A significant number of studies have investigated the effects of secondhand tobacco smoke and secondhand marijuana smoke. But the effects of secondhand methamphetamine smoke haven’t been thoroughly researched.
Most of what we know about passive exposure to meth comes from research on meth labs. We know meth production spreads toxins. Chemical residue remains in homes used as meth labs for years.
Children who live in meth labs consistently test positive for the drug, according to a 2015 review published in the journal Forensic Science International.
Possible health effects of meth exposure include:
Law enforcement officers have reported cases of children testing positive for meth in urine tests after their parents smoked the drug near them. These parents claimed to have never manufactured the drug. But the cases weren’t thoroughly analyzed.
Meth has been detected in areas where the drug was smoked but not manufactured. This indicates that toxins enter the environment when a person smokes meth. The toxins may be present even if you can’t see or smell the meth.
It’s unlikely someone sitting in the same room as someone smoking the drug would inhale enough contaminants to feel high or get addicted to meth. But they may experience other health effects.
In a 2008 experiment, researchers evaluated the amount of secondhand meth smoke that entered the air and landed on surfaces. They simulated smoking meth four times in an average-sized hotel room in Thornton, Colorado.
During the first two simulations, researchers mimicked the amount of smoke that would be released from one smoke, or one hit, of a meth pipe.
After accounting for the amount of smoke that would’ve been inhaled in the body, they determined one smoke released a significant amount of meth into the air. The drug was also detected on walls and other surfaces.
The third and fourth simulations were designed to mimic the amount of smoke released by a long smoking session or multiple smoking sessions. As expected, the amount of meth in the air and the amount of residue on surfaces increased significantly.
However, the amount of meth contamination measured was significantly lower than the amount detected in meth labs.
The authors concluded that children in a room where someone had smoked meth would likely be exposed to meth in the air and on surfaces even after the smoking session concluded. The study was published in the Journal of Chemical Health and Safety.
In another study, a family of five lived in a home for seven months before they were told the house was a former meth lab. Scientists tested the home and found dangerous levels of meth on several surfaces. The lab had been busted a year earlier, according to a case report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
These labs often leave toxic residue from meth ingredients in addition to traces of meth.
Each family member, including three children between the ages of 7 and 11, tested positive for methamphetamine. Two children tested positive for amphetamine. None of the family members had a history of drug use or took prescription drugs containing amphetamines.
Family members experienced long-term health problems from meth, including:
The family was drug tested three months after moving out. Meth can be detected in the urine or blood for several days after last use, but hair tests can detect the drug for up to 90 days. Only one of the family members tested positive for meth, but the levels of meth in his hair had declined significantly from the time of the first test.
The health problems went away within 12 months of moving out of the home.
Overall, being in a room where someone is smoking meth is safer than being in a meth lab. You probably won’t feel a contact high. You may exhibit some signs of meth use, such as increased heart rate or body temperature, and you’d likely fail a drug test.
But you probably won’t feel major side effects unless you’re around meth often. Living in a house where someone regularly smokes meth may cause long-term health problems.
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