Side Effects of Crystal Meth Use and Abuse

Crystal meth is the common name for a colorless, odorless form of d-methamphetamine. This synthetic stimulant is a Schedule II substance, which means that it is highly addictive with a high potential for abuse. Addiction specialists estimate that roughly 5 percent of the adult population in the United States has used crystal meth at least once, and a study in the British Medical Journal discovered that nearly a half-million Americans use meth each week.

Crystal meth is used recreationally for its stimulant effects. People experimenting with crystal meth have called the resulting high euphoric, stating that it makes them feel powerful, or, in some cases, it blunts or blocks out painful emotions. According to research from the National Drug Intelligence Center, most people who use crystal meth smoke the substance through a glass pipe, similar to the way someone might use crack cocaine. The high that follows is intense and immediate, and it can last for 12 hours or more.

The Foundation for a Drug-Free World reports that there are over 24 million people who abuse crystal meth worldwide. If you, or someone you know, use crystal meth, it is critically important that you understand the risks that come along with this dangerous drug.

Is Someone You Know Abusing Meth?

Crystal meth has found a home in party scenes all over the world. From Australia to the United States and everywhere in between, young people in particular are using crystal meth to enhance their mood while partying. The demographic of people using crystal meth is surprisingly young too; a study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that 2.2 percent of young people in grades 7-12 in Canada admitted to using crystal meth within the past year. The 2012 Monitoring the Future survey showed that about 1 percent of US teens in the 8th, 10th, and 12th grades used crystal meth in the prior year.

So how can you tell if someone you care about is using crystal meth? Telltale signs of crystal meth use include:

  • Increased physical activity
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Dilated pupils
  • Heavy sweating
  • Sleeplessness
  • Paranoia or irritability

The Side Effects of Crystal Meth

Again, meth is a Schedule II substance. This means that, although the drug can be useful in treating certain medical conditions (in the case of methamphetamines, conditions like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and narcolepsy), the DEA acknowledges that the drug carries a high probability for abuse and addiction.

If an individual misuses crystal meth, they put themselves at a tremendous health risk. While meth use can trigger an intense high, it can also lead to very serious side effects. These side effects include:

  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Dry mouth and bad breath
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Violent behavior
  • Seizures
  • Overdose and death

Long-Term Danger

If an individual continues using crystal meth, they put themselves at risk for a wide variety of physical and mental damage. A common example of this is “meth mouth,” the poor oral health that plagues so many people struggling with crystal meth addiction. In a 2016 study in Clinical Oral Investigations, researchers found that people who used crystal meth had higher levels of gingival bleeding and periodontal disease. For many people who have used crystal meth, the damage done to their mouths is irreparable even after they’ve stop using the drug.

Rotted teeth and bleeding gums are far from the greatest dangers surrounding crystal meth use. Studies indicate that long-term use can lead to the development psychosis and organ damage, both of which persist long after an individual has stopped using the drug.

Also, individuals who use crystal meth have, according to a study from the International Organizations Research Group “a higher risk of cognitive impairment.” Cognitive impairment combined with a feeling of euphoria has proven a deadly combination for many individuals. Other studies have found that people who use crystal meth tend to have a higher risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections and HIV. In fact, a 2010 study in the journal Current Opinion in Infectious Diseases found that those who engaged in polysubstance abuse involving meth and Viagra were much more likely to contract HIV and other STDs.

Chronic crystal meth use results in decreased circulation, increasing blood pressure and weakening veins. As a result of these changes, a person is much more likely to have a stroke. In addition, those who use crystal meth are at increased risk for brain damage due to accidents or injuries incurred while under the influence of the drug.

Long-term and high-dose crystal meth abuse is associated with a greater likelihood to experience all side effects of the drug. Those who engage in polysubstance use, combining crystal meth with other substances of abuse, are also more likely to experience more severe side effects and long-term health dangers.

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