Dangers of Crystal Meth
Crystal meth is a concentrated, crystallized form of illicitly manufactured methamphetamine.
It is an extremely dangerous drug that entices users with its cheap price tag and promise of an intense high. It is known by many street names, including:
If you or someone you love is caught in the throes of crystal meth addiction, you should be aware of all the serious dangers that come along with it.
The Danger of Crystal Meth Addiction
If you are addicted to crystal meth, you run the risk of encountering a number of threats to your health and wellbeing, including:
- Exposure to toxic chemicals.
- Cardiovascular disease and other health issues.
- Personal and professional ruin.
- Lasting effects.
Toxic Chemicals in Crystal Meth
Crystal meth is manufactured by street criminals whose sole intent is to get you hooked on the drug so that they’ll make more money. They care nothing about you, your health or your safety. When you take crystal meth, you’re likely also ingesting some deadly poisonous chemicals.
Most crystal meth is made in small home “labs” that often cut the drug with hazardous adulterants and impurities so as to spread batches of the drug thinner and make more money. The results are so hazardous to health that officials take special precautions to protect themselves when they dismantle these home labs. These poisons can potentially contaminate everything they come into contact with – including the air.
Diverting stimulant medications
Crystal Meth Can Kill You – Instantly
Even after just one use, crystal meth can be deadly. Some of meth’s dangerous effects that can contribute to fatal outcomes may include1:
- Increased body temperature.
- Increased blood pressure.
- Increased heart rate.
- Irregular heart beats.
- Heart attack.
- Hemorrhage or vasospasm in the brain.
- Nervous system instability secondary to chronic catecholamine depletion.
- Air pressure changes in the lung, leading to pneumothorax, lung collapse or other problems.
Even if you’re healthy, you are still vulnerable to sudden death from methamphetamine use. Heart attacks or strokes may occur because of the massive spasms in the arterial walls caused by crystal meth use. You can also die from sudden extreme hyperthermia if your body temperature spikes uncontrollably.
Effects on the Body and Mind
Crystal meth can damage every system in your body. Common consequences from using crystal meth include2-5:
1. It may kill your sex drive. Although in the short term crystal meth use appears to increase libido, long-term use can cause a drop in sexual desire and physical difficulties like erectile dysfunction.
2. You increase your risk of getting sexually transmitted and bloodborne diseases. If you engage in risky sexual behaviors or if you share needles for injecting the drug, you run the risk of acquiring HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B, hepatitis C and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Because your inhibitions are lower when you use crystal meth, you’re much more likely to engage in risky behaviors – including having unprotected sex with strangers. And it only takes one sexual encounter with an infected person to acquire an STD like HIV/AIDS. Some evidence has also demonstrated that crystal meth may worsen the disease progression of HIV/AIDS, if you continue to use the drug even after acquiring the disease.
3. You may look terrible. Crystal meth use slowly destroys your body’s structures, including blood vessels and other tissue. It also impedes your body’s ability to heal.
- Skin: Crystal meth can make you hallucinate, to the point where you think bugs are crawling under your skin. You may try to “pick them out,” causing chronic abscesses and lesions on your skin. Even if you quit using and recover, you may still have extensive pock marks and scarring that remain.
- Teeth: Crystal meth is so corrosive that when you inhale it, the smoke damages everything it touches – from the inside of the mucosal linings of the mouth to the teeth. If you’re crystal meth user, you’re very likely to have significant tooth decay and loss. Dental problems can begin very shortly after you start using, and you can become completely toothless. Even if you don’t smoke meth and choose another method of ingestion, you can still have significant oral health problems because crystal meth users have notoriously poor diets. When they do eat, they tend to crave sweets – potentially worsening their already precarious dental situation. Hygiene among meth users is also usually poor, which again can lead to significant tooth decay and loss and certainly not worth the myriad health risks that accompany it.
- Weight loss: Although you may be intrigued about being able to lose weight easily with crystal meth, don’t try it. It is true that crystal meth speeds up your metabolism and reduces hunger so you may be able to lose weight quickly, but it’s only a temporary weight loss.
4. You may get insomnia. Long-term use of crystal meth may ruin your ability to have healthy sleep habits.
5. Your mental health may decline. Chronic use of crystal meth can cause confusion, moodiness, anxiety and even psychotic symptoms such as delusions, paranoia and hallucination.
6. You increase your risk of heart disease. This cardiac risk is not even necessarily linked to longer durations of meth use. Sudden cardiac death is a risk even for first-timers.
7. You increase your risk of early mortality. One study even showed that the five-year rate of all-cause mortality was 26 times higher than expected among women and 6 times higher than expected among men who abused methamphetamine.
It Can Ruin You Personally and Professionally
Chronic meth use can wreak havoc on your personal and professional life, as chasing the drug high soon becomes all-consuming. Meth use also causes changes in the brain that lower impulse control and damage cognitive ability. All of this can have a devastating effect on your family life and career – and these negative effects can accumulate very quickly.
In 2005, a survey by the National Association of Counties reportedly demonstrated that6:
- 62% of law enforcement agencies cited higher domestic violence rates due to meth use.
- 70% of law enforcement agencies cited increased theft because of meth use.
If you use crystal meth and you’re pregnant, you’re giving the drug to your baby, too. “Meth babies” born to using mothers often have to undergo withdrawal treatment. The drug is easily transmitted to the child through the placenta, so that the baby is born addicted. Moreover, your baby may also suffer the following consequences7:
- Premature birth.
- Low birth weight.
- Withdrawal symptoms.
- Behavioral problems throughout childhood.
Similarly, if you are breastfeeding and using crystal meth, you are also passing the drug on to your child.
Some Effects May Be Permanent – Even After You Stop Using
Crystal meth can cause permanent brain damage that may be irreversible even once the drug is stopped. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, areas of the brain responsible for emotion, memory, verbal learning and motor skills tend to become significantly altered with long-term meth use.3
Physical consequences like cardiac damage may also be permanent, and many who’ve used crystal meth destroy their teeth to the point of needing dental extractions. Former meth users often sport partial or full dentures as a result.
Why Is Crystal Meth So Addictive?
Unlike some other drugs, crystal meth often isn’t something you can simply “try once” and forget. Illegal drug use is never a good idea, but crystal meth is particularly dangerous because it can hook users almost immediately. Why is this?
Crystal Meth High
One hit of crystal meth can cause a flood of dopamine – a “feel-good” neurotransmitter – to be released in the brain. This results in an extensive, concentrated and very pleasurable “high.”
Crystal meth’s intense high is only temporary, but its effects on your brain and mood are almost instant. The flood of dopamine it induces recedes very quickly, resulting in a devastating “crash” that causes extreme anxiety, fatigue, depression and even paranoia.
This so-called “binge and crash” effect drives users to seek that high over and over again. Now, users feel the need to continually chase after their first high. Tolerance to drug doses soon increases – so that more and more of the drug is needed to achieve the same effect.
How Crystal Meth Works
Crystal meth works by causing extra release of chemicals called “catecholamines” in the brain. Catecholamines are “fight or flight” chemicals in the body that are released during stressful times. Catecholamines may function either as neurotransmitters or as hormones, with the main ones including:
Dopamine, in particular, sees its activity levels skyrocket after meth use. It plays a dominant role in influencing the addiction that develops when crystal meth is abused.
Dopamine is one of the neurotransmitters responsible for the feelings of pleasure and enjoyment you get when you do something that is fun, something that feels good or something that is pleasurable. Crystal meth ramps up dopamine’s normal production volume and floods the body’s receptors. The result is an exhilarating, all-encompassing high – and it’s much more intense and long lasting than a natural dopamine high.
Eating an ice cream cone or exercising to the point where you achieve a natural high are both examples of everyday activities that could cause the body to release dopamine. And as you might imagine with both of these activities, dopamine also provides positive reinforcement – so that you’ll want to repeat the pleasurable activity again and again.
But for many meth users, the naturally occurring dopamine high just isn’t enough anymore. And even worse – your body slowly produces less dopamine on its own when you use crystal meth, since your body now relies on crystal meth for its dopamine supply.
As a result, sudden withdrawal from crystal meth often brings on an excruciating depression. This depression is so deep and dark that users will do almost anything to avoid it – making recovery extremely difficult and relapse common. By seeking appropriate treatment, however, users can be properly supported through recovery with the resources that can help them succeed.
What Can You Do If You’re Addicted?
If you are addicted to crystal meth, help is available.
Successful treatment of crystal meth addiction typically includes counseling, medication, family education, structured lifestyle support and behavioral therapy. Treatment and rehabilitation has helped thousands of individuals recover from meth addiction, and it’s possible for you to recover, too.
Types of Crystal Meth Treatment Programs
When you are ready to look into your crystal meth addiction treatment options, you will find that you have several different program structures to choose from.
- Many standard crystal meth rehabilitation programs offer both inpatient/residential and outpatient addiction treatment. These programs are the best options for those on limited budgets. Unlike outpatient rehab, inpatient rehab is full time and is often recommended in cases of long-standing or relatively severe addictions. Those who also struggle with coexisting medical or mental health conditions are also well advised to seek inpatient rehab.
- Luxury rehab programs are residential facilities that offer the similar addiction treatment approaches as the more standard inpatient programs. However, they are called “luxury” programs for their extra range of plush, resort-like amenities that are designed to help make the recovery process as comfortable as possible.
- Executive rehab programs are in many cases a variant of luxury programs – except that they also provide the resources and program structure that allow busy professionals to maintain an active involvement in the work place throughout the recovery process.
Ongoing Recovery Support Groups
Throughout your recovery process – and even after you’ve completed your rehab program – many individuals find they can more reliably maintain sobriety when they join a recovery support group. Some of these support groups include “12-step” groups that promote cognitive behavioral techniques for relapse prevention and recovery maintenance while participants work the steps. These steps emphasize recovering by relying on a higher power and making relational amends, among other things. A couple examples of 12-step support groups include:
Find a Rehab Program Near You
If you have any questions you’d like to discuss – or if you’d like help finding a crystal meth rehabilitation program that can help you achieve sobriety – contact us today at 1-888-744-0789 Who Answers?. We can match you up to a program that is a good fit for you and help you achieve the healthy, happy life you’re after.
- Methamphetamine toxicity clinical presentation. Medscape.
- Lorvick, J., Bourgois, P., Wenger, L., Arreola, S., Lutnick, A., Wechsberg, W. (2012). Sexual pleasure and sexual risk among women who use methamphetamine: a mixed methods study. Int J Drug Policy, 23(5), 385-92.
- DrugFacts: methamphetamine. National Institute on Drug Abuse.
- Kaye, S., McKetin, R., Duflou, J., Darke, S. (2007). Methamphetamine and cardiovascular pathology: a review of the evidence. Addiction, 102(8), 1204-11.
- Kuo, C. J., Liao, Y. T., Chen, W. J., Tsai, S. Y., Lin, S. K., Chen, C. C. (2011). Causes of death of patients with methamphetamine dependence: a record-linkage study. Drug Alcohol Rev, 30(6), 621-8.
- Meth is top drug problem for most countries. (2005). NBC news.
- LaGasse, L. L., Derauf, C., Smith, L. M., et al. (1995) Prenatal methamphetamine exposure and childhood behavior problems at 3 and 5 years of age. Pediatrics, 129(4), 681-8.