Methamphetamine is incredibly damaging to the heart, lungs, and brain of anyone who comes in contact with it.
“There’s multiple, severe medical effects that methamphetamine does have on folks that use it and also folks that can come in contact with it,” said Christopher Edwards, the Medical Director for the emergency room at Fairmont General Hospital.
Meth does a lot of damage to the body. The brain hallucinates and gets paranoid, the heart races, body temperature goes up, and people can have seizures. Law enforcement will tell you that the physical changes are startling.
“Just look at somebody that started meth and six months later look at the person. You’ll see their fingers are burnt, their arms are burnt; because the gas burns them whenever they’re letting the air out, or ‘burping,’ the methamphetamine lab,” said Chief Deputy Ralph Wright with the Marion County Sheriff’s Department.
The worst part is that these physical effects don’t just happen to the users. Gases that come from cooking meth can be inhaled by anyone and the powder can get absorbed by the skin.
“Babies and toddlers particularly, their skin’s much more absorbent than ours is as we get older, so they’re crawling around in it, and then not only getting it through the skin, but putting their hands into their mouth,” said Debbie Mann, coordinator of the Marion County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition.
Up to 80 percent of the contaminants can be removed by getting the clothes off people who have been around meth. Then they need to be scrubbed down.
“Hot water and soap. Basically washing down very thoroughly, very extensively to get the rest of the contaminants off of you,” Edwards said.
Internally, it’s basically a waiting game. Doctors can only watch patients and treat them for their symptoms at that moment.
“The tough part with methamphetamine, a lot of the medicines we use to slow heart rate down, you cannot use in folks using methamphetamine because it can actually increase your blood pressure significantly,” Edwards said. “So you have to be very cautious of how you treat this.”
There doesn’t seem to be any permanent physical damage for people coming into contact with the drug second-hand, but the lingering psychological effects could be something to watch out for.
Mann said, “Malnutrition, neglect, psychological trauma to the children and babies of meth [-using] parents is a huge issue.”