The Dangers of Smoking Meth

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Author: NP Addiction Clinic
Published: April 7, 2022

Methamphetamine, often referred to as meth or crystal meth, is a central nervous system stimulant made from a combination of store-bought chemicals. The most common ingredients are pseudoephedrine and ephedrine, but other components may include acetone, drain cleaner, and battery acid.

Though taking meth without a prescription is illegal, there is a Food and Drug Administration FDA) approved brand of methamphetamine called Desoxyn. This is only available through a prescription marketed in five, 10, and 15-milligram tablets that cannot be refilled. Desoxyn, the only legal form of meth, is used to treat obesity and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

How is Meth Used?

Methamphetamine is a Schedule II drug, meaning it is tightly controlled due to its high potential for abuse. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) recognizes Schedule II drugs as having a high potential for drug abuse, but they are accepted for certain medical uses with severe restrictions.

Despite there being an FDA-approved form of meth, the majority of all methamphetamine is obtained and abused illegally to achieve a desired high. When abused, this substance can have detrimental effects on a person’s physical and mental health.

There are a variety of methods for crystal meth use, including:

  • Snorting crystal meth - Meth crystals are first ground into a fine powder and snorted, or inhaled, through the nose. Snorting meth introduces the substance directly to the central nervous system and is one of the most potent forms of administration.
  • Injecting crystal meth - To inject methamphetamine, users will melt the substance into liquid form and administer it intravenously with a needle. Injecting meth allows for more rapid onset of effects. It also increases the risk of acquiring an infection or bloodborne disease, often due to unhygienic practices like sharing needles.
  • Smoking crystal meth - Smoking meth is another common method of meth use. Meth is typically smoked by heating the fragments of meth in a glass pipe and inhaling the smoke. After long-term use, smoking meth can cause serious lung damage, meth mouth, and other effects of substance abuse that require addiction treatment.

Dangers of Smoking Meth

Studies have shown that individuals are more likely to become addicted to meth if they smoke it than if they use it in other forms. This is due to the increased speed at which meth reaches the brain via smoking meth, with users immediately feeling intense pleasure. While smoking meth speeds up drug delivery, it can also increase the adverse health effects of the drug.

Signs of Meth Addiction or Abuse

There are a range of physical and psychological signs of drug abuse to look out for. Meth is a highly addictive stimulant that causes many people to slip into addiction quickly without loved ones realizing it.

Knowing the signs could help support someone in seeking treatment for meth addiction.

Physical Signs of Meth Abuse

  • Weight loss that causes an increasingly frail body
  • Malnutrition
  • Arrhythmias
  • Heart palpitations
  • Acne, spots, or sores
  • Poor oral health (‘meth mouth’)
  • Gum disease
  • Convulsions
  • Liver damage
  • Lowered immunity/susceptibility to infectious disease
  • Extreme body temperature
  • Increased libido
  • Intense scratching
  • Increased energy

Common Harmful Effects of Meth Use

Though all of the symptoms noted above are negative effects of smoking meth, some effects of drug abuse are particularly damaging.

Increased Libido

In many cases, an increased libido makes individuals more susceptible to sexually transmitted infections as a result of risky sexual practices.

Meth Mouth

One of the most noticeable signs of meth addiction or abuse is declining dental health. Over time, smoking meth contributes to gum disease, tooth decay, and tooth loss.

Meth Sores  

Crystal meth use can cause damage to the skin in the form of meth sores. These are surface wounds that can appear in a variety of sizes and locations, although most commonly on the face and arms. These sores can be made worse by intense scratching.

Psychosis

Methamphetamine abuse can result in meth-induced psychosis, including delusions, auditory and visual hallucinations, paranoia, and irritability. Although psychosis is a psychological symptom, it can also result in physical harm and injuries.

Intense scratching is a common physical side effect of psychosis, with those experiencing meth-induced psychosis believing that bugs are crawling all over or inside their skin, aggravating sores. Moreover, delusions can result in erratic or dangerous behavior, putting people in harm's way.

'Tweaking'

Tweaking is when meth users experience insomnia for between three and 15 days, resulting in intense sleep deprivation. Tweaking is often the result of a meth binge which transpires after repeatedly injecting or smoking meth to chase the original high, a common symptom of drug addiction.

Tweaking can cause paranoia, irritability, confusion, and rapid movements, including talking very fast in addition to rapid eye movements that are distinguishable in close proximity to a person.

Psychological Signs of Meth Abuse

Meth abuse comes with a range of different psychological side effects. When meth is consumed, users experience an initial feeling of euphoria as the drug increases dopamine levels in the brain.

Dopamine is one of the leading chemical messengers in the brain’s reward system, and it is also involved in memory and learning processes. Continued meth abuse repeatedly floods the brain with dopamine, causing an imbalance in the brain’s natural dopamine levels.

As a result, people abusing meth often experience memory problems, struggle with motor skills and learning, and other cognitive deficits. Drugs that activate the brain’s reward system have a high potential for addiction and often leave users craving more.

Common psychological effects of using crystal meth include:

  • Paranoia
  • Anxiety
  • Violent behavior
  • Insomnia
  • Agitation
  • Mood swings
  • Confusion
  • Cognitive deficits
  • Memory loss
  • Psychosis
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions

Meth Withdrawal

Detox is the first stage of recovery for drug and alcohol abuse. It involves allowing all traces of the substance to leave the body and can often come with predictable symptoms called withdrawal symptoms.

For many people seeking addiction treatment, withdrawal is the greatest barrier to treatment. As a result, support from friends, family members, and medical professionals is vital. Although smoking meth causes uncomfortable and dangerous side effects, meth withdrawal symptoms can often cause meth users to relapse.

Common meth withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Fatigue, lethargy, and excessive sleepiness
  • Increased appetite
  • Dry mouth
  • Depression, apathy, feelings of hopelessness
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Extreme cravings for meth
  • Paranoia, hallucinations, and delusions

Research has found that a significant number of people who relapse do so as a result of feelings of depression, apathy, and hopelessness. The best treatment centers provide mental health support as part of addiction treatment.

Meth Addiction Treatment

If you are struggling with substance abuse problems or substance addiction, treatment can assist you. As a result of the complex and harmful side effects of snorting, injecting, or smoking meth, recovery in a structured treatment program is almost always the most effective option.

As meth is a highly addictive drug and withdrawal symptoms can be painful, relapse is common, but treatment centers, such as our own, can prescribe medication to alleviate the risk.

Drug addiction is frightening, especially as methamphetamine use can cause issues to a person's social life, family life, and work. However, meth addiction can be overcome, and a life free from meth use is possible.

At NPAC, our team supports and guides each client through the detox process safely, providing care at every stage of the treatment process. Family therapy and various talking therapies are also offered to those trying to recover from a substance use disorder.

Contact Us

At NPAC, our substance abuse treatment programs provide tailored treatment options, including medication-assisted treatment, mental health treatment, and specialized trauma treatment.

If you are ready to break free from addiction and take a step toward living a fulfilling, drug-free life, contact us today. We can answer any questions and help you understand the treatment process and our addiction treatment options for crystal meth addiction.

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