Cornerstone of Southern California, Celebrating 40 Years
Meth Overdose
Author: Phil Kosanovich
Published: February 28, 2023

Methamphetamine is a stimulant drug that is prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). When taken as the doctor recommends, it helps individuals with ADHD to concentrate on their studies and work. Medical meth is also sometimes abused as a study enhancer by people without ADHD.

People without a prescription should always avoid taking methamphetamine. Taking too much meth causes serious health consequences and exposes users to the dangers of a meth overdose. The US government has classified meth as a Schedule II substance because it is highly addictive.

If you are struggling with meth and find that you can’t quit, you should know that addiction treatment can help you. Seeking treatment is the best action you can take to avoid the dangers of methamphetamine toxicity and overdose. With appropriate medical support, you can detox from meth and recover.

What Is Meth?

Methamphetamine has a similar chemical makeup as amphetamine, another stimulant that is more commonly used to treat ADHD. In its legal form, meth is sold under the brand name Desoxyn. Meth is also made illegally by using over-the-counter medications and household products as ingredients.

Illicit meth can look like a fine or coarse powder, tablets, or lumps of rock crystal. It also varies in color, depending on what other substances are added to it. The rock crystal form of the drug is called crystal meth.

People take meth in a variety of ways. They can ingest it, smoke it, inject it, or snort it. Every method of using meth has its own risks related to the way the drug enters the body. For example, snorting meth can cause chemical burns on the inside of a person’s nose, and injecting meth eventually causes veins to shrink.

Whenever a person uses meth, they are at risk of experiencing a meth overdose. If the meth has been mixed with substances such as fentanyl, they may suffer from another type of drug overdose as well. Both crystal meth and powdered forms of meth can be contaminated with other drugs.

What Happens When Someone Takes Meth

What Happens When Someone Takes Meth?

Meth has a powerful impact on its users because taking it results in heightened levels of a chemical messenger called dopamine. This creates powerful feelings of euphoria and drives people to take meth repeatedly.

Taking meth increases a person’s energy levels but reduces their appetite. They may also experience a rapid or irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, and an increase in body temperature.

It is no wonder that when meth is prescribed by doctors for legitimate medical purposes there are strong warnings about its health risks. It is not recommended for people who have even mild levels of high blood pressure.

Substance Abuse and Addiction

When a person keeps taking meth, they risk developing a meth addiction. The medical profession recognizes that drug addiction is a mental health disorder. For this reason, meth addiction treatment not only involves eliminating meth from the body, but it also entails therapy for mental health.

If you’re not sure whether your drug abuse has tipped into addiction, read the following list of addiction symptoms. If you recognize yourself, contact a doctor to begin exploring addiction treatment options. Even if you feel your situation is hopeless, you must not lose hope. Treatment centers are skilled at treating meth addiction.

Symptoms of Meth Addiction

  • You have tried to reduce the amount of meth you take but have failed.
  • You have unsuccessfully attempted to stop taking meth.
  • When you try to stop taking meth, you experience withdrawal symptoms.
  • Taking or seeking meth uses a lot of your time.
  • You neglect activities that were enjoyable or important to you, because of meth.
  • You understand that meth is damaging your health and your relationships, but you continue meth use.

Signs of Meth Abuse in a Loved One

You may be reading this article because you suspect that someone you care about is abusing meth. It can be difficult to find out whether or not a loved one is using a substance like crystal meth. They may tell you that everything is fine.

Using crystal methamphetamine and similar stimulants causes an altered mental status. It is likely that you can detect signs of meth use by watching your loved one’s behavior.

Warning Signs of Meth Use

  • Your loved one seems agitated and full of energy.
  • They seem paranoid.
  • They have no appetite and lose weight.
  • You may notice they have insomnia.
  • Their skin has sores and scabs.
  • Their breathing seems rapid or heavy.
  • They are suffering from noticeable levels of tooth decay.
  • Your loved one neglects their personal hygiene.
  • Your loved one frequently runs out of money.
  • They neglect their personal responsibilities and activities that used to matter to them.

How Common Is Meth Abuse?

The National Survey of Drug Use and Health reveals the statistics for drug abuse in America in 2021. The research shows that 1.6 million people aged 12 or older had a methamphetamine use disorder in that year. Among this figure, 1.5 million of these meth users were 26 years old or more. There were 20,000 people with a meth use disorder in the 12 to 17 age group.

Methamphetamine Toxicity

Methamphetamine Toxicity

When a person takes too much meth over a period of time, they may develop acute methamphetamine toxicity. This occurs when meth builds up in the person’s body. The results may include high blood pressure, kidney failure, and damage to the central nervous system and the heart.

A person suffering from meth toxicity may seem hyperactive and overheated. They may show signs of losing touch with reality. If you suspect that someone is suffering from this condition, seek medical care for them as quickly as possible. Meth toxicity is as serious as meth overdose and may result in a heart attack and other medical complications.

Methamphetamine Overdose Risk Factors

A meth overdose occurs when a person takes more meth than their body can process. Individuals with meth addiction may sometimes feel that their experience with the drug allows them to judge the “correct” dosage. Unfortunately, it is difficult to judge when you are about to take too much of the drug.

Every person’s drug abuse is unique to them, but it is possible to outline the main reasons why meth overdose happens.

  • A person is at risk of a meth overdose if they already have a build-up of the drug in their system. In addition to being physically harmful, pre-existing meth toxicity can also affect a person’s health and lead them into risky behaviors such as taking too much meth.
  • When meth use involves drugs manufactured in illegal labs, meth overdose occurs due to the lack of scientific controls. A person may think that they are safe if they always buy their powdered or crystal meth from the same producer. This is not the case. The ingredients and potency of the drug may vary from one batch to the next.
  • Many people with substance abuse problems use more than one drug. Alcohol and other drugs can impair a person’s thinking, so a meth overdose occurs when they misjudge the dose and take too much meth.

Symptoms of Meth Overdose

If you are struggling with meth addiction or know someone who abuses meth, you should learn to recognize the symptoms of a meth overdose.

Surviving a meth overdose depends on seeking medical help as quickly as possible. If you recognize these meth overdose symptoms, seek emergency care. Doctors are experienced in treating drug overdoses and have procedures to assess and treat each individual case.

External Symptoms of a Meth Overdose

  • Feeling very hot or very cold
  • High or low blood pressure
  • Chest pain
  • Seizures
  • Stomach pain
  • Passing out
  • Inability to urinate (indicating possible kidney failure)
  • Dark urine (indicating that the kidneys are struggling)
  • Behavioral changes, including aggression, paranoia, or hyperactivity

When they encounter a meth overdose victim, medical professionals assess their symptoms and treat the damage that the drug has caused.

How Common Is Meth Overdose?

Methamphetamine overdose statistics show that meth is a significant problem in America. In 2021, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) shared news of a dramatic nationwide increase in meth overdose deaths between the years 2011 and 2018.

Presenting statistics on overdose deaths occurring among people aged 25 to 54 across the eight-year period, NIDA showed that the US average increased from one death per 100,000 people in the population up to four deaths per 100,000 people.

The figures also showed large differences in meth overdose death figures between demographic groups. NIDA said that this highlighted the need to produce gender-specific and culturally tailored treatments and prevention strategies to help meth users.

Preventing Methamphetamine Overdose

The only sure way to avoid or prevent meth overdose is to stop taking meth. Habituated meth users can struggle to quit their recreational drug abuse for three reasons.

  • Meth dependency. When a person repeatedly takes meth, they develop a dependency on the drug. This means that they need to keep taking the drug to avoid withdrawal symptoms. When they try to quit alone at home, these symptoms make them feel so unpleasant that they start taking meth again.
  • Meth addiction. Repeated meth use leads to the development of a mental health condition called a substance use disorder. Meth users require mental health treatment to empower them to stop using meth.
  • Co-occurring mental health disorders. Statistics from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration show that many people with substance use disorders also have mental illnesses. Figures from 2021 reveal that of the 44 million adults who had a substance use disorder, 19.4 million had a mental illness. When people take drugs to self-medicate the symptoms of mental illness, they can require treatment for their illness to help them quit drugs.

Mental health symptoms and withdrawal symptoms can make it difficult for people to quit meth and thereby avoid the very real risks of a meth overdose. Support from a professional treatment provider is required to treat these symptoms and safeguard the person’s future.

Meth Withdrawal

Meth Withdrawal

It is recommended that a person seeks professional medical attention before they stop taking meth. When a person tries to go “cold turkey” alone at home, they can find themselves quickly turning back to meth and the inevitable risks of a drug overdose.

At an addiction treatment center, specialists can ease the symptoms of meth withdrawal and treat any other health issues, such as high blood pressure.

Every individual’s experience of meth withdrawal is unique to them. Their experience will depend on how heavily they have used meth and other personal factors such as the following.

  • The person’s approximate age and state of health. Older people may experience more severe withdrawal symptoms. If a person is dealing with another medical issue such as liver failure or chronic anxiety, this can require extra medical support.
  • Other drugs that the person takes. Whether a person is addicted to another illicit substance such as heroin or has abused alcohol and prescription drugs, this can affect their recovery time.

Meth Withdrawal Symptoms

A person going through meth withdrawal may experience the following symptoms as their body rebounds from the damaging influence of the drug.

  • Meth makes a person feel alert. Quitting meth use can cause extreme fatigue.
  • Meth reduces a person’s appetite. Hunger pangs are a withdrawal symptom and sign of recovery.
  • Meth causes insomnia. Struggling to sleep is part of the adjustment process of meth recovery.

Withdrawing from meth also causes mental health symptoms, including drug cravings. A person may require medical support for their altered mental status. These symptoms may include the following.

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Psychosis

Treating Methamphetamine Abuse

The best treatment for stimulant (and opioid) mortality in America is preventative treatment. With support from addiction treatment centers, people from all demographics can recover from substance abuse and avoid the dangers of a drug overdose.

Whether a person is abusing legally sold meth or an illicit drug made in a clandestine laboratory, they can recover and go on to live a sober life. To do this, they need to seek out medical treatment for addiction.

Meth use can cause health problems that may require aggressive medical treatment to prevent more serious issues from developing, such as multiple organ failure. While this is scary to think about, seeking treatment is the best solution and a healthier option than avoidance.

If you suspect that meth has caused you physical damage, resist using the internet to self-diagnose yourself into a state of emotional paralysis. Chronic anxiety is a side effect of abusing meth, and this may cause you to develop health anxiety. Your best course of action in all situations is to seek professional medical advice.

What Happens in Meth Addiction Treatment?

Meth addiction treatment involves detox and therapy. In a medically-assisted detox, the person receives treatment to help them through their withdrawal symptoms. In therapy, the person explores strategies to remain sober, with the help of a therapist.

  • Detox helps you quit drug abuse.
  • Therapy helps you resist drug abuse.

Meth addiction treatment is not one size fits all. You can talk to your treatment provider to find out the best treatment options for you. Depending on where a person is in their recovery journey, they may find themselves staying at a treatment center or visiting during the day. For some people, treatment involves some or all of the following stages.

  • Inpatient treatment. A residential stay at an addiction treatment facility.
  • Outpatient treatment. Sleeping at home but receiving treatment at the facility.
  • Aftercare treatment. Staying connected to the treatment center through various treatment options. These could include continuing with therapy, attending support groups, and attending events.

If you have never had therapy before, you might picture it as a one-on-one conversation between the therapist and the person in recovery. In reality, therapy comes in many different forms. In meth addiction treatment, therapy can take the following formats.

  • One-on-one talk therapy. The person and the therapist talk to each other.
  • Group therapy. A therapist sits with a group of people in recovery and explores issues together.
  • Experiential therapy. These vary depending on the specialty of an addiction center. Common therapies include music therapy, art therapy, and outdoor activity therapy.

Recovering from meth abuse is about seeking a sober life and trying to live as healthily as possible. For this reason, many addiction support centers help clients learn about nutritional food and staying fit.

Getting Help for Meth Abuse

Cornerstone is an addiction recovery center in Southern California. We have been helping people to heal from addiction since 1969, and we have years of accumulated knowledge as a result. If you want to avoid the risk of drug overdose and embrace a healthier future, Cornerstone can help you.

  • We can help you detox from meth with a medically-assisted detoxification program.
  • We can offer you residential or daycare treatment.
  • We can offer you support to help you transition back into daily life.
  • We can offer you relapse prevention support and an alumni program.

If you are struggling with addiction to meth or any other form of drug, get in touch with us. We are happy to talk to you about your drug or alcohol problem and help you explore the options for your recovery. Your treatment program will be tailored to your needs.

You can recover from methamphetamine abuse. The first step in your journey is reaching out for help.