If you or a loved one are struggling with an addiction to methamphetamine, we encourage you to seek professional treatment. At Meta Addiction, we provide flexible outpatient treatment programs designed for real people looking for real recovery and to help you recover on your schedule.
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.
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.
What Is Methamphetamine?
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.
The Methamphetamine High
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:
- How much methamphetamine they consumed
- The frequency of methamphetamine consumption
- The method of use
- The environment where the drug was consumed
- The presence of pre-existing medical or psychiatric conditions
- Whether or not the user consumed any other drugs (illegal, prescription, herbal, or over-the-counter) or alcohol
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.
Is Meth Addictive?
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.
Why Is Meth So Addictive?
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:
- Tolerance for the drug builds up quickly. Tolerance occurs when the body becomes accustomed to a substance. When this happens, the substance you’re using doesn’t produce the same effects that it once did. Individuals need higher doses of the substance to obtain their desired effects instead. Different drugs have different tolerance levels. Tolerance for some substances happens slowly. Tolerance for methamphetamine builds up quickly. This means that many individuals using methamphetamine end up increasing their dosage not long after they start using the drug. Sadly, the more of the substance they consume, the more their risk of addiction increases.
- The drug compels users to “chase the high.” The methamphetamine high is intense but very short. Not long after consuming the drug, users feel a surge of pleasure, a rush of energy, and an influx of unbridled confidence. But these feelings don’t last long. After the drug’s initial effects end, individuals experience the “come down.” They feel fatigued and lethargic. Their energy levels plummet. Their eating and sleeping patterns are off. Their mood shifts dramatically and suddenly. They can’t concentrate and have trouble feeling any kind of pleasure. They’re irritated, agitated, and sometimes violent. These feelings can compel them to use meth again. Instead of actually solving their problem, chasing the high opens the door to addiction and ultimately creates more problems.
- Users want to avoid symptoms of meth withdrawal. When the high wears off or users try to stop consuming methamphetamine altogether, they’ll likely experience some symptoms of withdrawal. These symptoms can be so uncomfortable that many people use meth again to temporarily combat these adverse effects. Sadly, this increases their risk of addiction.
- Meth produces intense and often uncontrollable cravings. Cravings for methamphetamine can begin anywhere from a few hours to a few days after an individual consumes the drug. Generally, the cravings are so intense because they affect individuals both physically and psychologically. In addition to feeling fatigued and depressed, individuals who haven’t used meth for a few hours can become psychologically preoccupied with the drug. They might have strong desires to visit places and people that remind them of meth. Memories of how good they seemed to feel when they used methamphetamine might invade their minds. They might even have vivid dreams involving the drug, triggering physical cravings that often compel individuals to continue using the drug.
How Does Methamphetamine Addiction Happen?
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.
Stage 1: The First Dose
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.
Stage 2: Regular Methamphetamine Use
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.
Stage 3: Increased Tolerance and Abuse
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.
Stage 4: Dependence on Methamphetamine
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:
- Excessive sleepiness
- Increased appetite
- Dry mouth
- Stomach aches
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Extreme cravings for methamphetamine
- Suicidal thoughts
If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, please contact your healthcare provider or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.
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.
Stage 5: Methamphetamine Addiction
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.
Signs and Symptoms of Methamphetamine Addiction
There are several different signs and symptoms associated with methamphetamine addiction. Typically, the symptoms that users experience depend on:
- The amount of methamphetamine they consume
- How long they have used methamphetamine
- How frequently they have used methamphetamine
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:
- Burns on an individual’s lips or fingers
- Sudden, noticeable weight loss
- Skin sores
- Reduced appetite
- Erratic sleeping patterns
- Chronic fatigue
- Increased wakefulness
- Obsessive physical activity
- Increased sensitivity to noise
- Tremors or convulsions
- Rapid eye movement
- Rotting, broken, or decayed teeth known as “meth mouth”
- Twitching, facial tics, and jerky movements
- Scratching and picking at the skin
Methamphetamine can also negatively impact an individual’s emotional temperament and psychological well-being. In fact, abusing the drug can lead to:
- Euphoria followed by agitation
- Sudden outbursts and mood swings
- Violent behavior
Paraphernalia commonly associated with methamphetamine usually includes:
- Water pipes
- Burned spoons
- Aluminum foil
- Rolled up paper slips
- Needles, syringes, shoelaces, and rubber tubing
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.
Why Is Methamphetamine So Dangerous?
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:
- Elevated blood pressure
- Memory loss
- Increased heart rate
- Damaged blood vessels in the brain
- Cardiovascular damage
- Lung damage
- Liver and kidney disease
- Depression and anxiety
In addition to that, methamphetamine is dangerous because the drug:
- Can lead to seizures, high body temperature, heart attack, stroke, and death
- Increases the risk of infections as a result of sharing needles with others
- Can cause premature birth and low birth weights
- Increase the risk of physical injury
- Can lead to potentially fatal overdoses
The short and long-term effects of methamphetamine can also be dangerous.
Adverse Short-Term Effects of Methamphetamine
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:
- Aggressive behavior. Research shows that methamphetamine use has been consistently linked to aggressive, violent behavior. According to studies conducted by the National Institute of Health, meth’s paranoia-inducing effects may be responsible for users’ aggressive behavior. When individuals use methamphetamine, their senses are heightened and they’re more alert. This makes them much more likely to perceive environments as hostile or threatening.
- Appetite loss. Since methamphetamine energizes the central nervous system, many users wrongly assume that they don’t need to eat or sleep. In fact, many individuals abusing meth go multiple days without eating. This can be especially true during a methamphetamine binge. This pattern of behavior typically leads to a severe decrease in appetite and rapid, sudden, and unexplained weight loss.
- Hypertension and heartbeat abnormalities. Methamphetamine increases blood pressure and changes the way the heart functions. Instead of a rhythmic, steady heartbeat, individuals who use methamphetamine have a quick, racing heartbeat. Increased blood pressure combined with a rapid heart rate can lead to hypertension, heart attacks, and other cardiovascular abnormalities.
- Hyperthermia. As methamphetamine speeds up activity in the central nervous system, the brain and body heat up. High doses of the drug can increase individuals’ body temperature by several degrees. Individuals’ temperatures can remain elevated for 3 to 5 hours. This drastic increase in body temperature can cause hyperthermia, abnormally high body temperature. If left untreated, hyperthermia can lead to heatstroke and death.
- Dehydration. Many methamphetamine users also experience dehydration. This can happen when people become so overrun by methamphetamine that they may not even think about drinking water. In addition to that, increased body temperature and hyperthermia can cause individuals to sweat profusely, triggering dehydration.
Long-Term Effects of Methamphetamine
Chronic methamphetamine use can also cause many damaging, long-term health effects, including:
- Liver, kidney, and lung damage
- Respiratory problems if smoked
- Damaged blood vessels in the heart and brain
- Premature osteoporosis
- Brain damage
- Memory loss
- Reduced motor speed
- Difficulty concentrating
- Severe tooth decay known as “meth mouth”
- Damaged nose tissues if sniffed
- Infectious diseases and abscesses if injected
- Increased risk of Alzheimer’s
Methamphetamine use can also affect an individual’s mental health. Prolonged use of the drug can cause:
- Mood disturbances
The good news is professional addiction treatment programs can help individuals overcome an addiction to methamphetamine.
How Is Meth Addiction Treated?
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.
Meth Detox and Withdrawal Treatment
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:
- Frequency of methamphetamine use
- Amount of methamphetamine they consumed during their addiction
- Length of time an individual used methamphetamine
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:
- Extremely tired
- Craving methamphetamine
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:
- Weight gain
- Worsening mental health symptoms
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:
- Mirtazapine, an antidepressant that helps relieve cravings, depression, and anxiety.
- Provigil which helps to improve emotional regulation and decrease cravings.
- Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) that ease symptoms related to depression and anxiety.
- Sleep medications that help ease insomnia and nightmares.
Once individuals have successfully detoxed from methamphetamine, they can begin addiction treatment.
Meth Addiction Treatment Programs
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 Addiction Treatment, we specialize in outpatient care.
Our programs, which are specifically designed for ongoing recovery, include:
- Partial hospitalization. This program, which is our highest level of care, is an ideal treatment program for individuals who have recently completed a higher level of meth addiction treatment and need continued support. Individuals enrolled in this program meet 5 days per week for 2 to 4 weeks.
- Intensive outpatient. This is a great program for individuals looking to strengthen their recovery after completing our partial hospitalization program or an equivalent program. Individuals in this program also meet 5 days a week, but the program lasts 4 to 6 weeks.
- Outpatient treatment. This program offers individuals the support and resources they need to transition from treatment back into their day-to-day lives. There isn’t a typical duration for this program because it’s based on each individual’s recovery needs.
All of our programs, regardless of their level of care, include:
- Behavioral therapy
- Life skills training
- Family therapy
- Peer support and 12-step groups
- Mindfulness-based meditation
- Group and individual counseling with licensed clinicians
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:
- Understand why they started using methamphetamine in the first place
- Heal from past trauma
- Develop healthy emotional regulation skills
- Avoid relapse
- Deal with stress and anxiety
- Communicate more effectively
- Develop healthier thought patterns
- Build self-esteem
- Develop healthy coping skills
Here at Meta Addiction Treatment, our clinical services incorporate cognitive and dialectical behavioral therapies.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
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:
- Understand and manage triggers
- Gain insight into their behavior patterns
- Heal from traumatic life experiences
- Find healthier ways to deal with stress and anxiety
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
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:
- Manage stress in a healthy way
- Better understand their emotional responses
- Reduce risky, dangerous, and unstable behavior
- Overcome unexpected crises without resorting to harmful behaviors
- Maintain healthy and positive relationships
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:
- Individual and group counseling
- Gratitude journaling
- Relapse prevention courses
- Meditation and mindfulness
- Nutritional counseling
- Music and art therapy
- Healthy coping skills courses
- Exercising and physical fitness
- Dual diagnosis programs
Here at Meta Addiction Treatment, two of our main recovery activities are peer support groups and case management.
Peer Support Groups
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:
- An environment for mutual sharing and support
- Help individuals build long-term recovery relationships
- Practice life skills and therapeutic approaches they’ve learned
- Provide a community to help combat feelings of isolation and loneliness
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:
- Help finding gainful employment
- Assistance with continuing education
- Follow-up meetings during and after treatment sessions
- Family support program
- Referrals to additional services as needed
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.
Real Recovery For Real People
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. Our recovery experts are ready and willing to help you revive your life.