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Signs of a Meth Overdose

a man discusses signs of a meth overdose with a doctor

From 2007 to 2011, the number of methamphetamine-related emergency room visits rose by over 150 percent. For the past decade, methamphetamine has frequently been one of the top 10 drugs responsible for overdose deaths in the United States. A person who overdoses on meth is at an increased risk for heart attack, stroke, organ damage, and death. In 2016 alone, 7,663 Americans lost their lives to a methamphetamine overdose. In order to avoid the signs of a meth overdose, it is critical to find a meth addiction treatment center, such as the one we offer at Vertava Health. To learn more about the treatment options available, please contact us today at 844.470.0410.

What Is Methamphetamine?

Methamphetamine is one of the most potent stimulants available today. Meth can be found in the form of illicitly produced substances, and it’s also available as a prescription drug. Meth is taken orally, snorted, injected, or smoked. All forms of meth can lead to addiction and overdose.

The illicit version is the more potent of the two forms. It may appear as a liquid, powder, or glass-like crystal known as crystal meth. Other names for illicit meth include crank, glass, ice, and speed. The prescription tablet form of methamphetamine, Desoxyn, is a medication used to treat ADHD or to assist in weight loss.

Meth’s initial, intense high lasts anywhere from five to 30 minutes, depending on how the drug is used. The overall effects that follow can last six to 12 hours and end in an intense comedown or crash.

Symptoms of Meth Overdose

Methamphetamine is a psychomotor stimulant, meaning that it stimulates a person’s central nervous system. This causes a person’s physical and mental processes to speed up, sometimes to dangerous and even life-threatening levels. The more meth a person uses, the faster the central nervous system operates.

Meth is commonly used in binges or runs. While on a meth run, a person might take the drug every few hours for several days straight. During this time, they usually don’t eat or sleep, and these behaviors weaken their body even further.

As the drug reaches toxic levels and the CNS continues to speed up, essential, life-sustaining bodily functions go into overdrive. The heightened rates of central nervous system activity can cause harm to a person’s body and brain, and this damage may become fatal.

At the point of overdose, a person’s blood pressure, breathing, heart rate, and temperature increase to levels that compromise essential organs. As this occurs, a person may exhibit the following signs of overdose:

  • Agitation, restlessness, or physical aggression
  • Chest pain or intense stomach pain
  • Hallucinations
  • Tremors or seizures
  • Irregular or quickened heartbeat, which may result in cardiac arrest
  • Panic or paranoia
  • Rapid breathing or trouble breathing

A fatal methamphetamine overdose is often preceded by a loss of consciousness, convulsions, and a coma.

Who Is at Risk of a Meth Overdose?

While people who frequently use large amounts of the drug typically experience many overdoses, even short-term use of meth can cause an overdose. In fact, a person can overdose the very first time they try meth. Even chronic meth users can overdose from a single hit.

People who use meth may combine it with other drugs. Polydrug use makes fatal overdose and overdose-related complications even more of a threat. For instance, many of the overdose deaths that involved methamphetamine also involved heroin.

The most common substances found in methamphetamine-related emergency room visits include:

  • Marijuana
  • Alcohol
  • Opioids and opiates
  • Amphetamines
  • Cocaine
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Heroin

The Dangers of Meth

Overstimulation of the central nervous system can induce an extremely high body temperature and dangerously high blood pressure. These and other changes can cause stroke, heart attack, and organ failure, including kidney failure. Without prompt medical treatment, these conditions can become fatal.

Should a person survive a meth overdose, they’re not necessarily in the clear. They are likely to have suffered permanent damage that could cause significant physical and mental health problems, including:

  • Chronic anxiety and psychosis
  • Destroyed muscle tissue, leading to amputation
  • Heart problems
  • Impaired mental functioning
  • Organ failure requiring dialysis

To prevent these and other methamphetamine-related health consequences, it’s critical to quickly seek help for meth use, addiction, and overdose.

Care and Treating a Meth Overdose

Contact emergency medical services as soon as an overdose is suspected. It’s always important to do this quickly, no matter the symptoms. However, if a person is having a seizure, acting in a violent manner, or having trouble breathing, this should be done immediately.

Medical professionals may ask for information on the overdosing individual, including:

  • Their approximate age and weight
  • The dose of meth consumed
  • The way they took the drug, meaning whether the person smoked or injected it
  • When the drug was taken
  • If any other drug was consumed
  • If the person has any health or medical conditions

If a person is having a seizure, cradle their head, so they do not injure it, but do not attempt to immobilize their arms or legs. To protect them from inhaling their vomit and choking, gently turn their head to the side.

When treating a methamphetamine overdose, first responders and ER physicians will address the life-threatening conditions it causes, such as heart attack, stroke, and organ problems. The goal of these treatments is to restore blood flow to the portions of the brain affected by stroke and to the heart to prevent further damage from a heart attack. They may also need to treat any complications or damage to the major organs.

If the meth was taken orally, medical personnel might administer activated charcoal and a laxative. During this time, a person’s vital signs will be closely monitored, and a toxicology screen will be administered to look for the presence of any other drugs. A person will likely receive breathing support and IV fluids or medications.

Signs of Meth Use

The best way to prevent methamphetamine overdose is to avoid methamphetamine addiction. To do this, it’s crucial that close friends and family members are aware of the signs of meth use so that they can help their loved one get the care they need.

When meth hits the brain, it affects the regions that control mood and movement. Because of this, the stimulating effects of meth are often the most pronounced in these areas. Most of the direct side effects of the drug occur fairly quickly or up to several hours after use.

Short-term effects of methamphetamine use include:

  • Anxiety
  • Bursts of physical activity
  • Dilated pupils
  • Erratic behavior
  • Extreme surges of energy
  • Irritability or paranoia
  • Loss of appetite

A person on meth may engage in repetitive and meaningless tasks. Chronic meth use may cause people to pick at their skin and develop sores due to tactile hallucinations of bugs crawling on or beneath their skin. With prolonged and chronic use, an individual will likely begin to exhibit severe physical and mental problems, many of which can become permanent conditions.

The Dangers of Using Meth

Long-term methamphetamine use can negatively affect a person’s mental state while also producing severe, adverse physical health effects. These dangers include:

  • A bad complexion, skin sores, and acne
  • Chronic anxiety, insomnia, or paranoia
  • Cracked teeth and severe dental problems (meth mouth)
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Extreme weight loss
  • Infections of the heart, brain, and other organs
  • Premature birth and congenital disabilities of unborn children

Many individuals begin to develop extreme mood swings, display psychotic behavior, and experience delusions or auditory hallucinations. Chronic use can permanently harm the brain, causing brain damage with symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.

When a person uses meth for an extended period of time, their body will likely become dependent on the drug, which is a significant indicator of addiction. When dependent, most individuals experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms when they stop using the substance. These symptoms may include anxiety, depression, intense fatigue, psychosis, and severe cravings.

Get Help Beating Crystal Meth Addiction at Vertava Health

Meth is a powerfully addictive drug, and it can be challenging for a person to successfully and safely overcome a meth addiction on their own. A person battling meth addiction faces the greatest chances of a successful recovery and better health in a professional rehabilitation program. An inpatient drug rehab program provides the most intensive and supportive levels of care, which allows a person to dedicate ample time to healing and learning valuable coping and relapse-prevention skills.

If you or someone you love has recently experienced the signs of meth overdose, our addiction treatment program can help. Our team of compassionate and experienced professionals will work with you to create a personalized treatment plan that meets your unique needs. This treatment plan may include therapeutic options such as:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
  • Family therapies
  • Individual and group therapy
  • Adventure therapy
  • Animal-assisted therapy

Contact Vertava Health for more information on meth overdose symptoms and the treatment options for meth addiction.