Crystal Meth Overdose: How Much Meth Is Lethal?

Last Updated: December 16, 2020

Authored by Olivier George, Ph.D.

Reviewed by Daniel Hochman, MD

Crystal meth is a stimulant drug that closely resembles amphetamine. It is used illegally as a recreational drug popularly known as ice, crank, speed, or glass for its crystalline appearance. Methamphetamine users usually eat, inject, snort, or smoke it, at the detriment of their health.

This substance is also known for its high overdose potential due to its strong addiction potential and often dangerous chemical substances. One scary fact about crystal meth poisoning is that it’s not always dose-dependent. The drug can build up gradually within the body over time. This means that chronic users can suffer from an overdose even if they consume relatively small quantities of the drug.

How Much Methamphetamine Does it Take to Overdose?

There is no fixed amount of methamphetamine that is considered “lethal” or can lead to a meth overdose. The amount of crystal meth that may lead to a crystal meth overdose may depend on the purity of the batch, the individual’s health status, how long they were left without care, previous drug abuse, and concomitant use with other drugs or alcohol.

Depressed man with meth overdose.

The LD50 for methamphetamine has only been tested in mice and rats (for obvious reasons). It was given a value of 55 and 57 mg/kg in rats and mice, respectively. Scientists say a single oral dose of 150 mg is enough to produce a fatal situation in most persons. In the same way, 100 mg given by injection or 50 mg by smoking is extremely harmful. However, these values can not be fully reliable as crystal meth usually contain various impurities and substances, which may increase or decrease its toxicity.

Aside from the high risk of an overdose, several other health dangers are involved with abusing crystal meth. One of the most well-known and distressing health complications of crystal meat addiction is a condition known as meth mouth. This refers to the severe tooth and gum decay associated with chronic methamphetamine use.

Meth Overdose Symptoms

If overdose happens, the health effects are widespread and cover several body systems, especially if care is delayed. This means that there may be a lot of signs and symptoms to look out for. With this in mind, some things can determine the severity of the signs. One of them is the amount of drug that reaches the brain. Also, it influences how long one will have to bear them. Understandably, injecting it is more dangerous than eating or smoking.

Here Are a Few Common Meth Overdose Symptoms and Signs:

  • Dizziness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Convulsions
  • Mental confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Extreme fear or panic states
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Tremor
  • Restlessness
  • Depression
  • Impaired memory and judgment
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach pain
  • Chest pain
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Abnormal muscle contractions
  • Muscle pain or weakness

Moreover, extremely high body temperature (hyperthermia) is another vital and potentially fatal effect. Chronic use of crystal meth is bad for the heart and kidneys too.

Methamphetamine Overdose Statistics

Methamphetamine abuse reached a shocking landmark in 2005. At that time, they said that overdosing had caused almost 4.500 deaths in the US. This is according to a report by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The situation seems only to be getting worse, however. In 2017 there had been a 543 percent increase in deaths due to psychostimulants since 2005, according to figures from the DEA National Drug Threat Assessment report. That was about 10,333 deaths due to psychostimulants in 2017, according to the report.

Meth Overdose Response

The first thing that shoud be done is to contact the local emergency number or 911. The call to the National toll-free Poison Help hotline can also save a life.

Woman fainted on the floor due to overdose.

There are a few things you can do to help a person having a meth overdose before the emergency personnel arrive. One of them is turning the individual’s head to the side, so they do not vomit and choke. Also, if the person starts having seizures, do not hold them down. Take care to remove any objects around them, which may harm them and time the seizure. The duration of the seizure may be important to the emergency personnel.

Treatment for a Methamphetamine Poisoning

Regrettably, there is no antidote for a methamphetamine overdose. Nothing can directly counteract the toxic effects on our health or reverse them. However, supportive treatment can restrict or relieve them, as well as aid in recovery.

The Treatment Includes:

  • Medications to normalize abnormal heart rhythms
  • Benzos to control convulsions
  • Injections of antipsychotic agents to mitigate severe restlessness
  • Pressure-lowering medications to treat high blood pressure
  • Fluid and electrolyte injections to stabilize the person. As a result, it may decrease the risk of damage to the kidneys.
  • Activated charcoal and laxative can be useful. That is if the person took the drug by mouth. Also, it happens not so long before reaching the hospital. That way, it may help to restrict its absorption in the stomach and intestines.
  • Artificial ventilation and oxygen supplementation to facilitate breathing.
  • Supportive treatment to treat hyperthermia and prevent excessive dehydration.

Substance abuse and, in particular, methamphetamine overdose is becoming an increasingly worrying issue in today’s society. There is no fixed “lethal” dose of crystal meth, and the symptoms of a meth overdose may vary widely. The best thing to do in the event of an overdose is to remain calm and contact 911 or other emergency personnel.

The best way to avoid this is to quit the drug and seek further medical treatment for your addiction. There are many rehab programs available which you can contact to help you with your recovery from methamphetamine addiction. Using medical rehabilitation programs has a higher treatment recovery rate than trying to quit the addiction on your own.

 


Page Sources

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  3. MedlinePlus. Methamphetamine Overdose. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007480.htm
  4. National Vital Statistics Reports. Drugs Most Frequently Involved in Drug Overdose Deaths: United States, 2011–2016. Holly Hedegaard, Brigham A. Bastian, James P. Trinidad,Margaret Warner, Ph.D. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr67/nvsr67_09-508.pdf
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  8. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Overdose Death Rates. March 2020. https://www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates
  9. Drug Enforcement Agency. National Drug Threat Assessment Report. January 2020. https://www.dea.gov/sites/default/files/2020-01/2019-NDTA-final-01-14-2020_Low_Web-DIR-007-20_2019.pdf

Published on: May 17th, 2018

Updated on: December 16th, 2020

About Author

Olivier George, Ph.D.

Olivier George is a medical writer and head manager of the rehab center in California. He spends a lot of time in collecting and analyzing the traditional approaches for substance abuse treatment and assessing their efficiency.

Medically Reviewed by

Daniel Hochman, MD

Dr. Daniel Hochman is a board certified Psychiatrist and leader in the field of addiction. He is the creator of a revolutionary online addiction recovery program, selfrecovery.org. Dr. Hochman advocates for using strategies proven through hard science, and describes them in ways that are easy to understand and incorporate into one’s life. His treatment approach focuses on the underlying emotional causes of addiction to achieve a deep, lasting life change.