The ugly truth about meth

A single hit of meth taken by a pregnant woman may be all it takes to cause birth defects during any stage of pregnancy. Despite this, the number of pregnant women abusing drugs has more than quadrupled since 2009. In fact, it is the second most commonly abused drug after marijuana worldwide.

The ugly truth about meth

While this may have once been problematic only in rural and underprivledged areas, the spread of addiction has become nationwide. This has led to one baby being born going through extreme withdrawal every 25 minutes in the United States.

Who’s at risk?

While methamphetamine originated as an issue in the underprivileged sector of the western United States, the addiction has spread across the country and bridged the class divide, affecting both the middle and wealthy classes.

In a study focused on meth use in suburban areas, many users were introduced to the drug while at work and reported that initially, the drug assisted them in working longer hours or improving their production; although prolonged abuse of the drug caused these effects to dissipate.

The study also demonstrated that many found the drug helpful in keeping up with the demands of balancing family life and work or to find the energy and drive to clean their home.

Unfortunately, the effects of methamphetamines often include an increase in sexual desire and sexually risky behavior, so women who use meth may face an increased risk of unplanned pregnancy.

Mothers can be particularly at risk for developing a methamphetamine addiction according to famed drug addiction physician, Dr. Drew Pinsky.

He cites the increased expectations for mothers to balance a career and home life, as well as an expectation to be thin as leading factors in the appeal of this drug.

What does a meth user look like?

While once seen as an issue for those in rural areas or in lower income brackets, the use of meth has continued to increase across the middle and upper class across the United States.

Methamphetamines may have been thrust in the mainstream pop culture with the debut of AMC’s Breaking Bad aired in 2008 highlighting the struggle of meth addiction, which has been difficult throughout history.

Adlof Hitler reportedly administered the drug, also commonly known as “crystal meth,” “speed” and “crank” to his army during World War II to make “super soldiers.” The drug was intended to increase both stamina and aggression.

Celebrity doctor Max Jacobson, aka “Dr Feelgood” reportedly supplied Marilyn Monroe, Truman Capote and JFK with meth.

More recently, Robert Downey Jr., Jodie Sweetin and Craig Robinson have admitted to using the drug.

Meth addiction is not limited to any class, profession, or gender. An Australian study found that there are six basic types of meth abusers. These incuded everyone from a sex worker, to a university student and even a parent. Their reasons for abusing the drug can vary, from an increase in confidence in social situations to a quick way to lose weight before a major event.

What does meth look like?

Methamphetamine is a stimulant drug that is chemically similar to amphetamine, which is often used to treat ADHD and seizures. It can be in a white powder or pill form. When produced as shards of clear or bluish “glass” it is known as crystal meth.

How do you take meth?

Users ingest the drug in several different ways including:

  • Swallowing a pill
  • Snorting a powder form
  • Inhaling or smoking it
  • Mixing it with water or alcohol and injecting it

What are the effects of meth?

Methamphetamine produces a short-term high. Many users will go on a “binge” repeatedly using the drug every few hours for days, forgoing food and sleep.

Methamphetamine increases the level of dopaminein the reward center of the brain, which makes the drug extremely addictive, even after a single use.

Meth use has many short-term physical effects on the body including:

  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Increased blood pressure and body temperature
  • Faster breathing
  • Increased wakefulness
  • Increased physical activity

Long-term use of meth can cause serious physical effects including:

  • Increased risk of Hepatitis B, C and HIV for those who inject the drug and/or participate in sexually risky behavior, as a result of their meth use.
  • Increase the progression of HIV/AIDS
  • Extreme weight loss
  • Dental issues or “meth mouth,” which the American Dental Association describes as severe gum disease and tooth decay that can lead to teeth breaking and/or falling out.
  • Intense itching, which can lead to open sores
  • Sleeping problems
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Violent behavior
  • Paranoia

It’s possible to overdose on methamphetamines, which can cause a heart attack, stroke, organ failure or death.

Impact of meth use during pregnancy

While the effects of second-hand meth smoke are not yet known, exposure to methamphetamines while in the womb can decrease blood flow to the placenta. Many pregnant women who abuse meth have extremely low body mass indexes, which can lead to a riskier pregnancy, complications, and longer hospital stays.

In addition, the expecting mother may be less likely to reach out for medical help, either because the drug has clouded their judgment or because they fear retribution from using the drug while pregnant.

Meth use during pregnancy puts the mother and baby at risk for several complications including:

  • High-blood pressure, which if untreated can lead to stroke, kidney problems and heart damage as well as eclampsia, which can lead to maternal death
  • Placental abruption, which occurs in approximately 10 percent of mothers who use meth and can cause hemorrhaging that often leads to death.
  • Increased risk of preterm labor and delivery by cesarean section

What are the effects on the baby?

A study from Cedars Sinai demonstrated that babies born to meth-addicted mothers are twice as likely to be born prematurely. This puts these babies at risk of being born with underdeveloped organs, such as their kidneys, lungs, and heart.

In addition to damaging the fetus’ well-being and health, meth use during pregnancy can also affect the fetus’ DNA and cause physical and mental abnormalities. Mortality rates are increased as well, as unborn babies are at risk for miscarriage and fetal stroke.

It is also believed that “meth babies” will suffer from long-term mental, emotional and physical behavioral challenges. For example, an infant born exposed to meth may be unable to regulate their sleep because of the drug’s impact on their brain’s neurotransmitters.

How can we help?

By recognizing that methamphetamines can affect a person regardless of age, gender and economic class, we can work towards better awareness of the dangers of meth, as well as early intervention. If you or someone you care about is struggling with an addiction, give us a call. Our compassionate, knowledgeable staff can help you understand your options.


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