How Long Does Crystal Meth Stay in Your System?

How Long Does Crystal Meth Stay in Your System

Updated on Aug 13, 2019

The length of time crystal meth stays in your system can vary depending on several factors, including the following:

  • Overall health
  • Body size of the user
  • Hydration levels
  • Liver and kidney function
  • Frequency of meth use
  • Route of drug administration
  • Other substances present in the system

What Is Meth?

Crystal meth is the crystalline form of the illicit, synthetic drug methamphetamine. Meth is generally either smoked, snorted, or injected, although crystal meth, in particular, is almost always smoked. Meth, also known as crank, speed, or ice, is a central nervous system stimulant that works by elevating concentrations of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is responsible for feelings of confidence, well-being, and euphoria. Moreover, meth also boosts energy levels, reduces appetite, and enhances libido.

A meth high usually lasts between six to eight hours but can endure for up to 24 hours. Meth abuse causes a variety of adverse effects on the health of the user, such as cardiac and neural damage, psychological instability, and memory loss.

Meth sends the body into overdrive, severely taxing the system’s resources. Repeated meth consumption impairs the body’s ability to create and maintain normal levels of dopamine, and becomes dependent on meth to function normally. Because of the withdrawal effects that occur when someone tries to cut back or stop, meth is terribly addictive, though meth addiction can occur after only a single use.

The Half-Life of Meth

Once taken, the body works to rid itself of meth. A substance’s half-life is the amount of time required for the body to reduce the amount of that substance in the system by half. Meth’s half-life is between 10 and 12 hours, which is relatively long, compared to some other drugs. For this reason, meth is detectable using urine drug tests for around three days after the most recent use.

Meth’s half-life varies depending on the method used to ingest it. When injected, meth’s half-life is usually more than 11 hours, whereas smoking crystal meth or snorted powder meth typically give it a shorter half-life. Furthermore, the longer one has been using meth, the longer it usually takes to clear it out, and having other substances present in the system alongside meth only exacerbates this.

Research indicates that the amount of meth consumed at any one time has only a nominal effect on its half-life. Nonetheless, high doses can increase the rate at which meth accumulates in the body, and accumulation decreases the rate at which meth is eliminated.

Moreover, because the liver and kidneys of a young person generally metabolize meth better, the older one is, the longer it takes to detox. And, the overall health of an individual tends to expedite meth elimination. For example, an athlete can usually expect to be clean of meth before a non-athlete.

Testing for Meth

Meth is detectable by saliva tests as recently as five or ten minutes after consumption, and for around three days. In comparison, a hair follicle analysis requires roughly a week’s time after the most recent dose to detect meth but has a considerably larger time frame of up to 90 days. And, urine tests generate positive results as early as two to five hours after the last use, and for between three to five days.

Drug testing for meth is typically administered to athletes since meth is one of many performance-enhancing drugs banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency. Furthermore, it is a common practice for employers to test current or potential employees, and many rehab programs regularly test for meth as well. Meth testing will generate positive results for a long time after the most recent use if preceded by a long period of consistent meth use.

Signs and Symptoms of a Meth Overdose

Individuals risk overdose when using meth, typically by overestimating their body’s ability to handle exorbitantly large doses, or through long-term repetitive meth use that leads to its accumulation in the system. When an overdose is rapidly precipitated, it is considered acute, and when it gradually develops, it is deemed to be chronic. Although both pathways to overdose are altogether devastating and share some of the same effects, they do differ in many respects.

Signs and symptoms of acute meth overdose include the following:

  • Altered mental status
  • Agitation
  • Hypervigilance
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Elevated body temperature and blood pressure
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest or stomach pains
  • Seizures
  • Cardiac arrhythmia, heart attack
  • Kidney failure
  • Stroke

Signs and symptoms of chronic meth overdose include the following:

  • Sleep disturbances and deprivation
  • Extreme mood changes
  • Depression or severe anxiety
  • Erratic and violent behavior
  • Meth psychosis, paranoia
  • Excessive weight loss and malnutrition resulting in organ failure
  • Recurrent bacterial infections
  • Severe tooth decay, “meth mouth”
  • Compromised kidney, liver, and lung function
  • Hypertension

Treatment for Meth Addiction

Meth addiction is a devasting disease that can adversely affect the lives of the addicted as well as those close to him or her. Treatment should be based on a comprehensive approach that is customized to the individual and includes therapies, counseling, and group support.

Our center can help you or your loved one regain their life, free from addiction, and enjoy long-lasting happiness and wellness. Please contact us as soon as possible!

Snorting Meth

Snorting Meth | Recovery in Tune Addiction Treatment

Updated on Aug 13, 2019

Snorting meth is a less common method of administration than smoking and produces a less intense high than either smoking or injecting. In the short term, snorting meth can damage sinus cavities and the lining of the nose, leading to chronic stuffiness and nosebleeds. This habit also increases blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature.

Long-term, snorting meth can result in the following:

  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Extreme weight loss
  • Depression
  • Memory impairment
  • Dental deterioration
  • Employment issues
  • Relationship problems
  • Academic difficulties

Meth Facts

Methamphetamine (meth) is categorized by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as a Schedule II substance, indicating that it has a high potential for abuse, despite the fact that it has some very limited medical use. As the prescription drug Desoxyn, meth has been historically prescribed in low doses for treating particularly stubborn attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or obesity.

In recent decades, safer alternatives have largely replaced meth for these purposes. Most of the meth found in the U.S. is not a product of Desoxyn diversion and instead is purchased illegally and is produced in superlabs by Mexican cartels or small, clandestine neighborhood labs in the U.S.

How Meth Is Used

Meth can be administered in pill form, but is more commonly smoked, snorted, or injected (also known as “skin popping.” People who use meth might choose to snort it due to the fear of using needles or contracting hepatitis or HIV/AIDS. Snorting meth induces a euphoric high, although this is usually less intense than the rush users encounter when either smoking or injecting.

Manufacturing Meth

Meth is a human-made substance synthesized from various toxic chemicals, which may together compound on one another to produce adverse health effects. Common ingredients used in the illegal manufacturing of meth include the following:

  • Pseudoephedrine
  • Ephedrine
  • Acetone
  • Anhydrous ammonia
  • Battery acid
  • Ether
  • Drain cleaner
  • Freon
  • Iodine crystals
  • Lithium
  • Paint thinner
  • Red phosphorus

Snorting Meth | Recovery in Tune Addiction Treatment

Drug and law enforcement agencies have begun to monitor and place controls on some of these ingredients—pseudoephedrine and ephedrine in particular. Small labs can produce around $1,000 worth of meth in just a few hours using only about $100 worth of materials. Despite the seeming lucrativeness, chemical reactions can occur during the manufacturing process, causing devastating explosions.

Moreover, the process of making illicit meth also creates toxic byproducts that are harmful to people who come into contact with them, including the person doing the manufacturing and everyone else in the near vicinity. For every pound of meth that is manufactured, around 5.5 pounds of hazardous/toxic waste is produced as a byproduct.

This waste can harm farmland and forests, generate toxic drainage, adversely affect nearby animals, and require expert teams to clean up. In many states, property owners can be held liable for the cost of such hazardous material cleanups, even if they aren’t directly linked to meth manufacturing.

Short-Term Effects of Snorting Meth

While meth may offer a euphoric high, it also comes with the risk of many side effects and adverse effects, regardless of how it is administered. Because meth is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant, using it artificially recreates the natural fight-or-flight reaction. Experiencing a state of persistent CNS activation has been linked to dangerous increases in blood pressure, heart rate, and temperature.

Users also tend to experience a marked increase in energy levels, in addition to reduced appetite. These conditions can persist for up to 24 hours.

When talking, people intoxicated by meth might shift from one topic to another, feel more assertive or confident, or behave in paranoid or peculiar ways. The high later grinds to a halt and is followed by a dramatic crash, compelling the person to want to recommence using the drug to avoid the comedown and withdrawal symptoms.

Meth users who are crashing will exhibit excessive fatigue, hunger, thirst, intense cravings, confusion, depression, anxiety, insomnia, and a lack of pleasure in ordinary activities. There is then, naturally, a strong motivation to avoid these unpleasant effects, and this leads many people to administer repeated doses in a relatively brief period, which is called binging.

Long-Term Effects of Snorting Meth

Over time, the effects of repeated meth use can result in severe damage to the circulatory, nervous, respiratory, and renal systems, leading to adverse physical and mental effects. These consequences include profound weight loss, dental decay, insomnia, and an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and liver or kidney damage.

With repeated use, tolerance can develop, a state that requires users to consume increasing amounts of meth to achieve the desired high or even just to feel relatively normal.

Psychological complications associated with meth use include the following:

  • Anxiety and paranoia
  • Delusional beliefs
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Mood swings
  • Poor concentration
  • Memory impairment
  • Psychosis

Snorting Meth | Recovery in Tune Addiction Treatment

Gradually, the regular pattern required to feed a meth addiction begins to consume more and more of the user’s time. This means that the person is usually either compulsively seeking to obtain and use meth or recovering from its use.

While meth can give users short periods of excess energy, the dramatic crash that follows may lead to extremely low mood and lack of motivation, which can cause problems with academics and employment. Adolescent meth users might drop out of school due to excessive absenteeism or poor grades.

Furthermore, employees might be terminated from their job due to meth use. Chronic use can result in long-term or even permanent effects on the brain, including changes that impact the brain’s pleasure and reward centers, making it more difficult for users or former use to experience satisfaction again while engaging in activities that should be enjoyable.

Treatment for Meth Addiction

Meth use can rapidly lead to dependence and addiction and require special attention and care in a private treatment facility.

Unfortunately, there are currently no medications approved by the FDA for the treatment of meth addiction. Instead, treatment is grounded in therapies that are intended to transform negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is an effective technique that seeks to alter behaviors by identifying unhealthy thoughts and replacing them with ones that are more helpful and productive.

Recovery in Tune offers a comprehensive treatment program focused on behavioral change that uses many different therapeutic approaches, such as behavioral therapy, individual counseling, and group support. We also provide education for the individual and family, healthy sober activities such as art and music therapy, and aftercare planning. Integrated, evidence-based treatment models such as this have been proven effective in clinical studies to help individuals recover from meth use.

Finding Help for Meth Addiction

Meth is a highly addictive substance that can change the brain, body, and physical appearance in a relatively short amount of time. While some damage from meth addiction can be restored to normal or near-normal, much of may be permanent. Extended use can result in irreversible changes in the person’s ability to regulate emotions, radically impair the reward centers of the brain, and also cause physical damage to vital organs, scarring, and profound dental decay.

Long-term meth use can result in adverse health effects, permanent debilitating conditions, a shortened lifespan, and even death. The longer and more frequently that meth is used, the greater the risk becomes. If you or a loved one is suffering from meth abuse or addiction, please call us as soon as possible to speak with an addiction specialist who can help you get started on the road to recovery today!

Abuse of Meth and Sex

Meth and Sex | Recovery in Tune Addiction Treatment

Abuse of Meth and Sex – The use of drugs to party or feel elated, at first glance, can be very seductive. Unfortunately, the abuse of certain substances can rapidly lead to risky behavior, adverse consequences, and, ultimately, addiction.

When a person has developed an addiction, the short-term potential for a healthy life essentially stops, and chaos ensues. A person may find oneself doing things he or she never thought they would ever do in an attempt to obtain and use drugs. This is known as compulsive drug-seeking behavior, and a person engaging in this will continue to do so despite the problems it is causing.

The abuse of numerous substances can lead to impulsive, risky, and unsafe sexual encounters. Methamphetamine is among the most notorious of these drugs, and it has often been intentionally used to enhance sexual pleasure.

What Is Meth?

Methamphetamine is a powerful stimulant with a high potential for addiction. It has a lengthy half-life and is highly toxic, and it dramatically affects levels of dopamine in the central nervous system. People who abuse meth experience increased energy and wakefulness in addition to a variety of side effects.

Many governments around the world have cracked down on the sale of over-the-counter medications that contain pseudoephedrine, which is the main ingredient in meth. Since then, the production and distribution of the drug have largely been taken over by Mexican drug cartels. However, many people still make meth in clandestine home labs using a variety of toxic ingredients—many of which are highly flammable.

Research has shown that chronic meth abuse alters brain structure and function, and induces emotional, cognitive, and physical impairments. Deficits that occur are often related to motor skills, memory, and learning.

Symptoms of heavy and long-term meth use may include the following:

  • Insomnia
  • Violent behavior
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Meth mouth
  • Skin sores

Meth Use and Risky Sexual Behavior

Research has demonstrated that meth abuse and addiction is associated with high-risk sexual conduct among men who engage in sex with other men. Risky sexual behavior is also more prevalent among HIV-infected meth users than non-users.

Moreover, there has been a significant increase in unprotected intercourse and the number of sexual partners among men diagnosed with HIV. The data regarding heterosexual men is not as clear.

In a report by the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, about 33% of meth users admitted to having sex with a person infected with HIV. Half of the subjects studied also reported engaging in unprotected sex.

Researchers noted that meth is an inexpensive street drug that reduces inhibitions and reportedly enhances sexual response. They also cautioned that any drug, not just meth, has the potential to increase the likelihood of risky sexual behavior.

Women, Meth, and Sex

Meth and Sex | Recovery in Tune Addiction Treatment

Most research conducted with regard to meth users and their sexual behaviors has focused on men. In 2004, however, the University of San Diego examined the increasing number of women who are addicted to meth. Women subjects in the study ranged in age from adolescence to the mid-fifties. A diversity of races were included with 96% of participants having obtained less than a college-level degree.

The study revealed that a majority of meth users in the San Diego area were women who began their addiction early in their teenage years. Researchers also discovered that female meth users reported experiencing intensified sexual responses under the influence of meth.

The motives behind why women were abusing meth differed. For example, the number of women who used meth as a means to increase sexual pleasure was only 18%. Most female meth addicts used the drug for the following reasons:

  • Get high (56%)
  • Have more energy (37%)
  • Cope with moods (34%)
  • Lose weight (29%)
  • To party (28%)
  • To escape (27%)

The rate of women in the study who reported having anonymous sex was much lower than that of meth-using men. Researchers also included a survey of heterosexual men and found that women and men did not differ in the type and number of risky sexual behaviors or sexual partners.

Meth Users Defy Categorization

It is important to realize that there is no “typical” meth user. The common factor among users is that meth has a high potential for abuse and addiction. It can destroy a person’s health, shatter families, encourage risky behaviors, and increase the risk of sexually-transmitted diseases.

Many falsely believe that meth addiction cannot be treated in a drug rehab center. However, there is a large number of people who seek drug addiction treatment for meth abuse, even on its own. Friends and family members of meth users are urged to assist their loved ones in finding professional help.

Getting Help

Recovery in Tune offers integrated, comprehensive outpatient programs for the treatment of meth and other substance use disorders. In a rehab program, a person’s underlying mental health conditions, physical issues, and addictive behaviors can be addressed simultaneously. Our center employs evidence-based services, such as psychotherapy, counseling, aftercare planning, and more.

Contact us today if you or someone you love is struggling with meth abuse. We are committed to helping people break free from the vicious cycle of addiction for life!

⟹ READ THIS NEXT: What Is Meth Induced Psychosis?

What Is Meth Induced Psychosis?

Meth Psychosis | Recovery in Tune Addiction Treatment

What Is Meth Induced Psychosis? – Methamphetamine (meth), also known as crystal meth, speed, or ice is a dangerous, addictive, and potentially life-threatening drug. It is most often found illicitly on the street after being produced in clandestine labs in the U.S. or abroad by drug cartels. Meth is created from ingredients derived from cough and cold medications (pseudoephedrine) and is combined with household chemicals and highly explosive materials such as red phosphorus.

Meth is a central nervous system stimulant, meaning that effects include accelerated heart rate and increased energy, in combination with a euphoric high. These effects are primarily produced by a massive increase in dopamine, a neurochemical responsible for feelings of pleasure and reward. Meth psychosis, when it occurs, is among the most dangerous outcomes of routine meth use.

Meth Induced Psychosis

According to the American Psychiatric Association, psychosis is defined as an episode in which a person is experiencing both hallucinations and delusions. A hallucination is frequently visual or auditory, and the term refers to something that is seen, heard, or otherwise sensed by a person that is not perceived by others.

Occasionally people encounter hallucinations that are gustatory (tasting something that isn’t there) or tactile (feeling something that isn’t there). These perceptions can manifest as a result of drug use or mental health conditions such as dementia, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia.

Delusions are also a hallmark symptom of psychosis and involve the person holding beliefs that aren’t true, at least not objectively by others. Delusions can include paranoia, such as the belief that the person affected is being closely watched by the police or FBI. They may also include beliefs centered around certain elements that have nothing to do with them, contending that these things are targeted at them specifically (e.g., a song playing on the radio).

During meth psychosis, the individual may firmly believe that other people are out to get them, or that everyday objects are spying on them, equipped with surveillance devices. Another symptom of meth psychosis is increased aggression, which can occur as the person’s brain loses the capability to regulate impulses appropriately. When people use meth routinely, they also tend to lose their ability to respond rationally to events happening around them, and this effect can result in aggression and violence.

When people are extended meth users, they may also begin to exhibit behaviors that parallel those of someone with obsessive-compulsive disorder, engaging in certain actions repeatedly, such as cleaning at a frenzied pace or excessively washing hands. This effect can also contribute to some of the sores that are apparent on the face and bodies of meth users, caused by scratching or picking at skin.

When a person experiences meth-induced psychosis, it may subside when they come down from the drug’s effects, but in some cases, it can persist longer than the high itself—perhaps for several days. Unfortunately, brain damage from chronic meth abuse can leave some users with psychotic episodes that persist long after they have stopped using the drug.

Meth Psychosis | Recovery in Tune Addiction Treatment

Causes of Meth Psychosis

But why does meth use incur a higher risk of psychosis when compared to many other drugs? Like other intoxicating substances, meth affects the brain’s intrinsic chemical balance. Moreover, when a person uses meth, that person is altering the homeostasis of his or her brain chemistry, which may ultimately trigger meth psychosis.

Meth use also causes the brain to unleash a massive flood of dopamine. After a time, intrinsic dopamine reserves are exhausted, and the body becomes unable to create more. Extended meth use overstimulates the brain’s temporal lobe, which is believed to induce psychosis. The amygdala is also affected, and when highly stimulated, it can produce a “fight-or-flight” survival reactions.

People who experience meth-induced psychosis encounter these symptoms because their brain chemistry is unbalanced, which can lead to the feeling that they are in danger and either need to flee or lash out. For many meth users, paranoid symptoms can onset within just a few months of drug abuse. In addition to brain stimulation in areas involved with the regulation of anxiety and emotions, using meth also impacts the prefrontal cortex and limbic system, which can result in impulsive actions, aggressive behavior, and violence.

It is important to stress that meth psychosis is not rare, and is often referred to as being spun or “tweaking.” In fact, it is quite common, and many people who engage in meth use will, at some point, encounter mild-to-severe psychotic symptoms. Research indicates that nearly two-thirds of meth users have experienced psychosis to some degree or another.

Treatment for Meth Addiction

Meth abuse and addiction is a devastating disease that can destroy the lives of those who use as well as families and friends, and treatment should be sought as soon as possible. Modern, comprehensive approaches include a combination of evidence-based services such as behavioral therapy, counseling, group support, health and wellness programs, and aftercare planning.

Recovery in Tune employs compassionate addiction professionals who deliver these services to clients with care and expertise. We provide patients with the tools, resources, and skills they need to achieve sobriety and enjoy long-lasting wellness throughout the remainder of their lives. Please contact us today and begin your journey now!

Signs of Meth Overdose

Signs of Meth Overdose | Recovery in Tune Addiction Treatment

Signs of Meth Overdose – Methamphetamine (meth) is classified by the DEA as a Schedule II stimulant drug that typically takes the form of a white powder, a crystalline form (crystal meth), and sometimes a pill (as the prescription medication Desoxyn). Although small doses of meth can help to treat conditions like particularly stubborn cases of ADHD, obesity, or narcolepsy, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) states unequivocally that the drug can be highly addictive when abused.

If a person is experiencing a meth addiction, they may encounter dangerous and even life-threatening effects related to frequent use or excessively high doses. Indeed, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) found that meth-related seizures saw an astonishing 21% increase from 2013-2014.

While there is a myriad of health risks that have been linked to meth use including memory loss, mood disorders, aggression and violence, dental deterioration, and brain damage, overdose is perhaps the most severe consequence of abusing the drug.

What Causes an Overdose?

An overdose occurs when a person uses (either by accident or intentionally) and experiences adverse effects as the stimulant interacts with the body. The effects are usually the result of a dose higher than the body can handle, and if left untreated, an overdose can be fatal.

The majority of meth-related deaths occur when the body develops heatstroke, a condition that ultimately leads to multiple organ failure. An overdose of meth can also cause a sharp spike in blood pressure that results in liver failure and hemorrhaging. In some rare instances, lead poisoning can occur due to adulterants that find their way into the drug during the manufacturing process.

Warning Signs of Meth Overdose

Whenever people use excessive amounts of meth, they face the risk of overdose. Because meth is usually found on the black market as an illegal, unregulated substance, individuals are often unaware of the drug’s strength, purity, or presence of any toxic ingredients used to make the product. If someone you know suffers from meth abuse, becoming familiar with the signs of an overdose could save their life.

Common symptoms of a meth overdose include the following:

  • Chest pain
  • Heart arrhythmia
  • High blood pressure
  • Low blood pressure
  • Difficult or labored breathing
  • Agitation and irritation
  • Psychosis
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Seizures
  • Accelerated or slow heartbeat
  • High body temperature

If a person experiences a meth overdose, the odds they will recover depend on how much of the drug they consumed and how swiftly they receive treatment. Surviving a meth overdose is certainly possible, but it is critical that the person who is overdosing receives emergency medical attention immediately. Because a meth overdose is a clear indication of a substance use disorder, professional addiction treatment should follow once the person is in stable conditions.

What You Can Do

Signs of Meth Overdose | Recovery in Tune Addiction Treatment

If you suspect that someone is experiencing a meth overdose, it is vitally important that they receive help as soon as possible. Call 911 immediately if signs of an overdose are evident, and then take actions to keep the person safe until emergency help arrives.

Important: If someone is experiencing a seizure, carefully hold the person’s head to prevent injury and turn their head to one side to stop them from choking if they vomit. Do not, however, attempt to secure their arms or legs.

When you call 911, have the following information ready:
  • The person’s approximate age and weight
  • The amount of the drug that was used
  • How the drug was administered (e.g., snorting, injecting, etc.)
  • Length of time since the person last used the drug

Once emergency personnel arrives, they will be able to provide vital medical care. First responders or emergency personnel will likely administer activated charcoal orally to detoxify the body, conduct a poison and drug screening, and provide intravenous fluids to mitigate side effects such as extreme nausea and high blood pressure.

Other medications may also be administered to treat certain complications related to the overdose, such as impaired kidney function or heart problems. The overdosing individual has the best chances of recovery if the meth overdose is met with swift and competent medical attention.

Treatment for Meth Addiction

Meth addiction is a devastating condition that adversely affects the health and emotional well-being of those suffering, as well as profoundly impacting the lives of those around them.

Fortunately, meth addiction is very treatable, and through the use of a comprehensive approach to substance abuse, former meth users can achieve abstinence, prevent relapse, and restore mental and physical wellness to their lives. Recovery in Tune offers professional addiction treatment including clinically proven, evidence-based services vital to the recovery process, such as psychotherapy, individual counseling, group therapy, holistic treatment, and aftercare planning.

If you or someone you love has developed an addiction to meth, please contact us as soon as possible to discuss treatment options. We can help you recover from your addiction and reclaim the joyful and fulfilling life you deserve!

How Does Meth Affect the Brain?

How Does Meth Affect the Brain? | Recovery in Tune

How Does Meth Affect the Brain? – Methamphetamine (meth) is a synthetic central nervous system stimulant typically found in either a rock-like form (crystal meth) or as a powder. The most common method of administration is smoking it through a pipe, but it can also be snorted, swallowed, or injected.

Meth acts on the brain in a manner similar to other stimulants, in that use results in a massive release of the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and dopamine. This influx leads to powerful euphoric effects, such as increases in energy, alertness, and feelings of invulnerability. Research concerning the short-term and long-term effects of meth use has revealed a number of potential hazards related to its use, including significant neurological effects.

Effects on the Central Nervous System

The central nervous system (CNS) includes the brain and spinal cord, along with a vast nexus of nerve cells throughout the entire body. It works as the major relay system for the body and is involved in nearly every bodily function. Research that has examined the effects of meth focus primarily on the effects that occur in the brain and spinal cord.

There is an extensive body of research that has examined the effects of meth use. Information culled from research articles in peer-reviewed journals suggests that there are many damaging effects associated with chronic use of meth, including the following:

Increased Destruction of Neurons

Meth use has been linked to a decrease in the number of neurons in the CNS. The ability of the CNS to recreate these neurons is limited, and in many cases, the destruction of neurons is irreversible. Evidence has shown that chronic use of meth can lead to brain damage due to neuronal death in many areas, including the following:

  • Hippocampus
  • Cerebellum
  • Striatum
  • Parietal cortex
  • Frontal and prefrontal cortex
  • Basal ganglia
  • Reward center
  • Limbic system

Decreased Gliogenesis

Other cells in the CNS, referred to as glial cells, have a number of responsibilities, including fighting infection and developing myelin (white matter that neurons used to communicate). Meth use has also been linked to increased damage and destruction of these cells in several areas of the brain, especially in the prefrontal cortex where vital functions, such as attention, abstract thinking, planning, and judgment occur.

Decreased White Matter

As some glial cells become damaged and the ability to generate myelin is affected in the brain and spinal cord, the volume of white matter in the CNS diminishes. White matter (myelin) helps in efficient signaling between neurons in the central nervous system, and as this matter is reduced, neurons become less efficient in transmitting their signals, resulting in several functional deficits.

How Does Meth Affect the Brain? | Recovery in Tune

A Reduction in Dopamine and Serotonin Transporters

Dopamine and serotonin transporters are specific cells in the CNS that reuptake dopamine and serotonin released from the neurons so these neurotransmitters can be repackaged for reuse. This action contributes to the psychoactive effects of meth, and also leads to dopamine and serotonin depletion because the neurons have less dopamine to reuse later. This can lead to extreme mood effects, such as extreme euphoria followed by periods of depression, apathy, and hopelessness.

Increased Glutamate Calcium

Increases in the neurotransmitter glutamate and calcium are associated with toxic effects in the brain resulting from neurons being excessively excited and continually firing to the point of damaging the system. If not tempered, this can lead to significant damage throughout the CNS.

Neurotoxic Effects Damage Neuron Dendrites

Many of these neurotoxic effects lead to extensive damage in the dendrites of neurons. Dendrites are the portions of the neurons that receive chemical signals from other neurons. This damage prevents the neurons from communicating efficiently and as a result, can impair cognitive and motor functions.

Damage to the Brain’s Circulatory System

Meth use also affects the veins, arteries, and capillaries in the CNS. Problems associated with increased blood pressure and weakening of veins and arteries can leave them susceptible to blood clots and scarring. This further results in an increased likelihood of having a stroke – both ischemic and hemorrhagic types.

Increased Risk of Traumatic Brain Injury

This increase in risk, although noteworthy, is not directly due to the effects of meth on the brain. Rather, people who abuse drugs like meth are statistically much more likely to have accidents or become involved in assaults that result in traumatic brain injuries. Moreover, experiencing a traumatic brain injury in addition to having a long-standing history of meth abuse can result in any number of potentially severe neurological issues.

Long-Term Cognitive Effects Linked to Meth Use

How Does Meth Affect the Brain? | Recovery in Tune

The cognitive and emotional effects that can occur as a result of long-term meth use continues to expand based on research, which indicates that the following cognitive areas are significantly affected by chronic meth abuse:

Attention

“Attention” is a broad term that encompasses many brain functions, and various aspects of both attention and concentration can be adversely affected by chronic meth use. This is the result of damage that occurs to neurons in the brain’s frontal and prefrontal cortex. Chronic issues with the ability to focus, switch focus, and concentrate for prolonged periods of time often persist even after extended abstinence.

Problem-Solving and Judgement

Judgment and problem-solving are general terms used to describe many different complex cognitive functions. The damage that results from meth abuse affects a person’s ability to suppress impulses, and this may reduce his or her ability to exert sound judgment and solve problems. The severity of this dysfunction varies between individuals, with some becoming rather impulsive and needing considerable assistance in controlling their behavior, whereas others may have more mild deficits.

Memory

Research has shown that the ability to encode and recall information is significantly decreased in both animals and humans following chronic meth abuse.

In an article published in the scientific journal Synapse, researchers at the University of Florida discovered that crystal meth use left users with long-term memory loss. These results only followed animal subjects for three weeks after they stopped consuming meth, so no one knows for sure exactly how long the memory impairments will persist. The impairments may be irreversible, or they may slowly improve over time.

Problems with Movement

The damage that occurs the neurons in white matter tracts in the brain is also linked to changes in motor functions, including reaction time, coordination in complex skills, and basic functions such as walking.

Emotional Control

Related to problems with impulse control is a person’s ability to regulate and control emotional states. People who have chronically abused meth may exhibit any number of emotional issues, such as mood swings, chronic depression and apathy, a loss of motivation, aggressiveness and hostility, irritability, and self-harming and suicidal behaviors. These effects reflect both the reduction of neurotransmitters and the structural damage that occurs as a result of chronic meth use.

Treatment for Meth Abuse and Addiction

Meth addiction is a life-altering and potentially devastating condition that wreaks havoc on the lives of those who suffer as well as everyone around them. Fortunately, however, meth addiction is very treatable when approached comprehensively and addressed using evidence-based services such as psychotherapy, counseling, and group support.

Recovery in Tune employs a staff of highly-skilled addiction professionals dedicated to providing all clients with the resources and support they need to prevent relapse, achieve a full recovery, and experience long-lasting sobriety and wellness.

If you or a loved one are struggling with an addiction to meth, contact us today and find out how we can help!