Wil Dubois

Got questions about life with diabetes? So do we! That's why we offer our weekly diabetes advice column, Ask D'Mine, hosted by veteran type 1, diabetes author Wil Dubois in New Mexico.

This week, Wil takes on a serious question about drug use and diabetes -- specifically, methamphetamine. This may not be as common an inquiry as those related to marijuana, but we have received questions about meth and diabetes before. While we certainly aren't endorsing meth use, here's to being honest and addressing real health threats.

 

{Got your own questions? Email us at [email protected]}

 

Rick, type 3 from the Midwest, writes: I have a friend that is type 2 diabetic and she does meth. Is it good for her to keep on doing meth like that, or will that kill her in the long run?

[email protected] D’Mine answers: Not even the biggest fans of meth would argue that meth can be “good for” anyone. More on that in a minute. But since you asked, what’s the long-term effect of the meth and how will adding diabetes to it play out? While not good for her, the question is: Will it add no harm, or will it hasten her demise? Read on to find out!

First off, for any of you innocents out there, meth is a very pretty crystal that looks sorta like quartz. It can be smoked, ingested, snorted, or injected. It’s a very multipurpose drug that way. Oh. Right. I forgot to mention, meth is an illegal recreational drug. It’s a stimulant, or upper, but a short-lived one.

It gives a rush of energy and spikes dopamine in the brain, delivering a sense of euphoria.

And no, I don’t speak from experience. I’ve never tired it because it scares me silly. It’s highly addictive and my life is complicated enough. That said, I never judge others. In our overworked world, I can see where it could be appealing. And apparently the most common meth user is a middle-aged woman with children! But the sad fact is that meth shortens the life spans of people who use it.

Check this out: I found a nifty addiction calculator from Omni, the calculator people. It lets you plug in your favorite vice, how heavy your use is, the age you started using it, and where you live, and it will predict how many years of life your vice will cost you. For instance, start smoking cigs (which are supposed to cost you fourteen minutes of life span per cigarette) at age 16, and it will knock ten-and-a-half years off your expected life span of 79.68, assuming you smoke a pack a day.

Interesting stuff.

According to the calculator, a meth hit is much more lethal than a cigarette. Each meth hit robs you of 665.7 minutes on the planet. Now, I honestly don’t know how often a typical meth user uses meth, and couldn’t seem to locate such a simple piece of info on the web, but at one hit a day, starting at age 20 (which is the average age of a new user) the stuff will cost your friend nearly 19 years of life.

So yes, it will kill her in the long run.

But, hey, what about the diabetes? Won’t that kill her in the long run, too? Well, as a matter of fact, it can. But it doesn’t have to. Here’s the interesting thing about diabetes: The life expectancy of someone with diabetes is highly variable. Check out this graph of people diagnosed between ages 55 and 75. After getting diabetes you can see that their life expectancies range from (gulp) less than five years to more than two decades. What drove the differences? Partly diagnosis age and gender, but largely smoking status and blood pressure!

Of interest, meth increases blood pressure. And it can be smoked. I’m just sayin'...

Anyway, it came as no great surprise to me that I couldn’t find you a similar chart specifically for meth users with diabetes—for one thing even though meth is a huge problem, only 0.4% of the population uses it. But it doesn’t take much imagination to create one in our heads knowing that meth shortens life, plus the fact the diabetes acts like a death accelerator when mixed with other stuff that can kill you.

Let me just point out the obvious: this isn't a Breaking Bad episode and there isn't anything cool about using an illegal, controlled substance like meth. Repeat: Illegal.

So if your friend wants to be around a while (for herself, her kids, her parents, for you… or just to see if Trump really gets re-elected) she should probably quit the meth. And I doubt anyone but her dealer would disagree with me.

But as to kicking the habit, when and how?

It may surprise readers to hear me say this, but if her diabetes is new, I don’t think now is the time to quit meth. Quitting meth isn’t going to be easy, and there are going to be both physical and mental side effects that won’t mix well with new diabetes. I’d argue she should get her diabetes house in order first, and then tackle the meth.

Few people have the bandwidth to manage both at the same time.

As of now, there are no approved meds to help meth addiction. That means getting off of it is just plain old-fashioned tough. There will be withdrawal. She’ll need a ton of support, counseling, and incentives to get free and to remain that way.

Here are just a few issues to be aware of when she starts the process: The initial “come down” off the meth will trigger a host of symptoms including (of particular interest to us from the diabetes perspective) decreased appetite, depression, and lack of motivation—all of which will have an impact on diabetes control. The lack of appetite can possibly leave her over-medicated, at risk for low blood sugars, and she won’t give a shit given the depression and lack of motivation. I should also mention that diabetes itself can trigger depression, so she’ll have a double-whammy to deal with.

On the bright side, meth is apparently easier to kick than opioids (or even alcohol), and can, at least physically, be done within a month.

Too bad the same thing can’t be said for diabetes.

You might also want to check out past posts here at D'Mine about meth, this "Meth-abetic Dangers" column from 2015 and this Call for Help in 2010 by editor AmyT.

 

This is not a medical advice column. We are PWDs freely and openly sharing the wisdom of our collected experiences — our been-there-done-that knowledge from the trenches. But we are not MDs, RNs, NPs, PAs, CDEs, or partridges in pear trees. Bottom line: we are only a small part of your total prescription. You still need the professional advice, treatment, and care of a licensed medical professional.
 
Disclaimer: Content created by the Diabetes Mine team. For more details click here.

Disclaimer

This content is created for Diabetes Mine, a consumer health blog focused on the diabetes community. The content is not medically reviewed and doesn't adhere to Healthline's editorial guidelines. For more information about Healthline's partnership with Diabetes Mine, please click here.