Crystal meth is a powerful, synthetically made stimulant. It can be ingested orally, injected intravenously, snorted or smoked. Crystal meth is notorious for its high addictive potential and many people suggest that taking just one hit will get you addicted.
Just how powerful is this substance? Because of factors such as wildly variant purity levels of the street product, as well as differences in individual propensities to develop substance abuse problems, it’s difficult to say definitely how addictive meth is. What is clear, though, is that any use of meth has the ability to cause a range of harmful physical and psychological effects and, in many, can precipitate a pattern that may eventually lead to full-blown addiction.
What Happens the First Time Trying Crystal Meth?
Smoking or injecting crystal meth produces what is sometimes referred to as a “flash,” a brief but intense rush of pleasure or euphoria. As a result, these specific methods of ingestion may have a higher relative risk for binging, continuous use, and a rapid onset of addiction.
Snorting or ingesting crystal meth also produces euphoria, but each is slower-acting. Individuals snorting crystal meth will feel the high in 3-5 minutes, while oral ingestion might take closer to 15-20 minutes before full effects are realized.
The crystal meth high produces desirable feelings like an intense sense of wellbeing, sustained periods of alertness/wakefulness, and increased confidence. These effects are often experienced most acutely upon first use, with each successive use an attempt to relive that first experience.
While addiction can set in quickly, it is not the same thing as merely liking a drug. Addiction entails continuous, compulsive use in spite of evidence that doing so has or will be harmful. How quickly an individual becomes addicted depends on:
- The method of ingestion.
- Genetic influences.
- Environmental influences.
- The existence of any co-occurring mental health disorders.
- Other interpersonal, social, and psychological factors.
Effects of Crystal Meth
Following the initial high from crystal meth, users may experience the following short-term effects:
- Increased wakefulness and physical activity.
- Decreased appetite.
- Increased respiratory rate.
- Increased heart rate and blood pressure.
- Irregular heartbeat.
- Hyperthermia (overheating of the body).
Crystal meth’s short- and long-term effects are similar to those seen with cocaine use. Though both are stimulant drugs, crystal meth and cocaine differ from each other at a molecular level. As such, they both interact with and elicit different effects from various neural processes. For example, crystal meth is more slowly metabolized by the body, and has a different impact on our brain’s reward system.
The metabolic rate for crystal meth is twelve times longer than for cocaine, meaning that meth acts on the brain for a longer period of time. Also, while crystal meth and cocaine both block the reabsorption of dopamine (reuptake), only crystal meth actually results in ramped up vesicular release of this neurotransmitter – creating a veritable one-two punch in terms of heightened stimulation.
The result can mean damage to nerve terminals in the brain and an increased risk for physical and psychological illness (such as Parkinson’s disease), according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Why Is It Dangerous?
Methamphetamine is one of the world’s most addictive and dangerous substances and its negative impact is felt on an individual level, by those individuals’ families, and by society at large. A 2009 report from the RAND Corporation found that the cost to the US from methamphetamine was $23.4 billion in 2005 alone.
Acute overdose of crystal meth is extremely dangerous and can be fatal. Someone overdosing on crystal meth may present with the following signs and symptoms:
- Difficulty breathing.
- Dangerously high body temperature.
- Extreme agitation.
- Severe stomach pain.
- Heart attack.
If you believe you or someone you know has overdosed on meth, seek help immediately.
When speaking to an emergency operator, be sure to provide information about recent drug use history as well any symptoms you’ve noticed.
Based on a global drug study in 2009, methamphetamine has moved to the number two spot, behind only cannabis, as the most widely used drug in the world. Per the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), nearly 570,000 people had used meth in the month prior to the survey.
Physical dangers of using crystal meth include:
- Risk of stroke.
- Irregular heartbeat.
- Hyperthermia (raised body temperature).
An even greater risk to meth users is the potential development of overt psychotic symptoms. Crystal meth acts on the brain hours longer than most other stimulants, increasing the risk of paranoia, hallucinations, and other persistent psychotic symptoms.
Another potential and unique risk of using meth is severe damage to teeth and gums, also referred to as “meth mouth”. The individual or combination of particular side effects – dry mouth, hygiene neglect, and/or teeth grinding – can lead to rapid and significant dental decay.
Damage to the skin, linked to drug-induced psychosis, may also occur. Users often report the feeling that insects are crawling under their skin, prompting violent scratching, sores, and eventual damage to the skin’s surface.
How Do You Get Addicted to Crystal meth?
Addiction to crystal meth depends on a number of factors that extend beyond the substance alone. For example, someone with low family support, or a history of drug abuse, psychiatric illness or impulsivity may be at greater risk for addiction.
Regardless, the path to addiction is not necessarily straight, nor is it immediate. Initially, a drug’s effects simply feel good to the user. Whether to alleviate feelings from a crash, or to re-experience the high from initial use, a person may use again, beginning a cycle that can be extremely to break as time goes on.
With repeated use, the user will start developing a tolerance and find that he needs to take more and more to get the effects he’s seeking. This pattern of taking increasing amounts of or more potent meth puts the user at risk for dependence, a state in which the body has adapted in such a way that it needs the drug in order to function as expected. Without continued meth use, the body begins to experience the effects of withdrawal, which can be extremely uncomfortable both physically and psychologically. The avoidance of withdrawal is a particularly compelling reason for the continued use of meth. Even the best intentions to quit using can be squashed by the desire to stave off the symptoms of withdrawal.
Addiction has set in when the individual continues to take a drug, in full awareness of the potential harm the drug poses or has already caused.
What To Do If You’re Considering Trying Crystal Meth
If you are considering trying crystal meth, you might want to take a step back and ask yourself the following questions:
Why do I want to try crystal meth? Is it because of pressure from friends or family?
- If so, seek advice or help from someone close to you that will not pressure you into using the drug. If such a person does not exist in your life, consider calling a hotline.
What is it that I’m gaining from using crystal meth?
- Is it the allure of that initial rush, or are you trying to fill an emotional void in your life?
- If the initial rush is driving your curiosity, you may think about whether that brief feeling of pleasure is worth risking your health, relationships, and career.
- If you are trying to fill a void in your life, you may consider seeking help from a mental health professional. If that sounds like too big of a step, try talking to someone you are close to and trust.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2013, September). Methamphetamine: How is Methamphetamine Abused? Retrieved February 18, 2016, from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/methamphetamine/how-methamphetamine-abused
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2013, September). Methamphetamine: What are the Immediate (Short term) Effects of Methamphetamine Abuse? Retrieved February 18, 2016, from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/methamphetamine/what-are-immediate-short-term-effects-methamphetamine-abuse
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2013, September). Methamphetamine: How is Methamphetamine Different from Other Stimulants, Such as Cocaine. Retrieved February 18, 2016, from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/methamphetamine-abuse-addiction/how-methamphetamine-different-other-stimulants-such-cocaine
- Russell, K., Dryden, D. M., Liang, Y., Friesen, C., O’Gorman, K., Durec, T., … & Klassen, T. P. (2008). Risk factors for methamphetamine use in youth: a systematic review. Bmc Pediatrics, 8(1),1.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2013, September). Methamphetamine: Letter from the Director. Retrieved February 19, 2016, from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/methamphetamine/letter-director
- Marshall, B. L., & Werb, D. (2010). Health outcomes associated with methamphetamine use among young people: A systematic review. Addiction, 105(6), 991-1002. doi:10.1111/j.1360-0443.2010.02932