Mixing Meth With Other Drugs
Methamphetamine (meth) is a powerful stimulant which acts upon the central nervous system (CNS). Other common names for the drug include speed, crank, ice, crystal, and glass. Meth can give the user a temporary sense of well-being, increased alertness, and energy, but it is also highly addictive; occasional use may result in dependence and addiction. Over time, meth causes serious harm to the user’s physical and mental health. To make matters worse, meth is often used in combination with other drugs, both legal and illegal, such as alcohol, Viagra, marijuana, “poppers”, GBH, ecstasy, heroin, and cocaine. Combining meth with other drugs only enhances its harmful effects and may be life-threatening.
A Brief History of Meth
Methamphetamine was developed in Japan shortly after the First World War as a treatment for fatigue and depression. It was commonly used by the Japanese and United States armed forces in the Second World War to keep servicemen awake while on duty. In the 1950s, the drug was prescribed in the United States as a diet aid and antidepressant; it was also used as a non-medical stimulant by college students, truck drivers, and athletes. However, widespread misuse of the drug and concern over the growing number of addicts led the Federal government to outlaw the manufacture of methamphetamine in 1970 under the provisions of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act. Since that time, meth continues to be produced and distributed illegally, and the drug is readily available in most localities.1
How Meth Is Used
Meth can be consumed in the following ways:
- Orally, in pill form.
- Injecting powder dissolved in water or alcohol into the bloodstream.
Since the “high” sensation produced by meth comes and goes quickly, users often “binge” on the drug by taking repeated doses over a period of time. In some cases, meth is taken in a form of bingeing called a “run,” where the user takes the drug every few hours for several days.2
Using With Other Drugs
A particularly dangerous form of meth consumption involves polydrug use, in which two or more drugs are combined to produce a broader range of stimulating effects.
A survey of one subset of meth users produced some sobering statistics concerning the extent of polydrug abuse. Sixty-five percent of respondents mixed meth with one or more drugs, not including alcohol. Of these:
- 43.7% combined the drug with marijuana.
- 14% combined it with GHB.
- 10.8% combined it with amyl nitrite (“poppers”).
- 8.6% combined it with cocaine and 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), commonly called ecstasy.
- 2.7% combined it with heroin and Viagra.
Of the people surveyed who co-administered meth, 23% did so with 2 or more other drugs. The most common triple mixtures included combinations of meth and marijuana with poppers (56.9%) and GHB (37.3%). Quadruple mixtures accounted for 8.2% of poly-use cases across the survey, involving combinations of meth with GHB, ketamine (“Special K”), marijuana, ecstasy, and Viagra.3
Polydrug abuse is rampant among young adults involved in the club, dance, and rave culture. While ecstasy and cocaine are often the drugs of choice among the dance club set, crystal meth is frequently used as well, typically in combination with one or more other drugs. A study conducted in New York City of club-going young adults (ages 18 to 29) found that a staggering 91.7% of those surveyed engaged in polydrug use. Of those who reported using meth, 66.3% combined it with at least one other drug—especially ecstasy (34%), marijuana (31.7%), GBH (23.1%), and cocaine (22.8%).4
An example of a legal substance frequently combined with methamphetamine is the prescription drug Viagra, the trade name for sildenafil. Meth lowers inhibitions and enhances sexual desire; however, it also causes erectile dysfunction (ED). Male users of meth often take Viagra concurrently to counter ED caused by meth. However, just because it is legal does not mean it is safe. Meth users are more likely to engage in unsafe sexual practices. A study of polydrug use and sexual behavior among heterosexual and homosexual men found that respondents who had co-administered meth and Viagra were more likely to engage in unprotected sex and had a greater risk of contracting HIV than those who used meth alone. The risk of HIV infection increased from 2.99% for those who used meth only to 8.45% for those who used meth with Viagra.5
Health Effects of Polydrug Abuse
The consequences of combining meth with other substances vary depending on the drugs used, the route of administration, and the amount taken. Generally, polydrug users are more likely to overdose, sometimes fatally. Other health effects noted are hypothermia, extreme anxiety, panic attacks, and coma. Also, polydrug use is more likely to result in depression, anxiety disorders, and poor treatment outcome.3
Overcoming Polydrug Addiction
Because meth is one of the most highly addictive of illicit drugs, withdrawal can be extremely difficult. Recent decades have seen a marked increase in meth addiction across the U.S.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, emergency room visits involving meth usage jumped by 54% between 1995 and 2002. Cities such as Baltimore, Newark, and New Orleans witnessed increases of 500% or more during this period. In more than 60% of these cases, poly-usage involving alcohol, cocaine, and marijuana was also reported.
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Treatment for Meth Polydrug Abuse
Treating an individual who uses meth and other drugs concurrently requires special care. Many programs take an intensive approach to treatment, especially for multi-drug abuse. Detox is an important part of treatment, and medical monitoring might be necessary to manage the onset of troublesome or severe withdrawal symptoms.
In many cases, residential or inpatient addiction rehab programs will offer a recovering polydrug user the most intensive level of care. These programs can provide time away from the environmental circumstances that might have contributed to meth abuse.
For people who can’t take time away from home, an outpatient program is a good option. It allows people in addiction treatment to continue living at home, fulfilling their obligations while attending scheduled therapy sessions multiple times a week.
Currently there are no government-approved medications to treat methamphetamine and polydrug addiction, so treatment focuses heavily on behavioral therapy. The types of therapy that have been found to help with meth and polydrug addiction include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy. This method helps people understand their substance abuse better by examining why they abused the drugs, how they can cope with cravings, and how to resist relapse.
- Contingency management. This method provides incentives for maintaining sobriety in order to increase a person’s motivation.
- Matrix Model. This 16-week intensive program combines:
- Substance and addiction education.
- Behavioral therapy.
- Drug tests to ensure abstinence.
- Self-help group support.
- The promotion of non-drug activities.6
The treatment process of overcoming meth addiction is likely to be challenging and uncomfortable at times. Many recovering polydrug users find that luxury programs offer them the best recovery course. Luxury rehab programs consider patient comfort a major aspect of treatment, offering a variety of amenities for recovering users.
Find the Right Rehab Center
Consider the following factors when looking for a rehab center that will provide you with the best treatment:
- Dual-diagnosis experience. Meth is often abused with other drugs. Also, it is commonly used by individuals who have mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression. Suffering from an addiction to meth in addition to another substance addiction or mental health disorder is known as a dual diagnosis, and it benefits from comprehensive treatment in order to increase the individual’s chances of a full recovery.
- Certified staff. It’s vital that the treatment team at the rehab facility be qualified to treat substance addictions and mental health disorders. When researching options, ask the treatment center what kinds of certifications it requires staff members to hold.
- Individualized treatment plans. The best recovery centers will do a thorough intake evaluation in which they assess for any co-occurring mental or behavioral health issues. Once the evaluation is complete, the staff will create a treatment plan that caters to individual needs.
- Family involvement. Many recovery programs prioritize offering family counseling, which can aid in repairing broken relationships and improving communication between the recovering individual and family members.
- Aftercare planning. A quality rehab facility will employ a treatment team that creates comprehensive aftercare plans for patients who complete the recovery program. Aftercare planning includes ongoing treatment that will help to prevent relapse.
Rehab placement advisors are standing by to help you find a meth polydrug rehab program that’s right for you and your circumstances. Whether you’re experiencing physical or mental withdrawal symptoms, there’s a program that can help you heal and move forward.
- Foundation for a Drug-free World. (n.d.). History of Methamphetamine.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). DrugFacts: What is methamphetamine?
- Semple, S.J., Strathdee, S.A.,. Zians, J., Patterson, T.L. (2009). Sexual risk behavior associated with co-administration of methamphetamine and other drugs in a sample of HIV-positive men who have sex with men. Am J Addict, 18(1), 65-72.
- Grov, C., Kelly, B.C., Parsons, J.T. (2009). Polydrug use among club-going young adults recruited through time-space sampling. Subst Use Misuse, 44(6), 848-864.
- Fisher, D.G., Reynolds, G.L., Napper, L.E. (2010). Use of Crystal Meth, Viagra, and Sexual Behaviour. Curr Opin Infect Dis, 23(1), 53-56.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). What treatments are effective for people who misuse methamphetamine?