Crystal methamphetamine (crystal, meth, tina) is a particularly strong stimulant. The effects are similar to a big rush of adrenaline.
It's part of a class of drugs called amphetamines, which are stimulants - they speed up the body. Crystal does this by affecting brain chemicals, or neurotransmitters, like dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. These chemicals relate to mood, sexual function, body movement, sleep/sensory perception, and regulation of body temperature/blood pressure.
Users can feel very confident and alert, have an elevated mood and feel euphoric, have increased energy, movement, and speech. Meth can also result in decreased appetite. Users can also feel very sexual: Some gay men report decreased inhibitions and increased ability to have sex for longer periods of time.
Some of us find we become dependent on it and that our use becomes hard to control. Like other party drugs, meth can make you feel horny, but some of us report becoming extremely focused on sex when high on meth. For some, we may be more tempted to have sex without condoms increasing our risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) - including HIV. Crystal and its effects are hard on the body; the actual chemicals in the drug, combined with a lack of sleep and eating, can have serious negative impacts on your general physical and mental health.
- Dependence (addiction): A tolerance for crystal builds up very quickly. This means that if you use crystal regularly, it will quickly take more and more of the drug to give you the same high. At the same time, crystal is associated with a tough come down period or 'crash' - significant fatigue and depression which can last a few days to a week or more. Also, for some gay men crystal makes sex more intense and last longer. These factors contribute to a potential for psychological dependence or a habit forming with the drug that makes quitting more difficult.
Anecdotally, experienced users and treatment counsellors who work with gay men say that crystal is a drug that is particularly difficult to use recreationally. If you want to use crystal, take extra steps to ensure you do not develop dependence. Learn the signs of developing dependency and strategies you can use to reduce your risk of becoming dependent on the drug.
- Dehydration: People on crystal can dance for hours without stopping. In a crowded, hot dance party this can increase your risk for dehydration or overheating.
- HIV: Research has shown that some gay men who use crystal are at increased risk for HIV transmission. Gay crystal users were either less likely to use a condom when they fuck or were more likely to experience condom breakage while fucking.
- Amphetamine Psychosis: Chronic use of crystal can lead to severe paranoia or sudden, violent, and irrational behaviour.
- Crystal is typically sold as clear crystals in small baggies.
- It is typically snorted in small bumps, or smoked from a glass pipe.
- More recently in Toronto, crystal has been sold in pill format as pills that look similar to ecstasy. They are typically brightly coloured pills (like the colour of Smarties®), might have a fruity smell/taste and are sometimes called Yaba.
- Meth can also be swallowed, injected, and hooped/booty bumped (placed up the ass). There are risks and benefits to different methods of taking the drug:
Swallowing: Slower come-on (high), which avoids the initial euphoric 'rush' you get with other ways of using crystal meth. Given the slower rush, you might take more to get that feeling. There is no real risk of tissue damage by using crystal this way.
Snorting: You can get little cuts in your nose and pass blood between the people you share with, putting you at risk of transmitting or contracting HIV and/or Hepatitis. Avoid sharing bumpers, bills or straws used for snorting. The come-on (high) is faster when snorting and you might keep snorting to maintain the euphoric buzz.
Smoking: A more euphoric rush, making the comedown rougher and increasing your desire to do more. Smoking damages your lungs and can dry out your mouth and lips, making it easier to get chapped lips or to burn them on a hot pipe. Use lip balm and avoid sharing pipes.
Booty Bump (sticking it up your ass): This damages inside of your rectum (ass), increasing your risk of contracting HIV, hepatitis or other infections if you're getting fucked.
Injecting: Avoid sharing needles and other equipment. If you have a new batch (even from the same dealer), try a little first to make sure it's not too strong. It's safer to inject into vein than into muscle or under skin; these last 2 methods have higher risk for abscesses and infections and can be very painful.
The method used to get high affects the intensity and duration of the high:
|Swallow||< 2 mins||3-7 hrs|
|Inject||< 2 mins||3-7 hrs|
|Smoke||5-10 mins||4-10 hrs|
|Snort /Rectal||20-60 mins||5-12 hrs|
- · When snorted the effects come on gradually and peak after about 15 - 30 minutes.
· When injected, the effects are felt immediately and much more intensely.
· Crystal is a stimulant drug with effects similar to cocaine but much longer lasting.
· Effects while high: euphoria; increased confidence, alertness, talkativeness and horniness; dehydration (especially with dancing or sex); decreased appetite
· It causes a sudden increase in heart rate, blood pressure and breathing.
· After the high, you may "crash" (feel depressed) and sleep for a long time
- · The intense high can lead to an unpleasant comedown which can in turn lead a user to take more.
· In high doses, crystal can lead to seizures, strokes, heart attacks or difficulty breathing (even in experienced users).
· After effects can include depression, agitation, anxiety and paranoia.
· Repeated snorting can damage the nasal membranes.
· Many users can become compulsive in their use of crystal which can lead to physical or psychological addiction.
· Difficulty obtaining or maintaining an erection.
· Jaw clenching or teeth grinding.
· Tooth loss and gum disease. Meth constricts blood vessels (tightens them) and less blood flows to some areas of the body. With less blood flowing to your gums, you risk developing problems with your gums and teeth.
- Viagra®: Meth raises blood pressure; Viagra® lowers it. Combining them can increase your risk of a stroke.
- Other stimulants: Drugs like ecstasy, or coke, are also stimulants. Combining stimulants can push your body too far; this creates a risk of overheating, your heart having to work too hard, and could result in a stroke.
- Heart and blood pressure medications: Increases the strain on you heart and blood vessels, risking a stroke or heart attack.
- Anti-depressants: These drugs work on the same neurotransmitters and can cause overstimulation in these brain systems.
- Downer drugs: Drugs like alcohol or GHB work by slowing the body down; meth speeds the body up. These conflicting signals can lead to a stroke or heart attack.
- Intergrase Inhibitors: Elvitegravir /Cobicistat/TDF/FTC (Stribild) increase the amount of any amphetamine including meth, E/MDMA, and Speed in your system. This can result in a longer and more intense crash (hangover) period.
- Toxic agents in meth can increase HIV viral load. Be mindful of your viral load if doing Tina, especially if this is one of your primary safer sex strategies.
- This combination can exacerbate high blood pressure, heart or liver problems.
- Make sure you plan eating for HIV meds that need to be taken with food. It is easy to forget to take meds when on crystal. Make sure you take them, or create a system to remind yourself.
- The combination of the toxic ingredients in crystal meth, and the insomnia it can cause, can have a negative impact on your immune system increasing viral load. If using crystal meth regularly, monitor your viral load.
- If injecting crystal, use new, unused syringes as HIV and Hep C are easily spread through shared injection gear. Prepare for injection on a clean surface. Use ascorbic acid to dissolve your drug for injection. You can get unused injection drug gear through any site associated with The Works through Toronto Public Health.