Meth Overdose: Signs, Symptoms, and How to Help

meth overdose

From 2011 to 2017, overdose deaths from methamphetamine quadrupled. Partially to blame for this increase in overdose deaths is the rise in heroin and opioid addiction. Many people who are addicted to heroin will use meth to either counteract the impacts of heroin or to get a more intense high when mixing both substances. In the West and Midwestern U.S., law enforcement officials report that meth is the most common culprit behind drug addiction rates, overdoses, and drug-related crime. For loved ones, recognizing the signs and symptoms of a meth overdose and how to help is critical.

What is meth?

Methamphetamine is a synthetic chemical closely related to its cousin amphetamine. Amphetamines are used to treat ADHD and aid in weight loss. Methamphetamine was invented in the early 1900s and was used to help people stay awake or lose weight. During WWII, soldiers took methamphetamine to help them stay awake during long military engagements. While methamphetamine has similar effects to amphetamines, it is more addictive and comes with a range of dangerous side effects. 

Today, methamphetamine is a schedule II substance. Prescription methamphetamine is still given to some people in clinical settings to help with weight loss and narcolepsy, but the vast majority of meth overdose cases involve illegal street meth.

Illegal methamphetamine is often snorted or smoked but sometimes injected. Methamphetamine can be bought as either a powder form or in crystal form called crystal meth. With powdered meth, people often snort the drug or dissolve it into the water and inject it for a fast high. Crystal meth is typically heated and smoked. 

One of the reasons why methamphetamine is so toxic and dangerous to users is because the drug is made out of a range of harsh, synthetic chemicals. Industrial cleaners, solvents, and even animal poisons are used to make methamphetamine in illegal labs around the world. These toxic chemicals can rot sensitive tissues, veins, muscles, and teeth. Advanced drug or alcohol addiction often changes the user’s appearance, but the change is profound in meth addiction thanks to the corrosive, toxic effects of the drug.

What are the effects of meth?

Methamphetamine is a potent stimulant drug that speeds up the central nervous system. The short-term effects of taking meth include the following symptoms:

  • Hyperactivity
  • Increased alertness
  • Talkativeness
  • Decreased appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Hyperthermia
  • Increased blood pressure and heart rate
  • Nausea
  • Euphoria
  • Feelings of invincibility
  • Irritability
  • Delusions
  • Mood swings
long term effects

The long-term impacts of meth are devastating. Prolonged methamphetamine use can cause irreversible damage to the blood vessels around the heart and in the brain, causing an irregular heartbeat. These long-term impacts can increase a user’s risk of having a stroke or heart attack. Liver, lung, and kidney damage also occur in advanced meth addiction. 

Methamphetamine also causes severe damage to the brain. Meth users who do not get help for their addiction can go on to experience permanent memory loss and the inability to understand abstract concepts. People who recover from meth addiction may experience significant gaps in memory and changes in mood regulation.

What is drug overdose?

A drug overdose occurs when someone takes too much of a substance before their body can adequately cleanse itself of the chemicals. In a drug overdose, the brain and body have become overloaded with dangerous substances. In effect, the individual has been poisoned. Drug overdoses can impact a person in different ways, depending on the substance they’ve taken. Mixing substances increase the risk of an overdose. Without swift medical attention, overdoses can kill.

What happens when someone overdoses on meth?

What is Precipitated Withdrawal

When someone smokes, injects, or snorts meth, they speed up their central nervous system functioning. This increase in the central nervous system will result in the following types of physical symptoms:

  • Increased body temperature
  • Short, rapid breaths 
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Raised heart rate

Meth overdoses cause a sudden increase in blood pressure that can lead to internal bleeding and liver failure from contaminants in the drug. In a meth overdose, multiple organ failure can occur from a deadly combination of high blood pressure and chemical contamination.

What are the symptoms of a meth overdose?

Any time someone uses meth, they put themselves at risk of overdosing. The risk of overdosing increases as a person continues to get high on meth. As the disease of addiction progresses, a person builds up a tolerance to the drugs. When this occurs, the user needs more and more of the drug to get the intense high they are craving. The more drugs a person takes, the more likely they are to overdose. The signs and symptoms of a meth overdose include:

  • Irregular heartbeat and arrhythmia
  • Chest pains
  • Changes in blood pressure
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Extreme agitation, psychosis, or hallucinations
  • Hyperthermia
  • Seizures
  • Coma

If someone overdoses on meth, getting them swift medical attention is crucial. Overdoses can be reversed.

How is a meth overdose treated?

If someone suspects a loved one is overdosing on meth, they mustn’t leave the person unattended. Call 911 and wait with the individual for medical personnel to arrive. If they appear unconscious, do not leave them lying on their back. People who go into a coma from a drug overdose can vomit and asphyxiate while unconscious. In this instance, it’s best to get the person onto their side. If they have a seizure, witnesses should not hold the person down, but keep their head and other limbs free from hitting objects that could cause injury. 

Once medical personnel arrives, they will usually give the overdose victim a combination of activated charcoal and other medications to reverse the effects of meth while they take them to the ER. Depending on the severity of the overdose, the individual may need to stay in the hospital for a few days before attending rehab. 

Are you or a loved one facing an addiction to meth? There is help available. Contact Mission Harbor Behavioral Health today. Representatives are standing by to answer your questions about addiction treatment.

The facilities at Mission Harbor are staffed with trained experts to best assist patients with their mental health issues. We are capable of dealing with any and all cases with a licensed staff, equipment, and approved techniques. Our mission is to help those who want to help themselves, and we support your decision in seeking help.

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