Smoking Meth

Smoking meth is one of the most common ways of consuming the drug. Most people smoke crystal meth, a rock-like form of methamphetamine. But meth can also be smoked in powder form. Smoking meth has a bigger impact on the brain than other forms of drug use.
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Smoking meth is the fastest way to get the drug to the brain. For people who only care about getting high, smoking the drug can seem like a good idea. But it causes profound changes to the brain that can lead to meth addiction.

Side Effects of Smoking Meth

Smoking methamphetamine causes a more intense high than snorting or injecting the drug, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. When a person smokes meth, the drug enters blood in the lungs and travels to the brain. The person feels a rush of energy and happiness, and breathing, heartbeat and blood pressure increase.

Smoking meth also causes side effects, including:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Itching
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Agitation
  • Sleep problems

In high doses or with repeated use, meth can cause hallucinations and more serious health problems. A meth overdose can cause a heart attack, stroke or coma.

After the high fades, people experience meth withdrawal. The crash causes depression, exhaustion and strong cravings for the drug.

Inhaling meth increases the risk of dental problems that are commonly referred to as meth mouth. Symptoms of meth mouth include tooth decay, inflamed gums and tooth loss. Smoking meth can also cause long-term damage to the throat and lungs.

Research on the effects of smoking meth while pregnant is limited. Studies have found that the children of mothers who smoked meth during pregnancy were more likely to have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. They were also more likely to exhibit aggressive behavior and learning problems.

Why People Smoke Meth

People have different reasons for smoking meth. Most people try meth for the first time because they’re looking for a greater high than other drugs can provide. They may choose to smoke it because they’re used to smoking gateway drugs, such as cigarettes or marijuana.

They may only have access to crystal meth, also referred to as ice. Ice is a form of meth that is usually smoked. Converting it into a substance that can be injected is complicated, and some people are hesitant to shoot meth. Smoking the drug also causes a more rapid and intense high than injecting or snorting meth.

Many people who use drugs are concerned with bioavailability, which refers to the dose of the drug that enters the blood after it’s consumed. They don’t want to swallow the drug because a large portion of the meth will be metabolized and excreted before it reaches the brain. Smoking meth forces almost all of the meth to reach the brain, according to a 2003 study published in the journal Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics.

How People Smoke Meth

Most people smoke crystal meth or ice out of specialized glass pipes. They also use a variety of homemade contraptions, such as pen cases, aluminum foil and light bulbs.

Smoking meth usually leaves brown or black residue on the pipe or makeshift pipe. Dirty aluminum foil, tubes, pipes or other contraptions can be signs of meth use.

When people smoke meth, they usually don’t hold the meth vapors in their lungs for a long time. They’re often aware of the damage that meth can do to their lungs.

Few people smoke meth one time per session. Most people who use the drug smoke it every 10 to 15 minutes to prevent the high from fading. The effects of meth can last between six and 12 hours, but the initial high or rush from the drug lasts for less than 30 minutes.

Some people smoke meth continuously for multiple days. Repeatedly smoking meth drains the brain of dopamine, a chemical in the brain that affects mood and happiness. When people smoke the drug for multiple days, they lose the ability to get high because their dopamine levels drop so low.

These binges change the way the brain operates. The organ reprograms itself to crave meth so it can achieve the same feelings of happiness. The more often a person smokes meth, the more addicted they’ll become to the drug.

Medical Disclaimer: aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

Chris Elkins, MA
Senior Content Writer,
Chris Elkins worked as a journalist for three years and was published by multiple newspapers and online publications. Since 2015, he’s written about health-related topics, interviewed addiction experts and authored stories of recovery. Chris has a master’s degree in strategic communication and a graduate certificate in health communication.

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