Although illegal, more than a million Americans admit to using methamphetamine, or meth, recreationally. Even though the drug stimulates the central nervous system and makes users temporarily feel confident, energetic, focused, and euphoric, continued methamphetamine use hijacks the brain and increases an individual’s risk of addiction. This is why it might be important to seek out meth addiction treatment.
Being addicted to meth can negatively affect every aspect of life. In addition to damaging nearly every organ in the body, compulsively using the drug can lead to job loss, homelessness, severed relationships, and mental health challenges. Fortunately, as debilitating as methamphetamine addiction can be, recovery is possible. Research shows that the brain can return to a healthy state after a significant period of sobriety. Detoxification, addiction treatment, lifestyle changes, and a supportive network can help individuals obtain and maintain long-term sobriety.
Methamphetamine is a stimulant drug that belongs to a class of drugs called amphetamines, powerful substances that speed up activity in the central nervous system. Although methamphetamine was originally prescribed as a decongestant, antidepressant, or weight loss aid, today, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the medication only as a treatment for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and obesity. Methamphetamine hydrochloride (Desoxyn) is a tablet taken by mouth, but the prescription isn’t refillable because of its potential for abuse.
Methamphetamine is perhaps best known as a popular street drug. Many people illegally use methamphetamine, also known as “Speed,” “Chalk,” “Ice,” “Crystal,” “Tina”, “Crank”, “Crystal Meth,” and “Jib,” to experience the drug’s stimulating effects and euphoric high. Although the drug usually takes the form of an odorless white crystalline powder, methamphetamine can be brown, yellow-gray, or orange. The drug can also be compressed into a pill. Most recreational users smoke meth, but some people snort, swallow, or inject the drug into their veins. Others dissolve the powder in water or alcohol.
Crystal meth is methamphetamine in rock form. The rocks, which look like coarse crystals, can be clear or blue. Most users smoke crystal meth with a small glass pipe, but others swallow or snort the drug. Crystal meth is known for providing users a quick rush shortly after use, but the drug is illegal, dangerous, and highly addictive.
Even though methamphetamine hyperstimulates the body, each person using the drug can experience the high differently. Ultimately, the way meth affects an individual’s body depends on a number of factors, including:
Generally, users experience intense euphoria immediately after smoking or injecting methamphetamine into their veins. This surge of pleasure is called a “rush” or “flash.” Individuals who snort methamphetamine tend to experience the rush 3 to 5 minutes after consuming the drug. Those who swallow meth experience the flash after 15 to 20 minutes.
As a stimulant, methamphetamine makes people feel alert, energetic, empowered, confident, and talkative for a short period of time. Users might feel so energetic that they mistakenly believe they can live without food or sleep. But this short-lived surge of energy doesn’t happen without consequences.
Not long after the rush occurs, users may start to feel some of methamphetamine’s unwanted effects. These adverse side effects can include a racing heart, chest pain, dry mouth, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and muscle tension. They might also feel irritable and anxious. The drug’s stimulating effects can also leave them feeling “wired” and restless. More severe effects can include aggressive behavior, hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, and impulsive violence.
When injected or taken by mouth, methamphetamine’s effects last anywhere from 6 to 8 hours. Smoking methamphetamine produces effects that last 10 to 12 hours. But the reality is whether the effects last 6 hours or 12 hours, they eventually end. When they do, most users feel tired and depressed. To combat this feeling, some use the drug continuously for days or weeks as part of a “binge and crash” pattern. Unfortunately, this increases their risk of health problems and can lead to addiction.
Methamphetamine is highly addictive. In fact, the drug is so addictive that users can develop addictive habits after using meth just one time. This can happen because of the way the substance interacts with chemicals in the brain.
When consumed, methamphetamine travels through the bloodstream and releases excessive amounts of dopamine, a chemical messenger, or neurotransmitter, in the brain that helps individuals feel good. This high level of dopamine creates an intense rush of pleasurable feelings that causes a temporary high. When the high fades, the brain, which naturally wants to repeat pleasurable experiences, wants to experience the effects over and over again. When users satisfy this desire by taking the drug again, the brain starts to associate feeling good with methamphetamine, generating cravings for the drug. This change in the brain’s reward system can encourage users to binge methamphetamine which can lead to a horrifying crash that compels them to binge the drug again.
When individuals repeatedly use methamphetamine, the brain eventually stops producing the neurotransmitter on its own because the drug is generating more than enough dopamine. When this happens, users can have difficulty experiencing pleasure on their own. Instead, they need methamphetamine to experience pleasure and feel happy. Continued use of meth can quickly lead to addiction.
There are several reasons why methamphetamine is highly addictive. For starters, methamphetamine is potent. Even though there’s no clear way to measure the potency of each user’s meth, illegal street dealers sell the drug in a nearly pure form. In 2016, the purity of methamphetamine sold on the streets ranged from 93 to 96 percent. This means that even smoking a small amount of the drug can result in an extremely intense high that compels users to continue using the drug.
In addition to that, methamphetamine is addictive because:
As addictive as methamphetamine is, an addiction to the drug doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, meth addiction happens in stages. Even though the development of addiction can vary from person to person, an addiction to methamphetamine generally happens in 5 distinct stages.
In order for an individual to develop an addiction to methamphetamine, they must first try the drug. Whether someone is introduced to meth through a friend, tries the drug at a party or rave, or takes the drug as a form of self-medication, they generally experience a quick high and hard crash after the first dose. Generally, taking care of yourself the next day and resisting the urge to take more of the drug is the best course of action after using meth for the first time. Unfortunately, many people take more of the drug and quickly become regular methamphetamine users.
When individuals do consume more methamphetamine after their initial instance, their cravings for the drug intensify. This often leads to regular methamphetamine consumption which allows high levels of the drug to build up in the body and brain. In fact, even after the drug’s effects wear off, metabolites from methamphetamine remain in the body. These substances, which are made when the body breaks down methamphetamine, can affect how individuals think and feel. They can also trigger cravings.
As individuals continue to satisfy these cravings, the brain becomes accustomed to the presence of methamphetamine and eventually stops responding to the drug. When this happens, individuals have developed a tolerance for meth. This means that the amount of methamphetamine that once led to pleasure, increased confidence, and energy no longer produces the desired effects. At this point, individuals need higher levels of methamphetamine to experience the drug’s high.
But as individuals continually increase the amount of methamphetamine they consume, they start abusing the drug. As they do, they may begin tweaking. Tweaking, which can look and feel like psychosis, typically happens when individuals binge methamphetamine to stay high or use the drug over a long period of time. During this period of erratic, emotional behavior, most individuals avoid sleep for days as they chase the meth high. In addition to having delusions and hallucinations, their body shakes and they become impulsive, easily irritated, and sometimes violent. Tweaking usually lasts for 2 or 3 days but can last for up to 2 weeks. As they continue to abuse methamphetamine, their bodies become dependent on the substance.
When individuals become dependent on methamphetamine, the brain relies on the drug to maintain its chemical balance. This means that the brain “thinks” it needs meth in order to function normally.
As a result, when methamphetamine isn’t present, the brain loses its biochemical balance. Neurotransmitters that the brain released as a result of methamphetamine decrease. Without high enough levels of dopamine, individuals can begin to feel sad, sick, exhausted, and depressed. They may experience brain fog and might also have physical aches and pains. This chemical imbalance in the brain makes individuals feel they need methamphetamine in order to function normally.
Individuals dependent on methamphetamine also tend to experience symptoms of withdrawal when they quit using the drug or lower the amount they consume. Even though these symptoms aren’t typically life-threatening, they can be uncomfortable. Some of the most common symptoms of meth withdrawal include:
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The discomfort that these symptoms cause can lead to relapse. Sadly, when this happens, many individuals consume more of the drug than they normally would. More often than not, this pattern of behavior leads to addiction or overdose, which can be fatal.
By the time individuals develop an addiction to methamphetamine, they continue to use the drug despite negative consequences. Their actions are both impulsive and compulsive. Instead of taking time to consider their actions, individuals addicted to meth find themselves primarily preoccupied with obtaining their next high. Most of their decisions, choices, and deeds will be focused on getting and using methamphetamine.
Even though different people experience substance use disorders differently, one of the main signs of meth addiction is the inability to control how much and how often an individual uses the substance.
There are several different signs and symptoms associated with methamphetamine addiction. Typically, the symptoms that users experience depend on:
Depending on these factors, the symptoms of meth addiction can be mild or severe, but the more methamphetamine starts to affect users’ brains and bodies, the more visible these signs become.
One of the first symptoms of methamphetamine addiction is a sudden loss of interest in areas of life that were once considered important. Hobbies, relationships, career goals, health, and hygiene will become less important and methamphetamine use will become more important. In addition, individuals’ physical health, emotional temperament, and behavior patterns will start to change.
Some of the most common indications of methamphetamine use include:
Methamphetamine can also negatively impact an individual’s emotional temperament and psychological well-being. In fact, abusing the drug can lead to:
Paraphernalia commonly associated with methamphetamine usually includes:
Addiction can be hard to recognize, but noticing these signs, symptoms, and paraphernalia is usually a good indication that someone may be addicted to methamphetamine and in need of professional help.
Even though methamphetamine is one of the world’s most addictive drugs, many people don’t understand why the substance is so dangerous. But the reality is:
Meth can be made up of toxic ingredients. Most of the methamphetamine that’s sold on the streets contains ingredients found in nail polish remover, fertilizer, synthetic dyes, flame retardants, and smoke bombs. When ingested, these ingredients can cause nausea, vomiting, difficulty breathing, skin burns, kidney damage, and cancer.
The drug is highly addictive and hard to quit. Methamphetamine’s potency and the way the drug interacts with the brain makes the substance highly addictive and hard to quit. Many people find methamphetamine difficult to quit because of the drug’s extreme highs and lows. When individuals use methamphetamine, they experience a temporary but powerful euphoric high. After the high wears off, individuals experience an equally powerful crash. During the crash, individuals may feel nauseated, itchy, and fatigued. They might vomit, have convulsions, and struggle with anxiety and mood disorders like depression. In a desperate attempt to combat this crash, many individuals binge methamphetamine. Unfortunately, this pattern of behavior can make methamphetamine even more difficult to quit.
Methamphetamine can have deadly side effects even after a single dose. Since methamphetamine speeds up activity in the central nervous system, high amounts of the drug can have deadly side effects. In addition to causing high blood pressure and a racing heart, large doses of methamphetamine can cause seizures, strokes, convulsions, heart attacks, hyperthermia, and death.
The substance can cause permanent mental and physical damage. Recreationally using methamphetamine can negatively affect an individual’s mental and physical health. Using the drug can cause permanent damage, including:
In addition to that, methamphetamine is dangerous because the drug:
The short and long-term effects of methamphetamine can also be dangerous.
Even though methamphetamine causes a euphoric rush, the majority of the drug’s short-term effects are dangerous. Some of the most common adverse effects associated with methamphetamine include:
Chronic methamphetamine use can also cause many damaging, long-term health effects, including:
Methamphetamine use can also affect an individual’s mental health. Prolonged use of the drug can cause:
The good news is professional addiction treatment programs can help individuals overcome an addiction to methamphetamine.
Addiction is a chronic condition that changes the way the brain functions, but that doesn’t mean individuals struggling with meth addiction can’t recover. Detoxification, addiction treatment programs, behavioral therapy, peer support groups, and lifestyle changes can help individuals successfully overcome substance use disorders. The first step toward overcoming meth addiction is to quit using the substance altogether.
Detoxification, or detox, is the process of removing toxins from the body. During detox, the body metabolizes any drugs or alcohol in an individual’s system. The amount of time an individual needs to detox typically depends on the:
Regardless of these factors, detoxing from meth almost always involves symptoms of withdrawal. These symptoms, which are triggered by the brain’s dependence on meth, can be mild or severe.
The first phase of meth withdrawal generally happens within 24 hours after an individual’s last dose of methamphetamine. This stage, known as the “crash,” generally leaves individuals feeling:
In addition to spending excessive time sleeping, individuals may experience a number of hallucinations and delusions. They may also have an increased appetite. Even though these symptoms typically peak within the first few days of detox, they start to taper off after a week.
The second phase of meth withdrawal generally consists of ongoing symptoms that can last anywhere from a few weeks to over a month. During this time, individuals may experience:
To help stabilize the brain and combat some of these symptoms, many detox programs provide individuals medication as needed. Some of the more commonly prescribed meth withdrawal medications include:
Once individuals have successfully detoxed from methamphetamine, they can begin addiction treatment.
Meth addiction treatment generally falls into 1 of 2 categories: inpatient or outpatient care. Inpatient programs require individuals to live onsite at the rehabilitation facility while they receive treatment. Outpatient programs are more flexible. They allow individuals to live at home and travel to and from the rehab center for treatment sessions. Here, at Meta, we specialize in outpatient care.
Our programs, which are specifically designed for ongoing recovery, include:
All of our programs, regardless of their level of care, include:
Behavioral therapy is a key component of meth addiction treatment. Freeing the body of drugs is a rewarding outcome, but individuals looking to fully recover from addiction also need to change their thoughts, behaviors, and coping mechanisms.
Behavioral therapy can help individuals:
Here at Meta, our clinical services incorporate cognitive and dialectical behavioral therapies.
Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, is a type of talk therapy that can help individuals identify and change destructive, disturbing, and harmful thought patterns. According to CBT, what people think determines how they behave. By helping individuals recognize and reframe harmful thoughts, CBT can help individuals make healthier decisions.
Cognitive behavioral therapy can be especially beneficial for individuals looking to:
Dialectical behavioral therapy, or DBT, is another form of talk therapy. But DBT focuses on helping individuals understand, process, and manage difficult emotions. Whether individuals are dealing with anger, defiance, depression, sadness, or anxiety, DBT can help them:
As individuals participate in behavioral therapy, they’ll also take part in a number of recovery activities that can help them maintain their sobriety. Recovery activities can vary widely, but some of the most effective drug recovery activities include:
Here at Meta, two of our main recovery activities are peer support groups and case management.
Many recovery experts believe that the opposite of addiction is a healthy community. That’s because addiction isolates. Recovery, on the other hand, helps individuals reconnect with others in their lives. In fact, having a strong support system is one of the most effective ways to maintain long-term recovery. That’s why we incorporate a peer support model throughout our addiction treatment programs. We want recovering individuals to feel like they belong. Our non-judgemental peer support groups also help exemplify what a healthy community should look like.
In addition to that, peer support groups provide:
Individuals enrolled in our treatment programs work closely with our case management team to ensure they have the long-term support they need to maintain their sobriety. This support includes:
Even though methamphetamine has limited medical use, the substance is one of the world’s most addictive drugs. When people smoke, snort, or inject the drug into their veins, they experience a euphoric rush that can make them feel energetic and confident, but the effects of the drug are only temporary. After the high wears off, individuals are left feeling fatigued, anxious, and paranoid. Continued methamphetamine use can lead to addiction which can cause physical health problems and trigger mental health disorders. Fortunately, individuals addicted to methamphetamine can recover.
Recovering from methamphetamine isn’t easy, but it is possible. Our mission is to help empower you to take charge of your recovery. Our flexible, outpatient treatment programs were designed for real people looking for real recovery. You don’t have to have it all together to begin the recovery process. We can help you get there.
Let us help you live the thriving life you deserve. Contact us today to learn more about our meth addiction treatment programs. Our recovery experts are ready and willing to help you revive your life.