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Smoking Meth: Side Effects And Risks

Brenda Munnerlyn, RN, BSN

Medically reviewed by

Brenda Munnerlyn, RN, BSN

March 25, 2019

Using meth in any form is dangerous, but smoking meth can put people at an increased risk of addiction and other side effects. A formal program of recovery is the best way to overcome meth addiction.

Methamphetamine can be dangerous when used in any way. However, smoking meth poses its own unique side effects and risk factors.

Meth, also referred to as crystal meth, is an extremely potent central nervous stimulant. This drug is illegal to sell or use without a prescription in the United States. It is most commonly found in a white, odorless powder, but is also available in crystal form.

This stimulant is known for the intense euphoria it can produce. Other effects of using meth include increased energy, decreased appetite, and heightened attention.

Many people who use methamphetamine do so in a binge pattern. This means that they take the drug repeatedly over a period of time to maintain the high it produces. Once the drug has run out or the person has stopped taking it, a “crash” is often experienced.

While methamphetamine is available through prescription as Desoxyn, it is very rarely prescribed. The majority of people who use meth do so by abusing the substance to get high.

Meth can be used in a number of ways. These include snorting, injecting, taking it orally, and smoking. Smoking meth causes the drug to reach the brain faster than other methods of use and puts people at an increased risk for addiction.

Side Effects Of Smoking Meth

There are various meth smoking techniques, but it is typically done by heating up the drug in its crystal form. This produces a vapor that is then inhaled through a glass pipe.

In addition to increased energy and focus, smoking meth can also have a number of other side effects.

Common short-term side effects of smoking methamphetamine include:

  • increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • dilated pupils
  • upset stomach
  • irritability
  • excitability
  • trouble sleeping
  • increased body temperature
  • erratic or violent behavior
  • seizures or convulsions
  • decreased appetite
  • panic
  • psychosis, including hallucinations

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Chronic methamphetamine use and abuse can also result in a number of side effects. Smoking meth can increase the chances of experiencing these negative effects.

Long-term side effects of smoking meth may include:

  • weight loss and malnutrition
  • cardiovascular problems, including heart palpitations and heart attack
  • sexual dysfunction
  • memory loss
  • lung, liver, and kidney damage
  • respiratory problems, such as trouble breathing
  • brain damage
  • severe tooth decay and “meth mouth”
  • confusion
  • anxiety
  • insomnia

“Meth mouth” is one of the most prominent long-term conditions associated with smoking methamphetamine. The harsh chemicals in meth can wreak havoc on a person’s dental health and hygiene. Tooth decay, gum damage and disease, and mouth sores are just a few of the side effects associated with meth mouth.

Risks Of Smoking Meth

One of the most prominent risks associated with smoking methamphetamine is addiction. In fact, the Office of National Drug Control Policy states that using meth by smoking it is the most addictive way to ingest this drug.

Smoking meth can lead to a tolerance to be quickly built up. Tolerance is when a person needs more of the drug to feel its initial effects. Someone may take higher doses of meth to achieve the same high felt when he or she first began smoking the drug.

Physical and psychological dependence on the drug is also a risk factor associated with smoking meth. Psychological addiction can form in a short span of time and leave a person feeling like he or she needs the drug to function. This can lead to continued abuse and result in addiction.

Additionally, the production of meth is illegal and is not regulated. This means that people who purchase meth off the street could inadvertently expose themselves to harmful substances. This can put someone at risk for toxicity, drug interactions, overdose, or death.

Methamphetamine Overdose

One of the most dangerous effects of smoking meth is the potential for overdose. Because meth is unregulated, there is no way to know how much meth is in each dose. People smoking meth may ingest more than intended, leading to overdose.

Symptoms of methamphetamine overdose can include:

  • heightened body temperature
  • seizures
  • heart attack
  • trouble breathing
  • high blood pressure
  • increased heart rate
  • stomach pain
  • psychosis
  • suicidal ideations
  • coma

If not treated immediately, methamphetamine overdose can lead to organ failure and death.

Getting Treatment For Meth Abuse And Addiction

Methamphetamine is a highly addictive substance regardless of how it is used. Most people who are addicted to meth will need a formal approach to treatment to recover.

Inpatient treatment programs have shown great success in helping people overcome meth addiction. Inpatient treatment requires patients to live residentially at the rehab facility for an extended period of time, usually 30 to 60 days or longer. During this time, patients receive personalized and intensive addiction treatment.

To learn more about the side effects and risks of smoking meth and the treatment options available, contact our treatment specialists today.

MedlinePlus - Methamphetamine overdose

Medical News Today - Methamphetamine: What you should know

Drug-Free World - The Deadly Effects Of Meth

National Institute on Drug Abuse - How is methamphetamine abused?

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