By now, most people understand that opioid drugs are highly addictive and are causing fatal overdoses across the U.S. Although the opioid crisis has received considerable attention over the last few years, it’s not the only deadly drug out there.
Methamphetamine overdoses have skyrocketed throughout the U.S. According to government data, 6,700 individuals died from a methamphetamine overdose in 2016. Between June of 2019 and June of 2020, there were nearly 20,000 methamphetamine overdose deaths. Many of the fatalities involved multiple drugs.
Addiction specialists these days are describing the burgeoning use of methamphetamine as “a methamphetamine epidemic.” Although there are three different drugs that are currently used to effectively treat opioid addiction, there are no medications that can be used to treat methamphetamine addiction.
Fortunately, meth addiction and opioid addiction can both be treated with behavioral therapy. For people with a stimulant use disorder in particular, a therapy called contingency management shows promise as an effective treatment.
Table of Contents
- What Does a Meth Pipe Look Like?
- Meth Pipe Construction
- Why Do People Use Meth Pipes?
- Are Meth Pipes Illegal?
- Are Meth Pipes Dangerous To Use?
- Can Smoking Meth Hurt Me in Other Ways?
- Overdose Potential When Using Meth Pipes
- Self-care Is Essential
- What Are Harm Reduction Strategies?
- Harm Reduction Techniques for Meth Pipe Users
- Self-protection When Using Meth Pipes
What Does a Meth Pipe Look Like?
Anyone with a full-blown meth habit will keep a meth pipe and a lighter as close as their phones. The classic meth pipe is a glass tube with a small, round glass bowl at one end that has a tiny opening. These are the standard features of a typical meth pipe.
As the popularity of methamphetamine grows, the demand for different pipe designs grows with it. Besides the classic glass pipe design described above, meth pipes come in a variety of styles, shapes, sizes and colors.
Most pipes are a few inches long and easy to quickly tuck away in a pocket. Meth pipes that have been recently used will have scorched bowls.
If a proper pipe is unavailable, meth users are nothing if not resourceful. Pipes have been designed with readily available materials including cardboard toilet paper rolls, aluminum foil, soda cans, light bulbs and water bottles.
Meth Pipe Construction
A meth pipe is a distinctive apparatus. Many are made of a thin material that doesn’t easily burn. Meth is only vaporized when heated to a very high temperature, and therefore the pipe must be able to resist burning.
The round bowl concentrates the smoke in the chamber and prevents it from escaping from the pipe. Very little is wasted, and the user gets more to inhale.
Why Do People Use Meth Pipes?
There are several ways to ingest methamphetamine. Besides smoking it, people snort it, swallow it or inject it. Smoking and injecting both produce an intense and nearly instantaneous euphoria, whereas snorting and swallowing take between five and 15 minutes to deliver a milder and longer-lasting high.
Because the effects of smoking are almost as intense as the effects of injecting, many users get high with meth pipes instead of with needles. Pipes are easier to use and easier to hide.
Although using meth pipes instead of needles protects meth smokers from abscesses, meth pipes carry their own set of dangers. Fortunately, by practicing harm reduction strategies, meth pipe users can take further precautions while continuing to use meth.
Are Meth Pipes Illegal?
Meth pipes are classified as drug paraphernalia because they are used to ingest illegal substances. Federal law prohibits the selling of drug paraphernalia.
Depending on your state, you may also be charged with possession of drug paraphernalia whether you intend to sell it or not. In certain cases, meth pipes can be used as evidence of the possession of illegal substances.
Are Meth Pipes Dangerous To Use?
Although the distinctive shape of a meth pipe is designed to maximize a user’s high, the unusual construction of the device can also be dangerous if not handled with extreme care.
Even experienced users can suffer frequent burns on the body, especially on the mouth, fingers and face. It’s because the heated material is so extremely hot.
Many users cut themselves while using pipes with broken glass. Some pipes are made with unstable materials that become vaporized when heated and are toxic when exposed to high temperatures.
Although meth pipe users protect themselves from the dangers associated with injection, they can still expose themselves to disease when sharing smoking materials with someone else.
If a user has open sores around the mouth caused by pipe burns, that person can easily transmit hepatitis and other infectious agents to anyone they share a pipe with.
Can Smoking Meth Hurt Me in Other Ways?
Frequent meth users often develop what’s known as “meth mouth.” With this condition, the teeth get decayed, rotten and turn brown or black. The gums bleed, and they are chronically inflamed and infected.
Gum tissue pulls away from the teeth and shrinks. At the same time, it is being eaten away by bacteria. Eventually, the roots become fully visible. The remaining teeth turn black, become extremely loose and continue to fall out.
Methamphetamine has been described as “the drug that ages people far beyond their years.” Premature aging initially appears on the face, but it’s also taking place internally.
The drug gets to work breaking down structures like the heart and brain. Meth smokers say they feel old, even if they’re young. They can develop diseases like coronary atherosclerosis and pulmonary fibrosis that are commonly found only in the elderly. Meth smokers are also vulnerable to pneumonia and pulmonary edema.
In the end, meth pipes are probably the most dangerous way of all to consume methamphetamine.
Overdose Potential When Using Meth Pipes
The risk of overdose is high because with a meth pipe, you are inhaling vapor, and it’s difficult to judge the amount of vapor you inhale.
Because the body absorbs the vapor so quickly, you can have an unusually strong reaction before you know what’s happening. An overdose can seem to come out of nowhere. Here are some of the most common overdose scenarios if you smoke too much meth:
- Heart attack
- Heartbeat stops
- Crippling chest pain
- Inability to breathe
- Kidney failure
- Extreme stomach pain
Self-care Is Essential
Most people with a substance use disorder are powerless over the situation and powerless over themselves. No one grows up dreaming of being a meth addict, but getting clean and staying clean is not easy.
You intuitively understand that recovery will involve work. Getting clean is not for the feint of heart. It requires courage and the willingness to face yourself without flinching.
You may not be ready to launch your recovery just yet. Nevertheless, you can reduce the degree of harm you are doing to yourself in the meantime.
What Are Harm Reduction Strategies?
Harm reduction strategies are used to mitigate the debilitating effects of an active meth addiction.
Methamphetamine is one of the most difficult addictions to overcome. Nevertheless, many people have done it. The sooner you stop, the easier it will be.
The longer you are actively using, the more powerful your habit will be and the more it will control your every move.
Harm Reduction Techniques for Meth Pipe Users
Many addiction specialists believe that meth users who practice harm reduction techniques can live healthier and happier lives, even when they’re still using.
Harm reduction measures can reduce a user’s susceptibility to the negative effects and co-occurring mental health disorders that often develop with methamphetamine use.
Here are some common-sense harm reduction practices that can help you avoid mishaps when using a meth pipe:
- Never share your meth pipe with someone else.
- Don’t use meth pipes made of metal or plastic.
- Prior to using a meth pipe, sterilize it with rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide using a Q-Tip.
- Smoke meth only while wearing a mouthpiece to protect your face from burns and cuts that could get infected.
- Avoid using household items like broken light bulbs, aluminum foil, cardboard tubes and plastic bottles as meth pipes.
- Buy a few extra pipes and carry one with you in case the one you’re using cracks or shatters.
- Use a heat-resistant glove to guard against burns.
- Be mindful of what you’re doing.
Self-protection When Using Meth Pipes
Methamphetamine addiction extracts a heavy toll. Compared to other substances, it qualifies as perhaps the most unpredictable, damaging and treacherous habit you can have.
When you consider everything that meth takes away, you have to wonder whether the high you get is worth the price you pay. It’s a deadly progression, and the longer you’re on it, the worse it will get.
The good news is that you can recover from meth addiction, but you have to get help. Trying to quit on your own is virtually impossible.