Crystal Meth – Road to Depression


I did Crystal Methamphetamine for about a week. Smoked large amounts during the day and also snorted a couple times during that week.  This is the only time I've done it and unfortunately I did it for a week.  Problem is... I’m now SO FUCKING depressed! While high on meth I was social, happy, and nothing really bothered me.  Now that I'm not high I feel like a piece of shit!!! I was somewhat depressed or maybe insecure before I did this meth, but now it's crazy! I go into the bathroom and cry like a little fuckin' girl.  I feel worthless and it’s SO SO bad. I have no happiness in my soul right now.




What is Methamphetamine?

Methamphetamine is a powerful central nervous system stimulant. The drug works directly on the brain and spinal cord by interfering with normal neurotransmission. Neurotransmitters are chemical substances naturally produced within nerve cells used to communicate with each other and send messages to influence and regulate our thinking and all other systems throughout the body.

The main neurotransmitter affected by methamphetamine is dopamine. Dopamine is involved with our natural reward system. For example, feeling good about a job well done, getting pleasure from our family or social interactions, feeling content and that our lives are meaningful and count for something, all rely on dopamine transmission.

A synthetic drug, methamphetamine has a high potential for abuse and dependence. It is illegally produced and sold in pill form, capsules, powder and chunks. Methamphetamine was developed early in this century from its parent drug amphetamine and was originally used in nasal decongestants, bronchial inhalers, and in the treatment of narcolepsy and obesity. In the 1970s methamphetamine became a Schedule II drug - a drug with little medical use and a high potential for abuse.

The drug is referred to by many names including "meth," "speed .. crank," "chalk,"- "go-fast," "zip," and "cristy." Pure methamphetamine hydrochloride, the smokeable form of the drug, is called "L.A." or - because of its clear, chunky crystals which resemble frozen water - "ice," "crystal," 64glass," or "quartz." Since the 1980s, ice has been smuggled from Taiwan and South Korea into Hawaii, where use became widespread by 1988. By 1990, distribution of ice had spread to the U.S. mainland.

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Negative Consequences of Being High

Smoking, snorting or injecting crystal meth can result in a prolonged and intense high. Many users initially report feelings of euphoria, increased energy, alertness, heightened awareness, reduced appetite and enhanced sexual pleasure. All of these effects can make self-medicating with crystal meth an alluring possibility for some people who have the following problems:
  • lack of energy
  • low self-confidence
  • anxiety
  • difficulty sleeping
  • problems concentrating
  • feelings of worthlessness
  • being depressed
  • being overweight

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Crystal and Depression

Using crystal causes ups and downs in the levels of serotonin (your happy mood chemical) in your brain. You have lots of serotonin when you’re high, but much less when you’re crashing. So feeling "depressed" during the crash and between highs is typical for people who use crystal regularly. This temporary change in mood is a short-lived, mild form of depression. Over time and with regular or increased crystal use, your serotonin levels can become seriously depleted. This may result in a drug-caused depression that lasts longer but often improves once you stop using. The brain’s ability to rebuild its own chemistry and to recover from depression varies greatly from person to person. Some people will rebound quickly. Others will take much longer and may even require medication.

When we think of depression, we often think of a long-term condition that requires medication or therapy to treat. There are many types and causes of depression and many levels of severity. Crystal use can certainly contribute to depression, but not all users will develop symptoms that require serious treatment.

Symptoms of depression and anxiety seem to be higher than normal in crystal meth users both before and after using this drug. Depression in crystal meth users can have fatal consequences. In one study, Australian researchers found that about 50% of crystal meth users reported feelings of anxiety before they used this drug. Afterwards, when the drug's effects had worn off, 75% reported experiencing severe symptoms of anxiety.

Also in Australia, researchers found that about 33% of crystal meth users were diagnosed with depression either before or after exposure to this drug. And about 25% of Australian stimulant users (crystal meth, cocaine and similar substances) have attempted suicide at some point in their lives. This compares with a figure of about 5% in Australians who have not used stimulants. Overall, these findings in crystal meth users point to a need for mental health services.

Another five year study conducted with thousands of local teenagers by University of Montreal researchers’ revealed that those who used speed (meth/ampthetamine) at fifteen or sixteen years of age were significantly more likely to suffer elevated depressive symptoms the following year.

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Crystal Effect on Neurotransmitters

Neurotransmitters are essentially the brain’s chemical messengers that work together to perform many different tasks. We already mentioned that neurotransmitters are substantially affected by short-term and long-term use of crystal. Let’s review the effect in more details, focusing on the following neurotransmitters linked to the emotional and mental well-being: dopamine, norepinephrine, epinephrine, and serotonin. The sad reality is that these transmitters are all affected by meth and can suffer long-lasting damage even after just one trial with this dangerous drug.

Dopamine

Dopamine (DA) is the neurotransmitter that plays a part in controlling movement, thought processes, emotions, and the pleasure centers of the brain. When a person physically works out or accomplishes a difficult task, the brain releases excess dopamine into certain areas of the brain. Any release of dopamine induces a sense of euphoria and well being. When a person takes meth, a chain of events occurs at the dopamine synapses.

When meth stimulates these transmitters to excessively release dopamine into many different areas of the brain, the safety mechanism would normally react by reabsorbing and transporting the excess chemicals back into the synaptic vessels,  but meth blocks dopamine re-uptake, and a gradual chemical buildup occurs.

This chemical buildup has many different effects on a person's behavior. For the meth user the chemical buildup resembles a dangerous rollercoaster ride. As dopamine levels rise in the brain, so do the feelings of euphoria. This initial buildup is like the start of the rollercoaster. When the drug finally wears off, and the dopamine levels gradually decrease, the meth user plunges to the bottom of this ride losing all the feelings of euphoria and well being. These euphoric feelings will not return until the dopamine system is once again stimulated.

Dopamine is responsible for reinforcement behaviors. Reinforcement is a psychological term that refers to a stimulus that strengthens or weakens the behavior that produced it. Meth short-circuits dopamine levels, directly influencing reinforcement behaviors, and actually induces drug-seeking behaviors. For the meth user, the euphoria is the stimulus that induces the drug-seeking behavior.

Studies have shown that meth overdoses are almost indistinguishable from those behaviors exhibited by a Type I schizophrenic. Type I schizophrenic behavior includes psychotic episodes, delusions, hallucinations, hearing voices, and extreme paranoia. The imbalance of dopamine levels causes this schizophrenic-like behavior that wears off within a couple days after use has ended.

This overload of dopamine in the brain can even lead to further problems. Meth is toxic to dopamine synapses and their associated nerve cells in the brain. Long-term abuse of meth causes dopamine nerve axons to eventually wither and die. When these synaptic nerve endings die, they are gone for good. The abuser's emotions, pains, and pleasures will be permanently and irreversibly altered.

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Norepinephrine

Norepinephrine (NE) is a neurotransmitter that plays a part in controlling alertness, rest cycles, attention, and memory. Norepinephrine is also called noradrenaline. Noradrenaline is the main chemical used by the body for the synthesis of the hormone adrenaline.

From the previous explanation of how meth affects dopamine chemicals at the synapse, one can easily understand the detrimental influence of meth on the norepinephrine system. As seen with the dopamine system, the drug meth can influence norepinephrine transmitters by blocking the re-uptake mechanism. However, the main difference between the dopamine and norepinephrine systems is that meth does not stimulate excess chemical release at the norepinephrine synapses.

Another difference between the dopamine and norepinephrine systems is that meth is not neurotoxic to the norepinephrine system synapses and receptors. Meth can stimulate increases in the growth of the norepinephrine nerve. This growth does not mean that the brain becomes more efficient at administering norepinephrine chemicals to the different areas of the brain as a result of this cancerous expansion. This growth could be partially responsible for the short-circuiting of the brain, and directly responsible for the chemical imbalance that is associated with meth usage.

Epinephrine

Adrenaline is a hormone that we are all familiar with. When you encounter an exciting or intense situation, stores of adrenaline are released into the blood stream and a rush instantaneously occurs. A fact that is not readily apparent is that adrenaline also plays a minor role in our brain as a neurotransmitter. The scientific term for this hormone/neurotransmitter is epinephrine (E). Epinephrine’s importance as a chemical messenger becomes evident when a drug like meth declares a territorial war in the synaptical gap (the space in between the nerve transmitter and nerve receptor).

Meth influences epinephrine transmitters by blocking the re-uptake mechanism. As seen with dopamine and norepinephrine, a blocked re-uptake mechanism results in excess chemicals floating in the synaptical gap. The meth user's physical and mental overexertion is hardly noticeable as the brain's receptors hungrily absorb the extra chemicals. This excess of epinephrine surging to different areas of the brain is partially responsible for the increased energy and rush that the meth user feels.

Meth users lose their appetite as a direct result of having excess epinephrine chemicals in circulation. The user loses weight as their body feeds off the empty energy of this continual adrenaline rush while they are not even thinking about taking the time to eat.

Epinephrine also plays a role in the crash that is associated with meth use. The crash is more noticeable in meth abusers who have used the drug for many days in a row, and their adrenaline stores are thoroughly depleted. But this depletion also happens with first time and recreational users. The meth user’s mind and body are working at a high speed, just like the engine of that car would run at high speed. Eventually the user depletes his epinephrine supply because he hasn’t rested. With epinephrine store depletion, the crash is the resulting complication, and the user’s body has to rest until adrenaline stores are replenished.

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Serotonin

Serotonin (5-HT) plays an important role in many behaviors including sleep, appetite, memory, sexual behavior, and mood. The chemical structure of serotonin closely resembles that of many hallucinogens. A hallucinogen like LSD can bind onto serotonin receptors, mimicking the actual neurotransmitter, resulting in unnatural stimulation in different areas of the brain. The actual serotonin neurotransmitter is structurally different than the other synaptic messengers of the brain, and meth affects this system in different ways.

One way meth use affects the serotonin systems is by reducing the levels of chemical serotonin in the brain. This reduction can produce radical mood changes in people and in animals. When a person has a deficiency in brain serotonin levels, they are more likely to exhibit violent behavior, anxiety, depression, impulsiveness, and could have a propensity towards drug and alcohol abuse. When a person has higher levels of serotonin in the brain, they are less aggressive, mellow, and happier.

With the introduction of the drug meth, brain serotonin levels slowly diminish. This reduction in serotonin levels is a result of meth blocking the synthesis and release of chemical serotonin from the synapse. The serotonin system becomes restricted, and the chances of violent behavior and depression increase as the effects of the drug start to wear off. The person's need to keep taking meth far outweighs any moral and financial obligation. The user may commit crimes for drug money, may abandon their family, or may stop paying rent or house payments in order to keep taking meth.

An irreversible aspect of meth use is that it does kill certain neurotransmitter synapses, and this is the case with serotonin synapses. Even low level meth use kills serotonin axons. What does this mean for the meth users? For the rest of their lives they are going to be lacking the ability to produce adequate amounts of serotonin. Feelings of depression and guilt could be theirs till they die. The meth user is going to be more inclined towards drug and alcohol abuse. Maybe abuse will be the least of the meth user’s problems.

While the chemical influence of meth on these neurotransmitters is much more complicated than described above, the basic fact is simple and straightforward. Meth kills dopamine and serotonin neurotransmitter cells. This is an irreversible consequence since these nerve cells do not grow back with time. Meth short-circuits the user’s brain, is highly addictive, and many of the abuser’s joys in life will slowly vanish as these nerve cells become weak and die.


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