Drug abuse is a growing concern. It is a problem faced by all countries and continues to contribute to drug-related complications and even deaths every year. According to recent statistics by the World Health Organization1, it is estimated that at least 31 million individuals throughout the world suffer from a substance use disorder. Among these, an estimated 11 million prefer to use an injection to administer illicit drugs.
While alcohol and marijuana remain some of the most commonly abused substances, opioids closely follow in these statistics. Opioids are a class of drugs often used to treat pain symptoms in patients who have had surgery. The drugs are also often used as a way of reducing pain in people with certain chronic illnesses.
There are other drugs that people misuse, some of which can act on similar receptors in the body as opioids. With this in mind, several questions regarding a connection between methamphetamine and opioids have been asked. We look at the big question in this post – helping people understand whether or not methamphetamine is actually an opioid.
What is Methamphetamine?
Methamphetamine is a drug that is often simply called meth. Sometimes, people refer to this drug as “crystal meth” in certain forms. This is a valid term and refers to crystal methamphetamine, a very specific methamphetamine type.
Many people ask “Is meth an opioid?” However, Methamphetamine is primarily classified as a stimulant in the scientific and medical community. According to some studies, it is one of the most potent stimulants, which is why it is a highly scheduled and regulated drug.
The drug has the form of white crystalline. There are several ways that people take the drug for recreational use. Snorting methamphetamine crystalline is a common way for people to use the drug. Sometimes, people also smoke crystals. A liquid solution is also created by some people, which is then injected into the bloodstream.
Methamphetamine is considered a stimulant due to the effects it has on the body. It has a stimulant effect on the central nervous system.
There are a few medical uses for the drug. It was first available in the form of a nasal decongestant. A bronchial inhaler containing the chemical structure was introduced at the same time. The drug became a preferred medicated treatment for people who were obese at a time. Attention hyperactivity disorder has also been treated with methamphetamine in the past. Methamphetamine would be considered a second-line therapy option in these scenarios.
Today, however, it is very rare for a patient to possess methamphetamine as a medicinal drug. Instead, the majority of people who are in possession of the drug use it for recreational purposes. The euphoria created by meth is what makes people consistently turn back to the drug, making this a habit-forming substance.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that approximately 6.5% of all submissions to treatment centers and facilities are related to stimulants. Among those individuals using stimulants, meth is a commonly found substance.
The substance consists of two compounds. For some, this is a generally easy formula to recreate, which has led to motivation for several illicit laboratories to be created. Throughout the United States, multiple labs have been identified in the past years. While many of these labs are small and often in a basement setting, there are also a few larger facilities used to mass-produce methamphetamine.
What AreThe Effects of Methamphetamine?
Methamphetamine can have several effects on the body. While the specific effects tend to depend on the dose taken, one of the most common factors associated with meth is a false sense of well-being. The person may feel exceptionally well when they are on meth. This can sometimes make the person try to do things that are better left alone, such as activities that could put the individual in serious danger.
People who use methamphetamine often experience these particular effects:
- A boost in energy.
- Mental performance is temporarily enhanced, leading to better concentration and alertness.
- Most people find that the drug immediately boosts their mood.
- A suppressed appetite.
- An increased libido.
When there is a loss of appetite in the patient, the risk of weight loss needs to be taken into account. The individual may continuously turn to methamphetamine, which means they will find their appetite suppressed for long periods of time.
There are several adverse effects that methamphetamine can cause. The more serious adverse effects of methamphetamine are generally associated with chronic and long-term use. The drug can gradually cause serious damage to the body.
Some of the adverse effects that patients can suffer when they use methamphetamine over a long period of time include2:
- The effects of meth on the body can cause bleeding in the patient’s brain.
- It is possible for the patient to experience psychosis.
- Some reports have noted a breakdown of skeletal muscle tissue in patients who used methamphetamine over a long period of time.
- Seizures have been noted among people who misuse meth as well.
- Chronic use of methamphetamine can lead to mood swings and even violent behavior in a previously peaceful person.
- Delusions are not uncommon in people who use the drug long-term. The delusions may be accompanied by delirium, as well as hallucinations.
Is Methamphetamine an Opioid?
Several questions have been asked about a possible connection between methamphetamine and opioids. The primary driver behind these questions is the fact that there are similarities to the specific receptors affected in the brain.
The short answer to the question is no.
Methamphetamine is not an opioid and does not fall within this drug class. Meth is known as a potent stimulant that causes mood changes and suppresses appetite, among other changes in the human body.
Opioids, on the other hand, are a class of drugs most often provided to patients with chronic conditions that lead to pain. These drugs are also used following a surgical procedure. Opioids bind to opioid receptors in the brain. This helps to reduce pain sensations. Some people experience effects that initially feel pleasant when they take higher doses of opioids, which is why these drugs are considered addictive.
The question that remains revolves around the frequent association between opioids and methamphetamine. While meth is not an opioid, why do some people think it is?
To answer this question, we have to consider a few scientific studies that have been done. These studies primarily looked at how methamphetamine interacts with the human body at a physiological level.
In one paper3 published in the Journal of Current Neuropharmacology, researchers explain that the use of meth causes an interaction on the central nervous system. This is where the first connection between the two drugs come into play – as opioids also play a role in the central nervous system.
The effects of methamphetamine on the body, particularly with chronic use, lead to behavioral sensitization. This is essentially what makes Meth an addictive drug.
The paper explains that previous research indicated the opioid receptor system to be involved in the behavioral sensitization caused by methamphetamine. At the moment, it is not entirely clear how exactly meth connects with the opioid receptor system in the human body. Researchers have, however, shown that the drugs interact with opioid receptors.
Another study4 used laboratory mice as study subjects. The researchers used a test dose of meth, which was administered to the mice. The study focused on behavioral testing. It was found that the methamphetamine does, indeed, affect the opioid receptor system. The effect on this system causes a change in dopamine D1 receptors. This means the drug changes how the body produces dopamine, a neurochemical often cited as the “feel-good chemical” of the human body.
Symptoms of Methamphetamine Addiction
Identifying an addiction to methamphetamine is critical to ensure action and intervention can be taken before serious, long-lasting damage occurs. Individuals should not only be concerned about themselves but also understand how to recognize a meth addiction in loved ones.
There are a few warning signs that people need to look out for. When these effects are noted, intervention should be taken as early as possible. It is generally easier to help a patient get off meth during an earlier stage of addiction, especially when compared to long-term users.
Signs that may indicate a person is abusing meth include:
- Teeth may be rotting
- Agitation and paranoia
- Unexpected weight loss
- The eyes may rapidly move
- Sleep patterns may be abnormal
- Burns on the fingers and lips
- The person may eat much less than usual
- Mood swings
- Pupils may be dilated
How Methamphetamine and Opioid Addictions Are Treated
Most people addicted to methamphetamine are unable to stop using the drug on their own. Professional help is advised for addicts, as this can help them recover more successfully while also providing assistance during the detoxification period.
During an intervention, a 24/7 methamphetamine medical detox center in North Texas, like the one offered at Stonegate Center, which is located just west of Fort Worth, can be consulted. These centers help with the detoxification period, which is when the worst withdrawal symptoms are generally expected.
Contingency management intervention and cognitive behavioral therapy are currently considered effective treatment options5. A 12-step program, combined with frequent drug testing, can also be helpful. No approved medication is available for the treatment of meth addiction, making it difficult to provide a pharmacological approach to treating this specific form of substance abuse. Still, research has shown promising results when therapies and strategies are used to change behavioral traits in the patient.
Where People Should Turn to for Help
Methamphetamine and opioids are not directly related. Both can, however, cause serious complications when abused. In cases of overdose, both of these drugs are able to contribute to life-threatening events. While methamphetamine is not an opioid, it can act on the same opioid receptors in the body.
Patients who develop a dependence on methamphetamine should realize the severity of the situation. Seeking help to stop using the substance is critical to stop the damage dealt with both the body and the mind. Patients can opt for a treatment program by looking for a meth addiction rehab center near me.
When looking for a meth abuse treatment facility for men near Fort Worth, Texas, patients may be provided with either residential or outpatient services. And if you’re in Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, check out Stonegate Center Creekside for men to see if you qualify for our long-term treatment program for meth addiction!
Detoxification is sometimes also needed. Going through a thoroughly planned treatment program helps to reduce withdrawal symptoms and offers more successful results.
1 World Health Organization. Management of Substance Abuse: Facts and Figures. [online] Available at: https://www.who.int/substance_abuse/facts/en/
2 StatPearls. (2020) Methamphetamine Toxicity. [online] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430895/
3 Journal of Current Neuropharmacology. (2011) Involvement of u-Opioid Receptor in Methamphetamine-Induced Behavioral Sensitization. [online] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3137186/
4 Journal of Biomedical Science. (2011) Methamphetamine-induced changes in the striatal dopamine pathway in u-opioid receptor knockout mice. [online] Available at: https://jbiomedsci.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1423-0127-18-83
5 National Institute on Drug Abuse. What treatments are effective for people who misuse methamphetamine? [online] Available at: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/methamphetamine/what-treatments-are-effective-people-who-misuse-methamphetamine