Signs Of A Methamphetamine Overdose

Methamphetamine overdose rates have increased in recent years. Knowing the signs of a methamphetamine overdose may help secure treatment for those who need it.

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In 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found methamphetamine to be among the top causes of drug overdose deaths is the U.S. The rate has increased over the years, with more than twice as many deaths resulting from methamphetamine overdose in 2014 than in 2010.

Because of the highly addictive nature of the drug, overdoses are common, whether caused by one excessive intake or manifested in long-term effects on the body and mind.

Methamphetamine overdoses can occur in two different ways: acute methamphetamine overdose and chronic methamphetamine overdose. An acute overdose can occur at one time, with a single use. Chronic overdose is the buildup of a drug in the system over time leading to dangerous consequences.

Signs of an acute methamphetamine overdose include:

  • agitation
  • abdominal pain
  • chest pains
  • extreme mental confusion
  • large pupils
  • heart attack
  • increased body temperature
  • increased blood pressure
  • increased or decreased heart rate
  • irregular heart rate
  • kidney failure
  • paranoia

Signs of a chronic methamphetamine overdose include:

  • anxiety
  • hallucinations
  • psychosis
  • severe sleep changes/mood disturbances

Dependence on methamphetamine can easily destroy a person’s health and well-being. Seeking proper treatment early can prevent overdose and help a person struggling with addiction to reclaim their life.

What Is Methamphetamine?

Methamphetamine, commonly called meth, is produced pharmaceutically under the brand name Desoxyn to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), narcolepsy, and even aid in weight loss. As a stimulant, it increases brain function and dopamine production, which produces positive feelings and gives a person more energy.

Methamphetamine also suppresses appetite and desire to sleep. Because of these euphoric effects, it is easy for someone to become addicted to meth.

On the street, methamphetamine goes by many names, such as crystal, glass, ice, tina, crank, or speed. It is an odorless, white, crystal-like substance, sometimes crushed into a powder. It can be smoked, snorted, injected, or taken orally (in pill form).

Pharmaceutical-grade methamphetamine is dosed in very small amounts and prescriptions are highly regulated. Street meth can be created using mostly over-the-counter ingredients and the result is not as pure. As with all street drugs, it may be laced with other substances to reduce cost or produce a greater high.

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Why Is Methamphetamine So Dangerous?

Methamphetamine is one of the most addictive drugs for several reasons. First, it increases dopamine, a “feel-good” chemical in the brain. Once a person experiences this, they may find it greater than the level of pleasure they can achieve in their natural state. They seek the dopamine boost by taking more meth, and the body very quickly becomes dependent on it.

With prolonged meth abuse, the brain produces less natural dopamine, increasing dependence on the drug. At that point, a person experiences intense cravings. Withdrawal symptoms appear if they go too long without methamphetamine. Withdrawal is what people experience when they have become addicted to meth and stop taking it, leaving them feeling tired, depressed, and anxious.

While methamphetamine is closely related to amphetamine (such as Adderall, also used to treat ADHD), its effects on the body and mind are much stronger. Meth is absorbed into the brain at a higher rate and it stays in the body longer, damaging the central nervous system. The high wears off long before the drug leaves the system, which prompts a person to take more meth to maintain euphoria while causing exponential harm to the body.

Side Effects Of Methamphetamine Abuse

Many people take methamphetamine to experience pleasurable feelings, greater alertness, and decreased appetite. However, there are many negative side effects that come even with short-term use of methamphetamine, such as:

  • anxiety
  • restlessness
  • insomnia
  • paranoia
  • higher blood pressure
  • rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • hyperthermia (overheating)
  • kidney damage

Taking too much meth at once can lead to a heart attack, seizure, coma, stroke, or kidney failure, all of which could result in death.

Effects Of Long-Term Methamphetamine Abuse

Someone who is dependent on methamphetamine for a long time suffers from chronic overdose symptoms. The effects on the human mind and body are severe and sometimes irreversible.

Since meth is an appetite suppressant, it causes dangerous weight loss. When a person takes repeated, overlapping doses to maintain a high, everyday things like eating, sleeping, and good hygiene are easy to ignore. The repeated stimulation doesn’t help with sleep habits, either, and these factors drastically reduce the body’s ability to heal itself and function properly.

Prolonged meth use causes brain damage and can increase the risk of brain disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease. Other neurological effects include intense moodiness, violent conduct, psychosis, and hallucinations.

One common hallucination is the feeling that bugs are crawling underneath the skin. This may be caused in part by dehydration leading to dryness. As a result, people struggling with meth addiction will likely pick and scratch at their skin, creating sores all over their bodies.

Another physical sign of meth abuse is rotting teeth (called “meth mouth”). Dehydration plays a role here too, stunting the body’s ability to produce adequate saliva to keep teeth healthy. Poor hygiene and teeth grinding degrade teeth even further.

Treating A Methamphetamine Overdose

If someone is suffering from an acute methamphetamine overdose, seek immediate assistance. Possible emergency room treatments are based on symptoms, as well as amount of the drug abused and method of drug intake.

If meth was ingested, a patient may receive activated charcoal to absorb the toxins and laxatives to expel them from the body. A breathing tube with oxygen is used if the person has difficulty breathing. Fluid medicine may also be given through an IV to manage symptoms.

Depending on the part of the body most affected, further testing is done to assess the scope of the problem. These tests may include blood and urine tests, toxicology screenings, chest x-rays, a computerized tomography (CT) scan of head, to check for brain damage, or an electrocardiogram (EKG), to monitor the heart.

The outcome is variable, depending on how much meth was taken and how long abuse went untreated. There is no guarantee that the body will return to normal after a methamphetamine overdose.

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Treatment For Methamphetamine Dependence

There are currently no approved medications for treating methamphetamine addiction or overdose. However, many people have overcome addiction with the help of behavioral therapy. Two common forms—found to be effective for many types of addiction—are cognitive-behavioral and contingency-management.

Inpatient drug rehab programs for methamphetamine addiction may begin with a medically-supervised detoxification program, to help a person rid their body of the drug before formal treatment begins. After this, the individual can begin therapy, counseling, and other forms of treatment.

While the effects of meth can be damaging, people addicted to the drug can learn to function without it again and to modify behavior to help avoid relapse.

Contact us today at InpatientDrugRehab.org to discover the best treatment option for you.


Sources

National Institute on Drug Abuse—Methamphetamine
U.S. National Library of Medicine, MedlinePlus—Methamphetamine Overdose

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