People may substitute meth if their supply of opioids is unavailable. Methamphetamines may be cheaper and more readily available. Using methamphetamines 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.
Reconnecting with Indigenous culture has proven to be a protective factor in the recovery from addictions and mental health challenges. First Nations people who use methamphetamines are often looking for a way to regain a sense of control and power to cope with issues resulting from intergenerational trauma (residential schools) and personal traumatic experiences in their life (family violence, sexual abuse, neglect or racism).
Meth-What Is It?
Meth or methamphetamine is a synthetic drug that increases brain activity to create feelings of euphoria and alertness. The drug is produced in illegal labs by mixing common chemicals. One key ingredient is pseudoephedrine (active ingredient in cold medications).
Meth resembles ice or glass, and is odourless. It can be snorted, smoked, injected, swallowed or inserted. The effects last 6-24 hours.
Stages Of Methamphetamine Use
1) Rush: initial response, lasts up to 30 minutes
2) High: feeling aggressively argumentative, lasts 4-16 hours
3) Binge: urge to maintain the high by smoking/injecting more.
4) Tweaking: the binge has peaked. 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
Short Term Effects
-Methamphetamines reduce negative feelings and increase feelings of confidence, energy, alertness. Addiction occurs quickly causing people to build tolerance and use more for the same effect.
- Increased heart rate
- Feelings of invincibility, delusions of grandeur
- Appetite suppressant, insomnia
- Stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting
- Can lead to heat stroke, stroke or heart attack
- Changes in sexual behaviour – increases arousal and more likely to engage in risky sexual practices
Long Term Effects
- 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
- Feelings of “bugs” crawling underneath the skin
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.
Suggestions when Engaging with Individuals using Methamphetamines
- Close movement may be threatening
- Bright lights can provoke a need for self-defense
- Be calm, use slow speech and a lowered tone to reduce agitation
- Use slow movements
- Visible hand movements
- Do not block or physically restrain individuals
- Be aware of underlying trauma and emotional issues
Indigenous knowledge systems which thrive on connection and human values such as kindness, respect, sharing and strength, can be powerful interventions to facilitate shifts in thinking, belief, and behaviour. (FNMWC, 2015)
Intense emotions, heightened aggression and destroyed relationships can cause meth users to be isolated, paranoid, and at high risk of attempted and successful suicide. We value life, we want to keep people who use drugs ALIVE.
Some Methamphetamine Treatment Interventions
The most common form of intervention is peer-based counselling or support programs.
Cognitive behavioural therapy uses positive reinforcement and rewards to help 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.
Harm reduction approaches such as safe inhalation sites offer supervision, distribute clean pipes, dispose used ones, and provide education and referral to those who wish to quit meth use.
Pharmacological Treatment–Medication during treatment has demonstrated success in supporting recovery, as the prolonged use of meth can affect brain functioning.
Medical Cannabis–Early research on medical cannabis shows a positive benefit in reducing the impact of environmental triggers for those recovering from stimulant use.
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.