Crystal Meth Psychological Side Effects

The highly addictive illegal substance known as crystal meth causes many different short and long-term psychological side effects due to the chemical changes that occur in the brain. After taking crystal meth, the drug initially increases dopamine levels, interferes with the chemical's break down and reabsorption. These actions cause the desired feeling of euphoria along with a false sense of increased physical energy. However, over time, the biological effects change.

The Birth of Addiction

Addiction occurs from different mechanisms that take place in the brain. First, the memory center records all of the circumstances revolving around each “high” incident. The brain remembers the time of day, the location, the drug paraphenlia used and the people involved in the partying event. When an individual comes face-to-face with any of these factors, the brain reminds the individual of former situations and meth cravings begin.

With habitual use, the brain attempts to normalize dopamine production, release and reabsorption. Neurons reduce the amount of dopamine and the number of receptor sites where dopamine attaches and causes the desired effects. Crystal meth users must then take the drug more frequently or increase the amount used to get the same sensations. The chemical changes in the brain also affect the nerves throughout the body. Without a routine and effective “high,” users begin experiencing withdrawal. If not able to satisfy the addiction, users may fall into a state of depression or have psychotic episodes involving irritability, aggression and violent behavior.

Addiction Psychological Effects

Depending on the dose and frequency of the drug taken, users may go without sleep for days. The fatigue that the body endures leads to hyperactive physical activity, thought processes and emotions. They might also have audio, visual or tactile hallucinations and panic attacks or become extremely confused from exhaustion. Imagined or real nerve tissue transmissions beneath the skin commonly lead meth users to believe that the sensations are caused by bugs or parasites. They scratch to relieve the itching, pick or dig at their skin in an attempt to find and remove the perceived infestation.

Tweaking Effects

Binge users who have large doses of meth coursing throughout their brain and body may remain awake for anywhere from three days to two weeks. The condition is known as “tweaking” and leads to some of the most intense and dangerous psychological symptoms. The combination of sleep deprivation, malnutrition, dehydration and meth cause exacerbated signs of anger, confusion and paranoia. Eye movements and speech are rapid. However, cognitive processes become so impaired that speech is incoherent. The Center for Substance Abuse and Research warns that in this state, individuals are more likely to engage in risky behavior that puts themselves and others in danger. Tweakers also have a higher risk of committing criminal acts.

Cite this page: N., Pam M.S., "Crystal Meth Psychological Side Effects," in PsychologyDictionary.org, March 6, 2016, https://psychologydictionary.org/article/crystal-meth-psychological-side-effects/ (accessed November 18, 2019).
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