Before and After Stories & Pictures of Methamphetamine Addiction

Editorial Team

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Methamphetamine is an exceptionally potent, constantly dangerous, and highly addictive man-made substance that, if its use continues unabated, will result in severe, dire, and even fatal effects on a user’s body, their physical appearance, and their mind.

And it all begins with a sudden flash, as quick as lightning

The very first time a drug user tries methamphetamine – you can either smoke it, snort it, inject it, or simply swallow it – results in an instant and highly intense rush of euphoria, known as “the flash.” This euphoric rush, this “flash” – a state of extreme and absolute pleasure – is why the drug has been known to be instantly addictive for many users. Yes, instant.

Used just the once, it can create an undeniable, unquenchable desire to use again. In fact it is so addictive, drug users are driven to continue its dangerous and destructive use despite knowing and seeing the worsening, ravaging effects on their physical and mental health.

 

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Meth Addiction Recovery: More Than Possible – Achievable

An addiction to methamphetamine is understandably a difficult substance use disorder (SUD) to overcome, given its far-reaching and powerful effects on the human brain.

The incredibly strong euphoric rush that users experience, although relatively short-lived compared to other hard illicit drugs, is known to be instantly addictive for many individuals, and further results in a perceived state of hyperactivity and general confidence that normally lasts from 6-8 hours, but can even last 24 hours.

As soon as the user’s brain experiences the “flash,” its memory, in all its mind-blowing detail, is firmly and quickly imprinted onto the mind of the user, and it is this powerfully memorable experience that the user is driven to recreate. However, as we know from intensive research into the mechanisms of addiction, achieving an identical experience to the first time of use is never possible, as hard as the user may try – again and again.

All of this, however, does not mean to say that meth addiction recovery is impossible – far from it, in fact, as this article will demonstrate. Recovery from such a powerful addiction is more than possible – it is definitely achievable, as our featured stories will show.

Ana B. Good The Big Sugarbush

Source: Reproduced with the kind permission of Dejah Marie Hall

What is Methamphetamine?

Methamphetamine (commonly known as meth, for short, and “crystal” meth in one of its most common forms, because of a distinctive crystalline appearance) is a powerful central nervous system (CNS) depressant. Its use produces an exceptionally intense “rush” of euphoria, either through inhalation, snorting, injection, or ingestion, referred to by users as the “flash.”

Furthermore, meth is classified by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as a Schedule II stimulant. This means it is only legally available through a non-refillable (and, in actuality, a rarely prescribed) prescription, under the brand name Desoxyn, as it can be used for either the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or as a short-term element in weight-loss.

Any other form of methamphetamine use, including possession and its manufacture are illegal, punishable by fines and jail.

In fact, many U.S. states have legal restrictions on the supply and purchase by individuals of “precursor chemicals” (or base chemicals) commonly used to manufacture meth, particularly pseudoephedrine, a common over-the-counter decongestant. 

What is Crystal Meth?

The most commonly available form of illegal methamphetamine is “crystal meth” (so-called because of its crystalline appearance), and its general appearance is as a white, odorless, and bitter-tasting crystalline powder. Even though the drug is used by virtually all age demographics, it is most commonly taken as a “club drug” by younger adults either partying in nightclubs or at raves.

The Untold Health Damage Endured by Meth Addicts

Regardless, apart from being known as a dangerous and illicit drug, meth and crystal meth are equally acknowledged as the direct source and cause of phrases such as “meth mouth” – describing severe tooth decay and gum disease, which causes teeth to either break or fall out.

Meth use also causes the development of distinct facial sores on the user, and a sallow complexion, as shown below:

Pictures of Meth Addiction

The Untold Health Damage Endured by Meth Addicts

Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC)

However, perhaps its most destructive effect on human health is invisible to the naked eye – unless you happen to be a county coroner, a medical examiner or a pathologist. The brain damage inflicted on an individual by the use and abuse of methamphetamine is extensive and, sometimes, permanent.

1. Methamphetamine-Induced Brain Damage

The primary brain damage caused by continued meth use results in recurring psychosis, and both emotional and cognitive dysfunction. Additionally, the damage can be attributed to an increased risk in both stroke and Parkinson’s disease, even after addicts have found an abstinent recovery.

  • Recurring Psychosis: The psychotic symptoms can often last for months, and even years, after an addict stops using. Furthermore, high levels of stress have been shown to be the catalyst in a recurrence of their meth-related psychosis. Psychosis in ex-meth addicts presents with paranoia, visual and auditory hallucinations, and delusions; an often cited example of a meth-induced delusion is the sensation and appearance (to the user) of bugs crawling under the skin, known as “meth bugs.”.
  • Emotional & Cognitive Dysfunction: Research studies on chronic meth users regularly reveal both severe structural and functional changes in the areas of the brain responsible for emotion, memory, and decision-making. These alterations to the brain’s physical makeup of the brain may indicate why meth addiction is difficult to treat, and why many recovering meth addicts are constantly drawn to return to their previous use.

2. Methamphetamine-Induced Dental Damage

Often the most visible sign of chronic meth use and addiction is the “meth mouth” condition mentioned previously. The severe damage so vividly seen below is caused by the ongoing drying out of salivary glands, known as xerostomia, from continued meth use. Because of this “drying” process, the acid present in the mouth erodes tooth enamel, leaving extensive carious lesions (cavities), among other problems, and, if left untreated, can even result in trismus, more commonly known as lockjaw.

Meth mouth pictures

“Meth Mouth” 

Photo left: “Meth mouth” in short-term user, and photo right: “Meth mouth” in long-term user

Source: U.S. Depart of Justice Archive – Meth Awareness

Active addicts tend to be inherently anxious because of their drug use, and meth addicts are no different. Severe anxiety in meth users can cause bruxism – the constant grinding of teeth and jaw-clenching. With the teeth already weakened, it results in even more damage and decay. Furthermore, poor nutrition, eg. eating sugary foods and drinking sodas, and a lack of oral hygiene add to the condition.

In fact, one NIDA study of over 500 meth users found that:

  • 96% had carious lesions or cavities
  • 58% had untreated tooth decay, compared with 27% of the general U.S. population
  • Only 23% were able to keep all of their natural teeth, compared to 48% of the population
  • 40% said they were self-conscious or embarrassed because of their dire dental issue

3. Methamphetamine-Induced Skin Damage

Another profoundly negative effect of meth use is the massive destruction of both blood vessels and muscle tissues in the user’s body, and nowhere is this more visible than on the skin. Because of repeated meth use, the skin of a user is unable to heal itself as normal and looks prematurely aged.

Meth before and after picture

Methamphetamine-Induced Skin Damage

The destruction of blood vessels and muscle tissue in a meth user’s face prematurely ages the user; these photos show the worsened skin over a period of only 2.5 years.

Source: Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office, Oregon / Faces of Meth, 2005

Meth users are susceptible to acne on their faces, or other parts of their bodies, and this often becomes a series of extensive sores that take a long time to heal. Additionally, the skin will usually lose its elasticity, making meth users appear far older than they actually are.

Furthermore, meth use leaves the skin itchy and dry skin, and, in addition to the “meth bugs” sensation mentioned previously, results in picking at the face, and other affected parts of the body. The subsequent wounds often leave permanent scars.

Lastly, this constant picking at the skin can actually become a behavioral disorder in itself,  known as dermatillomania. The disorder is classified as a “body-focused repetitive behavior” (BFRB), and individuals who suffer from a BFRB are powerless to stop.

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Jason’s Story of Recovery from Meth Addiction 

If you were ever to meet Jason Wickline, a 41-year-old happily married father and resident of West Virginia, you’d be hard pushed to believe he was ever a meth addict at any point in his past, let alone believe his life-changing personal story of recovery from severe meth addiction.

Now a healthy and muscular individual, Jason suffered tremendously from his addiction, losing custody of his young son, describing himself then as no more than “an empty shell. I’m 5-foot-8, and I only weighed 120 pounds. I was a dead man.”

This is Jason’s story:

In 2015, Jason Wickline was arrested in Mount Hope, West Virginia, on the serious charge of methamphetamine manufacturing. At that time, Jason was a hopeless meth addict who had begun cooking meth to support his habit. Before the handcuffs were duly slapped on his wrists, he already feared an extended period in prison as his due punishment, and Jason was no “first-timer.”

However, as most drug addicts are well aware, things were about to take another turn, and, yes, for the worse. As the father of a 4-year-old son, Krytian, Jason was further charged with child neglect, and, after the standard involvement of Child Protective Services (CPS) with such a charge, he subsequently lost custody of his boy.

Jason explained, “As they were walking Krystian to the car, he turned around to look at me, and said, “Daddy, I love you, and I’ll never forget you.” He was 4 and thought he would never see me again. I was bawling my eyes out. I had no idea what was going to happen to my kid at that point.”

Jason Composite Meth Addict Before and After

Jason’s arrest photos

Source: Reproduced with the kind permission of Jason Wickline

Unsurprisingly, this moment proved to be Jason’s true rock-bottom – a pivotal point in his life where he realized if he didn’t change, then nothing else would. If he failed to stop using meth, he’d never regain custody of his son, and his life would continue to be ruined by his addiction. As he says himself, “I knew my life was never going to be the same again. I knew that insanity I had been living in was finally over.” 

At his sentencing, a lenient judge took a chance on Jason and gave him an opportunity to do just that – change his life. Given the chance to enrol in a long-term addiction treatment program, Jason gratefully grabbed the opportunity, and, to his credit, kept his word, and remained within the program for 13 months, maintaining his sobriety and learning how he could continue to live a sober life.

The judge did, however, put Jason on a 30-month probation period, with strict and clear conditions – find adequate housing, and stay sober. Knowing full well there was simply no other way but to find a stable home in order to get his son back, he kept his word once more. 

Today, Jason is truly a changed man. Happily married to Shanna, he is back being a father to Krystian, now 9 years old. Like many recovering addicts, Jason actively gives back to the recovery community. In his case, and along with Shanna, herself a recovery community volunteer and advocate, Jason actively helps to promote the recovery website: www.morethanaddiction.org/.

Jason Recovery Meth Addict

Jason and his family – Shana, his wife, and his young son, Krystian

Source: Reproduced with the kind permission of Jason Wickline

 

Illicit Street Meth: Manufacture & Nicknames

Methamphetamine is a purely synthetic (man-made) chemical, just like fentanyl, the man-made opioid which is now the main impetus of a worsening U.S. opioid epidemic. Because it is a relatively simple process to transform its precursor chemicals into the finished product, it can be manufactured in basic kitchens in the U.S., for local distribution and sale, as well as being manufactured in huge amounts abroad for trafficking into the country – predominantly, in Mexico.

 

The process of “cooking meth,” so memorably shown in the TV series “Breaking Bad,”starts with commonly available ingredients, such as cold remedies, eg. pseudoephedrine. However, producing pure meth or crystal meth is rare, because additional chemicals, like antifreeze, drain cleaner, and battery acid, are often added to strengthen the potency of the finished product.

 

As “Breaking Bad” also showed, the chemicals used in meth manufacture are potentially explosive. The use and handling of such dangerous chemicals by a “meth cook” is a recipe for absolute disaster (excuse the pun), as many of these cooks are disorientated and dysfunctional meth addicts themselves.

 

Meth “lab” accidents are common, often leaving the cook and other workers either severely burned and disfigured or killed. Running a meth lab has other health hazards as well; for example, a typical “lab” or “kitchen” produces a significant  amount of toxic waste. As the result of manufacture, 1lb of meth will create 5lbs of actual toxic waste, and whoever is exposed to this toxicity risks possibly fatal poisoning.

Street Names for Meth / Crystal Meth

Meth has acquired a long list of alternative and street names, which include:

 

METH: CRYSTAL METH:
Beanies

Brown

Chalk

Crank

Chicken feed

Cinnamon

Crink

Crypto

Fast

Getgo

Methlies Quik

Mexican crack

Pervitin (Czech Republic)

Redneck cocaine

Speed

Tick tick

Tweak

Wash

Yaba (Southeast Asia)

Yellow powder

Zip

Zoom

Blade

Blue

Crystal

Crystal glass

Glass

Hot ice

Ice

Quartz

Shabu

Shards

Tina

Meth’s Pharmaceutical History

Like many of today’s powerfully addictive recreational drugs, meth was originally developed for medical purposes. Initially, it was produced in Japan by chemically adjusting amphetamine, for the purpose of medicinal use in nasal decongestants and bronchial inhalers.

However, it is a potent stimulant and was used widely during World War II in an effort to keep essential troops awake, alert, and ready to engage the enemy. Because of its euphoric properties, it was also given to Japanese Kamikaze pilots in high doses prior to their suicide missions. After the war had ended, intravenous meth addiction became a major problem in Japan as its store of the drug for solely military use was opened up to the public.

By the 1950s, it had become a nonmedical stimulant commonly by U.S. college students, truck drivers, and even athletes, and the use and abuse of meth spread rapidly. In 1970, the U.S. government had no other option than to make it illegal for most uses.

Obviously, as we have seen many times over, this usually does not affect a drug’s availability, as well as becoming another revenue stream for the Mexican drug cartels.

Dejah’s Story of Recovery from Meth & Heroin Addiction

As a simple way to celebrate and honor her own 4-year sobriety anniversary of recovery from both heroin and meth addiction, Dejah Hall, then 26 years old, posted the following photos on her Instagram page. Being an attractive woman, her post rapidly went viral, even more so when it later re-posted on Facebook by the “Love What Matters” page.

Here are Dejah’s original Instagram photos:

DejahInst Recovering Meth Addiction photo

Dejah Marie’s celebratory Instagram post, on her 4-year recovery anniversary

(Left: Dejah’s arrest photo; Right: Dejah in 2016, 4 years into her addiction recovery)

Source: Reproduced with the kind permission of Dejah Marie Hall

From the ages of 17 years, and then for the next 5 years, Dejah struggled with drug addiction. Beginning with prescription pain-killing medications, her abuse led her directly to heroin, and then onto methamphetamine.

It may seem somewhat strange to pray to God, asking desperately for help, and then to be arrested within the space of a couple of hours, thinking that your prayers were actually answered, but that’s exactly what happened. Visiting her grandfather one day, he told her she was hurting him with her endless drug abuse. Dejah went into the bathroom, got down on her knees, and said her prayer.

After leaving her grandfather’s house, she was promptly arrested by local police on a number of outstanding felony warrants and was to spend the next 2-3 weeks in county jail, painfully going through a jail-induced withdrawal – without any medication whatsoever. As she says herself, “It was hell, but I am still alive.”

Dejah Marie Hall photo

Source: Reproduced with the kind permission of Dejah Marie Hall

Dejah is now a busy Mom, happy to be in a position to not only share her story, but to offer the following advice to those who find themselves where she once did: “Get to NA or AA, get a sponsor, and work your Steps. [They] are stronger than any substance. Everyday, I thank God that I am not where I once was. Sobriety is possible.”

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How SpringBoard Recovery Helps Meth Addicts Find Recovery 

If you’re using either meth or crystal meth recreationally, you may be concerned you have become addicted to the drug. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, you really should get in touch with addiction treatment professionals to ascertain any likelihood of dependence: trouble sleeping, dry and itchy skin, diarrhea or constipation, increased anxiety, blurry vision, dizzy spells, or frequent headaches.

SpringBoard Recovery, located in Scottsdale, Arizona, has treated many methamphetamine addicts and guided them successfully on the path to long-term, sustainable recovery. We can help you, too, with our range of drug addiction treatment options – contact us today to find out more.

With much gratitude to Dejah and Jason for their kind permission in allowing SpringBoard Recovery to use the stories and pictures of their personal addiction recovery.

They did willingly so our readers can understand that you must never, ever give up hope, and recovery from meth addiction is not just possible – it is achievable.

Sources:

  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/methamphetamine/what-methamphetamine
  2. MedlinePlus: https://medlineplus.gov/methamphetamine.html
  3. Verywell mind: https://www.verywellmind.com/dsm-5-criteria-for-substance-use-disorders-21926
  4. Department of Justice/Drug Enforcement Administration: https://www.dea.gov/sites/default/files/2020-06/Methamphetamine-2020_0.pdf
  5. Northpoint Washington: https://www.northpointwashington.com/blog/prescription-crystal-meth-common-desoxyn-abuse/
  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/
  7. United States Department of Justice Archive: https://www.justice.gov/archive/olp/methawareness/
  8. National Institute on Drug Abuse: https://archives.drugabuse.gov/blog/post/meth-mouth-some-ugly-numbers
  9. The Oregonian: https://www.oregonlive.com/portland/2014/12/faces_of_meth_10_years_later_a.html
  10. More Than Addiction: https://www.morethanaddiction.org/

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WRITTEN BY GERARD BULLEN
FEBRUARY 15, 2021

Gerard has been writing exclusively for the U.S. substance addiction treatment industry for many years, providing a range of medically-reviewed work, including white papers, long-form, and short-form content articles, and blog posts for accredited addiction treatment centers. A member of the American Medical Writers Association, Gerard’s specific focus is substance addiction (an area that has impacted Gerard’s personal life in several ways), and he is particularly drawn to the topics of professional, evidence-based treatment, new and alternative therapies, and enabling readers to find their own sustainable, long-term recovery. Gerard lives and works in Maryland, U.S., he’s happily married, and a proud father. His interests include hiking with the family, reading fiction (from the classics to virtually all of the current NYT bestseller list), American and British film classics, and his beloved dogs, Toby and Coco, both rescued from the local pound.

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