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Smoking Meth: Side Effects and Dangers

What Are the Effects of Smoking Meth?
Smoking meth is more likely to cause addiction than other forms of use due to how fast the drug reaches the brain. It can also lead to lung infection and pulmonary injury as well as gum disease and tooth decay. Other effects of meth include skin sores, heart palpitations, anxiety, insomnia, and psychosis.

Methamphetamine, or meth, is an extremely addictive and potent central nervous system (CNS) stimulant that can produce intense euphoria, decreased appetite, and increased energy and attention.1 It is commonly encountered on the illicit drug market as a white and odorless crystal powder and is typically used in a “binge-and-crash” method in which the user takes the drug repeatedly each time the euphoria and other desired effects begin to wear off.2,3

Pharmaceutical-grade methamphetamine (Desoxyn) has historically seen very limited clinical applicability in the management of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and as a short-term adjunct to promote weight-loss in dangerously overweight individuals, but the overwhelming majority of all methamphetamine is obtained and abused illegally in order to get high.2

Checking Your Insurance Benefits 

If you are looking for meth addiction treatment, it can feel overwhelming. As you consider your options, knowing exactly what your insurance plan covers can give you peace of mind while you or your loved one is in rehab. You can do the work of getting and staying sober without worrying about unexpected costs or financial struggles. For more information on what your insurance plan covers, call AAC at , click here, or fill out the form below.

As a medicinal agent, methamphetamine is a Schedule II drug, which means that is highly controlled because it has a high potential for abuse.2 When abused, this substance can have detrimental consequences on a person’s physical and mental health. Users can take the stimulant in a number of different ways, such as smoking, snorting, or injecting it.2 When meth is smoked, it involves heating of the crystalline substance, with the resulting vapor and smoke then inhaled through a pipe.

Smoking meth repeatedly can lead to increased tolerance, physical and psychological dependence, and addiction. Repeated exposure to this harmful substance can create severe changes in brain structure and functioning as well, which may chronically impact cognition and emotions.2

Smoking Statistics

  • More than 3% of teens between 8th and 12th grade have tried methamphetamine in their lifetime.4
  • As of 2017, approximately 10,500 (15%) of the 70,000 overdose-related deaths in the United States involved methamphetamine use.5
  • Nearly one million people meet criteria for a methamphetamine use disorder in 2017; however, fewer people are seeking help, with treatment rates for meth addiction declining by 28% from 2005 to 2015.5

Side Effects

Chronic methamphetamine use can severely impact both the body and mind of the user. An addiction to methamphetamine causes severe impairment and distress not only in the user’s life but to those around him or her as well. Some of the physical consequences of meth use include: 6,7,8

  • Problems with motor skills.
  • Malnutrition.
  • Weight loss.
  • Arrhythmias.
  • Heart palpitations.
  • Heart attack.
  • Stroke.
  • Seizures.
  • Increased risk of HIV due to risky sexual practices.
  • Sexual dysfunction.
  • Injuries due to violent behavior.
  • Skin sores.

Abusing meth long term can also have mental effects, such as:2,7

  • Anxiety.
  • Insomnia.
  • Mood disturbances.
  • Confusion.
  • Violent behaviors.
  • Cognitive deficits.
  • Memory loss.
  • Psychosis.
  • Paranoia.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Delusions, such as thinking insects are crawling under the skin.

Even with relatively short-term but repeated use, it is likely that a person will develop a physical dependence on the drug. If you suddenly stop smoking meth after becoming dependent, you may experience several unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, including:6

  • The inability to feel pleasure.
  • Depression.
  • Increased risk of suicide.
  • Fatigue.
  • Slow movements and thoughts.
  • Nightmares.
  • Insomnia.
  • Slow heart rate.
  • Increased appetite.

ADHD medication diversion

A surprising number of people in their 20s are able to acquire ADHD stimulant medications in spite of not having a prescription. This is a far-reaching problem that may lead to widespread abuse. Where do these young men and women get ahold of the prescription medications? A 2016 survey conducted by Recovery Brands found that the majority of young individuals between the ages of 18 and 28 get their doctor-prescribed ADHD stimulant medications via their friend. More than 20% acquire them by means of their family, less than 20% from classmates, and merely 14.8% through an illicit dealer. People with doctor approval for these medications are advised to keep tabs on their stimulant medications to treat ADHD in order to protect vulnerable college-age men and women from substance abuse and the consequences of it.

Dangers of Smoking Meth

There are several characteristic health outcomes associated specifically with smoking methamphetamine. The Office of National Drug Control Policy explains that you are more likely to become addicted to meth if you smoke it than if you use it in other forms.9 This is due to the speed at which the meth reaches your brain when you smoke the drug, inducing intense pleasure immediately. This rapid method of drug delivery can also boost the negative health effects from the drug.

Another consequence specific to smoking meth is its effect on oral health, called “meth mouth.” Meth mouth typically presents with gum disease, mouth sores, and tooth decay.7 The dental complications stem from the acidic nature of methamphetamine causing damage to enamel and to oral mucous membranes. The problem is exacerbated by teeth grinding while intoxicated, in addition to poor dental hygiene and eating habits.

Furthermore, research has revealed that inhaling meth increases the chances of pulmonary injury as well as contracting a life-threatening lung infection in mice.10,11 Although human studies haven’t been performed, this preliminary research reveals the potentially toxic qualities of smoking meth.

How Meth Affects Society

In addition to harming your health, the societal and environmental consequences resulting from the illicit production and consumption of methamphetamine are far-reaching. The Drug Enforcement Administration explains that meth labs are full of dangerous and harmful chemicals that are often dumped, which has disastrous consequences on the environment, people in the surrounding area, and health-care costs.12 These labs are also in danger of exploding or catching on fire, which can damage surrounding homes and kill innocent people as well.

Meth and Pregnancy


The few studies that have been done in cases of women using meth while pregnant suggest the following risks for the baby and the developing child:13, 14

  • Increased risk of premature delivery
  • Separation of the placenta from uterine wall
  • Small birth size
  • Cardiac and neural abnormalities
  • Lethargy
  • Increased anxiety and depression in childhood
  • Poor attention spans
  • Increased aggression

Children who have had prenatal exposure to methamphetamine benefit from early treatment intervention for these potential behavioral and emotional problems.14 If you are abusing meth while pregnant, there are options available to help you quit and prevent further damage to your unborn baby.

Treatment Options

There are many different treatment options for those suffering from an addiction to methamphetamine. There is no one-size-fits-all recovery program; it depends on what your personal needs and preferences are.

These types of treatment programs are most commonly available:

  • Inpatient rehab: You are required to reside at the facility for the duration of your treatment program, which can last anywhere from 30 to 90 days, and sometimes longer if necessary. You will receive a number of services, such as intake evaluation, individual therapy, group counseling, medical and psychiatric care, and aftercare planning.
  • Dual diagnosis treatment: Some treatment centers specialize in treating co-occurring disorders, such as an addiction to meth and a mental health condition, such as depression or anxiety. If you think that you have a psychiatric problem, it’s best that you seek out a dual diagnosis center that can address both of your conditions simultaneously.
  • Outpatient treatment: This recovery program allows you to live at home while receiving meth addiction treatment when it works best for you so that you don’t have to abandon your work, home, or school responsibilities. Outpatient treatment might not be appropriate in all cases—for example, individuals with relatively severe addictions—since it lacks the fully immersive structure that inpatient treatment does.
  • Group counseling: A mental health professional will facilitate a therapy session that focuses on developing sober social skills and uses coping strategies in group settings.
  • Individual therapy: You will meet with a therapist one-on-one to address the underlying issues that influence your methamphetamine addiction. You will also learn about and build upon coping skills that can be used in stressful or triggering situations.

One common treatment program used for meth addiction is the Matrix Model.15 The therapists act as both a teacher and a coach, and the focus is on empowerment through positive self-image and confidence. The program includes: 15

  • Self-help programs.
  • Drug education.
  • Group counseling.
  • Social support groups.
  • Family education.
  • Family therapy.
  • Relapse analysis.
  • Relapse prevention.
  • Urine tests.

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