Methamphetamine, often referred to as meth, is a strong and toxic illegal drug. It is part of the stimulant category and its only use is as a recreational drug. It has no pharmaceutical purpose, although it is cousins to amphetamine which is used to treat conditions like ADD. It can be consumed by snorting as a white powder, injected when the powder is mixed with water, tablets that are swallowed, or by smoking “rocks” or crystals which is where the name crystal meth comes from.
Depending on the method of consumption, methamphetamine’s effects can be felt right away or up to 20 mins. However, despite its quick onset, it has staying power compared to things like cocaine, and its effects generally last 6-8 hours but can last up to 24 hours. Mentally, users experience high levels of energy, alertness, confidence, and excitement. This huge rush of energy contributes to insomnia and a lack of appetite which can lead to days long benders of little to no sleep or food. Physically, increased blood pressure, body temperature, and heartbeat are all hallmarks of meth use. Users experience extreme dry mouth, headaches, stomach ache, and problems breathing.
Due to the highly addictive nature of methamphetamine, all the short-term effects/symptoms can cause terrible long-term damage in the majority of users. Brain damage occurs and affects many facets of the person’s life including the loss of memory, hallucinations, delusions, psychosis, paranoia, and suicidal feelings. The physical impact of having such a high temperature, blood pressure, and heartbeat can have irreversible effects on the heart and other organs. Stroke, heart attack, and organ failure are the main causes of death as a result of meth use. The lack of appetite leads to malnutrition and many users end up underweight with brittle bones. “Meth mouth” is a colloquial term because it is such a common affliction of those who use meth. The extended dry mouth allows bacteria to grow and create serious dental problems.
The Current State of Meth Use
The opioid crisis is dominating the headlines currently, but before that was methamphetamine. The only real positive about the opioid crisis is that we now have medication like methadone and Suboxone in our arsenal to help people come off the drugs. However, there is no medical replacement therapy for amphetamines. Doctors working in clinics in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside are at a loss on how to help their patients being devoured by this drug. The aggression, paranoia, and psychosis that is associated with its use make it difficult to treat patients. (Check out our resource on Vancouver Drug Rehab and Alcohol Treatment programs).
Additionally, meth is one of the cheapest street drugs and has one of the longest highs. While heroin still tops the list of drugs most frequently used at Insite, Vancouver’s supervised injection site, meth use has increased 600 times since 2005. It is half the price of heroin and many believe more addictive. Active meth users as well as support workers like those at Insite and physicians, advocate for more community programs to help users break the cycle and become more integrated back into regular life. The first step to ending crystal meth addiction is to safely go through detox, then find a program that works for you to stabilize and maintain your progress to recovery. If you are looking for a directory of drug rehab and alcohol treatment programs in Canada, please use the CDR website and then contact our specialist for resources.
- Crystal Methamphetamine: the ‘elephant in the room’ in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside
JMC – 2018.07.25