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ADN-642 Nursing IV – Substance Abuse-Addiction

Aubrey Melvin

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January 18, 2018

Southeastern Community College


Methamphetamine is one of the top most used illicit drugs
worldwide.  Meth is a stimulant drug that
causes changes in the brain, some being irreversible.  Its use is dangerous and can cause very
serious acute and chronic side effects, even death.  Meth is often used illegally for its
exhilarating effect that increases sex drive, heightens energy and produces a
feeling of euphoria when absorbed throughout the body.  It can also be used legally and prescribed by
doctors as a treatment for a limited number of medical conditions.  The danger of meth use stems from its
structural changes in the brain that can cause lifelong side effects only
treatable symptomatically.  Nursing care
of patients who abuse drugs shouldn’t differ from the direct care given to any
other patient.  If anything, these
patients may need more care and compassion to help them get better.  This paper goes more in depth into
methamphetamine, its use, its affects on the brain and body, how its
administered, how its diagnosed, and the nursing care and treatment that follow
methamphetamine intoxication.

ADN-642 Nursing IV – Substance
Abuse-Addiction Paper/Presentation

Methamphetamine, more commonly known as “meth,” is illegal
on the streets, but can seldom be prescribed by physicians to treat a small
number of medical conditions.  Meth,
under the brand name of Desoxyn, has been prescribed for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity
Disorder or ADHD and given to obese patients to aid in weight loss.  Although meth can be considered a medical
treatment, it is much more commonly used as an illegal substance.

(Davis, 2016 Methamphetamine)

This picture shows methamphetamine as a substance that
resembles crystals, often why it’s called “crystal meth,” as well as a few
different ways that illegal drug users administer it including ingestion,
smoking, or injection.

Under the Controlled Substance Act, meth is classified as a
Schedule II stimulant.  This
classification notes that it has a high potential for being abused with limited
medical use (Richards, 2017).  On the
street, this highly abused drug goes by several different names including ice,
crank, chalk, crystal, fire, glass, go fast, and speed.

Illegal drug users can administer meth by snorting,
ingesting, smoking, or injecting it.  A
common way of ingesting the drug is through what’s called “parachuting.”  The drug is wrapped in toilet paper or
plastic wrap before being ingested.  This
is supposed to delay absorption and prolong the drug’s effect, but this method
of administration is very dangerous and can cause toxicity if the wrap becomes
compromised, exposing the user to a very high dose of the drug (Richards,

Because meth is a stimulant drug, it promotes the release of
dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine within the central nervous system.  This release of neurotransmitters is what
causes acute effects after the drug has been absorbed in the body.  Acute effects include increased heart rate,
blood pressure, and temperature, increased metabolism, feeling of exhilaration,
increased energy, euphoria, mental alertness, tremors, irritability, anxiety,
panic, paranoia, violent behaviors, psychosis, and hyperthermia.  Long term use of meth can cause more serious
side effects.  Chronic effects include
severe dental problems, severe nasal damage from snorting, cardiac disease,
lung disease, stroke, seizures, memory issues, and development of a mental
health disorder including depression, anxiety, or psychosis.

Methamphetamine abuse can be diagnosed by urine toxicology
screening.  Other helpful diagnostic
tools may include a chemistry panel and complete blood count.  Because patients are usually reluctant to
admit that they’ve abused meth, other conditions with similar symptoms need to
be ruled out to ensure the symptoms displayed are in fact from methamphetamine
intoxication (Richards, 2017).

Most illegal drug abuse comes with complications, with meth
being no exception.  All the chronic
effects of meth use could be considered complications including cardiac and
lung disease, stroke, and seizures, but the structural and functional changes
to the brain that comes with chronic meth abuse can cause irreversible brain
damage.  Methamphetamine use during
pregnancy puts the mother and her fetus at a higher risk for complications such
as premature birth, bleeding, low birth weight babies, and/or sudden death of
the mother or fetus (Davis, 2016).

As with any other patient, patients who have abused meth or
any other substance deserve empathetic, passionate nursing care.  The nurse’s priority would be to assess the
patient and ensure their safety while maintaining a nonjudgmental attitude
towards the patient’s situation.  After
stabilizing the patient, the nurse may be able to ask about their pattern of
abuse, their mental health history, their family and medical history, their
willingness to get better, what stressors they have in their life, etc.  After a thorough history and physical, the
nurse can begin the patient’s plan of care, develop nursing diagnoses and
outcomes, implement any nursing interventions specific to the patient’s needs
such as allowing a safe, quiet, low stimulus environment, monitoring vital
signs, giving meds as needed, educating, and being a patient advocate.  Lastly, the nurse will evaluate any progress
or decline in the patient’s condition and intervene appropriately, always
maintaining the mindset of helping the patient get better.

Methamphetamine overdose can be very dangerous to the
patient and sometimes even fatal.  Treatment for meth overdose is mostly
symptomatic.  Benzodiazepines can be
given but often require a high dose to achieve effects.  Antipsychotics can be given for agitation, and
copious amounts of intravenous crystalloid can be given to increase excretion
of the drug through urination (Richards, 2017).  Nonpharmacological treatments include
cognitive-behavioral therapy, 12 step support programs, counseling, and lots of
patient and family education (Davis, 2016).

Substance abuse is on the rise today, especially in
adolescence.  The adolescent brain is
most vulnerable to the structural and functional changes that occur from
chronic drug use.  As nurse’s, it’s our
duty to educate the importance of drug abstinence and yield the consequences of
substance abuse in hopes that we can stop the rise of illegal drug use.



Davis, K., FNP.
(2016, April 22). Methamphetamine. Retrieved January 17, 2018, from

Davis, K., FNP.
(2016, April 22). Methamphetamine: Facts, Effects and Health Risks. Retrieved
January 17, 2018, from

Richards, J. R.
(2017, April 22). Toxicity, Methamphetamine. Retrieved January 17, 2018, from