Crystal meth is a form of methamphetamine that appears to resemble shiny, bluish-white rocks or glass. It can be inhaled, smoked, swallowed, snorted, or injected.
Crystal meth has a high risk of addiction. It creates a quick and powerful high that also fades quickly, leading many people to binge on the drug for many days at a time.
Once someone quits using crystal meth, relapse is possible, as it is with any form of addiction. A relapse to crystal meth use comes with many associated dangers.
In the short-term, the effects of methamphetamine can produce an intense high of increased energy and euphoria. It produces many of the same effects as other stimulant drugs, such as cocaine and Adderall.
The above short-term effects of a meth high are likely to dissipate as the substance is metabolized from your system. There are many long-term side effects, however, associated with chronic meth use that are far more difficult to treat.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse explains that many of the above long-term side effects of meth use can persist for months or years after one has quit using meth. Some side effects, such as changes made to the brain, may be irreversible.
Meth is extremely addictive, and tolerance to the drug can develop quickly. It is one of the most potent stimulants available, and it works by creating a rush of dopamine, the feel-good neurotransmitter, in the brain.
Many drugs impact the release of dopamine in the brain, but meth is one of the strongest. The artificial release of excessive amounts of dopamine does not happen on its own, so users must continually take new doses of the drug.
With each use of meth, tolerance builds bit by bit in the individual’s system. This means that users must take larger amounts of meth to achieve the same intense high they initially experienced.
Over time, individuals using meth are less able to experience the pleasures associated with a natural dopamine Depression, hopelessness, and the inability to feel pleasure are often faced by people who are newly sober from a meth addiction.
With time, your brain’s natural dopamine levels will be restored after you stop using meth, and your tolerance for the drug will decrease again. For people with an extensive history of meth use, however, it could take months or years to feel like themselves again. Because of the struggle to feel any normalcy or pleasure without meth, the risk of relapse is high.
As with recovery from any drug addiction, it is fairly common to relapse on meth after participating in an addiction treatment program. In a five-year longitudinal study tracking relapse rates among graduates of a meth addiction treatment program, 61 percent of participants returned to meth use within one year. Twenty-five percent of the participants relapsed within two to five years after treatment.
With the rates of relapse being so high, it is important to understand the dangers being faced. One of the greatest dangers of relapsing is overdosing on a substance after one’s tolerance has decreased.
When you stop using a drug, your body adapts to the drug leaving the system, and your tolerance decreases. Tolerance is lowered at different rates for different people, so you may not realize how low your tolerance has gotten.
Overdose often happens during a relapse when people return to taking the same dose of a drug that they left off with, unaware of how much lower their tolerance now is.
An overdose on meth can cause serious damage to your body and can even be deadly. The greatest risks of a meth overdose include a dangerous spike in blood pressure and body temperature, which can lead to hemorrhage and organ failure.
Other symptoms of a meth overdose are:
If you witness anyone exhibiting any of the above symptoms following use of crystal meth, call 911 right away.
People with a low tolerance to methamphetamine who accidentally take too large of a dose are at the greatest risk for overdose. Receiving emergency medical care as soon as possible is the best way to ensure the overdose does not become fatal.
There are steps you can take to avoid the dangers of a crystal meth relapse. While relapse is considered to be a common part of the recovery process by substance abuse professionals, it is avoidable, and it does not have to be a part of your recovery journey.
Ways to avoid relapse include:
In addition to making all of the above changes to your daily life and bringing more awareness to your choices and lifestyle, participating in support groups such as Crystal Meth Anonymous can be an invaluable tool for your sobriety. Free and welcoming meetings are held on a regular basis throughout the United States for people to support each other in achieving the shared goal of living without meth.
Based on the 12-step model, CMA members support each other by sharing their own experiences of how they maintain their sobriety.
Once you become sober, the risk of relapse is high, so it is critical to be aware of the associated dangers and how to address them. Studies have found that the emotional state, cravings, and decision-making abilities of individuals in recovery are greatly influenced by the length of abstinence from meth. The longer you remain abstain from using meth, the greater your abilities become to make decisions that prevent you from relapsing.
One recent study found that cravings often increased until three months of abstinence was achieved. They then decreased significantly at six months and then again at one year of abstinence. These results indicate that methamphetamine addiction is hard to overcome, but recovery is possible.
By participating in a holistic treatment program that teaches you the skills you need to promote your own recovery, your likelihood of encountering the dangers of relapse greatly reduces, and your ability to maintain sobriety greatly increases.
(January 2009). Crystal Meth 101. How Stuff Works. Retrieved January 2019 from https://science.howstuffworks.com/meth1.htm
What is Crystal Meth Anonymous? Crystal Meth Anonymous. Retrieved January 2019 from https://crystalmeth.org/index.php
Methamphetamine Overdose. University of Arizona: Methamphetamine and Other Illicit Drug Education. Retrieved January 2019 from https://methoide.fcm.arizona.edu/infocenter/index.cfm?stid=216
(August 2015). Time to Relapse Following Treatment for Methamphetamine Use: A Long-Term Perspective on Patterns and Predictors. Journal on Drug and Alcohol Dependence. Retrieved January 2019 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4550209/
(June 2018). What is Methamphetamine? National Institute on Drug Abuse. Retrieved January 2019 from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/methamphetamine