Methamphetamine

Methamphetamine is part of the amphetamine family of drugs which includes speed. The ‘high’ experienced from meth is extremely intense. This means the mind and body’s reactions to the drug are equally as intense. The potential for addiction, physical and mental problems is very high.

The Effects Of Ice Addiction

Meth produces an very intense feeling of euphoria and arousal. The user will feel more awake and their appetite will be suppressed.

When the drug takes effect, the receptors in the brain are flooded with monoamines. Over time, these receptors can be destroyed and prolonged meth use can cause the user to no longer feel pleasure without taking the drug.

Short-Term Problems:

  • Increased heart rate

  • High blood pressure

  • Irregular body temperature

  • Increased breathing rate

  • Constricted blood vessels

  • Heart problems

Long-Term Problems:

  • Aged appearance

  • Damaged teeth

  • Lesions on skin

  • Risk of stroke

  • Decreased lung function

  • Poor cognitive function – memory and decision making issues

  • Exposure to blood-borne viruses

Studies have shown the use of meth (and base) is associated with brain and mental health conditions, including ruptured blood vessels in the brain, memory-loss indecision, depression and psychosis. These drugs can cause paranoia and hallucinations and the user may also become aggressive and violent – possibly requiring sedation and physical restraint or police intervention.

Using ice or base can also lead to social and financial problems and the risk of family breakdown and losing friends. Dependence on ice and base can be physical, psychological, or both.

People who are physically dependent on meth develop a tolerance to the drug. This makes it necessary to take more of the drug to get the same effect. They can also find that their body has become used to functioning with the drug present. As a result the user needs to increase their dosage as they develop tolerance and require meth in their system to feel ‘normal’.

People who are psychologically dependent on meth or base find that using these drugs becomes far more important than other activities in their lives. They crave these drugs and find it very difficult to stop using it.

If a person who is dependent on meth suddenly stops taking it, they will experience withdrawal symptoms, because their body has to readjust to functioning without the drug. People may experience withdrawal symptoms for a couple of weeks.

Withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Cravings

  • Disorientation and poor concentration

  • Decreased energy, apathy and the limited ability to experience pleasure

  • Irritability

  • Depression, anxiety and panic

  • Paranoia

  • General aches and pains

  • Extreme fatigue and exhaustion

  • Headaches

  • Hunger and increased appetite

  • Disturbed and restless sleep, often interrupted by nightmares

 

Marijuana

It is the most widely used recreational drug. The UN (The United Nations) estimate that approximately 4% of adults worldwide used marijuana on an annual basis. This equates to approximately 180 million people.

Marijuana is a mind and mood-altering drug; it interacts with the chemistry of the brain.

Marijuana’s main active ingredient is THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol). It is ordinarily smoked as a “joint”or through a pipe or a bong.

The immediate effects are loss of motor skills, difficulty thinking, memory problems and an increased heart rate. Longer term effects are lung infections, cells/tissue damage and cancer.

Cocaine

Cocaine (benzoylmethylecgonine) is a addictive stimulant derived from the coca plant, which is found mostly in South America. Since the late nineteenth century, cocaine has been used in surgery as a anesthetic.

Cocaine is a central nervous system stimulant; a serotonin–norepinephrine–dopamine reuptake inhibitor

Cocaine is abused in two different forms:

  •  A white powder (cocaine hydrochloride), which users either snort or inject.

  • Or as Crack. This is cocaine hydrochloride that has been processed to form a ‘rock’ that can then be smoked.

The cocaine user will experience feeling of euphoria and feel energetic.

Opiods

"Opioids" is an umbrella term for natural and synthetic painkiller drugs derived from or based on the poppy plant. The related term "opiate" applies only to medications that use natural opium poppy products. For example, the illicit drug, heroin, is classified as an opiate because it is derived from the poppy plant.

Physicians often prescribe opioid medications to relieve acute pain—from injuries, surgeries, toothaches, or other medical and dental procedures—or to alleviate chronic pain. However, studies show that long-term opioid use for chronic pain can be ineffective—and comes with the risk of addiction. You might recognise some of the more well-known opioid drugs prescribed for pain, including:

  • Morphine

  • Codeine

  • Diacetylmorphine

  • Hydromorphone (Dilaudid)

  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin, Lortab)

  • Opium

  • Oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet)

  • Oxymorphone

  • Meperidine (Demerol)

  • Methadone

  • Fentanyl (Sublimaze, Actiq)

  • Tramadol

What's the Connection between Prescription Painkillers and Heroin?

Addiction to prescription opioid medications (painkillers) has given rise to the use of heroin as a less expensive, more readily accessible substitute. Heroin, a highly addictive illegal drug typically used for its euphoric effect, comes in the form of a black tar substance or a white or brown powder. 

Heroin can be smoked or snorted, but the drug is more typically injected into a vein in order to achieve the quickest high. Injection causes the greatest risk to users because heroin overdose can more easily occur, and because disease and infections can be spread by dirty needles.

How Do Opioids Work, and Why Are They So Addictive?

When opioid molecules travel through the bloodstream and into the brain, they attach to opioid receptors on the surface of certain cells. The chemical response triggered in the brain's reward center is the same as the reaction to intense pleasure and reinforces acts such as eating, drinking fluids, caring for babies and having sex—all necessary for survival of the species.

These rewarding and survival-based activities result in the release of dopamine in the brain's reward center. But opioid use, like use of any drug of abuse, triggers the release of dopamine in excess amounts, far beyond what is needed to provide pleasure or keep us alive. In the process, the brain has been signaled: something extremely important has taken place, and it needs to be repeated.

Opioid medications can also induce euphoria, an effect that can be intensified when the drug is administered by routes other than those prescribed or recommended. For example, although prescription painkillers may be prescribed in pill form, the medication can be snorted or injected to enhance the euphoric effects. Unintended consequences of misusing opioid drugs in this way can include serious medical problems, even opioid overdose.

Addiction is defined as the compulsive and uncontrollable use of alcohol or other drugs despite adverse consequences. Dependence occurs when the body adapts to the presence of the drug, causing withdrawal symptoms when use is reduced or discontinued. 

Prolonged and increasingly higher doses of opioids change the brain so that it functions more or less normally when the drug is present and abnormally when the drug is removed. This alteration in brain function results in drug tolerance (the need to take higher and higher amounts to achieve the same effect; "chasing the dragon") and opioid dependence (or heroin addiction) as signaled, in part, by susceptibility to withdrawal symptoms.

Euphoria is the sensation most opioid users seek, but it's also the effect most likely to diminish with prolonged use.

That's why it's said a person with opioid addiction uses the drug in order to feel "normal." And while you might assume an opioid or heroin addict takes pleasure in using, most people who develop opioid dependence cannot recall the last time their drug use was enjoyable. After a certain point, substance abuse and dependence become drudgery, and the addictive cycle becomes its own form of torture.

What Are the Signs, Symptoms and Side Effects of Opioid Addiction?

Every person's situation is different, but in general, opioid use disorder is a condition that involves both physical and psychological processes. Progression of the disease can be so incremental that it's not recognised as such until a crisis occurs. Here are eight potential warning signs of opioid or heroin abuse:

  1. Taking the drug in larger amounts or over a longer period than intended or prescribed

  2. A persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control drug use

  3. An excessive amount of time and effort spent getting, using and recovering from the effects of use

  4. Intense cravings or a strong desire or urge to use

  5. Failure to fulfill obligations at work, school or home due to drug abuse

  6. Continued use despite persistent or recurrent social or personal problems caused by usage

  7. Continued use despite situations that could be physically hazardous, including overdose risk

  8. Continued use despite awareness of potential physical or mental health problems

As with all types of drug or alcohol addiction, having a family history of substance abuse increases your risk of developing dependence.

Other signs, symptoms or side effects of prescription opioid abuse or heroin use include:

  • Problematic mental health, behavioral or psychological changes such as agitation, poor judgement or apathy

  • Drowsiness or coma

  • Impaired mental functioning

  • Slurred speech

  • Constricted pupils

  • Euphoria

  • Slowed down respiration

  • Dry mouth

  • Nausea

  • Constipation

  • Abdominal cramping

  • Skin rashes and infections

  • Weight gain

  • Menstrual problems

  • Depression

  • Headaches

  • Bad dreams

  • Loss of libido, sexual dysfunction

  • Mood swings

  • Collapsed veins

  • Risk of HIV, hepatitis B or C

  • Miscarriage

  • Infections of the heart lining and valves

What Are the Warning Signs of Opioid Overdose?

Taking a large, single dose of heroin or any opioid drug can cause severe respiratory depression with the potential for accidental drug overdose and death. Opioid abuse is also associated with a higher risk of suicide. Signs of overdose may include:

  • Shallow breathing

  • Pinpoint pupils

  • Convulsions

  • Coma

  • Nervous system changes

  • Decreased vital signs

  • Cold or clammy skin, or bluish lips

The strength of heroin is unpredictable because other drugs, are sometimes added to increase volume or enhance potency. Heroin is one of the substances most frequently reported by medical examiners in drug abuse deaths. 

What Is Opioid Withdrawal?

Opioid withdrawal occurs as the body adjusts to a decrease or discontinuance in drug use. The withdrawal effects can be especially challenging and, in fact, prevent some people with addiction from seeking the help they need and deserve. Opioid withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Restlessness

  • Muscle aches, pain, stiffness, spasms and bone pain

  • Insomnia

  • Diarrhea

  • Vomiting

  • Cold flashes with goose bumps ("cold turkey")

  • Involuntary leg movements

  • Agitation

  • Anxiety, panic

  • Itching

  • Irritability

  • Rapid heart rate

  • Mild hypertension

  • Runny nose

  • Sweating, shaking

  • Flu-like symptoms, fever

  • Yawning

  • Seizures

  • Sleep difficulties

  • Fear, paranoia

At the height of opiate withdrawal, symptoms typically include intense anxiety, tremors, shakes and muscle cramps. Joint ache and deep bone pain often manifest, as well.

The long-term consequences of opiate withdrawal, including anxiety, depression and cravings, can continue for months, even years after being free of use. Recovering addicts may also have an increased sensitivity to real or imagined pain, and greater vulnerability to stressful events.

The desire to feel "normal" again, to escape the seemingly permanent state of dysphoria, puts recovering opioid addicts at a high risk of relapse and, even more tragically, at a high risk of accidental overdose, respiratory suppression and death. When people with opioid dependence stop using—for weeks or months or years—and then pick up again, their tolerance for the drug changes so that an amount they could previously tolerate can become a lethal dose.

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