Crystal meth causes dramatic effects on brain chemistry, jolting the central nervous system with each use. While the immediate neurological effects of crystal meth include alertness, loss of appetite, paranoia and aggression, the nervous system suffers far beyond the hours of intoxication (known as "tweaking"). In fact, crystal meth can cause permanent neurological damage in the brain and body, leading to serious psychological and physical disorders.
How Crystal Meth Affects the Brain
Crystal meth acts on the brain’s dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine receptors, triggering feelings of euphoria and surges of adrenaline. Over time, brain chemistry shifts, as the body produces lower levels of natural chemicals in favor of relying on crystal meth. The resulting chemical imbalance leads to methamphetamine dependency, causing the user to build tolerance and increase dosage and frequency in order to maintain the same high.
Permanent Neurological Damage From Crystal Meth
As dependency worsens, users begin to manifest long-term side effects of prolonged crystal meth use. The brain takes time to restore its natural dopamine levels, leading some individuals to experience intense anxiety or severe depression, even leading to suicide. Many dependent individuals begin to experience pervasive paranoia that can segue into hallucinations, even once sobriety has been achieved.
Negative effects of crystal meth on the central nervous system can extend for months–or even years–after the last use. Studies have shown that prolonged or heavy crystal meth use increases the risk of psychological problems, leading to personality disorders or schizophrenic delusions. Intense use can also cause memory loss, trouble focusing and disorganized thought.
The permanent neurological damage caused by crystal meth can have severe physical consequences, as well. Automatic functions controlled by the brain become altered, leaving long-term users with arrhythmia, hypertension, or weakened heart walls. Blood vessels located in the brain can also experience permanent damage, leading to brain hemorrhage and stroke. The immune system itself can become compromised, after years of malnutrition and chemical deficiency. Some research studies have even found that crystal meth can contribute to the onset of Parkinson’s disease, due to the severe neurological damage caused by long term use.