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Can You Get Addicted to Crystal Meth After the First Use?

What Is Crystal Meth?

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 definitively 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, 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 carry a higher relative risk for binging, continuous use, and a rapid onset of crystal meth addiction.

Snorting or ingesting crystal meth also produces euphoria, but these methods are 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 the full effects are realized.

The crystal meth high produces desirable feelings, such as 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 being an attempt to relive the first experience.

While addiction can set in quickly, it is not the same thing as merely liking a drug. Addiction entails continuous, compulsive substance 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 Use

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 one another 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 of crystal meth is 12 times longer than that of 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 causes 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 Crystal Meth 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 by the RAND Corporation found that the cost of methamphetamine to the U.S. was $23.4 billion in 2005 alone.

Based on a global drug study in 2009, methamphetamine has moved to the number 2 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:

  • Hypertension.
  • 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 for hours longer than most other stimulants do, increasing a person’s 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. This combined with particular meth 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, producing sores, and causing 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 minimal 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 of a crash or re-experience the high from initial use, a person may use again, beginning a cycle that can be extremely difficult to break as time goes on.

With repeated use, the user will start developing a tolerance and find that they need to take more and more to get the effects they are 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 an individual continues to take a drug in full awareness of the potential harm the drug poses or has already caused.

Questions to Ask if You’re Considering Trying Crystal Meth

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 who will not pressure you into using the drug. If such a person does not exist in your life, consider calling a methamphetamine 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 for.
  • 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.

Check Your Insurance Coverage for Crystal Meth Addiction Treatment

If you need help with drug abuse or addiction, American Addiction Centers offers a free, confidential helpline. You can contact us at at any time, day or night. A caring treatment support specialist will help you find the care you need.

Crystal Meth Addiction Treatment Levels of Care

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