The Truth About Crystal Meth: What Really Happens During a Meth High?
Crystal meth is a common name for the street drug methamphetamine. It gets its name because it bears a resemblance to the crystals found in certain kinds of rocks. Users of methamphetamine experience the same basic types of mental and physical changes while “high,” regardless of the specific form of the drug they consume. The difference is mainly in how quickly these effects arise and how intense they feel to the user. Let’s examine exactly what happens to people immediately after they take crystal meth.
Speed of Onset
The crystallized form of methamphetamine is typically smoked, although crystal meth addicts and abusers may also crush it into a powder and inject it into a vein, snort it or swallow it. When you smoke or inject meth, it reaches your brain much more quickly than it would if you swallowed it or snorted it. In addition, these two forms of intake produce a much more powerful initial “high.” It is this speed and power of drug onset that largely gives crystal meth its particular appeal as a substance of abuse.
The main sought-after effect among crystal meth addicts and abusers is the intense form of pleasure known as euphoria. This feeling occurs when the drug sharply drives up levels of a chemical called dopamine in a part of your brain commonly known as the pleasure center. You also experience dopamine increases when you do such things as eat foods you like or have sex. However, the presence of crystal meth triggers far greater increases than these activities, especially when you smoke or inject it.
Additional Mental Effects
Crystal meth use triggers other mental changes in addition to euphoria. For instance, users typically feel more alert and awake while “high.” They also frequently experience a short-term increase in their ability to focus and pay attention. In addition, crystal meth users generally lose any sense of hunger while under the influence of the drug.
Your body also rapidly responds to the presence of crystal meth during use. Since the drug is a stimulant, the physical effects you feel will resemble those associated with other kinds of stimulant substances. They include:
- A significant increase in breathing rate
- A significant increase in heart rate
- A significant increase in blood pressure
- A significant increase in rate of physical activity
Some of the physical changes associated with a crystal meth “high” are dangerous to your health. For example, in addition to rising past a safe threshold, your heartbeat may grow unsteady or irregular. If you take too much meth, you can develop a potentially life-threatening elevation in your normal body temperature (a condition called hyperthermia). You can also go into uncontrollable seizures or convulsions.
Changes in the Effects Over Time
When you use crystal meth (or any other form of methamphetamine) repeatedly over time, your brain will eventually grow used to its effects. This phenomenon, called tolerance, also occurs in people who use other types of addictive substances. When crystal meth addicts and abusers grow accustomed to the presence of the drug in their systems, they will no longer feel as “high” as they used to when they consume any given amount of methamphetamine. In order to get the results they desire, they will have to increase their intake. In time, this cycle will repeat itself. As much as anything, it is the ongoing spiral of rising tolerance and increasing intake that leads to the development of a full-blown meth addiction.
National Institute on Drug Abuse: Methamphetamine – What Are the Immediate (Short-Term) Effects of Methamphetamine Abuse? https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/methamphetamine/what-are-immediate-short-term-effects-methamphetamine-abuse
National Institute on Drug Abuse: Methamphetamine – Drug Facts https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/methamphetamine
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