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Side Effects and Dangers of Smoking Meth

Medically Verified: 2/1/24

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Methamphetamine is a powerful stimulant drug that increases wakefulness and physical activity–even in small doses. It is also known as meth, crystal meth, or ice. While meth can be smoked, injected, or snorted, the most common method of use is smoking. In both the short and the long term, smoking meth can have detrimental effects on the body, particularly on the cardiovascular system. People who abuse meth may experience increased heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature, all of which can have lasting effects on the mind and body.

Unfortunately, meth is just as addictive as it is powerful. Some people are said to get hooked after using the drug just once or twice. If you or someone you love has been abusing meth, it’s important to get help as soon as possible.

Immediate and Short-Term Effects of Smoking Meth

Heating up and inhaling the vapor produced by a substance allows it to enter the bloodstream almost immediately. People who smoke meth will feel the initial effects of the drug within seconds. While each high may vary from one to the next depending on the potency of the drug and what it is cut with, common short-term side effects of meth include:[1]

effects of smoking meth

  • Increased attention level, concentration, and focus
  • Increased energy, activity, and wakefulness
  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased respiration, body temperature, and heart rate
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Hyperthermia
  • Dilated pupils
  • Feelings of euphoria and invincibility
  • Anxiety
  • Psychosis
  • Hallucinations
  • Nausea and/or stomach pain
  • Dry mouth

The increased energy, wakefulness, and euphorias are the main reasons why people smoke and abuse meth. When consumed, meth releases high levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter involved in motor function, motivation, and the reward system.[1] The body can get used to elevated levels of dopamine, resulting in physical dependence on methamphetamine.

Methamphetamine Overdose

When consumed in high doses, meth can overwhelm the system and result in an overdose. Symptoms of a meth overdose include:[2]

Methamphetamine Overdose symptoms

  • Seizures
  • Rigid limbs
  • Uncontrollable jerking or tremors
  • Going in and out of consciousness
  • Racing pulse
  • Chest pains
  • Paranoia
  • Delusions
  • Agitation
  • Severe headaches
  • Hyperthermia (overheating)
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Dehydration

While there is no antidote for meth overdose, these symptoms can be managed in a medical facility with supportive care and depressant medications. If you believe someone is experiencing a meth overdose, dial 911 immediately and seek emergency medical attention.

Long-Term Dangers of Smoking Crystal Meth

Most short-term side effects of meth are not life-threatening, unless in the event of an overdose. However, due to the addictive nature of meth, many people continue using the drug once they begin smoking it. And, the long-term dangers of meth are far more deadly than the short-term ones. Here are a few of the many dangers associated with chronic meth abuse.

Meth Mouth

Meth mouth is a term that refers to dental problems like gum decay, tooth loss, and rotting teeth–all of which are extremely common among people who are frequently smoking meth. Studies have found that 96% of meth users have cavities and nearly 58% of meth users suffer from untreated tooth decay.[3]

Insomnia and Sleep Disturbances


Meth is a stimulant drug that keeps people awake because it increases activity in the central nervous system. Meth binges are very common, so people will spend several days using copious amounts of the drug without any sleep. Over time, this disrupted sleep schedule interferes with the body’s natural circadian rhythm. This can result in long-term sleep disturbances or insomnia.

Respiratory Problems


Smoking any substance, including meth, is terrible for your heart and your lungs. When you inhale the vapors from meth, you are inhaling a number of toxic chemicals ranging from paint thinner or lithium to acetone or hydrochloric acid. These toxic chemicals can leave trace amounts in the body that accumulate over time, increasing the risk for a number of respiratory and cardiovascular problems such as pneumonia, pulmonary edema, acute respiratory distress syndrome, asthma, and lung cancer.[4]

Brain Changes


Meth is physically and mentally addictive. Over time, it changes the way the brain responds to neurotransmitters like dopamine. This can lead to a number of brain changes including reduced motor speed and coordination, impaired verbal learning, emotional problems, and even mental health issues. People who abuse meth frequently may struggle with depression, anxiety, and other mental disturbances.[5]


In addition to the above-listed brain changes, smoking meth frequently can cause you to develop a number of psychotic features, such as:


  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Insomnia
  • Mood disturbances
  • Violent behavior
  • Paranoia
  • Visual and auditory hallucinations
  • Delusions

These symptoms can last for months or years after a person quits using crystal meth.[5]

Organ Damage

All drugs, when abused, can damage the body’s internal organs. Long-term meth abuse can damage the heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys. These types of organ damage can increase the risk for certain types of cancer and significantly reduce a person’s life expectancy.[6]

Weight Loss and Malnutrition

Weight Loss

One thing that meth decreases is appetite. People who are under the influence of meth may not feel hungry and fail to eat for several days. Over time, this not only leads to weight loss but also malnutrition and nutrient deficiencies.

Get Help and Stop Smoking Meth Today

Long-term meth use damages the mind and body in more ways than one. Fortunately, substance abuse treatment can help. If you or someone you know is addicted to meth, give us a call today to see how we can help.