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Author Topic: Physical risks of methamphetamine use []  (Read 1791 times)

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Physical risks of methamphetamine use []
« on: May 20, 2023, 05:28:55 AM »

Methamphetamine is considered a "hard drug" for several very good reasons. It can affect virtually every part of your body, but especially affects the two most vital of your vital organs: your brain and your heart. This article will attempt to explain what meth does, why those things are bad, and how to reduce the risks.

Regardless of the route of administration, meth is easily absorbed into your blood and slides into your brain more easily than other amphetamines. If you're not familiar with the neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine (noradrenaline,) and serotonin, take a look at their wiki pages, as they are responsible for the effects of most psychoactive drugs. Your brain cells normally store, release, and reabsorb these neurotransmitters in small amounts to regulate your metabolism. Meth stops your cells from storing and reabsorbing all three of these and releases them in large amounts. These are just some of the effects of that neurotransmitter flood:

-increased blood pressure
-increased heart rate
-increased body temperature and sweating
-vasoconstriction (shrunken blood vessels, which means decreased blood flow to your hands and feet.)
-increased urination and dehydration
-dry mouth
-dilated pupils (which may affect your ability to focus and sensitivity to light.)
-diarrhea or constipation
-increased blood glucose (usually not a serious problem, unless you're diabetic.)

Note: these are not possible adverse effects, but rather what you should expect to experience.

Possible adverse effects include, but are not limited to:

-sudden death
-heart attack
-abnormal heart rhythm
-chest pain
-shortness of breath
-erectile dysfunction
-rapid muscle breakdown
-and plenty of psychological effects covered in another article.

If you use any drugs, you should be familiar with the axiom "the dose makes the poison." A drug that is safe in small doses may do serious damage in large doses. Meth is no exception, and this applies to neurotransmitters as well. Large amounts are toxic to brain cells. Those egg-in-a-frying-pan "this is your brain on drugs" commercials are actually pretty accurate when that drug is a recreational dose of meth.

Your brain, not being used to large amounts of neurotransmitters, will adjust things to try to compensate. This is how tolerance and dependence occur, and in the short term, why you experience a comedown.

Moving on downward: your heart. While you may have heard your heart is a muscle and basically functions as a pump, it's a highly complex one and very sensitive to even small changes in your body.

If you've ever been told you have a heart condition other than high blood pressure, meth is not for you. If you have high blood pressure that isn't controlled by medication, meth is not for you. If you must try it, start lower and go slower than you would with other drugs--meth is extremely potent and even tiny doses can have a profound effect.

Normally, when your heart rate increases, your blood pressure will decrease to compensate, and vice versa. Meth increases both, making your heart work harder. If you use meth, you might want to invest in an automatic blood pressure cuff and make sure you're using it correctly. Heart rate is considered high when it's over 100 beats per minute. Your maximum safe heart rate varies, mostly based on your age--from around 200 bpm for a 20 year old to around 140 for a 75 year old. Rates higher than this can be too much for your heart to keep up with, resulting in abnormal rhythms--skipped beats, partial beats that don't pump enough blood, or even your heart just giving up and stopping.

Blood pressure is considered high when it's over 130/80 mmHg. If you can, take a look at your recent lab results so you know how high your numbers are without meth. Many practitioners make this information available to you online, or you can always ask. Blood pressure above 180/110 (either number) is high enough that it can damage organs, especially your brain, lungs, and kidneys. If yours is that high, get to an emergency room or urgent care, where they can assess whether or not you're experiencing organ damage and give you medication that will lower your blood pressure safely. Do NOT try to treat this yourself.

Your heart rate and blood pressure vary based on what you're doing, how you're feeling, and even if you're standing up or sitting down. A healthy heart can handle these changes. However, when your blood pressure remains elevated for extended periods of time, it can cause all kinds of complications, from strokes to kidney failure to blindness and many more. This is one reason meth should not be used frequently or for extended periods.

In addition to affecting your heart rate and blood pressure, meth raises your risk of abnormal rhythms as mentioned above, even if you're under your maximum heart rate. If you don't stay hydrated, high concentrations of electrolytes in your blood (sodium, potassium, calcium and a few others) will also confuse your heart into an abnormal rhythm. Low concentrations will do this, too, so don't just constantly chug water. Set a timer and have a glass every 30 minutes to an hour or so, more if you're dancing or engaged in other strenuous activity. Don't constantly chug Gatorade or similar drinks, either, as they're mostly water. If your urine is light yellow, you're usually good. If it's not so light, drink more water. If you can't remember the last time you urinated, that's getting into dangerous territory--you're basically so dehydrated that your kidneys are reabsorbing all the water they can manage, to keep you from dying. If urinating is difficult, or you can't empty your bladder completely, the meth has constricted your urethra and you're at risk for a urinary tract infection or may have one already. If you can't pass any urine despite feeling like you need to, that requires immediate medical attention. Yes, your bladder can and will explode and that can kill you.

Hopefully this has taught you a little about how risky meth is and what can be done to avoid serious problems. Think of it like a stick of deep fried butter in terms of how often it should be consumed.
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