In late 2019, methamphetamine became the largest contributor of overdose deaths in the United States, slowly passing fentanyl as the center of America’s drug epidemic. In 2017 alone, an estimated 1.6 million people in the United States had reported using meth in the past year and a further 964,000 people had a methamphetamine use disorder. The risk of meth overdose, which can have lasting health effects or even potentially result in death, is serious. Any meth use should be taken seriously as soon as possible.
What is meth?
Methamphetamine is a white crystal-like substance which can be snorted, smoked or injected into the users bloodstream. When taken, the user will experience a powerful euphoric high which can also bring about feelings of confidence, pleasure and make the user feel energized. It’s euphoric properties is one of its more enticing effects which many users begin to crave. Some describe it to be emotionally numbing, therefore allowing them to escape painful emotions and past experiences.
However, meth is also incredibly dangerous due to its high potential for abuse and apparent risk of overdosing. The Drug Enforcement Agency classifies meth as a Schedule II drug which “are defined as drugs with a high potential for abuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence.” Meth users will find that their bodies begin to develop a tolerance to the drug as soon as after their first use. For most, the first use is the most powerful and impactful experience. Subsequent uses of the drug at the same dose begins to feel weaker and weaker over time. Therefore, meth users will continuously increase their dosage in attempts to recreate their first high. However, this often leads to overdoses, as at a certain point your body can no longer handle the high doses.
What causes a meth overdose?
An overdose is the body’s negative reaction to a drug or outside substance. In most cases, this is caused by taking too much of a drug, either on accident or purposefully. Not all overdoses will be fatal, however, all overdoses can become fatal. According to the University of Arizona’s Methamphetamine and other illicit drug education (MethOIDE) journal, the most common cause of death during a meth overdose is multiple organ failure similar to heat stroke. In rare cases, death can also occur from metal poisoning or contamination from illicitly produced, impure meth. Some signs of a meth overdose include:
- Chest pain
- Hypertension or Hypotension
- Difficult or labored breathing (Dyspnea)
- Rapid or slow heartbeat (tachycardia or bradycardia)
While these symptoms are not unique to meth overdoses, sweating profusely is. It is possible to recover from a meth overdose, however, the likelihood of surviving is highly dependent on how soon the individual receives medical attention. If you, someone you know or a stranger is exhibiting the above symptoms, call emergency services immediately. However, even with the proper medical attention, an overdose can cause lifelong health problems.
How long does meth stay in your system?
Meth is mostly unaffected by your body’s metabolism, unlike cocaine. Therefore, its effects can last from 8 to even 24 hours in extreme cases. This does depend on other factors such as how the drug was taken (orally, injected, snorted etc), the overall health of the individual and dosage. Meth has a half-life of around 10-12 hours, which means it takes approximately 10 hours for the initially ingested drug dose to reduce to half its size (i.e. if you took 100mg, 10 hours later, that would effectively be 50mg in your body). However, its detection rates vary depending on the type of test administered and amphetamine, a metabolite of meth may be detectable even longer past the ingestion period.
Meth withdrawals begin immediately after someone stops using meth and is highly uncomfortable and with the potential to last weeks. The duration and intensity of the withdrawal period does depend on how long the individual has been using the drug. Generally, those with a longer history of meth abuse will experience more intense withdrawals. Avoiding withdrawals is one of the primary reasons individuals will continue to use meth.
There are two distinct phases of meth withdrawal. The first phase occurs during the first 24 hours after last taking the drug and will include symptoms such as fatigue, increased appetite, anxiety and depression. The second phase will usually last 2 to 3 weeks and usually cause intense cravings for the drug and severe depression. In extreme cases, individuals who have an extensive history of abusing the drug may experience post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS) which can essentially extend the withdrawal symptoms up to 6 months or more.
Meth is a highly addictive drug. Even just one use can create an immediate desire for more and spiral out of control. It is one of the most dangerous drugs Americans have ever been faced with. However, recovery is absolutely possible. Given the complex nature of the recovery process and withdrawal symptoms, we recommend that you have a plan in place and work with a professional who can guide you during your path to recovery. If you or a loved one is struggling with meth abuse, please contact us today so that we can begin your road to lifetime recovery, together.