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What is Methamphetamine (Meth)?

Methamphetamine, known as meth for short, is a highly addictive drug. It’s a white, odorless crystal-like powder with a bitter taste. It was developed in the early 20th century and used in bronchial inhalers and as a nasal decongestant.

Like its “parent drug” amphetamine, it decreases appetite, increases talkativeness, and creates a pleasant sense of euphoria. With methamphetamine, though, more of the drug gets into the brain, so it has a higher potency. It also lasts longer and causes greater harm to the central nervous system (CNS).

For these reasons, methamphetamine is only available through a one-time low-dose doctor’s prescription for treating weight loss and ADHD, but it is rarely used for these reasons. 

Why Do People Snort Meth? 

People take meth in different ways, including intravenously, by snorting (sometimes called railing), by smoking, and by hot railing, which is a combination of smoking and snorting. There are many reasons why someone would choose to snort meth over the other options.

First, snorting meth eliminates the health risks associated with injecting drugs like HIV or hepatitis exposure. Snorting meth also creates a longer-lasting high (6 to 12 hours) than one experiences when injecting or smoking the drug.

Additionally, injecting and smoking meth increases the risk of addiction. Someone snorting risk still has a high risk of addiction, but not as high as when the drug is taken in other ways. 

Regardless of how it’s used, meth is always highly addictive because of the flood of dopamine it triggers in the brain. Especially when it is used frequently.

Despite the slight decrease in addiction risk when snorting meth, it is not safer than using other injection methods. People who snort the drug often progress to using needles and smoking it.

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What Happens in the Body When You Snort Meth?

Snorting meth produces feelings of euphoria. It is not the intense rush people feel when smoking or injecting the drug. The high occurs within three to five minutes. 

Common Side Effects of Snorting Meth

Snorting meth produces both short- and long-term side effects, including:

Short-Term Effects of Snorting Meth

  • Increased attention
  • Decreased fatigue
  • Increased activity and alertness
  • Decreased appetite
  • Euphoric feeling
  • Increased respiration
  • Increased and/or irregular heart rate
  • Hyperthermia
  • Elevated blood pressure

Long-Term Effects of Snorting Meth

  • Addiction
  • Psychosis symptoms including paranoia, hallucinations, and repeated actions
  • Changes in brain structure and function
  • Problems with thinking
  • Loss of coordination
  • Increased distractibility
  • Memory loss
  • Aggressive or violent behavior
  • Mood disturbances
  • Severe dental problems (‘meth mouth’)
  • Weight loss

Signs of Snorting Meth

Although you might not immediately recognize the signs of meth use, you’ll know something is unusual after someone uses the drugs. Signs of snorting meth include:

  • Facial tics
  • Runny nose
  • Compulsive motor activity (pacing, pulling hair, etc.)
  • Delusional thinking
  • Erratic sleeping patterns
  • Lack of personal hygiene
  • Loss of interest in activities and relationships
  • Stealing or selling items to buy more meth

Methamphetamine use also drastically affects someone’s appearance. People using meth tend to have a sunken, hollow face and “meth mouth.” Meth mouth occurs due to the extreme dental decay linked to the use of the drug. Meth users also feel as if bugs are crawling on or under their skin. This causes them to scratch and pick at their skin and develop sores and scabs (meth mites).

Snorting meth also damages the nasal passages. People who snort have nasal infections, nosebleeds, and sores near their noses.

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Dangers of Snorting Meth

Snorting meth produces a less intense high. Over time, people increase their dosage amount, which puts them at a greater risk of overdosing. Snorting also poses a risk to the nasal passages that isn’t a problem when injecting or smoking the drug.

Other dangers of snorting meth include:

  • Skin sores and infections
  • Dry mouth
  • Hallucinations
  • Weight loss
  • Increased sex drive and risk of sexually transmitted diseases
  • Insomnia
  • Overdose

Signs of meth overdose include:

  • High body temperature
  • Seizures
  • Stomach pain
  • Chest pain
  • Irregular or stopped heartbeat
  • Coma

Snorting meth produces several mental effects. The risk of addiction is high and many people find they do not feel happy or normal unless they are using the drug, even after just a few uses.

Nearly all drug use results in personality changes, but meth changes things aggressively. As someone “comes down” from a meth high, they feel irritable, depressed, and paranoid. Long-term use increases these withdrawal effects.

Additional mental effects of snorting meth include:

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Difficulty forming thoughts
  • Distraction
  • Hallucinations
  • Memory loss
  • Paranoia
  • Psychosis

What are the Symptoms of a Meth Overdose?

Symptoms of a methamphetamine overdose include:

  • High body temperature
  • Seizures
  • Stomach pain
  • Chest pain
  • Irregular or stopped heartbeat
  • Coma

What to Do if Someone Overdoses on Meth 

You should call 911 immediately if you believe someone has overdosed on meth. There are also things you can do to reduce a person’s risks while you wait for emergency medical services to arrive. 

If the overdose causes a seizure, hold the person’s head to prevent injury but do not hold their arms or legs. Gently tilt their head back and to the side gently to keep their airway open and prevent choking if they vomit. 

Does Snorting Meth Increase Addiction Risk? 

Meth is a highly addictive drug regardless of how it’s ingested. Some believe that snorting meth reduces the risk of addiction, but this isn’t always the case.

The high you get from snorting is more gradual, which gives the false impression that the use of the drug is more easily managed. But because of the highly addictive nature of the drug, there’s a good chance more-than-one-time users will develop an addiction, regardless of how meth is used. 

Is Snorting or Smoking Meth Worse?

Snorting meth produces a less intense rush than smoking or injecting it. Many health experts believe this makes it more dangerous because there’s a high risk of overdose. 

People seeking the intense rush, especially those who’ve used meth in other ways, use more and more of the drug, increasing the odds they’ll OD.

Treatment Options for Meth Addiction 

If you or a loved one is addicted to meth, seeking professional addiction treatment is the best way to break the addiction. Health experts recommend up to 90 days in an addiction treatment program. 

Treatment includes:

  • Individual counseling
  • Family therapy
  • 12-step drug addiction support
  • Sober living skills

Meth addiction treatment is available on both an inpatient and outpatient basis.

How to Safely Detox from Methamphetamine

Meth addiction treatment is most effective when provided by a professional detox and addiction center. However, there are also things you can do at home during outpatient treatment or after inpatient treatment to increase the odds of successful recovery. 

For example:

  • Dietary improvements
  • Meditation
  • Routine exercise
  • Adequate sleep
  • Acupuncture
  • Yoga

Healthy living eases the side effects of meth withdrawal. This comedown phase includes many intense symptoms. The euphoria of the drug wears off and users experience:

  • Sadness
  • Depression
  • Hopelessness
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle pain or weakness

These symptoms usually last a few days and there is a high risk of relapse during this time. Anything you can do to manage these symptoms increases the odds of a successful recovery.

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Resources

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National Institute on Drug Abuse. Methamphetamine. https://www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/methamphetamine.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. Methamphetamine Drug Facts. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/methamphetamine.

“Methamphetamine Overdose: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia.” Medlineplus.gov, https://www.medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007480.htm.

National Center for Biotechnology Information, et al. A Systematic Review of Methamphetamine Precursor Regulations. Www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, Centre for Reviews and Dissemination (UK), 2011, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK85691/.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. Methamphetamine Overdose Deaths Rise Sharply Nationwide. 20 Jan. 2021, https://www.drugabuse.gov/news-events/news-releases/2021/01/methamphetamine-overdose-deaths-rise-sharply-nationwide.

Curtis, Eric K. “Meth Mouth: A Review of Methamphetamine Abuse and Its Oral Manifestations.” General Dentistry, vol. 54, no. 2, 2006, pp. 125–129; quiz 130, https://www.pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16689071/.

Related Pages

Meth Overdose

Smoking Meth

Crystal Meth: Side Effects, Addiction Symptoms & Risks

Meth Sores

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