Dangers of Snorting Methamphetamine

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Crank. Speed. Tweak. Those are just three of methamphetamine’s street names. They’re fitting since the potent stimulant causes the body and mind to zip into high gear.

Meth comes primarily in powder form or in glassy or whitish rocks (also known as crystal meth, or ice). It’s mostly snorted, smoked, or injected, but some users ingest it too.

No matter how it’s taken, meth works on the central nervous system and produces feelings of euphoria. That’s due to the surge of the feel-good chemical dopamine. Stimulants also tend to spark dopamine levels in the parts of the brain dedicated to attention and focus.

Unfortunately, the drug overrides and overwhelms the brain’s wiring, so in time, it will become harder to bliss out on the stuff. Further thickening the plot: the longer a person uses meth, the harder it may be to kick the habit.

Side Effects of Snorting Meth

No matter how meth is taken, it ups the body’s heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, and respiration to potentially deadly levels.

Higher doses can lead to convulsions, cardiovascular collapse, stroke, and even death. Chronic use may lead to anxiety, confusion, insomnia, paranoia, aggression, hallucinations, mood shifts, and delusions. Over time, snorting meth can cause dryness, bleeding and even the formation of a hole in the nasal septum.

As for the up-the-nose method of dosing, some people snort crystal methamphetamine because they think it’s a way to avoid the risks that accompany injection (contracting hepatitis C or HIV).

The high achieved from snorting crystal meth doesn’t set in as fast as it does with smoking or injecting it, and it lasts longer. Some believe that it’s less addictive or dangerous to use that way, but it remains risky.

Meth is frequently cut with other substances, including the deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl. The customer doesn’t know how pure the product is, so they’re in danger of throwing their money away at best, or fatally overdosing at worst. These contaminants have their own array of side-effects.

Short-Term Effects

Snorting is common for first-timers. Once sniffed, it enters the blood vessels. The high is quick, typically within five minutes, and tends to last longer than smoking or injecting.

Because the nasal passages are delicate, snorting ice can lead to nosebleeds and sinus problems. If a user shares straws (or rolled-up money) to inhale the meth, they run the risk of sharing germs — anything from the common cold to hepatitis C.

Drug use can also lead to perilous behaviors such as unsafe sex, increasing the chances of contracting HIV. Meth users also may be at higher risk for HIV simply because the stimulant has been shown to increase the replication of viruses.

After using methamphetamine, users may experience any of the following:

  • High energy levels
  • Unpredictable behavior
  • Dilated pupils
  • Tremors
  • Dry mouth
  • Jaw clenching
  • Increased alertness and activity
  • Participation in repetitive tasks
  • Heavy perspiration
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Diarrhea

Long-Term Effects

Over time, snorting meth may do damage to the nose. There is one case of a woman whose meth-snorting habit may have led to a deteriorated nasal septum.

Anecdotal chatter on the web says people usually don’t stick with snorting meth like they do cocaine. Most will graduate to the quicker highs that smoking or injecting offer.

Some of the long-term dangers of meth use include:

  • Brain damage symptoms similar to Parkinson’s (a study shows a two times increased risk) or Alzheimer’s diseases
  • Psychotic behavior – Hallucinations and paranoia
  • Homicidal or suicidal thoughts
  • Weakened immune system
  • Strokes, heart infections, lung disease, kidney or liver damage

Pregnant women who use methamphetamine risk premature birth or birth defects for their children.

Using meth can make people feel like they have bugs crawling under or over their skin. As a result they scratch a lot and sores develop, mostly on the face and arms.

There’s also the danger of meth mouth. Users tend to drink sweet beverages, grind their teeth and experience dry mouth. They may not engage in proper hygiene. This can create a gumline full of broken, stained, or decayed pearly not-so-whites.

Meth isn’t reputed for being a fountain of youth, either. Those slideshows that appear on social media, with a pretty, rosy-cheeked twenty-something person morphing into an emaciated and scarred shell of herself over the course of a couple years: those types of posts are eye-catching and stand as visual warnings of the wreckage meth can make of a life.

The drug also changes the way the brain functions and can lead to confusion and memory loss. The longer meth is used, the greater the danger of emotional problems, cognitive damage, and the onset of Parkinson’s disease.

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How to Safely Detox from Methamphetamine

Meth withdrawal symptoms include anxiety, cravings, depression, fatigue, paranoia, and psychosis.

Withdrawal is fairly predictable. About 24 hours after the last dose, symptoms begin to appear. Typically, detox is most uncomfortable about a week after stopping use. After two to three weeks of abstinence, the symptoms will mostly be gone.

That doesn’t necessarily mean the user will be in the clear, though. That’s often just the first phase.

Treatment for Methamphetamine Abuse

There are no approved drug therapies to help overcome meth addiction, though some researchers have tried a drug known as ibudilast, which appears promising as a way to reduce some of the more addictive effects of methamphetamine. It works by decreasing the desired euphoric effects of meth, thereby decreasing the high from using. While it doesn’t help decrease the craving, it may help prevent people from using (in the absence of a high). More research is needed, however.

Once a person is detoxed from meth, it’ll be time to focus on treatment.

About half the people who have some form of mental illness (depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, etc.) also develop some sort of substance use disorder. For that reason alone, it’s wise to determine if there are other underlying mental health issues co-occurring with addiction, so both may be treated at the same time.

Examining co-occurring disorders may also be helpful in the case of people who resort to substance use disorder as a way to self-medicate their mental illnesses.

Contingency management (CM) has proven helpful for some when battling meth addiction. This approach uses rewards and incentives to teach new behaviors and discourage behaviors related to substance use disorder.

Sometimes people participating in CM programs receive vouchers or gift cards for foods or coveted (and drug-free) services and recreational activities in exchange for testing drug-free or for participating in treatment.

Contingency management also pairs well with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), where the client works on changing thoughts, behaviors, and feelings as they work toward a more productive (and drug-free) life.

Twelve-step programs and other peer support groups may be helpful too. The Matrix Model has proven effective in overcoming meth addiction as well. It’s a structured approach that teaches about addiction and relapse prevention, and incorporates self-help and drug testing. The therapist acts both as teacher and coach to the client.

It may be difficult to stop snorting meth, but it is possible, and it can change lives.



Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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