Crystal Meth Addiction and the Nervous System

The body’s nervous system becomes intensely compromised during crystal meth addiction. Shortly after crystal meth is introduced into the system, natural brain chemistry becomes altered, upsetting the user’s balance of important neurotransmitters. As drug dependency develops over time, crystal meth can cause a host of neurological changes in the body and brain, leading to serious complications and physical and mental health disorders.

Effects of Crystal Meth on the Nervous System

Crystal meth acts on three important brain chemicals, known as neurotransmitters—dopamine (providing contentedness), serotonin (triggering feelings of pleasure) and norepinephrine (regulating energy and crisis responses). As a result, the brain experiences a chemical imbalance, responsible for the side effects associated with smoking or snorting crystal meth. For this reason, when high on crystal meth, a dependent individual experiences energy spikes (known as “tweaking”), paranoia, loss of appetite, aggression, and euphoria. When crystal meth depletes from the system, the body feels a downward chemical imbalance, leading to extreme exhaustion (“crashing”), lethargy, and depression.

Crystal meth can also lead to enduring damage to the nervous system as usage increases (to eliminate the side effects of temporary sobriety and withdrawal) and drug tolerance builds quickly. During withdrawal, crystal meth dependent individuals can experience anxiety attacks, severe levels of depression and even suicidal ideation. Some meth dependent individuals also experience hallucinations that can be auditory, visual or sensory in nature. Personality disorders can even develop with prolonged crystal meth use, leading to schizophrenic episodes, memory problems, attention deficits, and difficulty with cognition and problem-solving.

The nervous system also can cause physical responses to long-term crystal meth abuse. Because crystal meth can affect the brain’s regulation of the body, meth dependent individuals can experience rapid heartbeat (tachycardia), skipped heartbeats (arrhythmia), and high blood pressure (hypertension). Over time, these symptoms can weaken the heart, putting the meth dependent individual at risk for cardiac arrest years before their peers. Additionally, blood vessels damaged by crystal meth addiction can lead to serious conditions, such as brain hemorrhaging and strokes. The body’s immune responses also can become affected, lowering resistance to both bacterial and viral infections. Some studies even show evidence that crystal meth dependency can cause neurological damage severe enough to eventually trigger the onset of Parkinson’s disease in some dependent individuals.

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