Medically Reviewed By:
Dr. Patricia Sullivan MD MPH on 10/24/2021
Methamphetamine Overdose: What to Look For
A meth overdose is a definite possibility with continued chronic abuse. Methamphetamine is a psychomotor stimulant, meaning it stimulates a person’s central nervous system (CNS).
CNS stimulation causes a person’s physical and mental processes to speed up, sometimes to dangerous and even life-threatening levels. The more meth a person uses, the faster the central nervous system operates.
Meth is often used in binges or “runs.” During a meth run, the person will most likely take the drug every few hours for several days. While on a “run,” the high person usually does not eat or sleep, weakening his body even more.
If you suspect that you or a loved one is experiencing an overdose, please stop reading and call 911 immediately.
If you or someone you love is suffering from meth addiction, give us a call at (888) 906-0952. We can assist you confidentially and at no-cost.
- Meth, Abuse, Poisoning, and Overdose
- What Does a Meth Overdose Look Like?
- Permanent Damage From Meth Overdose
- What Are the Long-term Effects of a Meth Overdose?
- What the Experts Say About Long-term Brain Damage From Meth
- How Meth Overdoses Wreak Havoc on the Body
- Stop Experiencing Horrific Consequences Get Help for Meth Addiction
Meth Abuse, Poisoning, and Overdose
A person can die from a meth overdose. Meth poisoning should be suspected in any meth overdose patients showing severe cardiac issues, severe hydration, and dangerously low sodium.
A meth overdose occurs when the person uses too much of a drug and has a toxic reaction that results in serious, harmful symptoms or even death.
Chronic toxicity in individuals suffering from Methamphetamine Use Disorder (MUD) and chronic meth abuse can lead to paranoid psychosis with visual, physical, hearing hallucinations, cardiac issues, and complications from dental infections.
Acute toxicity may present with symptoms as mild as nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, flushing, sweating, headache, restlessness, tremors, severe irritability, grinding of teeth, jaw clenching, or heart skips.
Severe symptoms include hyperactivity, confusion, aggression, muscle tightness, heart skipping beats, high blood pressure, chest discomfort, hallucinations, dehydration, lack of reality, and hypothermia.
Also, critically ill patients exhibit seizures, coma, renal failure, and fatal heart attack.
In 2017, 15% of all drug overdose deaths involved meth, and 50 % of those deaths also involved an opioid, with half of those cases having synthetic opioid fentanyl.
Cheap, dangerous synthetic opioids are many times added to street-made meth without the user knowing.
Because meth overdose often leads to stroke, heart attack, or organ problems, first responders and emergency room doctors try to treat the overdose by treating these conditions.
The goal of medical professionals is to:
- Restore blood flow to the affected part of the brain (potentially stroke)
- Restore blood flow to the heart (heart attack)
- Treat any organ problems.
Always remember, a person CAN overdose on meth. The above conditions are most likely the issues presented to emergency room personal in a meth overdose, which the doctors will need to treat instead of the actual overdose like some drugs.
Multiple drug use causes the most danger as treatment becomes so much more difficult. Different substances require different treatments, and some treatments are not good for some overdoses, leaving medical personnel to play Russian Roulette with each individual and the different drugs in their system.
Meth Overdose Symptoms
When a person overdoses, blood pressure, breathing, heart rate, and temperature increase significantly, putting important organs at risk.
When this begins, the person using meth may exhibit the following signs (symptoms) of overdose:
- physical aggression
- chest pain
- intense stomach pain
- irregular of greatly quickened heartbeat
- trouble breathing
- loss of consciousness
- cardiac arrest
A fatal meth overdose is most often preceded by convulsions and coma. Although people who often chronically abuse large amounts of meth experience overdoses, even first-time users of meth can overdose.
Often, this is caused by meth being used with other drugs such as alcohol, cocaine, opioids, and heroin.
Abusing multiple drugs makes overdoses even more likely and complications of overdoses even more prevalent. According to the CDC in 2016, “nearly 20% of the overdose deaths involving methamphetamine also involved heroin.”.
The dangers of a meth overdose happen because overstimulation of the CNS can cause a dangerously high body temperature and blood pressure. These can cause stroke, heart attack, and organ problems, including kidney failure.
The persons in danger of overdosing HAVE to get immediate medical treatment since any of these conditions can become fatal. However, even if the person(s) survive the overdose, risks still are apparent.
Permanent Damage From Meth Overdose
Permanent damage is likely to have been suffered, causing major physical and mental health problems, including:
- chronic anxiety and psychosis
- destroyed muscle tissue, leading to amputation
- heart problems
- impaired mental functioning
- kidney failure, requiring dialysis
At best, short-term effects of chronic meth abuse include:
Long-Term Meth Effects
Unfortunately, long-term chronic abuse of meth can cause a whole host of problems. Hallucinations are most common, many times of bugs crawling on or beneath the skin.
This will cause the abuser to pick at their skin, causing horrible sores that many times have difficulty healing.
Other symptoms, by this point extremely dangerous, are:
- the bad complexion, skin sores, severe acne
- chronic paranoia, insomnia, and anxiety
- severe dental issues
- high blood pressure
- extreme weight loss
- infections of the heart
- permanent nerve damage, including the brain
- organ damage
- violent, homicidal, or suicidal behavior
Permanent damage will cause the individual to develop extreme mood swings, display psychotic behavior, and experience delusions or auditory hallucinations.
Chronic, long-term use can permanently harm the brain, causing brain damage with symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease. Help is needed before things get worse.
Abnormal findings are common in cardiovascular, CNS, gastrointestinal, renal, skin, and dental areas.
Many medical issues can and will arise with chronic meth abuse. Severe abdominal pain may happen with ulcers and colitis.
Renal failure can occur from parts of the intestines dying from chronic drug abuse. Already, skin findings have been determined, including delusions of bugs on or under the skin, chronic skin picking, and neurotic actions.
Those who use needles and inject meth frequently have abscesses, and cellulitis addicts will often be explained as a spider bite.
Dental issues are caused by poor hygiene and decreased system functions resulting in “meth mouth” – horrible teeth with horrible cavities.
Meth overdose can also happen in a fetus if the user is pregnant, causing the death of a fetus. The overdose will likely result in spontaneous abortion.
Also, meth is secreted in the mother’s breast milk and can cause overdose and death in the young infant.
What the Experts Say About Long-term Brain Damage From Meth
Research published in 2014 found that meth has toxic effects on the nervous system. The toxicity leads to damage of the serotonin and dopamine receptors in the brain. Long-term use can cause damage to the brain, very similar to traumatic brain injury (TBI).
The damage that occurs during long-term chronic abuse can cause brain damage that lingers for months after abuse and use has stopped and, in many cases, permanently.
As stated earlier, brain damage in meth users leads to a higher risk of Parkinson’s disease. Misuse may also create extreme anorexia. Those using and overdosing on meth, even for a short period, will notice a drastic change in appearance.
From 2010 to 2014, the number of yearly drug overdose deaths increased by 23%. In 2010, 38,329 people died by drug overdose compared to 47,055 in 2014.
The top ten drugs include the following:
- Alprazolam (Zanax)
- Diazepam (Valium)
- Hydrocodone (Lorcet)
Here are some comparisons of the past challenges claiming the lives of Americans compared to more recent drug overdose deaths in recent years.
Unemployment and isolation are both risk factors for addiction and potential overdose. How do we minimize these risk factors? Who can help? Answers need to be found to help this overwhelming epidemic. Too many lives are being lost. Without some answers, overdose deaths are just going to continue to get worse.
How Meth Overdoses Wreak Havoc on The Body
When a person begins to overdose on meth, their central nervous system becomes overstimulated and causes extremely high blood pressure and body temperatures. These changes cause strokes, organ problems, and heart attacks.
Some signs of meth overdose include agitation, aggression, chest pains, paranoia, panic, confusion, stomach pains, loss of consciousness, seizures, and more. If you survive a meth overdose, you will most likely be left with permanent damage.
The damage may be chronic anxiety and psychosis, destroyed muscle tissue leading to amputation, heart problems, impaired mental functioning, and kidney failure. The list of potential damage is long and scary.
Stop Experiencing Horrific Consequences: Get Help for Meth Addiction
As you move forward, the continued chronic abuse of meth, caused by having MUD, has many consequences. Many of those consequences you cannot even see. The negative effects on your health can be staggering, and until you are in big trouble, you may not even know.
At a minimum, you need to seek medical attention to ensure you are physically healthy. Some of the health issues caused by chronic meth abuse are severe and can cause death without an immediate overdose.
Finding the help you need to be healthy and stop the endless cycle of meth abuse is critical. We can help you.
Please call us at (888) 906-0952 and allow us to help you understand your options for meth addiciton treatment.
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