The Meth Messenger

Your brain on meth

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Presented by the Gila County Meth Coalition

Meth is known by many street names: speed, crystal, crank, tweak, go-fast, ice, uppers and black beauties, just to name a few. No matter what it's called, "Meth is Death" on your brain cells, and in fact, your entire body.

Use of this addictive drug causes an increase in the heart rate as well as blood pressure, which in turn can affect the brain by causing stroke through irreversible damage to blood vessels. Remember the commercial in the 80s and 90s where a person has an egg in a skillet on the stove? And the narrator says "This is your brain" and as the egg scrambles and fries the narrator says "this is your brain on drugs"? Well that pretty much describes what your brain is like on meth. The more meth is used, the more the brain is scrambled.

Meth can also cause aggressive or psychotic behavior, which would be influenced by a drug-affected brain. To make matters even worse, overuse can cause cardiac arrest sometimes resulting in death.

Other effects meth can have on the brain include: anxiety, depression, paranoia, delusions and with continued use, permanent psychological damage. All stemming from brain activity (or lack thereof) of one sort or another.

New evidence suggests that meth use may push cells that were protective of brain functions to instead attack otherwise healthy brain cells. Not good.

In recent studies done by UCLA on a group of longtime meth abusers, those with the most exposure showed problems with verbal fluency and visual motor coordination. The study showed a definite link between meth exposure and structural changes in the brain.

There may also be a connection between the functional deficits and degree of abuse.

According to Dr. Jerry Frankenheim of the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA): "Microglia are the primary immune defense cells in the brain. They safeguard neural functions yet excessive activation (through meth use) can cause microglia to harm neurons. Microglia are believed to have involvement with or links to a multitude of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and strokes."

Any way you look at it, meth abuse has a negative impact on brain usage. And who wants to be like the Scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz lamenting, "If I only had a brain"? The problem is users/abusers had one, they just didn't use it.

Chatting with EMTs from a local EMS they related that while having no specific calls dealing with meth overdose, they have run calls on meth users.

The subjects generally complain of various pain issues in hopes that "medical" will give them something to ease their feeling of wanting more drugs or something to get them high until they can get their next "hit." Subjects, or in this case patients, will lie and put on an act to get what they want.

They are usually paranoid and subscribe to the "woe is me" or "poor me, I need pity" attitude. The homes they live in are usually a pigsty and the individuals aren't very clean either.

One EMT mentioned they knew a person who took meth for a year because the drug allegedly made him feel younger, stronger, more virile and energetic.

He realized that the drug was dangerous and stopped taking it. That was about 10 years ago. He was fortunate the addiction wasn't real strong and easily kicked the habit.

Next month will feature an interview with the mother of a former meth addict.

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