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Overdosing and Addiction

Overdosing and Addiction


In Arkansas, overdose from methamphetamine is a problem. The Arkansas State Crime Lab shows a significant increase in deaths related to methamphetamine, fentanyl, and co-occurring use of methamphetamine and fentanyl over the past decade.

In 2022 qualitative research from the Harm Reduction Journal, consistent methamphetamine users separate overdosing from “over-ramping.” Over-ramping is described as a state after methamphetamine use where the body becomes overstimulated, causing the user to go to sleep due to overstimulation. Overdosing from methamphetamine, however, is largely due to heatstroke and heart failure. As the body’s temperature rises, organs shut down. During a meth overdose, it is also common for a sharp increase in blood pressure, leading to hemorrhage. There are currently no antidotes for methamphetamine overdose, although researchers from UAMS are working on a drug that would counter the effects of methamphetamine use disorder.

As meth has become more potent, people distributing it have found more ways to conceal it. Meth has been found hidden in various car parts and dissolved in vehicle fluids.

The Centers of Disease Control (CDC) reports drug overdose deaths in several categories. The psychostimulant category includes methamphetamine, Ritalin, caffeine, and amphetamines. In 2016, 7,542 deaths were reported, just a year later, that number increased to 10,333.


If you suspect someone is using meth, get a professional substance use disorder assessment from a school counselor, county social service agency, or reputable treatment facility.

The following symptoms can indicate meth use:

  • loss of appetite—extreme, rapid weight loss
  • high energy level or restlessness
  • talkativeness
  • sores on the skin from scratching at imaginary “crank bugs”
  • insomnia
  • paranoia
  • dry mouth
  • dilated pupils
  • distorted auditory and visual perceptions
  • repetitive motor activity
  • decline in performance at school, work, or home


Meth is extremely addictive because it enhances a person’s mood and physical energy by releasing high levels of the neurotransmitters dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine in the brain. It also raises a person’s adrenaline levels, which increases energy. Meth can be smoked, injected, snorted, or swallowed in pill form. The way it is ingested affects how quickly it takes effect and the length of the high it produces. Smoking or injecting meth causes an immediate euphoric “rush” that is followed by an intense “high,” where a person feels confident and energetic for four to sixteen hours. Snorting meth produces a more mellow high that has a slower onset but can last for up to twelve hours. Swallowing meth pills leads to a high in fifteen to twenty-five minutes, but generally, people who swallow or snort meth don’t experience the euphoric rush; they use it to stay awake or suppress their appetite.

Because meth is so addictive, it takes over people’s lives as they pursue incredible highs that are followed by overwhelming crashes—and then they desperately attempt to recapture the high. Experts say it’s not uncommon for people who use meth to commit crimes that are out of character, such as stealing from family and friends, to obtain money for meth.

Meth can destroy the health of people who use it

Meth appears to have a neurotoxic effect, damaging brain cells that contain the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin. In the short term, meth causes mind and mood changes, such as anxiety and depression, and increased heart rate and blood pressure. People who overdose on meth experience high body temperatures and convulsions, which if not treated, can result in death. Long-term effects can include paranoid or delusional thinking, violent behavior, memory loss, tooth decay and loss, malnutrition, and skin disorders. (Many people who use meth long term start picking at or scratching their skin, believing there are insects under its surface.) Some of these symptoms can persist for months or even years after a person has quit using meth, because long-term meth use can change the structure of the brain, particularly in areas associated with emotion and memory. When people don’t recover quickly after quitting, it’s harder for them to keep from using again. Injecting meth is also linked to increased transmission of infectious diseases, especially hepatitis and HIV/AIDS.