What Happens To Your Brain When You Use Methamphetamine?

Crystal meth receives its name from its shape. Methamphetamine comes in clear crystal chunks. However, for short-term users, crystal also refers to the sense of focus they experience after taking it. Students seeking academic performance are prone to fall for the promises of this stimulant drug: meth gives you the sensation of thinking clearer and being more alert. 

Yet, the effects are short-lived. It is a harmful substance that can lead to severe damage to the body and the brain. Indeed, this highly addictive drug can affect your central nervous system, causing irreversible brain damage. What happens to your brain when you use methamphetamine? Below we explain why your brain gets addicted to it and what the long-term consequences are.

The Fake Sense of Euphoria

Meth increased the production of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a chemical messenger that sends messages between the nerve cells. Dopamine plays a double function. It affects how we feel pleasure, which is where the feel-good sensation comes from with meth. But it is also integral to your ability to plan concepts and thoughts, increasing your mental focus. 

Yet, don’t be fooled by the increase in dopamine. Too much dopamine is bad for you because it deprives your body of the ability to produce it naturally without a chemical trigger. Consequently, periods of sobriety will be marked with dangerously low moods.

Brain Cell Death Caused by Meth

What Happens To Your Brain When You Use Methamphetamine?

Heavy meth use can affect your brain function and structure significantly. Unlike the rest of the body, brain cells do not regenerate in adult years. Once a brain cell dies, there is no re-growing it. Brain cell death caused by meth use occurs in the specific regions of the brain that are linked with self-control, such as the hippocampus, the caudate nucleus, and the frontal lobe. 

Brain cell death happens continuously during our lifetime. However, when the cells are in an area where other cells can compensate, we don’t experience any issues with it. But meth targets the brain cells in areas where there are no redundant cells for replacement. As no other area of the brain can fulfill the same functions, this kind of damage leads to permanent change. 

Your Brain Builds an Unhealthy Reward System

The brain has a reward center that responds to a stimulus by increasing the release of dopamine. The regions of the brain that assess the stimulus and create the response are rewired through meth use. Meth consumption trains the brain to react to more significant stimuli for dopamine release. Consequently, individuals who become sober report extremely low moods without the influence of the drug. These changes are also at the core of cravings when you quit. 

The changes in the reward system are long-lasting. Former users are more likely to continue exhibiting depressive or aggressive moods. Some symptoms associated with dopamine processes, such as mood swings, tend to normalize within 12 months. Unfortunately, cravings persist as this damage to the reward system is not reversible.  

Your Brain Can’t Regulate the Mood Anymore

Chemical messengers, such as dopamine, are neurotransmitters. They are chemical substances produced by the neuron that is sent to a neurotransmitter receptor, where they start a reaction. Meth use alters the brain’s transmitters and receptors at a cellular level. As a result, neurotransmitters can’t maintain messaging to regulate mood. So, addicted individuals tend to experience mood swings and “negative emotions” such as depression, anxiety, and rage. 

Over time, cellular changes can reverse. Users can expect to struggle less with irritability and depression within 6 to 12 months of quitting. 

Your Brain Loses Glial Cells

Glial cells are part of your central nervous system. They carry responsibilities such as infection protection, helping neurons communicate, and sending functional signals. Unfortunately, heavy use of meth can considerably decrease the volume of glial cells. In extreme cases, damage can affect cognitive and motor functions. 

Thankfully, glial cells have enough redundancies in most targeted areas to gradually replace the damaged cells. It is a long process that can take over a year for heavy users. Long-term sobriety, however, can help former users recover their cognitive and motor functions. Recovery will depend on the level of addiction and use. 

Seeking Help For Meth Addiction? 

The Findlay Recovery Center offers specialist residential inpatient programs to support you on your path to sobriety. Our caring team is always happy to answer your questions and guide you to the most suitable treatment. Feel free to contact us at any time to learn more about our services and how we can help you.

Download this article

How Findlay Addresses Unique Recovery Needs

Addiction recovery is a deeply personal journey, and no two paths to sobriety are identical. At Findlay Recovery Center, we recognize the importance of addressing each individual's unique needs and challenges to provide the most effective support system for long-term...

Overcoming Alcohol Addiction: The Road to Sobriety

Alcohol addiction not only takes a toll on an individual's physical and mental health but also impacts their relationships, career, and overall quality of life. However, with the right support, tools, and mindset, it is possible to overcome alcohol addiction and...

Navigating Dual Diagnoses: A Roadmap to Effective Treatment Strategies

People often find themselves grappling with more than one condition simultaneously in the complex world of mental health. When a person is diagnosed with both a mental illness and a substance use disorder, it is known as a dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorder....

Integrating Mental Health in Substance Abuse Treatment

Substance abuse and mental health disorders often go hand in hand. In fact, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that nearly half of individuals with a substance use disorder (SUD) also have a co-occurring mental health condition. This complex interplay...

Embracing Comprehensive Addiction Recovery in Ohio

While the path to addiction recovery is unique for each individual, embracing a comprehensive approach that addresses the physical, emotional, and social aspects of addiction can significantly increase the chances of long-term success. Here we will explore the key...

Get In Touch With Us Today

Pick up the phone, fill out a form or chat with us below to get started on your free consultation and treatment assessment.

Complete Pre-Assessment

Once you reach a Findlay Recovery Center treatment coordinator, we will do a simple pre-assessment to make sure we’re a good fit for you.

Plan Travel & Admit

Our caring treatment advisors will help plan travel & anything else you need before you enter our drug rehab program in Ohio!

GETTING HELP FOR ADDICTION HAS NEVER BEEN SO EASY

Get Help Now

Call Now Button