Crystal meth is a type of amphetamine that is used recreationally as a powerful and intense stimulant drug. It has powerful side effects on the body.
Methamphetamine abuse can result in a fast heart rate, high blood pressure (hypertension), constricted blood vessels, and high body temperature (hyperthermia), which puts a great deal of pressure on a person’s cardiovascular system.
A person abusing meth also has a greater chance for developing other health risks. One of these is progressive kidney dysfunction, which may result over time in kidney failure.
Effects Of Methamphetamine Use On The Kidneys
Whether used by smoking, snorting or injecting, meth acts on dopamine neurotransmitters in the central nervous system, creating a euphoric high. This makes it an addictive drug.
It also works to restrict blood flow, which decreases oxygen-rich blood levels all over the body, including to its vital organs.
The kidneys, unfortunately, are one of the organs that get hit the hardest by meth abuse. A creatinine blood test can be used to help determine a person’s kidney health.
The following are some of the ways meth drug use can affect a person’s kidneys.
Rhabdomyolysis is a rare and potentially life-threatening condition in which a person’s muscles break down and their muscle cells disintegrate.
This effect triggers the release of a protein called myoglobin into the blood. It can be caused by trauma, overexertion, or toxic substances like those found in meth.
The kidneys are responsible for removing the myoglobin from a person’s blood, and they can become severely damaged from dealing with large quantities.
If untreated, this condition can result in kidney failure and requires a trip to the emergency department.
Reduced Renal Function
Decreased kidney function is common, though there is always concern for it to potentially turn into end-stage renal disease in the long term. This condition generally develops when there is reduced blood flow to one or both kidneys.
Chronic kidney disease occurs over a long period of time and builds up gradually in a person’s body. This is the most common type of kidney disease and is often asymptomatic at first.
If left untreated, it can result in death.
Acute Kidney Injury
Acute kidney injury (AKI) is also sometimes called acute renal failure (ARF). This condition is kidney failure that comes on very abruptly over a few hours or days.
One of the major causes of acute kidney injury is decreased blood flow to the kidneys.
AKI can also cause a renal infarction to occur, during which reduced blood flow to the kidneys results in kidney tissue death.
End-Stage Renal Disease
End-stage renal disease (ESRD), also called kidney failure, requires dialysis or a kidney transplant.
At this point, kidney disease has reached an advanced stage and a person’s kidneys are no longer supporting their body’s needs.
Side effects of ESRD can be very unpleasant and include:
- nausea and vomiting
- loss of appetite
- shortness of breath
- chest pain
How To Treat Kidney Damage From Meth Abuse
Treating kidney damage from meth abuse will require both treatment for the damaged kidneys and also for the meth addiction.
Dialysis is a treatment that purifies the blood from toxicity in people who have end-stage renal disease.
Without dialysis, life-threatening toxins and waste would build up in the blood of someone with kidney failure and could eventually lead to death.
Medically monitored detox allows a person with a meth addiction to safely and comfortably wean themselves off the drug and achieve sobriety.
Detoxing from meth under supervision can also reduce the risk of relapse.
Is Meth-Induced Kidney Damage Reversible?
Meth-induced kidney damage is reversible depending on the severity of the damage and the willingness of the person to make lifestyle changes, such as abstaining from all drug and alcohol abuse.
Short-term changes won’t be enough, and the person truly has to commit to making healthy choices going forward.
If the kidney damage from meth is too extensive and has reached ESRD, it likely won’t be reversible.
However, the person’s life can be extended through a combination of treatments and lifestyle changes, and eventually a kidney transplant.
Treatment Programs For Methamphetamine Addiction
In addition to kidney effects, meth abuse can greatly damage a person’s health, leading to increased risk for hepatitis, ischemic strokes, psychosis, and meth mouth, among others.
A treatment program for methamphetamine addiction can address many of these effects and help a person manage their addiction for a lasting recovery.
Treatment typically begins with a period of medical detoxification. It is very important to get sober safely before further treatment for addiction can begin.
After detox is complete, the person may enter inpatient or outpatient treatment, whichever is recommended by their healthcare provider. Both options will offer extensive therapy and counseling.
After an inpatient or outpatient program is complete, the person will likely continue with some form of aftercare support or choose to live in sober housing.
Find Meth Abuse Treatment At Bedrock Recovery Center
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At Bedrock Recovery Center, we take a trauma-informed approach to recovery from drug use and believe that everyone deserves a chance at health and happiness.
When you decide that you are ready to begin, please give our helpline a call.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/methamphetamine
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus https://medlineplus.gov/methamphetamine.html
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration https://www.samhsa.gov/meth