Crystal Meth 101

How Tina Affects The Brain

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Tina and the Brain

Pharmacological aspects of crystal meth are well known. Tina alters our brain chemistry. 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 certain neurotransmitters in the brain. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that allow the brain and body to talk to each other. 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.

Tina mimics neurotransmitters. When nerve cells soak up Tina, natural neurotransmitter functions are pushed out and replaced. When these chemicals get pushed out of 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 our Fight or Flight (FOF) response. Our nervous system shifts into high gear and the brain floods our body with danger signals. The FOF response includes:

  • mental alertness and energy to muscles increased
  • heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature increased
  • ability to perceive pain is lessened
  • 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 (goose bumps)

This state puts stress on our minds and bodies. FOF response is naturally induced so we can respond to threats in the short-term goal, after which FOF response subsides and the body and return to a normal state. Tina induces the FOF response over the entire length of time we use which can be hours or days instead of minutes.

Dopamine (DOPE-a-meen)

There are 3 primary neurotransmitters stimulated by crystal. The most significant of which is dopamine. Dopamine generates a sense of reward and pleasure. A hit of crystal produces approximately 15 times the base (normal) levels of dopamine in the brain. This release generates an intense rush and euphoria and increases attention. High levels produce edginess and paranoia. Dopamine helps regulate motor functioning, and induces muscle tension. High levels can cause repetitive motions, nausea and vomiting.

Levels of Dopamine can be measured in units on brain scans. The following is a graph which compares the levels or units of Dopamine meth releases in the brain, versus other Dopamine stimulants. As you can see from the graph, natural highs derived from food, sober sex, from smoking, and from doing cocaine do not release even half the amount of Dopamine that meth does.

Serotonin (sar-AH-toe-NIN)

Tina also increases Serotonin, which is involved in sensory perception. High levels of Serotonin can cause hallucinations. Serotonin is involved with mental disorders like schizophrenia, phobias, aggression, and obsessive-compulsive (OCD) behavior. Serotonin has a role in cognitive functioning and memory processing. High levels of it can produce sleep disorders, depression, sexual functioning problems (low libido), and temperature fluctuations (Feeling cold).

Norepinephrine (nor-EP-i-NEF-rin)

The third neurotransmitter affected by Tina is Norepinephrine, which increases blood pressure and heart rate. High levels over stimulate the heart and circulatory system. Norepinephrine relaxes and opens the bronchioles of the lung linings and helps relieve pain. It also can increase alertness and concentration, and can decrease appetite. Fluctuations in Norephinephrine can make it difficult or impossible to ejaculate and make it difficult to maintain an erection. Coupled with the increase in serotonin and thus libido that meth causes, this horny, but flaccid state is commonly called Crystal Dick.

Many of the problems Tina can cause are due to the increasing of these 3 neurotransmitters, and extended FOF response.

Long-term Tina use causes neurological damage, which can 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 section.