Crystal methamphetamine is a highly addictive stimulant drug, even in small doses. While an immediate euphoria comes with smoking the drug, its has numerous other short-term effects that are not as pleasant and can lead to dangerous consequences.
Elation and Sense of Well-Being
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), crystal methamphetamine rapidly increases dopamine levels "in reward areas of the brain." This leads to a quick initial "rush" and feelings of euphoria. This occurs faster after smoking meth than if the drug is taken by mouth.
- The initial rush, which occurs within seconds, might be more intense than anything the user has ever felt. It lasts for about 30 minutes.
- The euphoria typically fades within six to 12 hours.
- Many people feel more energetic, confident, and reckless after smoking meth.
Tolerance to the rush and euphoria develops quickly, meaning the user has to smoke bigger doses of crystal meth to get the same level of these desired effects. To repeat the euphoric high, some people smoke several hits of the drug in a row, in a "meth run" that leads to a patter that NIDA describes as "binge and crash."
After the immediate heightened sense of wellbeing starts to fade, the unpleasant effects of the drug become more apparent. Even one dose of crystal meth can damage dopamine-containing nerve terminals in the brain. This can be a source of depressed mood after the initial euphoria.
As a result, people who use meth can experience rapid and violent mood swings. Extreme shifts from euphoria to anger or depressed mood can occur without any warning. The mood swings might be related to the changes in brain chemistry, as well as to stress and the poor nutrition and sleep habits meth use causes.
Amphetamines have long been used in weight loss supplements because they decrease appetite and increase the metabolic rate. Crystal meth has these same effects. Because of the loss of appetite and an increase in the basal metabolic rate associated with this drug, people sometimes think they can use crystal meth to lose weight. However, any weight loss effect is short-term, because most people develop a tolerance. After this occurs, the highly undesirable negative effects of using the drug will still be there.
The stimulant effect of crystal meth makes you feel more alert and energetic for about 12 hours after a dose. This can wreak havoc on your ability to sleep. Some people use crystal meth trying to stay awake to study, work or engage in other physical activities. People who want to stay awake sometimes binge on repeated hits of meth.
After using the drug, you might find yourself staying awake for long periods of time. Eventually, you will crash and sleep for several days while your body recovers.
Acute psychosis is a severe shot-term side effect of smoking crystal meth. During an episode of acute psychosis, a user might become violent and be a danger to himself/herself and others. This psychosis:
- Is more likely to happen after a large dose is smoked or from long-term use of the drug
- Might be related to changes in dopamine, serotonin, and other brain chemicals
- Can mimic manic depression.
- Can include symptoms such as:
- Delusions (false beliefs about what is happening or false self-identity)
- Hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren't there)
Not all meth-related psychosis is short-term. This side effect can last for a long time, even after the drug use ends.
Increased Heart Rate and Blood Pressure
Soon after a hit of the drug, crystal meth increases the level of norepinephrine in the body. This causes an increase in heart rate and blood pressure. Meth can also cause an irregular heart rhythm.
These effects on the cardiovascular system increase the risk for a heart attack or stroke, which could happen acutely soon after the drug is smoked. In some cases, the risk can continue even after the dose of meth smoked is eliminated from the body.
Increased Body Temperature
High doses of crystal meth can increase body temperature to dangerous and sometimes lethal levels. If this occurs, immediate medical treatment to lower the high temperature is vital to help the user survive.
The temperature can start to rise soon after smoking the drug and last until meth is metabolized out of the body. This problem is caused by increased norepinephrine and serotonin.
Tremors and Convulsions
Exposure to stimulants like crystal meth - especially at high doses - can trigger seizures in some people. If not treated immediately, these convulsions can lead to death. This can occur even in people who don't have a history of epilepsy.
Other Short-Term Effects
Other short-term effects of smoking crystal meth include:
- Rapid stream of thoughts and ideas
- Extremely fast speaking
- Shortness of breath and rapid breathing
- Dry mouth
- Stomach cramps
- Dizziness or fainting
- Twitchy muscles
Some of these symptoms are due to the increase in hormones such as norepinephrine and serotonin that meth causes.
Length of Impact
How long the effects of crystal meth last depends on the method and amount used, as well as a number of other variables. Other factors include whether the user has built up tolerance to any of the effects of meth as well as how the drug is taken. With smoking, the effects are generally felt within three to five minutes. The high can last from eight to 24 hours.
A variety of factors impact how long it takes for meth to get out of your system. One of the difficulties in determining the duration of effects is that many users often go on the speed or binge run of smoking crystal meth. This continuous dosing of the drug, will make it more difficult to predict how long any short-term effects last.
Meth Is a Dangerous Drug
The initial effects of smoking meth can also have a long-term impact on the brain and other parts of the body. For example, frequent use of the drug to try to recreate the euphoria resets the levels of dopamine in the brain. Users are eventually unable to feel happy without using the drug, which helps to fuel continued use. This is more likely if you smoke a high dose in a session, use the drug frequently, or use it for a long time.
To avoid persistence of short-term effects, such as sleeplessness and loss of appetite, and long-term adverse psychological and physical effects, it is important to avoid using it. If you are experiencing the dangerous effects of this highly addictive drug, talk to your doctor about getting help to stop using it.