Snorting Meth: Side Effects and Dangers
Is Snorting Meth Dangerous?
Snorting meth produces a less intense high than smoking or injecting the drug. In the short term, it can harm the sinuses, cause nosebleeds, and damage the lining of the nose. It raises blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature. In the long run, snorting the drug can lead to heart attack, stroke, weight loss, depression, memory problems, dental problems, and trouble maintaining a job or keeping up with schoolwork.
Methamphetamine (meth) is classified by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as a Schedule II stimulant, meaning it has a high potential for abuse. As the brand formulation Desoxyn, methamphetamine was historically prescribed in low doses for treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or as a short-term component of weight loss treatment. These days, safer alternatives have largely supplanted methamphetamine for these applications. Most of the meth in the United States is purchased illegally and is produced in “superlabs” and small neighborhood labs located in the U.S. or Mexico.
Meth can be taken in pill form, but is more commonly smoked, snorted, or injected. People who use meth might choose to snort the drug because of fear of using needles or contracting hepatitis or HIV/AIDS. Although the risks are much lower when compared with non-sterile needle techniques, communicable diseases such as the hepatitis virus may still be transmitted by snorting if people using meth share paraphernalia used to snort the drug, especially if there is blood on the items or if there are cuts or abrasions within the nose.
Snorting meth provides a euphoric high with a relatively less intense a rush than that encountered with either smoking or injecting meth. This experience might lead people who use the drug to snort increased amounts. Increasing the dose puts them at higher risk for overdose. Frequent snorting of meth can cause problems within the nose and sinus cavities, increase stuffiness and nosebleeds, and damage the lining and cartilage of the nose.
Meth is a man-made drug synthesized from various, often toxic, chemicals, which may each individually contribute to the possibility of negative health effects. Common ingredients used in the illicit manufacturing of meth include:
- Pseudoephedrine/ephedrine (a common ingredient in cold medicines).
- Anhydrous ammonia (found in fertilizer).
- Battery acid.
- Drain cleaner.
- Iodine crystals.
- Lithium (from batteries).
- Paint thinner.
- Red phosphorus (from matchsticks).
Authorities are monitoring and controlling these ingredients, especially pseudoephedrine/ephedrine, more tightly by limiting access to large quantities. Small labs can create approximately $1,000 worth of meth in a few hours using about $100 of materials.
The process of manufacturing illegal meth produces toxic byproducts that are harmful to those who come into contact with them, including the manufacturer and anyone in the immediate vicinity. For every pound of meth that is created, approximately five to six pounds of hazardous waste is produced.
These waste products can poison farmland and forests, create toxic runoff, negatively affect animals in the area, and require specialized teams to clean up the hazardous materials. In a large number of U.S. states, property owners can be held responsible for the financial cost of these hazardous material cleanups, even if they aren’t directly involved in the manufacture of meth.
While meth may provide a pleasurable and euphoric high, it carries the risk of many side effects and dangers, regardless of how the drug is taken. Because meth is a central nervous system stimulant, using it essentially creates an extended fight-or-flight response. Such a state of persistent nervous system activation is associated with often dangerous increases in heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature. Users may experience a profound increase in energy levels, along with reduced appetite and dilated pupils – the latter a tell-tale sign of artificially stimulated sympathetic nervous system activity. These conditions can last for up to 24 hours.
When speaking, people under the influence of meth might jump from one topic to another, might feel more assertive or confident, and might even behave in paranoid or suspicious ways. The high is followed by a dramatic crash, leading the person to want to continue using the drug to avoid coming down. Individuals who are crashing will show excessive fatigue, hunger, thirst, strong cravings, mental confusion, depression, anxiety, insomnia, and lack of pleasure in ordinary activities. The desire to avoid these unpleasant feelings leads some people to take repeated doses over extended periods of time.
Over time the effects of continued meth use can cause serious damage to the nervous, circulatory, renal, and respiratory systems, leading to negative mental and physical effects. These physical consequences include weight loss, dental problems, insomnia, and an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and liver and kidney damage.
Tolerance can develop with repeated use, requiring users to obtain and abuse increasing amounts of meth to get high or even just to feel normal. Psychological consequences include paranoia, delusions, anxiety, confusion, concentration and memory problems, depression, suicidal thoughts, mood changes, and psychosis. Eventually, many users suffer from skin sores and damage to the teeth.
The routine of feeding a meth addiction – which consists of obtaining, using, and recovering from meth use – takes up much of the user’s time. While meth can give users excess energy, the dramatic crash can lead to a lack of motivation, which can cause problems with schoolwork and employment. Meth users might drop out of school due to excessive absences or poor performance. Employees might lose their job because of their meth use. Withdrawal symptoms might contribute to the likelihood of continued use. Chronic use can create long-lasting – or even permanent – changes in the brain, including changes that affect the brain’s pleasure and reward centers.
Meth use can easily lead to dependence and addiction, requiring special attention and care in a private treatment facility. Some people become addicted after using the drug just once, while others who try it might decide not to use it again. Low-intensity users might ingest the drug to experience increased wakefulness to finish a job, such as a long drive or a big project. Even low-intensity meth use can eventually lead to binge use or addiction.
There are currently no medications approved for treatment of meth addiction. Treatment involves therapy aimed at changing behavior, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and contingency management interventions. CBT is an effective technique that aims to change behaviors by identifying unhelpful thoughts that create emotions leading to unhealthy behaviors.
CBT also involves replacing these thoughts with more realistic ones that lead to sober behavior. Contingency management, which has also been shown to be an effective treatment method, encourages individuals to remain sober and continue to engage in treatment by providing concrete rewards to incentivize abstinence.
The Matrix Model is a comprehensive treatment program focused on behavioral change that utilizes many different therapeutic modalities, such as behavioral therapy, individual counseling, and 12-step support. The model also includes education for the individual and family, drug testing, and promotion of healthy sober activities. This model has proven effective in reducing meth use.
The problem of diversion
Meth is a highly addictive drug that can alter the brain, body, and physical appearance rapidly. While some of the damage of meth abuse is reversible, much of it is permanent. Prolonged use can lead to permanent changes to the emotional and reward centers of the brain, along with physical damage to vital organs, scarring, and tooth decay.
There are many treatment facilities available to provide assistance to stop snorting meth. Frequent meth use can lead to adverse health effects and even death, and the risk increases with the length of time meth is used. If you or a loved one is dealing with meth abuse or addiction, please call our helpline at 1-888-744-0789 Who Answers? to speak with a rehab placement specialist who can help you get started on the road to recovery today.