impulses from the nerves. The result is the patient will start to feel uncontrollable, have increased sexual desire, and have hallucinations that are vivid and extremely distorted. In severe cases, the patient may go completely nuts and suffer psychotic symptoms that include seeing and hearing multiple things that aren’t there (7).
Besides affecting neurotransmitters, methamphetamine use can affect the transmission of information from the brain to the eye, which is called peripheral vasodilation. With peripheral vasodilation, the blood vessels in the eyes dilate, allowing more blood to flow to the eye. This increase in blood supply to the eye can be associated with a number of different vision problems such as blurring of vision, halos, blind spots, or blind spots that appear when the eye blinks. In the past, methamphetamine was often used to treat these problems with tiny doses that were taken orally, but these solutions often resulted in rebounds or increased heart rate and caused many other problems such as vomiting and nausea. Today, researchers are trying to find alternate ways for treating these problems with dopamine neurotransmitters that do not affect receptors and are much safer (8).
Neurotoxicity can also occur with long-term use of methamphetamine, especially if the user has had no previous experience with this substance. If you take methamphetamine on a regular basis, your dopamine levels become high, and this is known as neurotoxicity. Neurotoxicity can result in seizures, severe headaches, and even mental retardation or dementia. The S Sigma receptor is one reason why methamphetamine does not easily cross the blood-brain barrier. When this receptor is blocked, the influx of additional methamphetamine into the brain becomes less likely (9).
Other neurotransmitters are affected by methamphetamine use, including the ventral tegmental area (VTA), basal ganglia, hippocampus, and prefrontal cortex. The VTA produces a chemical, dopamine, that is responsible for coordinating behavior in the central nervous system (10). The prefrontal cortex controls emotion, thought, and motivation, and is involved in memory and decision making. Many neurotransmitters are affected by prolonged use of methamphetamine, and many of these changes can cause adverse changes to the brain over time. Heavy Meth users can develop serious brain disorders that can impair their ability to function normally.