Methamphetamine: A Canadian Crisis

Methamphetamine a Canadian Crisis

What You Need to Know About Methamphetamine

The number of deaths by methamphetamine overdose has more than doubled since the crisis hit. With the lethal drug usage increasing drastically in Manitoba, it’s important to stay informed.


Methamphetamine, which affects a user’s central nervous system, is a type of stimulant called an amphetamine. Amphetamines are white, odourless, bitter-tasting crystalline powders. Illicitly prepared amphetamines may be whitish with traces of gray or pink. They may be in the form of a coarse powder, crystals or chunks. Methamphetamine resembles shaved glass slivers or clear rock salt. Amphetamines are injected, smoked, snorted or taken as pills.

The immediate consequence of using a stimulant like meth is the inevitable comedown. Coming down from a stimulant high can cause exhaustion, apathy and depression. The discomfort involved with coming down is what drives the user to crave the drug again. In the long term, stimulants are very addictive and can result in hostility, paranoia, hallucinations, irregular heartbeat, high body temperatures, psychosis and seizures. Methamphetamine, in particular, can cause severe tooth decay, weight loss and noticeable skin sores.

Signs That Someone Is Using Meth

Someone you care about could be abusing meth if they:

  • Obsessively pick at their hair or skin,
  • Neglect personal appearance and hygiene,
  • Have dilated pupils and rapid eye movement,
  • Maintain strange sleeping patterns (staying up for days or even weeks at a time)
  • Display jerky, erratic movements, facial tics, animated mannerisms, and constant talking,
  • Borrow money often, sell their possessions or steal,
  • Have angry outbursts or mood swings, or
  • Exhibit psychotic behaviours, such as paranoia and hallucinations

Levels of Methamphetamine Abuse

When people take methamphetamine, it takes over their lives in varying degrees:

Low-intensity Abuse

Low-intensity abusers swallow or snort methamphetamine. They want the extra stimulation methamphetamine provides so they can stay awake long enough to finish a task or a job. Some also use meth for the appetite-suppressant effect to lose weight.

Binge Abuse

Binge abusers smoke or inject methamphetamine with a needle. Binge users can rapidly develop a strong psychological dependence on the drug. Chronic use is often characterized by a “binge & crash” pattern associated with higher doses and a higher frequency of use.

High-intensity Abuse

High-intensity abusers are addicts, and often called “speed freaks.” An addict’s whole existence focuses on preventing the crash, that painful letdown after the drug high.

Why is Meth More Prevalent Now?

According to Vancouver Coastal Health, there has been a 600 percent increase since 2005 in the use of the drug at Vancouver’s supervised injection facility. In Manitoba, police are confiscating significantly more methamphetamine every year and seeing dangerous rises in drug-related crime. So, why is this happening?

CBC News reported this month that there are four main reasons why methamphetamine use in some Canadian cities has become more prevalent than ever before. According to Insp. Max Waddell, divisional commander of the Winnipeg Police Service’s organized crime unit, this could be why:

  • Meth is relatively cheap, and its cost keeps going down – Two years ago, a kilogram of meth sold for approximately $55,000. Now, it sells for about $17,000.
  • The high – The high from meth can last up to 14 hours, compared to about 45 minutes for crack cocaine.
  • Meth is easy to get – Meth is readily available in the city as it comes in from other countries and from Western Canada, where it is being produced more and more.
  • Meth is easy to make – Meth is made with very common, easily obtainable products (cold medicine, iodine or even camp fuel)

CBC News

Long-Term Effects

Long-term methamphetamine use has many negative consequences, including:

  • Extreme weight loss
  • Severe dental problems (“meth mouth”)
  • Intense itching, leading to skin sores from scratching
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Sleeping problems
  • Violent behaviour
  • Paranoia (extreme and unreasonable distrust of others)
  • Hallucinations (sensations and images that seem real though they aren’t)

People who inject methamphetamine are at increased risk of contracting infectious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis B and C. Methamphetamine use may worsen the progression of HIV/AIDS and its consequences.

In addition, continued methamphetamine use causes changes in the brain’s dopamine system that are associated with reduced coordination and impaired verbal learning.

Although some of these brain changes may reverse after being off the drug for a year or more, other changes may not recover even after a long period of abstinence. A recent study even suggests that people who used methamphetamine have an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.

Can A Person Overdose On Methamphetamine?

Yes, a person can overdose on methamphetamine. An overdose occurs when the person uses too much of a drug and has a toxic reaction that results in serious, harmful symptoms or death.

Methamphetamine overdose can lead to stroke, heart attack, or organ problems—such as kidney failure—caused by overheating. These conditions can result in death.

Withdrawal – Oftenthirty to ninety days can pass after the last drug use before the abuser realizes that he is in withdrawal. Since meth withdrawal is extremely painful and difficult, 93% of people in traditional treatment return to abusing methamphetamine.

Meth Addiction Treatment

Pharmacotherapy research is in its early stages, but there is currently no medication that can quickly and safely help reverse the effects of meth overdoses or help reduce the withdrawal, paranoia and psychotic symptoms associated with MA use.

Treatment of MA dependence presents multiple challenges, including problems associated with acute and prolonged withdrawal, cognitive impairment, mood disorders, violence and poor health conditions. If you know someone with a methamphetamine problem, professional intervention is recommended.

Aurora can provide a professional interventionist who can ensure medical detoxification with direct transfer into personalized treatment programming. Meth addiction is one of the hardest drug addictions to treat, but it can be done.

History Of Methamphetamine (MA)

Methamphetamine is a man-made stimulant that’s been around for a long time. Methamphetamine started to become more prevalent in World War II when troops used it to keep soldiers awake. The Japanese would give high doses of it to Kamikaze pilots before their suicide missions. In the 1950s, doctors prescribed methamphetamine as a diet aid and to fight depression. Because it was easily available, college students, truck drivers and athletes used it as a stimulant.