Meth: Mental Effects
When discussing the mental and psychological effects of methamphetamine, it is useful to examine the two main types of abuse patterns of this substance, since each pattern has distinct psychological consequences. The two main abuse patterns of methamphetamine are low-intensity use and binge, or high-intensity use.
Low-intensity users of methamphetamine are typically described as occasional users of the drug, and so are not classified as true methamphetamine addicts. Lowintensity users generally swallow or snort methamphetamine for the extra mental stimulation it provides and are not necessarily using the drug to get high. Low-intensity users include truck drivers, high school or college students, and other people who need to stay alert and be able to concentrate for long periods of time without sleep. When methamphetamine is used in this manner, most people will experience increased mental alertness, focus, and concentration, enhanced self-confidence, and greater energy. Most low-intensity users will not experience the euphoria associated with binge or high-intensity users.
Binge users, or high-intensity users, of methamphetamine generally smoke or inject the drug for the express purpose of getting high. Almost immediately after injecting or smoking the drug, the user will experience what is called a "rush," a euphoria that quickly becomes psychologically addictive. During this rush, the user will have feelings that are similar to having a sexual orgasm, along with increased heart rate and blood pressure. This psychological and physiological rush is caused by methamphetamine's effect of causing a release of epinephrine into the body and brain. Epinephrine is one of the body's hormones that is released when someone is very excited or frightened. There is also a release of a chemical in the brain called dopamine, which is naturally released in the brain when a person feels great pleasure. All the feelings a user has during a rush will last anywhere from five to 30 minutes.
After the rush, a binge user of methamphetamine will experience a high lasting four to 16 hours. This high is also known as the "shoulder," during which time a methamphetamine user will feel aggressive, smarter, and can be quite argumentative. After the high, many users will continue to smoke or inject methamphetamine for days on end. As the binge continues, they generally become more argumentative, combative, and mentally hyperactive. A binge episode can last from three to 15 days.
After a long binge, a period known as "tweaking" can set in. Tweaking occurs at the end of the binge when no amount of methamphetamine can bring back the rush or high. The user generally experiences mental symptoms of emptiness, depression, and paranoia; they also often suffer a form of methamphetamine-induced schizophrenia. Users who experience this will have visual or auditory hallucinations as well as the feelings of bugs crawling underneath their skin. Often, methamphetamine users will take heroin or drink alcohol during this stage to try to combat the negative mental effects.
An episode known as "crashing" finally occurs when the methamphetamine user falls into a deep exhaustive sleep. Crashing happens when all the body's stores of epinephrine have been used up. A crash can last from one to three days.