Top 5 Dangers of Crystal Meth Addiction
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Danger #1: Meth Overdoses
Meth overdoses are unfortunately very common as meth is much more potent than other psychostimulants. According to the CDC, in 2017 there were 9,356 meth overdose deaths. This is 13.3% of ALL drug overdoses that occurred in 2017. Also, according to the DEA, the amounts of meth entering the US have been steadily increasing since 2011.
When someone overdoses on meth, it can look like:
- Breathing Problems
- Heart Attack or Stroke Symptoms
- High Body Temperature
- Intense Stomach Pain
- Loss of Consciousness
Danger #2: Cutting Agents/Catalysts
Meth usually comes in a crystalline form as a hydrochloride salt and it is often crushed down to a powder. There are currently FDA-recognized legitimate uses for meth in the form of Desoxyn for the treatment of narcolepsy, ADHD, and obesity. This medication is rarely used as much safer drugs and treatments for these conditions have been developed and pose less of a risk for abuse. The vast majority (more than 99%) of meth today is produced in independent, gang, or cartel-run facilities. Meth produced in the US is made from over-the-counter medications for asthma, cold, or sinus issues, containing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine. Most meth illicitly sold in the US today is produced at cartel facilities in Mexico and smuggled across the border.
Due to its illicit manufacturing, meth can contain many different types of dangerous adulterants or cutting agents. Even “unadulterated” meth requires an array of volatile chemicals to produce. The ingredients and processes needed to make meth are not necessarily complicated. They can, however, be very dangerous to someone who is unfamiliar with working with volatile chemicals. There are many different ways to make meth. Depending on the process involved, some of the reagents or catalysts used to refine the pseudo/ephedrine into meth can include:
- Acetone: A common industrial solvent and found in paint thinner and nail polish remover. Highly flammable and toxic.
- Ammonia Anhydrous: Powerful cleaner used in household and industrial applications. Can react violently with certain metals and halogens and will corrode some rubbers and plastics. Highly toxic, flammable, and hazardous.
- Ethyl Ether: Used as an inhaled anesthetic, a refrigerant, and a solvent. Very flammable and an irritant.
- Iodine: Necessary compound for healthy thyroid function and mental development.
- Lithium: While used medicinally as a mood stabilizer, raw lithium metals and ions are used in battery and capacitor production. Can react violently with water. Highly flammable and corrosive.
- Red Phosphorous: Also known as phosphine. It is used as a pesticide as well as in the manufacture of semiconductors, flame retardants, and incendiary weaponry for military applications. Highly flammable, toxic, very corrosive, and hazardous.
- Sodium: Used in metallurgy and industrial chemical applications as well as sodium vapor use in street lights. Reacts violently with water or moisture in the air. Highly toxic, flammable, and hazardous.
- Sodium Hydroxide: Also known as caustic soda, it is the main ingredient in lye and drain or oven cleaner. Used in electroplating, explosives manufacturing, and petroleum products. Highly corrosive and hazardous.
Depending on the process used, there can be a very wide range of different chemicals used in the production of meth. These are required for pseudo/ephedrine synthesis or reduction. Depending on the quality of production, it may or may not make it into the finished product. This is a byproduct of the manufacturing process and as such can not truly be considered an adulterant or cutting agent, even though the presence of these chemicals is unwanted. Cutting agents are used by some manufacturers, but more commonly by distributors, traffickers, and dealers as they can “increase” the amount of meth they have by mixing in cheaper additives.
Some of the more common additives used may include:
- Caffeine: Active stimulant in coffee. Found in many different foods and drink items and safe when used normally.
- Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM): Sulfur compound found in many plants, food, and drinks. It is fairly inert and is sold as a dietary supplement.
- Niacinamide: A type of Vitamin B3 found in many foods and drinks.
- Ketamine: A strong dissociative anesthetic used in human and veterinary medicine.
- Isopropylbenzylamine: A compound used as a reagent in organic chemistry, it has a very similar chemical structure to meth. This means that it looks, weighs, feels, and behaves the same way when exposed to heat, making it an effective cutting agent.
- Fentanyl: A very powerful synthetic opioid painkiller found as an adulterant in heroin. Beginning in 2016, the DEA has been finding it more and more as a meth cutting agent and this trend has only increased throughout 2020.
When other powerful drugs are used as a cutting agent, the risks to the user escalate. In particular, fentanyl and ketamine are very dangerous on their own. When mixed with meth, the effects can be dangerous and very unpredictable.
Danger #3: Deadly Drug Interactions
Since meth is so potent and active, it is capable of interacting with many other drugs. Some of the most reactive medications are antidepressants including SSRIs, SNRIs, and SNDRIs. Be sure to talk to your doctor about potential interactions. A few specific drugs or compounds with which serious interactions have been documented include:
- Cymbalta (Duloxetine)
- Prozac (Fluoxetine)
- Wellbutrin (Bupropion)
- Regimex (Benzphetamine)
- Celexa (Citalopram)
- Cocaine (Benzoylmethylecgonine) – Surprisingly, cocaine is still sometimes used in legitimate medicine today (2020).
- Pristiq (Desvenlafaxine)
- Redux (Dexfenfluramine)
- Tenuate (Diethylpropion)
- Lexapro (Escitalopram)
- Spravato (Esketamine)
- Fen-Phen (Fenfluramine)
- Luvox (Fluvoxamine)
- Azedra (Iobenguane I 131)
- Omnipaque (Iohexol)
- Isovue-M (Iopamidol)
- Marplan (Isocarboxazid)
- Fetzima (Levomilnacipran)
- Zyvox (Linezolid)
- Belviq (Lorcaserin)
- Sanorex (Mazindol)
- ProvayBlue (Methylene Blue)
- Amipaque (Metrizamide)
- Savella (Milnacipran)
- Paxil (Paroxetine)
- Adipost (Phendimetrazine)
- Nardil (Phenelzine)
- Lomaira (Phentermine)
- Dexatrim (Phenylpropanolamine)
- Orap (Pimozide)
- Matulane (Procarbazine)
- Emsam (Selegiline)
- Zoloft (Sertraline)
- Meridia (Sibutramine)
- Nucynta (Tapentadol)
- Ultram (Tramadol)
- Parnate (Tranylcypromine)
- Effexor (Venlafaxine)
- Viibryd (Vilazodone)
- Trintellix (Vortioxetine)
It is advised to not use meth in tandem with any of these medications. There are significant interactions that may occur. The clinical risks may outweigh any potential benefits.
Danger #4: Long-Term Health Risks
Meth use is very destructive to the brain and body. It can produce long-term health complications. Some people seem to recover from certain complications, while other conditions appear to be permanent. Some of the more immediate and direct effects are produced from the method a user chooses to do meth. These risks can be reduced and the effects treated in most cases by getting professional medical help, such as at a detox center.
Some of the risks of snorting meth include:
- Loss of Sense of Smell
- Frequent Nosebleeds
- Sinus Infections
- Deviated or Perforated Septum (holes in the cartilage that separates the nostrils)
- Abscesses (which may become septic and lethal)
Some of the risks of smoking meth are:
- Lung Damage
- Meth Mouth (extreme dental and gum line decay)
- Diminished Sense of Taste (usually temporary)
Some of the risks of shooting up Meth include:
- Endocarditis: Infection of the interior of the heart. Typically caused by strep. or staph. bacteria which are common in the mouth and can be introduced into the blood by shooting up.
- Infection: Due to repeated use of the same area or veins, there is a heightened risk of skin infection.
- Septic Embolism: An infected piece of tissue that becomes dislodged and travels through the circulatory system. Typically originate from shooting up in the same spot. Can progress to fatal abscesses or blood infections.
- Rhabdomyolysis: Caused by dead muscle tissue breaking down into the blood, causing kidney damage or failure. Caused by shooting up and subsequent tissue damage. Is potentially fatal and kidney damage may be permanent. Getting rhabdomyolysis once increases the risk of subsequent occurrences.
- Liver Damage
- Hepatitis B or C: Viral liver infection acquired by sharing needles. Can progress to cirrhosis of the liver.
- Kidney Damage
Except for liver and kidney damage, the above-mentioned dangers are secondary since they are only from the route someone does meth and not from crystal meth itself. Some of the short term dangers that are a result of meth itself include:
- Malnutrition. Many people who use meth report having to “force” themselves to eat. This effect does not take into account the fact that some people will choose to buy meth over buying food during active addiction.
- Dehydration. Meth use promotes hyperthermia (increased body temperature) and excessive sweating. It also decreases the urge to drink. In this manner, it is common for many addicts to become dehydrated. Dehydration causes lowered blood pressure and thus decreased blood flow to the kidneys. This greatly increases the risk of kidney damage/failure.
- Tooth and Gum Decay (aka Meth Mouth). Due to dehydration, bruxism (teeth grinding), and the variety of chemicals in meth itself, tooth decay is very common among meth users.
- Amphetamine Psychosis. A common result from psychostimulant abuse, but much more widespread with meth use. Symptoms can be indistinguishable from acute paranoid schizophrenia. They can include a variety of symptoms such as visual/auditory/tactile hallucinations, paranoid delusions, disorganized thoughts, erratic behavior, and violent outbursts.
- Stroke. Due to the rapid rise in blood pressure that meth produces, the risk for stroke increases. A stroke is when blood flow to a part of the brain is interrupted either by arterial blockage or rupture (ischemic or hemorrhagic stroke). Using meth in any way can increase the risk of a hemorrhagic stroke. Shooting up meth adds the additional risk of an ischemic stroke. Either could be fatal.
Danger #5: Legal Consequences
According to the United States Sentencing Commission, between 2014 and 2018 there was a 19.6% increase in the number of meth trafficking cases in the US. As far as meth trafficking in 2018, the average offense was level 32. This translates to between 1.5 to 5 kilograms of meth mixture (less than 80% pure), or 150 to 500 grams of methamphetamine “actual” (meth that is 80% or purer). The average sentence in these cases was 96 months. This is including the fact that 51.7% received some type of sentence reduction due to either “Substantial Assistance” or an early disposition program.
There is a growing body of evidence suggesting that chronic meth use can degrade higher-level brain functions such as impulse control and the ability to empathize with other people, leading to more violent interactions with others. The exact dynamic of the relationship between crystal meth and violence is unclear. People who use meth do exhibit more violent tendencies than other drug users on average. Compared to heroin users, meth users are 1.94 times more likely to commit violent crimes. This is due to multiple factors including an extreme boost in energy and confidence and an increased risk of psychosis and paranoia produced through chronic meth use.
The most reliable way to avoid these consequences is to quit using crystal meth. This is much easier said than done. In almost all cases, help is required to achieve long-term recovery from crystal meth addiction. To find the professional help that can guide you out of meth addiction and into a life of recovery, take a look at our guide about finding the best drug rehab in Georgia.
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