Methamphetamine is most commonly known as meth. It is a highly addictive and powerful stimulant. For some, the addiction can begin with the first dose. Although it is primarily an illegally manufactured street drug, there are a few legally manufactured forms that carry a Schedule II Drug classification and are prescribed for weight loss and symptoms associated with ADHD.
The CDC estimates that more than 1 million people over the age of 12 years old in the United States are addicted to meth. Studies show that the drug is more prevalent in the Western United States. It is most commonly found in larger urban cities; however, there is an increase in use in some rural areas as well. It is attractive to many due to its availability and low price.
Meth is known for its euphoric rush followed by a relatively long-lasting high. It is either eaten, snorted, smoked, or mixed with water for intravenous injection. Depending on how the drug is administered, the high can affect the user for several hours.
Unlike many other abused substances, meth stays in the system for a long period due to its delayed metabolism. Much of the appeal of the drug is tied to its longer effect on the user. Meth affects the body in both the short term and the long term. It also has psychological effects that can last long after the drug has metabolized out of the body. It primarily targets the central nervous system and can affect the user both mentally and physically.
Initial Effects of Meth
For those trying meth only once, the reports are a feeling of being alert. However, if your look more closely, a small dose of meth will give the user the following short-term effects:
- Increase in energy and physical activity
- Loss of appetite
- Inability to sleep
- Rapid breathing
- Increased blood pressure
- Irregular and/or increased heart rate
- Elevated body temperature
Following the initial euphoric rush, the user will feel the stimulant’s effects from the high for anywhere from several minutes to several hours, depending on the method of administration. While the user might feel a false sense of well-being, if they continue their binge, a large quantity over a relatively short period of time can have the following effects on the user:
- Depressed reflexes
- Inability to focus on a given task or follow directions
- Poor balance and a lack of coordination
- Distorted perception of time
- Increase in the time it takes to react
- Erratic speech patterns
- Agitation that can become violent with little provocation
Meth Half-Life and Metabolism
Unlike most other drugs, meth has a half-life that can last as long as eight to 12 hours following a single dose. When a drug has a half-life, that means that after 12 hours, 50% of the dosage consumed is still present in the system. The drug that remains in the system after 12 hours will stay in the body for an additional three days, if not longer, depending on how much of the drug is ingested over a certain amount of time.
You need to know the half-life in order to understand how long you may experience side effects that last longer than the initial high. If you are a regular user, your body may take even longer to metabolize or break down the drug in your bloodstream. Ultimately, the amount of time it takes to metabolize the drug depends on the size of the dosage, the time of day you took it, and the manner in which you administered the drug.
Detection of Meth in Drug Tests
Meth can be detected in all four types of drug tests. It is important to note that the time estimates listed below apply to a casual user. Chronic users can test positive for weeks following their last use.
- Urine Test: Meth is usually detectable in a urine sample for one to four days for the casual user and more than a week for someone who uses the drug more regularly. Concentrations are usually heaviest in the urine because that is how the metabolites are eliminated from the body.
- Blood Test: A blood test will detect the presence of meth more quickly than any other test method. It can be detected for one to three days following last use for the casual user.
- Saliva Test: Meth can be detected in saliva for one to four days following use.
- Hair Follicle Test: Meth can be detected in hair follicles for up to 90 days following last use.
Laboratory equipment used to analyze for the presence of drugs is specific to the classification of the drug. As such, there are occasions where the results can show a false positive. Certain medications that can give a false positive for meth include:
- Weight loss products containing ephedra
- Antihistamines and cold medicine
When a false positive is suspected, further testing is then done to identify the specific drug within the drug classification.
Factors Affecting Detection Times
It can be difficult knowing exactly how long meth will stay in your system, especially for the chronic user. The following factors will affect how long it takes you to eliminate the metabolites.
If you are an overall healthy person, metabolism and elimination can happen quite quickly. If you have any conditions involving the liver or kidneys, your body will retain the drug for longer periods of time. Since the drug is metabolized in the liver and filtered through the kidneys, deficiency in the function of either of these organs can slow metabolism and elimination.
Frequency of Use
A chronic user will retain the drug in their system longer than someone who does the drug once. The half-life of the drug is partially responsible for this as the chronic user will add more of the drug to their system while the 50% retained from the previous dosage is still present in their system. This will keep compounding indefinitely until the person quits using meth.
Those with a high metabolism will process the drug through their system more quickly than those with a slower metabolism. Metabolism is also affected by the age of the user because metabolism slows considerably as we age.
Physical Long-Term Effects of Meth
Those who use meth regularly can experience some significant long-term effects of the drug. Many of these effects will affect the overall appearance of the person. Less apparent are the internal damages left by the drug.
Most long-term meth users will experience extensive damage to their teeth and gums no matter which way they administer the drug. Dental problems are primarily the result of poor nutritional habits and a lack of dental hygiene. A dry mouth typically felt by users will exacerbate the situation. The resulting tooth decay and gum disease can lead to cavities, broken teeth, and tooth loss. Higher incidents of periodontal disease are also reported as well as disorders of the temporomandibular joint.
One of the most visible effects of meth is skin issues. Methamphetamine tends to slow down the body’s natural self-healing abilities. Acne and skin sores that develop will be slow to heal. Over time the skin will also lose much of its natural elasticity resulting in the user looking much older than their actual age.
Many long-term meth users will experience significant weight loss leaving them with a frail appearance. The combination of loss of appetite with excessive physical activity is responsible. Most users are also frequently agitated, which can exacerbate their loss of appetite.
Damages to the Heart
Many different cardiovascular issues can be tied to long-term meth use. Most common is a rapid heart rate, also known as tachycardia. Chronic meth use can also lead to the heart becoming enlarged, with the walls of the heart becoming thickened and rigid, making it harder for the heart to pump blood. If there is a pre-existing condition such as cardiomyopathy or atherosclerosis, they will have an increased risk of myocardial infarction or even sudden cardiac death. Chronic meth users are also at a high risk of developing cardiovascular damage due to premature coronary artery disease.
Damage to the Brain
Over time, meth can physically alter the areas of the brain responsible for decision-making and verbal learning. It can also be connected to structural and functionalchanges to the areas of the brain responsible for memory and emotion, which can lead to some of the cognitive dysfunction commonly associated with meth use. These damages to the brain can leave the user in a state where they can easily become more agitated long after the meth use has been stopped.
Granite Recovery Centers
The Granite Recovery Centers treatment program customizes the treatment option to everyone who comes to us for help. Our founders have been in the recovery process themselves, which is what brought them to want to share their vision and success with others. Our evidence-based treatment program is highly effective for helping you begin a life without methamphetamine.
When you first enter treatment, doctors will evaluate you and place you in a medically supervised detox program where you will remain during your withdrawal. Granite Recovery Centers provides medical detoxification for people who do not need immediate medical intervention, are not a danger to themselves, and are capable of self-evacuation in the event of an emergency. Following detox, you enter inpatient treatment where you will attend group therapy, individual counseling, and 12-step meetings. Other areas of the program involve meditation, exercise, and learning about nutrition for a healthier lifestyle
Granite Recovery Centers works with each individual person to determine the amount of time they will need to remain in the inpatient program. If you still believe that you need help upon completing the inpatient program, you may consider a transfer to our intensive outpatient program. Once you have completed inpatient and/or outpatient treatment, you will have options to help you stay on your path of recovery. It is highly recommended that you stay in an aftercare program where you will continue to receive counseling. We also offer options for sober living so that you can continue to practice what you have learned among your peers.
Granite Recovery Centers facilities are all located in settings that surround you with tranquility to place you in the right atmosphere for learning healthy new behaviors to replace your former addictive behaviors. For treatment for the use of methamphetamine in the Northeastern part of the United States, look no further than Granite for the right treatment option.
If you are gathering information for a loved one who is in denial, we have intervention specialists standing by to help you get them the treatment they need to live a healthier lifestyle. Call us today to start your journey to a sober life.