Dangers of Shooting Crystal Meth

Crystal meth is a form of methamphetamine—a powerful and addictive stimulant drug. One of the most common ways to use crystal meth is to inject it intravenously, or with a needle in a vein. This is often referred to as “shooting up.”1

Several potential dangers accompany crystal meth use. Additional risks may present depending on how someone chooses to use this drug and how much of it they use.1

When someone chooses to use crystal meth by shooting up, they may experience not only a rapid onset of the potent stimulant effects of the drug but also an increased risk of adverse health effects, some of which may be life-threatening.2,3

Health Risks of Intravenous Meth Use

crystal meth Addicted man on street

Prior to being injected, crystalline or powdered forms of meth may first need to be crushed and dissolved into a liquid solution.4 Shooting up meth may result in a variety of complications, such as:1, 2,5

  • Skin infections and abscesses: People using meth or any other drug intravenously may not use sterile equipment to inject their desired substance. In turn, this can lead to several types of skin infections.
  • Permanent skin scarring and tracks: It’s possible for someone using drugs intravenously to develop some type of scarring that may remain visible for years after they become sober.
  • HIV/AIDS: Intravenous meth use can increase the likelihood of contracting viruses or other bloodborne illnesses like hepatitis and HIV because of needle sharing.
  • Endocarditis and damaged heart valves: Endocarditis is a condition that involves the inner lining of someone’s heart becoming inflamed due to repeated intravenous drug use or infected by bacteria introduced the bloodstream via non-sterile needles. This ailment can irreparably damage heart valves and lead to blood vessel blockage—becoming life-threatening if left undiagnosed or untreated.
  • Greater chance of overdose: Injecting a drug may increase someone’s likelihood of overdose, as it is often difficult to estimate how much meth is being used. Also, the rapid onset of effects associated with needle administration amplify the risks.
  • Addiction development: The intensely rewarding “rush” felt after intravenous methamphetamine use increases the addiction potential of an already considerably addictive drug.

When someone uses crystal meth in any form, they experience a rapid release of dopamine in key reward centers of the brain. Dopamine is a naturally occurring brain signaling molecule. Dopamine release is involved with several important brain processes, including those related to motivation, movement, emotions, memories, and the reinforcement of rewarding behaviors.1

Unlike what occurs after swallowing a pill, when someone uses meth through a needle, their body does not need to slowly absorb it through the digestive tract or circulate the drug through the liver before it enters the general bloodstream. Instead, meth used intravenously quickly enters the bloodstream where it is instantly delivered to the brain, making for an intensely amplified euphoric high that reinforces its abuse potential.5

Signs of Shooting Crystal Meth

Bags of crystal meth and signs that someone is shooting itIt can be difficult to tell whether someone is shooting up drugs. However, there are some identifiable physical and psychological signs that may lead you to a more precise conclusion of whether someone is shooting up drugs or, more specifically, meth.

Some signs of intravenous meth use include scarring or track marks and the presence of paraphernalia, like syringes.6 When someone is high on meth, their mood may change quickly and sometimes they may exhibit immense volatility and anger.8

Other potential signs of any form of methamphetamine use include:1,8

  • Extreme weight loss.
  • Multiple sores from picking at the skin.
  • Dental issues and rotten teeth (also known as “meth mouth).
  • Violent behavior.
  • Paranoia.
  • Hallucinations.

To know whether a person is actually shooting crystal meth or injecting methamphetamine in any form, it is best to consult a medical professional. While discussing the signs of drug abuse, a medical or clinical professional will offer the most informed diagnoses and treatment recommendations.

How Meth Affects the Brain and Body

Methamphetamine is a psychoactive drug, meaning that its use results in mind-altering effects.9 To shed light on why someone may begin to compulsively use methamphetamine, whether by injecting, swallowing, smoking, or snorting meth, it helps to first understand how meth affects a person’s brain and body.

Upon consumption, meth results in a rapid surge of dopamine activity in a person’s brain. This rush of dopamine activity accompanies an immense euphoria and an energetic high.1

People commonly use meth in a “binge and crash pattern”. Since the intense high of meth subsides relatively quickly, it is common for users to binge meth for many days before crashing.1

Crystal meth’s effects include:1

  • Insomnia/increased wakefulness.
  • Appetite suppression.
  • Rapid breathing.
  • Fast or irregular heart rate.
  • Raised blood pressure and/or body temperature.

These are only the immediate effects. People who use meth repeatedly over a long period may suffer even more severe effects, such as disruptions to the blood-brain barrier, long-term damage to certain types of brain cells, and memory loss. 1,10 Studies have even found that meth can increase the overall amount of toxins in a person’s brain.10 Other long-term risks of methamphetamine use include extreme weight loss, severe dental health issues, skin problems, anxiety, paranoia, and addiction.1

Treatment for Crystal Meth Abuse

If you or someone you love is abusing crystal meth, it may be time to seek treatment for a meth addiction, or stimulant use disorder.

When people quit stimulants like methamphetamine, they may experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms that can complicate recovery efforts and make relapse more likely. While methamphetamine withdrawal symptoms don’t often present life-threatening risks such as those associated with alcohol and other central nervous system depressants,11 people may still benefit from the close supervision and medical/mental health support of a professional detox program.

One critical and often overlooked type of withdrawal symptom that may result from stimulant withdrawal is the risk of developing mood disturbances including a profound dysphoria. In some cases, such changes in mood may be associated with harmful behaviors such as relapse, self-injury, and even death by suicide.11

Recovery First provides detox, withdrawal management, and substance abuse treatment for those suffering from addiction to stimulants and/or other substances including alcohol, opioids, and benzodiazepines. We’re here for you to discuss your treatment options 24/7. Call us confidentially today at to find meth addiction treatment.

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