Crystal methamphetamine, more commonly known as Crystal Meth, belongs to the class of drugs called “stimulants” because it speeds up messages between the brain and the rest of the body. Stimulants heighten a persons senses but can easily overwhelm the body with too much stimulation causing a whole host of unwanted and dangerous effects.
Meth comes in many forms, but is often seen as small crystals that look like ice. Other powdered forms look white or brown and are quite bitter in taste. Crystal meth is the most common name, but this drug also goes by ice, glass, or shard.
Symptoms and Behavior
Crystal meth is consumed by either inhalation through smoking where its effects are nearly immediate, injection, swallowing, or snorting. All effects will take place in 20 minutes or less, but last up to 12 hours.
Short Term Effects
Even small amounts have significant impact on users. Some of the effects are:
- increased wakefulness and physical activity
- decreased appetite
- faster breathing
- rapid and/or irregular heartbeat
- increased blood pressure and body temperature.
Meth severely changes the way the brain functions. It floods the brain with dopamines while at the same time blocking it from being absorbed by the brain. This vicious cycle slows down motor and verbal skills.
Long Term Effects
While the effects of meth can last 12 hours, the long term effects will last much longer including difficulty sleeping for several days after using the drug. Increased and consistent usage of meth may eventually cause these adverse effects:
- extreme weight loss
- restless sleep
- dry mouth and dental problems
- regular colds or flu
- trouble concentrating
- muscle stiffness
- anxiety, paranoia and violence
- and more.
Often times people treat these symptoms with other drugs such as alcohol to lessen the come down effects, but this will only exacerbate the issue and could cause dependencies on both drugs.
Beyond these long term effects, meth can cause brain damage, memory loss, psychosis and even symptoms that are similar to Parkinson’s disease. It’s common for a dependence on meth to form which can bring with it addiction related issues that will need to be addressed. Other serious medical conditions caused by meth include:
- Chest pain
- Irregular heart rate
- Heart attack
- Hyperthermia (high body temperature)
- Trouble breathing
- Intense stomach pain
- Kidney damage and failure
Because meth can cause awful effects ranging from psychosis to violence it often dramatically impacts the relationships between the user and their friends and family. Not only does it cause the user to experience many dangerous side effects, but creates an unsafe and chaotic environment for those around them. Meth users, like other drug users, typically neglect many normal responsibilities due to their intense cravings for the next time they can use. Career, friends, and even closed loved ones can all lose priority over meth causing the user to feel isolated and use even more while leaving those around them hurt and confused.
If a person takes too much meth it can be toxic to the body as it is no longer able to be broken down safely. Overdosing can look different depending on a number of factors, but for stimulants like meth, you can expect raised body temperatures, blood pressure, and dangerously high heart rates. This puts the user at risk for having a heart attack or stroke.
Sadly, overdosing fatalities have more than doubled since 1999. If you’re unsure if someone you know is overdosing you can usually tell by these symptoms:
- Chest Pains
- Field of Vision Spots
- High Fever
- Loss of Consciousness
- Loss of Muscle Control
- Pressure Behind the Eye
- Severe Stomach Pain
- Wide Pupils
- Aggressive Behavior
- Feeling of Crawling Flesh
- and more.
What to do (include 911 emergency)
As with any overdose it is imperative that you seek medical attention immediately. Call 9-1-1 as soon you recognize these symptoms. The longer you wait the less chance of survival for the individual who has overdosed. Let first responders know what substances have been abused as soon as they arrive so they know how to act.
Giving up any abused substance can be incredibly difficult because the body has come to depend on it and has trouble functioning without it. Though it can be hard the symptoms can usually subside after a week and nearly disappear in a month.
People experiencing meth withdrawal can expect the following symptoms:
- cravings for ice
- increased appetite
- confusion and irritability
- aches and pains
- restless sleep and nightmares
- anxiety, depression and paranoia.
There is no magic formula or prescription to help someone stop the use of meth. Like other addictions it will take a lot of work on the path to recovery and to a better life. For most people recovery can be hard for the first few months, but with treatment and care recovery is possible.
Those looking to stop using drugs often benefit from 12-step and other recovery groups where they can identify and learn from other people who have stopped using meth for good.
It is common, however, for depression to continue into recovery so it’s important to have therapy and potentially medication to help improve negative thoughts as the individual works through recovery.
How to help someone going through withdrawal
People struggling with meth addiction feel isolated and alone. It’s common for abusers of this drug to feel shame which fuels their desire to take more drugs. One of the best things you can do for someone struggling with addiction is to help them feel accepted and loved, even as they work through recovery.
It may even be important for family members and friends to participate in group work with other individuals who have been affected by a family or friend’s addiction to meth.