Tina and the brain
While there are many variables with respect to the context
of our use that impact how we experience the drug, the pharmacological
aspects of crystal meth are well known. Knowledge of the basic
impacts of Tina on the brain and body can help us make sense
of what we may be experiencing and help us make informed decisions
about our use.
Tina alters our brain chemistry in complicated ways that
are sometimes synergistic and sometimes conflicting. The pleasurable
benefits are hard to modulate. The negative consequences are
varied and plentiful. In general, the first hit is the most
pleasurable and subsequent hits are spent chasing the initial
high, with increasing negative consequences.
What does Tina do in our brains?
Tina dramatically increases the levels of neurotransmitters
in the brain. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that allow nerves
in the brain and body to ‘talk’ to each other.
Neurotransmitters carry messages from the brain out to the
tissues, glands and organs of the body. They also carry messages
from the body back to the brain. For example, when we have
an itch on our back, our back sends a message to our brain
and then the brain sends a message to our hand telling it
to scratch the itch. Neurotransmitters carry these messages.
In a way, they unite the brain and the rest of the body into
one functioning unit.
Tina looks and acts like a neurotransmitter. That's why neurons
absorb the drug. When nerve cells soak up Tina, the natural
neurotransmitters are pushed out and replaced. When these
chemicals get pushed out of the nerve cells, they are released
into the bloodstream. Once released, neurotransmitters start
‘talking’ to the rest of the body. We might say
that Tina ups the volume of the conversation from a whisper
to a scream.
Fight or flight.
The signals Tina sends are artificially exaggerated and non-adaptive.
Our minds are tricked into thinking we are in a ‘life
or death’ situation and we respond by triggering the
‘fight or flight’ (FOF) syndrome. Our entire nervous
system immediately shifts into high gear. The brain floods
our body with ‘danger’ messages.
The FOF syndrome includes:
• mental alertness increased
• energy to muscles increased
• heart rate and blood pressure increased
• internal body temperature is raised
• ability to perceive pain is reduced
• appetite, thirst, and need for sleep are decreased
• pupils get larger to let in more light
• decrease in saliva (dry mouth)
• hair stands on end (‘getting goose bumps’)
FOF induced by Tina puts immense stress on our minds and
bodies. The FOF response evolved for our survival so that
we could make a fast decision and act on it immediately. The
levels of neurotransmitters released naturally are enough
to achieve that short-term goal and then they subside. Stress
is minimal and then the body and mind return to a ‘normal’
state. Tina induces the FOF response over the length of time
we are using which can be hours or days instead of minutes.
Our frequency of use determines wither or not we will be able
to recover from the damage caused by the extended state of
There are 3 primary neurotransmitters stimulated by crystal
meth. The most significant effect is felt in the dopamine
pathway. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that generates a sense
of reward and pleasure. A hit of crystal meth produces something
in the order of 15 times the basal (normal) levels of dopamine
in the brain. This release is primarily what generates the
intense rush and euphoria. Dopamine increases attention. High
levels produce over attention leading to paranoia. Dopamine
helps regulate motor functioning. It agitates muscles. High
levels can cause repetitive motion, nausea and vomiting.
Tina also increases Serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin
is involved in sensory perception. High levels of Serotonin
can contribute to hallucinations. Serotonin is involved with
many mental disorders like schizophrenia, phobias, aggression,
and obsessive-compulsive behavior. Serotonin has a role in
cognitive functioning and memory processing. High levels produce
sleep disorders. It also plays a role in depression, sex and
regulating body temperature.
The third major neurotransmitter affected by Tina is Norepinephrine.
Norepinephrine increases blood pressure and heart rate. High
levels over stimulate the heart and circulatory system. Norepinephrine
also relaxes and opens the bronchioles of the lung linings.
Norepinephrine helps kill pain. Like Dopamine, Norepinphrine
increases mental alertness and concentration. Both Serotonin
and Norepinphrine decrease appetite. They also make it make
it difficult or impossible to have an ejaculation. They also
contribute to an inability to get and stay hard. This is the
origin of ‘crystal dick.’ At the same time, high
levels tend to over stimulate basic instinctual drives like
The origins of many of the negative consequences of Tina
use originate in the impacts of the high levels of the neurotransmitters,
their specific and sometimes competing effects, and the FOF
response. Unfortunately, recent research demonstrates that
despite the ability of the brain to repair the damage long-term
Tina use causes, some of the neurological damage may be permanent.
If you or someone you know is suffering from cognitive impairment
induced by Tina you may want to read our page on improving
memory and concentration in the Tools