Shooting Meth – Side Effects and Dangers

Out of all the natural and manufactured drugs sold on the streets, methamphetamine or meth is one of the most ruthless in terms of how it takes hold of a person’s life. Anyone struggling with a methamphetamine addiction experiences the real-world rendition of the phrase, “monkey on my back.”

The side effects and dangers associated with shooting meth become a part of everyday life once a person is in the grips of an addiction.

Over time, the breakdown of the body and mind turns into an out-of-control downward spiral that leaves only fragments of the person intact. Understanding how this drug takes control of your life is one of the many steps a person must take in order to break a methamphetamine addiction.

Shooting Up With Methamphetamine

If you’ve ever tried shooting meth, you know how the energy surge it creates can be overwhelming. Methamphetamine works as a powerful stimulant that targets the body’s central nervous system. Its effect can best be compared to an over-the-counter amphetamine pill times 1,000. The energy surge produced by a meth IV can drive a person to stay up and awake for days as addictive cravings turn a one-time injection into a methamphetamine binge.

For someone who likes to party, methamphetamine may seem like a dream come true, though the dream can quickly turn into a nightmare.
“Crystal,” “ice,” “glass” and “meth” are all names used to refer the highly addictive drug known as methamphetamine.

Today, meth is classified as an illegal drug, but this wasn’t always the case. Meth was originally designed as a medication to treat nasal and bronchial congestion. Methamphetamine was first created in 1919 in Japan. Researchers derived the drug from amphetamine, a psychostimulant medication.

By the 1950’s, everyday people started using meth on their own in IV form, which resulted in large numbers of people becoming addicted to the drug. For this reason, methamphetamine was made an illegal substance with the passing of the U.S. Drug Abuse and Regulation Control Act of 1970, according to a University of Maryland resource site.

After a short reprieve in meth IV use, meth laboratories started sprouting up across the Southwestern United States as drug trafficking rates increased between the US-Mexico borders. Today, meth labs can be found in many areas throughout the United States, some of which include the Midwest, the Southeast and the Pacific Northwest.

Additives Used to Make Methamphetamine

Any drug purchased on the street will most likely have additive materials mixed in with the main drug. According to the Drugwarfacts.org site, some of the more toxic materials used as additives for methamphetamine batches include:

  • Lithium metal
  • Iodine
  • Red phosphorous
  • Hydrochloric acid
  • Sulfuric acid

‘High’ Effects

Methamphetamine comes in powder, rock and liquid forms. For IV purposes, both the powder (also known as “crystal”) and rock (also known as “ice”) can be used to manufacture meth in liquid form. As with most other drugs, shooting up meth provides a faster and more intense high than snorting or smoking it. The initial rush after an injection involves an intense surge of euphoria that can last anywhere from five to 30 minutes.

Once the rush subsides, feelings of well-being and high energy levels can last as long as 12 hours. Considering these effects – feelings most anyone would like to experience – it’s no wonder a person would continue to inject this drug into their system. The only problem is, once these effects wear off, the body and brain have exhausted certain vital chemicals in the process. When this happens, the body’s systems have to work twice as hard to restore chemical balances back to normal.

Chemical Imbalances in the Brain

Shooting meth sends the liquid form of the drug directly into the brain’s chemical system. As a central nervous system stimulant, methamphetamine directly targets areas that secrete dopamine and serotonin. Dopamine and serotonin are brain neurotransmitters or chemicals that regulate emotions and motor coordination throughout the body. The initial rush you feel after injecting the drug happens as meth triggers the release of large of amounts dopamine and serotonin chemicals in the brain.

That 12-hour window where the mind and body are in a perpetual state of high energy and well-being coincides with the length of time dopamine and serotonin levels remain at abnormally high levels in the brain. Once these chemicals start to drop, a person may start to feel depressed as energy levels take a nosedive. The withdrawal effects can be so bad that a person will shoot up again just to avoid experiencing the inevitable “crash” that follows a meth high.

Over time, drug cravings coupled with the desire to maintain or recapture the meth high eventually turn into an addiction. In the process, the brain and body begin to develop a tolerance for the drug, which means more is needed to produce the desired effects. So the longer a person shoots meth, the larger the doses must get in order to satisfy the body’s cravings. Help from professionals in a top inpatient or outpatient rehab center is much needed at this time.

Methamphetamine Use in the United States

Surveys taken by the National Institute on Drug Abuse in 2005 provide information on the rates of methamphetamine use within the US population. Lifetime usage rates for an estimated 10.4 million people who used the drug include the following:

  • 1.3 million people used methamphetamine within the prior year
  • 512,000 reported as active users
  • 4.5 percent of high school seniors had experimented with methamphetamine
  • 3.1 to 4.1 percent of teenagers in grades 8 though 10 had experimented with the drug within their lifetime

Brain Damage

Anyone who’s been on meth for a long time eventually develops fairly noticeable side effects that result when the body has built up a high tolerance towards the drug. After a while, no amount of methamphetamine can relieve the body’s cravings, which causes certain physical and psychological effects to occur on an ongoing basis.

If you’ve used meth on a long-term basis, you may have experienced nervousness, depression, irritability and even paranoia for long periods of time. People who repeatedly shoot up may eventually enter into psychotic states where they hear voices, see things that aren’t there and even become violent towards others. These behaviors are signs of possible brain damage as repeated methamphetamine exposure starts to destroy affected brain cells.

Other side effects may appear in how a person moves and responds to things in his environment. As methamphetamine stimulates motor-coordination centers in the brain, side effects can also take the form of repetitive or compulsive movements that are often involuntary, such as twitching or picking at the skin. Over time, damaged brain cells lose their ability to secrete normal amounts of dopamine chemicals. When this happens, a person may start to develop symptoms similar to those experienced by people who suffer from Parkinson’s disease.

‘Tweaking’ on Meth

Tweaking is an actual stage a person can enter while on a methamphetamine binge. This stage typically occurs when a person goes without sleep for three to 15 days. The overall mood state comes off as irritable and paranoid on a continual basis.

Frustration over not being able to get the desired “high” effects from shooting meth eventually develops into unstable behaviors that may or may not be noticeable to an untrained eye.

Someone who’s tweaking can appear alert and aware with clear eyes while speaking and moving normally. Upon closer inspection, their eyes are moving considerably faster than normal. Voice patterns may also carry a slight quiver in tone. Seemingly brisk movements may actually be jerky and uncoordinated at times.

Some people may try to take the edge off by drinking or taking a depressant, such as alcohol or pills. This may make it more difficult to spot any tweaking behaviors. On the other hand, the sedating effects of alcohol will often bring out negative feelings in someone in this stage. These effects often trigger feelings of paranoia and extreme irritability that can potentially make a person in this state dangerous to be around. People in this state are more prone to engage in spousal abuse, criminal activity and also cause car accidents.

Methamphetamine Price Differences Within US Regions

Buying meth on the streets leaves a person open to a whole range of price differences depending on where they live. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, in 2002 regional price differences for meth were:

  • In California and Texas, distributors charged $3,500 per pound
  • $21,000 per pound in southeastern regions
  • $21,000 per pound in northeastern regions
  • Actual retail prices ranged anywhere from $400 to $3,000 per ounce

Dangers of Shooting Meth

People who shoot meth often do so in a group. A group will usually share the equipment used to make the meth solution and also share needles. The sharing of needles is of particular concern since virus organisms can be transferred between people who share them. Virus organisms can also live inside the equipment, such as on cotton balls, syringes and cookers. So if someone in the group is carrying the HIV or hepatitis C virus, everyone in the group can potentially contract the disease.

As sexual contact is another way HIV infections are spread, this poses another threat when using meth since the drug is also known to increase a person’s sex drive. When under the “high” effects of a meth IV, a person becomes less inhibited and more likely to engage in random or casual sex with others.

For someone who does carry the HIV virus, ongoing meth use can actually speed up the rate at which the virus takes over the body’s immune system.

This is because meth’s effects on the brain and body weaken the body’s ability to rebuild and repair cell and tissue structures. These conditions make it easier for viral organisms to take over and spread through the cells in the body.