The American Journal of Public Health notes that severe problems with deliveries in rural areas of the US were due to increased meth use by pregnant women. Women have always been a risk group for meth usage. As one of the most vulnerable populations, women usually deal with the worst parts of crystal meth use. Many women end up in disadvantageous situations because of their habits.
On many occasions, law enforcement has linked prostitution in city centers to meth use and distribution. Meth is a dangerous substance to the human body, yet the euphoric feeling it creates is much sought after by dependent individuals. Because of their dependence on the substance, they usually end up in bad social situations.
Crystal meth can lead to several different outcomes for women. Addiction can set in rapidly, stemming from dependence on the substance. As a person takes meth, their brain starts to require itself to respond to the substance. This rearrangement leads to tolerance, meaning that more drug is needed to get the same feeling. It also leads to dependence, where the person’s mental faculties can’t function properly without meth in their system. Dependence creates a situation for addiction to occur. Addiction is a brain disease that makes a person perform actions to access a drug, regardless of consequences. An addicted person will risk their life just to get the substance they’re addicted to. Crystal meth has a high addiction rate, meaning that a person taking it gets hooked on it much quicker than other drugs. But what about it makes it such an addictive substance?
Effects Of Crystal Methamphetamine
The brain uses chemicals to send signals to different areas of the body. It also uses chemicals to create feelings, and one of those chemicals is dopamine. The brain releases dopamine in small doses now and again after a person finishes a challenging job. If you’ve got something to do and complete it, your brain rewards you with a bit of dopamine. Dopamine is also called the “feel good” chemical because it makes us feel good about something. However, this pathway is critical to our success as individuals since dopamine is our motivation to get things done. Crystal meth short-circuits this reward pathway, allowing us to get dopamine on demand.
When someone takes crystal meth, the brain floods with more dopamine than it has ever experienced before. Unfortunately, it’s a double-edged sword, as tolerance (as mentioned above) starts to set in immediately. The human brain knows that it can’t survive overdoses of dopamine regularly, so it starts becoming tolerant to the chemical. When tolerance happens, the user must consume more crystal meth. They probably won’t ever get that same feeling of euphoria that they did from their initial experience. However, chasing that high is what makes most people come back to the drug time and again. The dopamine rush is an intense feeling, but it has the side effect of making all other dopamine-producing tasks less attractive in comparison. Unfortunately, consistent use of meth creates obvious signs of consumption.
Signs Of Crystal Meth Usage
Crystal meth has a significant impact on a person’s looks and behavior. When a person starts consuming meth regularly, they start acting differently. A person may develop severe paranoia or anxiety at events that they can’t define. There may be bouts of irritability, where they will snap at others for the most minor of things. This behavioral change is usually in complete contrast to the person’s typical behavior and should raise some red flags. Consumptions of meth may also lead to confusion. After a person is “coming down” from a meth high, their brain starts operating more sluggishly, making it seem as though they’re in a state of confusion almost constantly.
Physical signs of crystal meth use are also quite visible. Rotting teeth and burned lips is one of the common signs of regular meth use. These signs are usually termed “meth mouth.” Meth also causes psychological symptoms, one of which is the feeling of bugs under or on a person’s skin. This feeling is known as formication and may lead to a person scratching their skin until it bleeds. Meth users sometimes refer to these imaginary mites as “meth mites” or “crank bugs.” Consumption of meth usually results in manic energy, causing the person to burn much of their energy stores without eating. The result is a gaunt appearance, coupled with an unhealthy skin shade. Meth sores and acne also occur on a person’s face as a side effect of meth consumption.
Withdrawal From Methamphetamines
When a person consumes meth regularly, the body develops a dependence on it. However, if a person intends to quit using meth, the body fights back, throwing up barriers to convince them to keep taking the drug. These barriers may come in the form of withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms for crystal meth may consist of:
- Red and itchy eyes
- Severe depression and anxiety
- Suicidal thoughts
- Loss of motivation
The length and intensity of these symptoms will vary from person to person. No two people experience meth withdrawal the same way because the withdrawal symptoms differ based on how often they used meth and how long they were dependent on it. Some users also engaged in using meth alongside other drugs. Aside from being an unsafe practice, this method of using meth could lead to more intense and long-lasting meth withdrawal symptoms.
Special Considerations for Women and Meth
While meth can be a deadly drug with serious side effects for both men and women, it profoundly impacts the female body. It obviously affects a woman’s looks, as meth can cause a young woman to look many times her age. Tooth decay and meth mouth, combined with acne, can create a terrible situation. It also has quite a profound effect on the grey matter in women’s brains. The grey matter is the external portion of the brain responsible for neuroplasticity and information processing. Meth destroys this grey matter, making it more difficult for a woman to learn things or recall events that she may have committed to memory. Long-term use of the substance can lead to intense developmental damage to the woman’s brain tissue.
This impact on women’s brains can lead to changes in mood and behavior, as well as their mental capacity. Women’s brains develop differently from men’s brains. Their neuroplasticity is complex and gender-specific. When a woman loses her grey matter because of meth, it makes it much more difficult for her to deal with life stressors later on in her life. This damage may lead to developmental stunting. Many of the women who use meth are in a younger age bracket. Teenagers specifically who consume crystal meth may suffer from these long-term effects more profoundly than others. With all the other chemicals already causing the development in their bodies, meth can lead to severe damage and may even make it difficult for them to quit using the substance if they choose to do so later in life. Meth’s impact on a woman’s grey matter can be intense and profound.
Pregnancy And Methamphetamine Use
Doctors have spent a lot of time researching the outcomes of births from mothers using meth regularly. As mentioned initially, many more women are now showing up to delivery rooms with babies conceived when the mother was using meth. While some of these women stopped using when they were pregnant, others continued, leading to adverse birth outcomes. Some of the more common defects that occur because of continued meth use include premature delivery, lower birth weight of the baby, and further developmental deficiencies. If a mother stops using meth after she becomes pregnant, the baby may still have a chance of being impacted. However, the likelihood decreases the earlier in the pregnancy that the woman stopped her use.
What causes these negative outcomes? Women who take meth usually do it for the feelings of euphoria it creates, but as a pregnant woman, there are other effects on the fetus that the mother won’t be aware of. For example, as mentioned above, women who take meth are usually much thinner than their counterparts. Lower BMI may lead to complications in delivery or the ability to carry the fetus to term. Meth also leads to a reduction in placental blood flow. The fetus is dependent on its mother for nutrients during gestation, and it gets these nutrients, as well as oxygen through this placental flow. Constriction of the placental blood vessels results in reduced blood flow, which means fewer nutrients getting to the fetus. It may also cause hypoxia from lack of oxygen, leading to mental development problems with the baby. Meth is usually used in combination with other drugs, further complicating the pregnancy.
Psychopharmacological Effects of Meth Specific To Women
The human body has distinct differences between the male and female of the species. One of those is how their bodies interact with meth. For example, recent research has found that women tend to be more sensitive to the psychomotor effects of methamphetamines than men are. In the study, 29 women and 44 men completed sessions receiving either meth or a placebo. The subjects then completed a reflex-based test that used real money as an incentive. According to the results, women tended to respond more acutely to taking meth as opposed to men. In further interviews with the subject, the women in the trial reported that they felt more “vigor” and less sluggishness on taking the drug. They showed faster reaction times to the reflex test, suggesting that women’s bodies are more responsive to meth.
The test was done to figure out why clinical data shows that women transition faster to meth addiction than men. The test results show that women display much more sensitivity towards meth’s effects, suggesting this might play a significant role in them transitioning to addiction sooner than men. Comparing the tests with other amphetamine-based drugs, it seems as though this response to meth is unique to this drug. Many people try meth throughout their lives and use it recreationally, but a minority of them (albeit a significant minority) end up addicted. This test showed that even before women were addicted to meth, they were more sensitive to its effects on their reflexes and motor systems.
At-Risk Behavior and Female Meth Use
One of the hallmarks of addiction is taking risks to obtain the substance. In female users of methamphetamine, studies have found a particular relation between risky sexual behavior and the consumption of crystal meth. Risky behaviors such as lack of condom use and having multiple partners are common in women who consume meth. These risky behaviors usually lead to the propagation of sexually transmitted illnesses. Many women who use meth also do not use birth control because they believe that there is a chance of birth control impacting their ability to get high from meth. This behavior adds to the risk of pregnancy, although many users don’t see it in such simple terms.
Meth has severe social impacts on women especially. If a woman is addicted to meth, her family and regular friends may shun her, and she might find herself homeless due to a lack of income. Homelessness and limited income usually lead to more risky behaviors in meth consumption, such as sharing needles with partners, leading to the transmission of diseases like hepatitis and AIDS. Women in these unfortunate circumstances sometimes end up in sexual exploitation and human trafficking to support their habit. Many times, they are coerced into these situations with the promise of meth.
Women are already a vulnerable part of our society, and meth use just exacerbates how vulnerable they can be. Meth can lead women down a dangerous path. In extreme cases, meth can even be why they stay in abusive relationships or under the control of criminal organizations.
Appropriate Meth Treatment for Women
Treating women for meth addiction requires a distinctly different approach to treating men. In many cases, women who come to meth rehab have gone through terrible situations in life linked to their association with men. Sexual assault is common in many cases, and women feel more comfortable with female counselors and supervisors. Female-specific treatment also focuses on experiences unique to women, such as motherhood or changes in behavior because of hormonal imbalances. Because women generally trust each other more than men in these situations, a female-only group allows a recovering woman to share more freely. It helps to build trust in the members participating in therapy.
Women also demonstrate a willingness to leave their habit behind that is lacking in many men. Studies show that women tend to stay through the entire duration of rehab, whereas men usually stop treatment early. Women also have unique mental health challenges that men can’t appreciate. Female personnel helping recovering persons deal with their addiction can share more freely about their emotions and how it impacts their decisions. Women have a closer family connection. Having an immediate family member helping them through recovery can boost their willingness to finish treatment. Recovery relies heavily on emotional involvement and a desire to change. Typically, women don’t like moving from rehab center to rehab center. Instead, if a woman finds a center that does things the way she expects, she’s better off sticking with their regimen than seeing out another facility to help her.
Treatment Centers with Female Centered Programs
California has a lot of treatment facilities, but not all of them cater specifically to women. A surprising amount focuses on solving addiction like curing any other illness. Unfortunately, this approach has failed quite often. Addiction is a highly personal problem to overcome, and it requires a facility to take each case individually. California’s best meth recovery programs look at each patient as unique and provide a unique solution for it. Women-only treatment allows a recovering person to be candid about what they went through when they were still addicted to the substance. Sensitive topics such as rape and trafficking might be challenging to discuss in mixed companies. In many of these cases, the women don’t have the confidence to speak out in public. Women-only treatment offers a group of individuals that share similar experiences. It helps recovering persons be more open about what they went through before they decided to go to rehab.
Circle of Hope is one of those facilities that offer options for recovering women that cater to their needs. Female-only group therapy provides the platform for a woman to unburden herself from the feelings of guilt she may feel because of her past. Professionally trained female therapists offer a safe, secure ear to discuss thorny issues and situations. If you are a woman in need of recovery support, our doors are wide open. We provide a safe, secure environment for you to recover in, supported by world-class staff. Give us a call today to schedule a visit. We would be honored to help you on the road to recovery.