Meth Drug Interactions: Cross Addiction and the Risks of Mixing Substances
Written By: Jose Londoño | Edited By: Editorial Team | Last Updated: March 8, 2021
Springboard Recovery provides effective treatment for substance use & mental health disorders.
Table of contents
- What is Methamphetamine (Meth)?
- What are the Side Effects of Meth Abuse?
- Does Abusing Meth Lead to a Drug Tolerance?
- Mixing Meth with Other Drugs
- What are Cross Addictions?
- What Types of Addiction Treatment are Needed for Cross Addictions?
- Learn More About Meth Drug Interactions, Treatment and Recovery Options
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What is Methamphetamine (Meth)?
Methamphetamine, or meth, is a highly addictive stimulant drug that impacts the central nervous system. Most users are very familiar with crystal meth, which is a form of the drug that looks like pieces of glass or rocks. They can be clear or have a blueish tint to them. Chemically, this drug is very similar to amphetamine, which is a prescription medication that is used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy.
On the street, meth is often referred to as ice, speed, blue or crystal. It can be taken in the form of a pill, by smoking it, snorting it or injecting it. The high this drug produces comes on quickly, but it leaves just as fast. Repeated doses are common for this reason. People will often go on a “meth run,” which means that they forgo food and sleep for a few days and just dose every couple of hours.
Meth is highly addictive because of the way it causes increased dopamine to be released in the brain. This causes the brain to be rewarded for this behavior, which only contributes to further abuse. Over time, people often become unable to make dopamine on their own, causing them to rely on this drug just to make themselves feel normal.
What are the Side Effects of Meth Abuse?Because meth is a stimulant drug, it tends to speed people up, rather than slow them down like alcohol or opioids do. Some of the common signs of meth abuse include:
- Hyperactivity and increased energy levels.
- Excessive talking and movements.
- Loss of appetite and weight loss as a result.
- Less of a need for sleep.
- Sores on the skin from excessive scratching.
- Burns on the lips or fingers from holding a hot pipe.
- Quick, drastic mood swings.
- Feelings of paranoia.
- Thoughts of suicide or self-harm.
- Meth mouth, which refers to poor dental hygiene, including cavities and tooth decay.
Does Abusing Meth Lead to a Drug Tolerance?When people abuse methamphetamine for a period of time, they usually find that they need to increase how much they use periodically. This is because the body forms a tolerance to the drug, so it takes more of it to experience the same effects. Eventually, people may find that instead of increasing how much meth they use, adding other drugs into the mix is a better idea. But this can be very dangerous, and even fatal in some cases. Still, it is something that people do every day.
Mixing Meth with Other DrugsMixing meth with other drugs is a way to not only amplify the methamphetamine high, but also to change it a bit. It is not uncommon for people to use more than one drug at a time to get different effects. There are several types of drugs that are typically mixed with meth.
A lot of experts believe that people will mix meth and alcohol as a way of counteracting the depressant effects of alcohol while still getting its euphoric effects. SAMHSA has reported that in 2011, 16% of methamphetamine-related emergency room visits also involved alcohol intoxication.
Methamphetamine is a stimulant drug and alcohol is a depressant drug. People who use them together may be attempting to negate the negative effects of each one. One study took a closer look at what happens when these drugs are mixed researchers determined that:
- Using both meth and alcohol together resulted in increased heart rate and blood pressure.
- The combination resulted in people feeling less drug and sedated from the alcohol.
- Meth did counteract some of the cognitive impairments that are caused by alcohol.
- Mixing the drugs resulted in less sleep disturbances.
- People experienced tolerance to the combination, and the effects of both drugs diminished over time.
The biggest concern with combining meth and alcohol is the fact that people tend to drink more while using the drug. This could be because they do not feel as intoxicated as they normally do, so they are trying to reach that level. It is problematic because users will drink a lot more alcohol, which could put them at risk for alcohol poisoning. The combination can also lead to a higher concentration of methamphetamine in the blood. This can have a negative effect on the cardiovascular system as well as on the brain.
Benzodiazepines are depressant drugs that have sedative properties. When abused, they produce a sensation of euphoria that has a calming effect. This makes them very different from the stimulant drug, methamphetamine. But people will often combine them thinking that they will cancel each other out. People may also use benzos along with meth as a way to dealing with withdrawal symptoms if they are trying to cut down their dose of methamphetamine.
Quite often mixing drugs like benzos and meth can make people think that they need more of one type of drug if they cannot feel the effects of it. This combination can be very hard on the heart because stimulants work to speed it up while depressants work to slow it down. These mixed messages to the heart can result in serious issues, including heart failure.
Mixing benzos with meth can result in the following symptoms:
- Feeling lightheaded.
- Slowed breathing or other breathing issues.
- Feeling dizzy.
- Becoming unresponsive.
- Becoming extremely sleepy.
People have also been known to have heart attacks and strokes with this drug combination. Overdosing is a very real risk, and benzos – particularly when they are mixed with other drugs – are responsible for hundreds of overdose deaths every year.
Because of the fact that marijuana has gained legal status in many states – either for medical or recreational use – it is not seen as being as dangerous as a drug like methamphetamine. But this drug still has risks; especially when it is combined with other, harder drugs.
Marijuana can have stimulant or depressant properties, but mostly, it acts as a depressant drug. There are those who use these drugs together, although some street dealers may also lace their weed products with meth.
A person who is using meth and marijuana together might experience the following symptoms and effects:
- A rush of energy.
- A feeling of hyperactivity.
- An increase in heart rate.
- An increase in blood pressure.
- An increase in body temperature.
But because marijuana has more of a relaxing quality to it, this can counteract the effects of meth. The user may then be “tricked” into thinking they need more meth, which could lead to a deadly overdose.
MDMA is a party drug that is also called Ecstasy or Molly. It is typically found in nightclubs and at raves and has become common among young people. They will use this drug to increase their energy levels and to help themselves feel more powerful. It also enhances the sensations of what they are experiencing as far as lights and sound.
As we discussed earlier meth is a stimulant drug, and while MDMA may be similar, it is a lot more complex. It produces feelings of happiness and love as well as psychoactive effects. People who take this drug are at a risk for dehydration and an increased body temperature. That means that when it is mixed with meth, it can be extremely dangerous.
Because MDMA is usually mixed with other substances, meth has become a common drug to include. Taking them at the same time can result in overheating and severe dehydration. There have been people who have died as a result of heatstroke and an increased body temperature of up to 106 degrees or higher. This can lead to organ damage or failure.
A person who has overdosed on stimulants may experience the following:
- Racing pulse
- Paranoia and hallucinations
- Severe headaches
- Chest pain or tightness
- Excessive sweating and chills
- Irregular breathing rates
- High blood pressure
What are Cross Addictions?A lot of people are addicted to more than one drug at a time, and this is called having a cross addiction, or Addiction Interaction Disorder. They may start with just one drug, but then they add one or more additional drugs in order to get a different euphoric experience. While cross addictions may be common, it is clear to see that they are also very dangerous. A person who is addicted to more than one drug needs to make sure they get treatment for both addictions in order to recover. Otherwise, it is very likely that they will end up relapsing.
What Types of Addiction Treatment are Needed for Cross Addictions?For a person who is addicted to methamphetamine and at least one other drug, detox and rehab are both highly recommended. This is because it is important to address the physical addiction as well as the psychological one. Treating withdrawal symptoms is crucial, but it is also vital to treat the underlying cause of the substance abuse problem.
Drug detox refers to the various methods of treating withdrawal symptoms. There several options available, based on the needs of the individual person and the drug they are addicted to.
For someone who is addicted to meth, going through detox will be vitally important. We always recommend a combination of medical detox and holistic treatments to help the person get through withdrawal. Medical detox allows them to take medications to help with their symptoms, while holistic detox offers a more natural approach to clearing the body of toxins.
Additional treatments may be needed depending on the other drug the person is using. For example, if they are also addicted to alcohol, medication assisted treatment is highly recommended.
The purpose of drug rehab is to provide therapy for the root cause of the addiction. In this way, the psychological cause of substance abuse is being addressed properly. People will experience various types of therapy, including individual and group sessions.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, about 50% of people who go to rehab suffer from co-occurring disorders, or other mental health issues. Quite often, they are undiagnosed and untreated, which has caused the individual to self-medicate with substances.
Dual diagnosis treatment has proven to be an effective way of treating co-occurring disorders. It addresses both addiction and mental health issues at the same time. People are able to see the connection between them and as a result, they tend to have better long-term outcomes in recovery.