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Smoking Meth | Effects & Dangers Of Meth Abuse

Published on January 15, 2021
young woman/girl smoking meth

Methamphetamine is a potent, strongly addictive stimulant drug associated with a wide range of devastating short- and long-term health risks, including heart and lung dysfunction, brain damage, and overdose.

Why Is Meth Smoked?

Depending on the drug, smoking and injecting usually deliver the largest dose to the bloodstream the fastest. 

This sudden ingestion triggers a minutes-long rush or ‘flash’ of intense pleasure as the drug hits the brain, followed by a drawn out stimulant high that lasts between six and twelve hours—much longer than either cocaine or amphetamine highs, due to meth’s particular properties.

How Is Meth Smoked?

There are a number of ways to smoke meth, with certain meth smoking techniques and paraphernalia recommended by organizations dedicated to harm reduction in drug use.

Generally, meth is loaded into a bowl/light bulb meth pipe and heated with a flame. As the drug heats, vapors will rise and cool throughout the length of the pipe until they are inhaled at the open end.

Some individuals have been known to smoke meth using modified meth bongs or meth vapes. However, the serious health effects of smoking meth are the same no matter what equipment or technique is used.

Short-Term Effects Of Smoking Meth

When medically prescribed as Desoxyn (in low doses to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD) methamphetamine increases wakefulness and physical activity.

When smoked in high doses, however, meth’s effects become much more severe, including:

  • intense energy, activity, and wakefulness
  • elevated respiration
  • euphoria and rush
  • increased attentiveness
  • rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • hyperthermia (high body temperature)
  • activation of the brain’s reward circuit, prompting further meth use in the future

Long-Term Effects Of Smoking Meth

Meth use is associated with a wide-range of harmful, long-lasting physical and mental side effects.

Mental Health Effects

The damaging effects of meth on your brain and behavior can result in: 

  • anxiety
  • confusion
  • insomnia
  • repetitive motor activities
  • decreased mental flexibility
  • decreased motor skills
  • increased distractibility
  • memory loss
  • aggressive or violent behavior
  • mood changes
  • impaired decision making

Symptoms Of Psychosis

These include paranoia, visual and auditory hallucinations, and delusions, including the sensation of insects creeping under the skin. This may result in skin damage and sores due to uncontrolled picking and scratching.

Psychotic symptoms can sometimes last for months or years after you stop using meth.

Cardiovascular Injuries

The process of smoking toxic meth vapors will damage the tissues of your lungs, potentially leading to pulmonary edema, acute respiratory distress syndrome, alveolar hemorrhage, pneumonia, or pneumoconiosis.

The drug itself can also injure the heart and lungs leading to rapid heart rate, irregular heartbeat, and increased blood pressure.

Dental Issues

Meth-mouth refers to a condition of severe tooth decay and tooth loss resulting from methamphetamine abuse, as the drug often contributes to poor self-care, dry mouth, and tooth grinding.

Weight Loss

In addition to skin sores and dental issues, meth often causes severe appetite reduction, resulting in worrying weight loss, malnutrition, loss of muscle tone, and other bodily harm.

Dependence & Addiction

The more meth you use, the more your body will begin to adapt to its effects. This results in tolerance and physical dependence, which can lead to drug addiction as cravings and compulsions to take the drug grow in your mind.

Meth addiction can even cause you to become unable to feel pleasure from any other source, further driving you to take the drug in higher doses or riskier methods.

Meth Binges & Crashes

Some meth users will choose to take repeated high doses of the drug for an extended period of time, often going without food or sleep for days. These meth binges or ‘runs’ will be followed by a severe crash as the body and brain, pushed past their limits, try to re-balance.

A meth comedown or crash will likely leave you feeling totally depleted and exhausted. You may want to sleep for days at a time, with waking symptoms like:

  • aches and pains
  • agitation
  • depression
  • intense drug cravings
  • low energy
  • restlessness
  • suicidal ideation

Methamphetamine Overdoses

As with other drugs, meth can sometimes be laced with fentanyl or abused in combination with other drugs, greatly increasing meth’s already-high risk of overdose.  

Methamphetamine overdoses can cause convulsions, elevated body temperature, heart or breathing irregularities, coma, and death.

If you suspect an overdose has occurred, immediately summon medical assistance.

Recovery From Meth Addiction

Methamphetamine addiction is extremely difficult to overcome alone. But it is possible to recover, especially with access to professional treatment programs and support including medical detox, behavioral therapy, and cognitive therapy. 

To learn more about methamphetamine use disorder treatment options, contact an Ark Behavioral Health specialist today.

Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
This page does not provide medical advice.

CATIE - Safer Crystal Meth Smoking
European Journal of Case Reports in Internal Medicine - Methamphetamine-Induced Lung Injury
National Institute on Drug Abuse - Methamphetamine Research Report
U.S. Department of Justice - Methamphetamine

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