Can You Overdose on Methamphetamine?

Methamphetamine, also known as meth, is a potent stimulant drug, which is used both in a controlled setting as a medication and in uncontrolled settings (casual or addicted users). Some medications for Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder include small amounts of methamphetamine in order to help patients focus, but the most commonly known version, called crystal meth among other street names, is used for very different purposes, and is much more prone to abuse. Whether you yourself are a methamphetamine user, or have a friend or loved one who uses meth, it’s important to know that overdose is very possible, and identifying an overdose quickly is vital to a good outcome.

How Does a Meth Overdose Happen?

In essence, an overdose happens any time a person takes more of a drug than their body can handle; the amount required for an overdose can vary slightly from person to person based on their natural and developed tolerances, but most drugs have a certain level of concentration in the blood that is generally fatal. Crystal meth, one form of methamphetamine, can be smoked, injected, snorted, or swallowed—making it a very popular drug among those who might find one method of taking a drug distasteful but not another. Any one of these methods can result in an overdose, although it is much easier to overdose from injecting than from, for example, swallowing the drug.

In addition, it’s important to note that methamphetamines from dealers are very rarely in their pure form, which means that an overdose can occur from a reaction to the chemicals added to the drug. This is why a person can OD without taking a lethal dose. Users may also develop a tolerance for the drug generally, making it highly addictive; this increases the risks of overdose, because if the concentration of pure methamphetamine changes, it is very difficult—nearly impossible—to detect the increase in potency before taking the drug, which can lead to an overestimation of how much the user needs to get the high they’re seeking.

What Are The Symptoms of Methamphetamine Overdose?

Crystal meth belongs to the same class of drugs—stimulants—as cocaine and, to a lesser degree, caffeine. Stimulant drugs increase central nervous system arousal; this is why meth users feel alert, and often experience a racing heart among other symptoms when simply taking the drug. The action of the drug can also produce euphoria. In situations where too much methamphetamine is taken, the symptoms can vary from person to person, but generally include:

  • Confusion and restlessness
  • Aggressive or paranoid behavior
  • Sweating
  • Spots in field of vision
  • High fever
  • Loss of muscle control
  • Severe stomach pain
  • Chest pain
  • Seizures
  • Arrhythmia of the heart
  • Heart attack or stroke
  • Convulsions
  • Sudden increase in blood pressure
  • Coma

If someone is experiencing an overdose, it is important to get them medical attention as quickly as possible. Keep in mind that the aggressive or paranoid behavior may be a danger to you—but make sure to contact 911 or other emergency services. The variety of overdose symptoms, if left untreated, can result in rapid death for the person who has taken too much methamphetamine. If your friend or loved one who is experiencing an overdose is having a seizure, try to position their head to the side in case of vomiting. A methamphetamine overdose is a very serious problem, and deserves prompt medical treatment.

Doctors will stabilize a patient who is experiencing an overdose, along with potentially using a laxative or activated charcoal to soak up any remnants of the drug if it was taken by mouth and IV fluids. Other medications may be administered to combat erratic or aggressive behavior. Prompt medical attention is the most important factor in whether or not a meth overdose is fatal.