Thunderbird Partnership Foundation

Opioids and Meth

In recent years, there has been a resurgence in global distribution of meth, short for  methamphetamine. It’s also commonly known as meth. Many types of drugs with different formulas are making their way around the globe and specifically impacting First Nations communities. Sometimes this is called a twin epidemic where these drugs are used at the same time. People may substitute meth if their supply of opioids is unavailable. Meth may be cheaper and more readily available. Using meth with opioids helps individuals feel balanced and function day-to-day because opioids (a depressant/downer), combine with meth (a stimulant or upper) to create a sense of physical and emotional balance.

(Opioid and Meth toolkit)

Sometimes, the combination is called speedball or popcorn when opioids are combined with stimulant drugs such as speed or Meth or cocaine. [1]

Meth-What Is It?

Meth is the common name for Methamphetamine and is a synthetic drug classified as a central nervous system stimulant. Meth increases brain activity to create feelings of euphoria and alertness. It is a neurotoxin that releases dopamine and damages the brain. The drug is currently produced in illegal labs by mixing common chemicals. It is easy to access at a low cost.

Meth resembles ice or glass, sometimes transparent, in various colours, odourless. Meth can be snorted, smoked, injected, swallowed or inserted into body cavities.

The effects of meth last 6-24 hours.

(Meth booklet)

What is Meth made from?

The purity of meth, and the potency can vary depending on ingredients.

  • One key ingredient is pseudoephedrine (active ingredient in cold medications)
  • Chemicals added may be cheap, toxic and/or flammable, commonly available in household stores.
  • Hydrochloric Acid
  • Brake Fluid
  • Ammonia
  • Nail Polish Remover (Acetone)
  • Antifreeze
  • Lithium (Battery Acids)
  • Lye
  • Paint Thinners
  • Drain Cleaners
  • Lantern Fuel Or Lighter Fluid
  • Match Tips/Road Flares (Red Phosphorous)

(Meth, Information to support a return to wellness)

Stages Of Meth Use

1) Rush: initial response when injecting or smoking. Can last up to 30 minutes

2) High: feeling aggressively smart or argumentative, intensely focused. Can last 4-16 hours

3) Binge: uncontrollable urge to maintain the high by smoking/injecting more. Can last 3-15 days during which time hyperactivity both mental and physical sets in

4) Tweaking: the binge has reached a ceiling. Can experience hallucinations, perceived as dangerous and psychotic. The risk for self-harming behaviour is at a high

5) Crash: The body shuts down and is unable to cope with the drug effects. Sleep can last 1-3 days

6) Hangover: Hungry, dehydrated and exhausted physically, mentally and emotionally. Lasts 2 to 14 days and.  Can lead to continued use, people may continue using to stop the unpleasant hangover experiences.  (Opioid and Meth Toolkit, 2019)

Short term effects of Meth

  • An upper (the opposite of opioids) as it stimulates the central nervous system

– Reduces negative feelings and increases feelings of confidence, energy, alertness

– Creates alertness and heightens mental functioning

  • Increased heart rate (to dangerous levels based on dosage)
  • Feelings of invincibility, delusions of grandeur
  • Hallucinations and talking to people who are not there
  • Appetite suppressant, insomnia and staying awake for days without eating
  • Stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting
  • Addiction occurs quickly causing people to build tolerance and use more for the same effect

– Can lead to heat stroke, stroke or heart attack

  • Changes in sexual behaviour – increases arousal and more likely to engage in risky sexual practices

(Meth Booklet)

Long Term Effects Of Meth Use

  • Changes in the brain and central nervous system (increased craving and drug seeking)
  • Damage to the heart and other major organs
  • Severe dental and skin deterioration
  • Severe weight loss
  • Experience little pleasure from activities other than drug use
  • Anxiety, poor decision making, impulsivity
  • Homicidal and suicidal thoughts
  • May occasionally cause individuals to imagine crank bugs underneath their skin pick skin off their face and/or arms

NOTE: Not everyone who uses Meth gets addicted. Some use it in a high-functioning way to cope with mental wellness challenges, time management, or to enhance other aspects of wellness.


Signs Of Meth Intoxication

  • Increased heart rate, breathing, and sweating
  • Chemical smelling breath
  • Rapid speech
  • Restlessness
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Jaw clenching or teeth grinding
  • Dehydration and dry mouth
  • Risky, unpredictable and sometimes violent behaviours
  • Paranoia, hallucinations, or psychosis
  • Tremors [2]

Don’t assume! Someone showing these symptoms does not automatically mean they are using drugs.

Meth Withdrawal

Often 30 to 90 days can pass after the last use before a person realizes they are in withdrawal. They may become depressed, lose energy and totally lose the ability to experience pleasure.

Then the craving for more methamphetamine hits, and the person can become aggressive, violent, or suicidal.

Since meth withdrawal is extremely painful and difficult, many relapse and continue use. 93% of those in traditional treatment return to abusing methamphetamine.

(Opioid and Meth toolkit)

Meth Treatment Interventions

The most common form of intervention available for individuals recovering from stimulant use is peer-based counselling or support programs. These programs, often based on 12-step principles, can provide additional recovery support by facilitating relationships and creating peer-to-peer connections.

Contingency management and cognitive behavioural therapy have also proven to be effective in supporting recovery from stimulant use. Positive reinforcement and rewards help to eliminate or change specific behaviours. Therapy focuses on examining and modifying the patterns of thinking, feelings and behaviours associated with addiction and recovery, and retraining the brain from the effects of Meth.

Harm reduction approaches are also used to respond to Meth use. Safe inhalation sites are a more recent public health initiative to address Meth use, with the first regulated location opening in Lethbridge, Alberta in 2018.

There are numerous risks from smoking meth, including bloodborne infection and viruses from pipe sharing. Inhalation sites offer supervision, distribute clean pipes, dispose used ones, and provide education and referral to those who wish to quit Meth use.

(Opioid and Meth toolkit)

Other Treatments For Meth Use

  • Drug counselling
  • Educational interventions
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
  • Mindfulness Meditation
  • Clinical Hypnosis
  • Biofeedback
  • Self‐Management
  • Motivational Interviewing

[1] From Dr. Deb

[2] Dejarlais, C. (2015). Meth Reference Guide: Remember your Spirit. Vancouver, BC: Native Courtworker and Counselling Association of British Columbia. Retrieved from

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