Some meth abusers say crystal meth produces a high like none other. The drug works by flooding the brain with high amounts of dopamine. This is one of the brain chemicals responsible for feeling pleasure. Very high levels of dopamine can make you feel euphoric and invincible. As you continue to abuse meth, the intensity of that high gets weaker. Many meth abusers say they keep trying to chase the intense meth high they got the first time they used meth. They know they’ll never get it, but that doesn’t stop them from trying. This cycle is how you can quickly develop an addiction to meth and a tolerance to its pleasurable effects.
How People Get High on Meth
Crystal meth is a common name for the street drug methamphetamine. It gets its name because it looks like the crystals found in some rocks. Methamphetamine users experience similar mental and physical changes while “high,” regardless of the form of meth they take. The difference is how quickly the effects of meth arise and how intense they feel. When you smoke or inject meth, it reaches your brain much faster than swallowing or snorting it. Crystal meth is typically smoked. Some meth addicts prefer crushing it into a powder and injecting it into their veins. Meth abusers may also swallow or snort meth. These methods also produce a much more powerful “high.” The speed and power of a meth high is what many meth addicts say draws them to the drug.
What Meth Highs and Crashes Are Like
Like many illicit drug users, meth users are after the euphoria they feel after taking meth. Methamphetamine affects the reward center of the brain. Meth causes a feeling of euphoria by driving up levels of the feel-good chemical, dopamine. Dopamine also increases when you do things like eat foods you like or have sex. However, crystal meth triggers far greater increases than these activities, especially when you smoke or inject it. Crystal meth use triggers other mental changes as well. You may feel more alert and awake while “high.” You may feel like you can focus better. You can feel less of a need for food. The highs and lows of meth can be intense. When you’re addicted to meth, you go through this cycle over and over again. Here are the stages of a meth high, or the short-term effects of meth:
You only experience a “meth rush” if you smoke or inject the drug. It happens in the first minutes after taking it, and can last a few minutes to an hour. When meth enters your system quickly, like when you inject or smoke it, the gland that produces adrenaline is activated. It floods your body with adrenaline. The adrenaline paired with the excessive amount of dopamine can create intense physical sensations. During a meth rush your breathing and heart rate increase and you may feel shaky. You also feel a powerful euphoria.
The High (or “The Shoulder”)
After the intense euphoria of the rush, meth effects create a pleasurable high. This can last from a few hours to half a day depending on the amount of meth and how it was taken. Meth intoxication can make you feel confident and aggressive. You may be talkative and energetic. Some meth abusers get into fights and interrupt people when they’re high. The high of meth can make you restless and suppress your appetite. Your body rapidly responds to the presence of crystal meth. Since meth is a stimulant, the physical effects are similar to other kinds of stimulant drugs. They may include increases in:
- Breathing rate
- Heart rate
- Blood pressure
- Physical activity
Some of the physical effects of a crystal meth high are dangerous. For example, 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 seizures or convulsions. The euphoria of a meth high can also lead to poor decision-making. You may have unprotected sex, putting you at risk for sexually transmitted diseases. You may put yourself in dangerous situations like driving a car during meth intoxication or taking extreme risks because you have a feeling of invincibility.
People addicted to methamphetamine try to make the meth high last as long as possible by binging on the drug. Meth binges may last a few days to a couple weeks. During a meth binge you won’t achieve the intensity of the first high. Every time you take meth after the first injection of the binge, the high decreases until you’re no longer able to get high. You’ll also start experiencing some tweaking symptoms. Meth abusers usually keep binging on meth to avoid tweaking, but it eventually comes.
Tweaking is where some of the more infamous symptoms of meth abuse show up. When a meth addict is portrayed on television, it’s often in the tweaking phase. Tweaking is when you’ve binged on meth until your body can no longer get high anymore. You’ve severely drained your dopamine supply and physically exhausted your body. Common symptoms of tweaking include:
- Agitation and irritability
- Hallucinating sounds
- Feeling like bugs are crawling on you (known as meth bugs or crank bugs)
- Movement problems
- Violent behavior
Many methamphetamine abusers try to cope with tweaking by abusing alcohol or other drugs. This can make recovering from the effects of meth even harder, which can fuel more meth use.
After a meth binge, you’ll inevitably crash. It’s what it sounds like. You sleep for a long time. All your energy is depleted and you can’t do much of anything. You feel like you can barely move. This can continue for about three days. Each time you binge and crash, your “normal state” gets worse. Taking crystal meth over and over can cause the brain to rewire. It stops being able to produce regular amounts of dopamine on its own. It also thinks it needs excessive amounts of dopamine to function. When crystal meth abusers get used to having meth in their systems, they no longer feel as “high” as they used to when they take any amount of methamphetamine. In order to get the desired high, they keep increasing their meth intake. In time, this cycle repeats itself. It’s the ongoing spiral of rising tolerance and increasing intake that leads to meth addiction. People with meth addiction, usually have meth withdrawal symptoms when they go without the drug for a while. This can include:
- Depression and mood swings
- Suicidal thoughts
- Loss of energy
- Meth cravings
How to Kick a Meth Addiction
Meth addiction can be hard to overcome. According to one study, 61% of meth users relapsed within a year of quitting meth. Addiction recovery from meth is possible with determination and the right treatment though. Time in an inpatient addiction treatment center may be necessary. You’ll have space to focus on yourself. You’ll get distance from triggers to use drugs and alcohol. In substance abuse treatment you learn coping skills that help you stay sober in everyday life. Drug rehab centers also address co-occurring disorders. These are mental health issues that may fuel drug addiction. People with meth addictions sometimes also have mental health issues like:
- Bipolar disorder
- Anxiety disorders
- Major depression or mild, chronic depression
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Other substance issues like alcohol abuse and mixing drugs
Sometimes mental disorder symptoms are part of the psychosis that meth causes. Conditions like depression can come about because of changes in dopamine from meth effects. Other times, you may already have a mental health disorder prior to using drugs or alcohol. Meth abuse may be your way of coping with mental disorder symptoms. Drug rehab centers have psychiatric specialists. They’re able to appropriately treat mental health symptoms. Drug rehabs provide professional and peer support. You’ll explore emotional pain with trained counselors. Group therapy helps you feel less alone. You’ll be with people who are also struggling with drug addiction. This can provide support and accountability in recovery. An addiction to meth can put you in a dark place. Your whole life revolves around reaching a high that gets harder and harder to obtain. Relationships, finances, jobs and self-care suffer. It may feel impossible to crawl out of the hole of meth addiction. Know that you or your loved one can get better. Call [phone] for help.