Impulsive theft, unusual bouts of violence or aggression, delusions of grandeur, and an obsessive compulsion to scratch at the insects beneath your skin: these symptoms sound like something out of a science fiction novel. If only that were the case. Unfortunately, they are all quite real, each of them a potential consequence of prolonged meth use.
Welcome back, dear readers. We are excited to bring you this special series on meth-induced psychosis. Over the next few weeks, we’ll thoroughly examine this psychological phenomenon, starting with the real-life experiences of Dr. Smith, a member of the scientific community who also happens to have a history with meth. After that, we’ll take a look at the science and implications of how meth impacts the human brain.
(For those unfamiliar, the National Institute of Mental Health defines psychosis as a ‘loss of contact with reality,’ and where, ‘…the individual might have difficulty understanding what is real or not.’ Meth-induced psychosis, then, is a mental state where the brain is no longer functioning as it should. It’s marked by a disturbed sense of reality due to methamphetamine abuse.)
The Psychosis of Meth: Interview with Dr. Smith, Ph.D. in Molecular Biology
“Did you or a loved one ever experience psychosis while using meth?”
Dr. Smith, October 6th, 2020:
“Oh, yes. Absolutely. Not me, but the people around me for sure. I used meth back in high school, though, and not as much as my friends. I still had a job, got up, played team sports, and went to school. But my friends used quite a bit more, and I’d come back to find them exactly where I left them. That’s what you do on meth – sit there all night, or go and go and go crazy.”
“My boyfriend at the time was using a lot. I’d told him he needed to sleep or eat something because he’d been awake for so long. When people do a lot of meth, they can stay awake for days at a time, which makes it even easier to slip into psychosis. Sleep deprivation, you know. You’d sit next to him, and he’d go into these long nontangential explanations about how the number eight forms the universe. It had something to do with an eight being two zeros if you cut it in half, but a three if you cut it the other way. He’d explain this over and over, as if it was very deep and profound. This time, though, instead of going to bed, he told his mom about some strange digestive issues. So, she takes him to the hospital.”
“Twenty-eight days. He’d been using meth, barely sleeping at all, for twenty-eight days – consuming almost nothing but Koolaid. (That would be the source of the digestive issues, by the way.) And he was tall, easily six feet. But when they weighed him, he was just 110 pounds. That’s it, so he was basically starving himself because he was so high. So, of course, the doctors want to stabilize him, but he’s hallucinating, and that’s not happening.”
“He started praying to a god in the hospital cameras, thought Bob Ross spoke to him through the TV, and thought he’d gone back in time and stepped on a shrimp. (Evidently, that destroyed the timeline through the butterfly effect – and he had to set it right.)”
“That might sound a little funny until you realize how dangerous someone can be in that state – to themselves and other people. Sure enough, he attacks the emergency room staff, wouldn’t get the tests he needed (HIV – since he’s doing meth), and inevitably gets strapped down and sent to the mental hospital.”
“He was up there for two weeks in a psych ward, just detoxing. It took that long before he stopped thinking he brought the end of the universe. Which, for him, was absolutely terrifying.”
Hallucinations and Meth
“Did he, or any of your other friends, often hallucinate while taking meth?”
“Sure. People hallucinate on meth all the time. My friends used to call them shadow monsters, what they saw. Usually, there’s paranoia too. And yeah, meth is a cocktail of a lot of things, so that has the potential for all sorts of reactions. Who knows what all those different chemical residues are doing to your brain.”
“I mean, my boyfriend had created an entire religion at one point, just spinning theories. And he was completely dysregulated if you did not sit down and let him finish walking you through it. But it was mostly gibberish. Signs and triangles, that sort of thing. To him, it made complete sense, all about how the creation of the universe. But it’s really just a triangle – simple geometry, not a message from god. He couldn’t see that because he was too high.”
“Oh, and meth is fat-soluble, by the way. So as your body digests and processes fat it can release into your system, even after you’ve stopped taking it. That means you can experience periods of psychosis for years – even if you’re lucky enough to avoid brain damage.”
Decision Making and Meth
“As you know, meth floods the frontal lobe with stimulants which inhibits decision making.
What are some real-life examples of meth impaired decision making that you witnessed or experienced?”
“There is nothing safe about meth, that’s the first thing to say. Actually, there was one house we were visiting. You do that a lot – just show up to get high with strangers and hope for the best. People get really weird when they’re tweaked out: draw the same picture over and over, supposedly solve problems of the universe, play the same song. Anyways, they’d locked themselves out of a room, said it was important.”
“They asked me to go through this tiny window (I was the only one who would fit) to unlock the door. When I agree, they lay on all this extra information: don’t make sparks or you’re dead. Touch anything else, and we will kill you. I almost backed out, but I’m young, and my boyfriend talks me into it because they’d hook us up if I helped.”
“So I go in, and it’s an active lab. Tubes and gas tanks everywhere. There were also plastic garbage bags literally all over the walls. They said they were to stop any sparks from happening, since as meth is drying – sparks will cause it to explode. It doesn’t work that way, but there you go.”
“Anyways, I go through and unlock the door. No sparks. Looking back, that was so crazy dangerous. I wasn’t high at the time, but what does it say that these folks were capable of locking themselves out of such a room full of explosive material? Sure enough, three days after we visited that house, it blows up. Luckily no one was inside at the time.”
“So, yeah, I’d say any involvement with meth is probably impaired decision making, really. And of course, a lot of meth addicts are violent or steal; it makes you impulsive and reactive. You hyper-focus and can’t switch tasks; you basically waste your life staring at a painting or cleaning the same spot a million times. And that’s a best-case scenario.”
Continued Next Week.
We are extremely grateful to Dr. Smith for sharing her time and her stories. Be sure to join us next week as she discusses her take on residual meth and the molecular elements that make this drug so harmful.
Until then, remember that meth is a dangerous substance. It is toxic, both when used directly and in its residual form. For help with testing or decontaminating your home, business, cars, or other property, be sure to call a Certified Decontamination Specialist in your area. Of course, if you’re in Utah, then feel free to call us. We’re Utah’s meth and mold decontamination masters. (801) 888-6698.
*For the privacy of the interviewee and her friends and family, an alias was used in this article