Meth users ingest meth several different ways. Meth can be smoked, snorted, orally ingested, or injected. The drug alters moods in different ways, depending on how it is taken. Immediately after smoking the drug or injecting it intravenously, meth users experience an intense rush that lasts only a few minutes and is described as extremely pleasurable. Snorting or oral ingestion produces euphoria -- a high but not an intense rush. Meth users who snort the drug experience effects within 3 to 5 minutes, and oral ingestion produces effects within 15 to 20 minutes.
As with similar stimulants, meth users often go on a "binge and crash" pattern. Because tolerance for methamphetamine occurs within minutes -- meaning that the pleasurable effects disappear even before the drug concentration in the blood falls significantly -- meth users try to maintain the high by binging on the drug.
Meth users go through three stages:: low intensity, binge, and high intensity. The binge and high-intensity meth users smoke or inject meth to achieve a faster and stronger high; the patterns of abuse differ in the frequency in which the drug is abused and the stages within their cycles.
The binge abuse cycle is made up of these stages: rush, high, binge, tweaking, crash, normal, and withdrawal.
Rush (5-30 minutes) -The abuser's heartbeat races and metabolism, blood pressure, and pulse soar. Feelings of pleasure.
High (4-16 hours) -The methamphetamine addict often feels aggressively smarter and becomes argumentative.
Binge (3-15 days) -The methamphetamine addict maintains the high for as long as possible and becomes hyperactive, both mentally and physically.
Tweaking -The most dangerous stage of the cycle. See section below.
Crash (1-3 days) -The addict does not pose a threat to anyone. He becomes very lethargic and sleeps.
Normal (2-14 days) -The abuser returns to a state that is slightly deteriorated from the normal state before the abuse.
Withdrawal (30-90 days) -No immediate symptoms are evident but the abuser first becomes depressed and then lethargic. The craving for methamphetamine hits and he may becomes suicidal. Taking methamphetamine at any time during withdrawal can stop the unpleasant feelings so, consequently, a high percentage of addicts in treatment return to abuse.
High-intensity meth users, often called "speed freaks," focus on preventing the crash. But each successive rush becomes less euphoric and it takes more meth to achieve it. The pattern does not usually include a state of normalcy or withdrawal. High-intensity abusers experience extreme weight loss, very pale facial skin, sweating, body odor, discolored teeth and scars or open sores on their bodies. The scars are the results of the abusers' hallucinations of bugs on his skin, often referred to as "crank bugs," and attempts to scratch the bugs off.
When it comes to meth users the most dangerous stage of their abuse for themselves, medical personnel, and law enforcement officers is what is known as "tweaking." A tweaker is a methamphetamine addict who probably has not slept in 3-15 days and is irritable and paranoid. Tweakers often behave or react violently and if a tweaker is using alcohol or another depressant, his negative feelings and associated dangers intensify. The tweaker craves more meth, but no dosage will help re-create the euphoric high, which causes frustration, and leads to unpredictability and potential for violence.
A meth user who is tweaking can appear normal: eyes can be clear, speech concise, and movements brisk. But a closer look will reveal the person's eyes are moving ten times faster than normal, the voice has a slight quiver, and movements are quick and jerky. These physical signs are more difficult to identify if the meth user is using a depressant.