Alcohol & Other Drugs
Safer Smoking: Crack and crystal meth
Reduce your risk of burns, infections, disease, overdose, nutrition problems and dehydration
Author: Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research
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You and safer smoking
Before you start.
Know your dealer. It’s best to choose someone you feel safe with and who knows about the drugs they sell.
Take vitamins or eat something. You may not feel like eating when high.
Find a buddy. Using alone means no one will be there to help you if you overdose.
Find a safe place. Being relaxed and not in a hurry makes smoking easier and therefore safer.
Bring condoms and lube with you. Stimulant drugs can increase your sex drive.
Clean your hands and your own mouthpiece. Use soap and water or alcohol swabs to wash away germs that could go in your mouth.
To reduce risk.
Start with a small amount. If you don’t know how strong the drug is, this can help reduce your risk of overdose.
Use your own mouthpiece or pipe. This will help you avoid getting or spreading infection.
Use a shatterproof Pyrex pipe. Other pipes can get too hot or give off toxic fumes.
Avoid using broken or cracked pipes. Damaged pipes can lead to burns, cuts and infections.
Drink water, use lip balm and chew gum. These things will help keep your mouth moist and reduce cracks, blisters and risk of infection.
When preparing to smoke meth.
Make sure the drug is in the right part of the pipe bowl. If necessary, tap pipe gently.
Avoid burning your fingers. Hold the pipe halfway down the stem.
Apply heat to the bowl. Keep the heat source moving around until smoke fills the pipe (so the bowl won’t crack).
When preparing to smoke crack.
Use screens instead of Brillo (steel wool). Brillo can break apart and be inhaled, and its coating can make you sick.
Pack five screens into your pipe. This is safest. If you prefer, it’s okay to wrap the brass screens completely around the Brillo and use them together as a screen.
Use a wooden push stick. Wood is less likely than metal to damage the pipe.
Inhale slowly. This will help prevent burning your lungs.
Exhale immediately. Holding it in doesn’t make the effects stronger—it only hurts the lungs more.
Handle the pipe with care. It’ll be hot after using it.
Did you know.
Eating when you’re coming down will help you sleep.
Smoking any illegal drug is risky because you can never know for sure what's in it or how it was made. But there are also risks involved in how you smoke. Here are some ways to reduce those risks.
How Is Methamphetamine Used?
Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Methamphetamine is produced in several different forms, and so it can be used and abused in many ways. It can be smoked, snorted, injected, or swallowed in pill form. The method of using methamphetamine can vary by geographic region.
Different Ways That Meth Is Taken
There are different ways that meth is administered by its users.
Currently, the most common method of abusing meth is by smoking it, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s Community Epidemiology Work Group data.
The hydrochloride salt of methamphetamine can be smoked by itself without having to add it to something else or change its form. In this crystal meth or “ice” form it appears as blue-white rocks.
Often, crystal meth is smoked in a small glass pipe called a “flute.” If you are looking for evidence that someone may be smoking meth, finding such a pipe would be a clue.
Smoking meth can lead to the side effects of “meth mouth,” with dry mouth and corroded teeth and gums. Meth often contains other ingredients left from the illicit manufacturing process, which can have many effects beyond those of the drug itself.
The risks of secondhand methamphetamine smoke aren’t yet known, other than that you can test positive for meth after exposure to secondhand smoke.
Smoking meth is believed to be the route most likely to lead to addiction, according to the Office of National Drug Policy.
The powdered form of methamphetamine can be injected into the bloodstream. As with injecting any drug, this carries a high risk of blood-borne infections such as HIV, hepatitis C, and hepatitis B due to sharing needles.
Snorting methamphetamine powder is often done by new users. This can lead to damage of the sinus cavities. A chronic runny nose can be the result and continued use might even lead to a hole being worn into the septum.
Pill or Ingestion
Methamphetamine was originally developed for medical use and administered in pill form. Users can still take meth in that way today, either with manufactured pills, homemade pills, or other means of ingesting the drug.
Effects of Different Methods
Injecting or smoking meth gives the user the biggest and quickest “rush” or “flash.” Snorting methamphetamine results in effects within three to five minutes, while oral ingestion brings effects within 15 to 20 minutes.
Snorting or oral ingestion does not produce an intense rush, but rather a euphoric high, unlike smoking or injecting the drug. The rush or the high produced by meth lasts for only a few minutes.
Many methamphetamine abusers use the drug in a pattern known as “binge and crash,” taking multiple hits in succession. They are trying to maintain the high by taking more of the drug.
Some abusers go on a “run,” which is a form of a binge during which they don’t eat or sleep for up to several days at a time.
If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.
For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.
Methamphetamine is produced in several different forms, and it can be smoked, snorted, injected or swallowed. See how meth is administered.