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Meth Addiction and Treatment

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What is Meth

Methamphetamine (meth) is a highly addictive stimulant drug. Meth is made from amphetamine cooked with other chemicals. It was originally prescribed as a weight loss aid and was even legally available throughout the United States. Over time, more and more people abused the drug due to its stimulant effects. This led to the FDA listing it as a schedule II controlled substance.

Nowadays, meth is abused in its two illicit forms – meth and crystal meth. Meth is found in a white, yellow, pink, or brown crystalline powder form. It is most commonly smoked, snorted, or injected. Crystal meth is shaped like coarse crystals that are either clear or blue. Crystal meth is usually smoked. In spite of the differing structural makeup, crystal meth and meth are the same chemical substance.

Street names for meth include glass, crystal, ice, crank, and tweak, amongst others.

How Meth Affects the Brain

As with the drug, crack cocaine, meth produces a rush that can last about 30 minutes when smoked or injected. Once the initial rush has passed, the drug produces the effects of a steady high that can last anywhere from a few hours to 24 hours.

Meth affects the neurotransmitters, or brain chemicals, in the brain. These neurotransmitters send messages from the brain around the body. The primary transmitter that meth affects is dopamine. Dopamine is responsible for feelings of pleasure.

Dopamine is released in large amounts when a person uses meth, resulting in excessive feelings of pleasure. This chemically-induced release of dopamine overstimulates the brain and can severely damage neurons. Damage to these neurons can result in paranoia, hallucinations, and depression.

Long-term meth addiction can cause severe, irreversible brain damage.

Is Meth Addictive

Yes, methamphetamine is highly addictive. Some people may become addicted after using it for the first time. Often, drug dealers will cut meth with other drugs in order to increase profit margins. Common additives include prescription medications such as opioids, which are also addictive and get the user hooked more quickly.

Signs of Meth Addiction

Any illicit use of meth qualifies as abuse. Due to its highly addictive nature, most people who abuse meth are addicted to the drug. Signs of meth addiction are often more apparent than with many other drugs.

Common signs of meth addiction include:

Constant Movement

Depending on the stage they are in, a user may appear jumpy, wide-eyed, and alert while continually fiddling with something. This includes picking at their skin, biting down on lips, or moving around uncontrollably.

Changes in Appearance

Nearly everything changes about a person once they become a meth user, especially their appearance. Methamphetamine dries out the skin, kills skin cells, and reduces facial bone tissue. The skin will wrinkle and start sagging, making meth addicts look old, haggard, and rundown. It also causes the hair to thin and fall out.

The biggest giveaway is the adverse effects meth has on teeth. This occurs from acidic tooth decay, dry mouth, severe gum disease, and other drug-induced damages, not to mention poor oral hygiene. Chronic meth users’ teeth will appear stained, rotten, blackened, crumbled, and chipped until they eventually fall out.

Altered Personality

A warning sign for loved ones that a family member or friend is using meth is a jarring change in personality and highly unpredictable mood swings.

Methamphetamine addiction causes immense changes in the way people act when they take the drug. Those who are the shy, quiet type become talkative and loud. Also, emotions can change rapidly from happy and laughing to sad and crying. It does not take much to anger a meth addict.

Who Abuses Meth

Anyone can be a methamphetamine addict. The drug is readily available and relatively affordable. Studies suggest the age bracket of addicts is 18-38, but this is not exclusive. Meth use is seen throughout all income brackets in the United States, but abuse is more prevalent in low-income areas.

Side-Effects of Meth Addiction

People abusing meth will experience a range of adverse side-effects. After prolonged use, these side-effects will become more severe.

Common side-effects of meth addiction include:
  • Reduced energy levels
  • Constantly feeling tired and worn out
  • Abnormal sleeping patterns
  • Feelings of depression, anxiety, and stress
  • Urges to eat
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Heartburn and acid indigestion
  • Painful episodes of constipation followed by diarrhea
  • The inability to focus or think straight
  • Loss of memory
  • Loss of emotion control followed by spontaneous extreme sadness with uncontrollable crying
  • Uncontrollable body jerks and movements
  • Impulsive mouth movements that include biting down and teeth grinding
  • False feelings of bugs crawling on the skin and itching
  • Dry mouth
  • Paranoia and fear
  • Sudden changes in body temperature
  • Sweating in a cold atmosphere or freezing when it is warm
  • Negative breathing patterns that cause unusual loss of breath that leads to panting for breath
  • Blurred vision that gets worse over time
  • Isolation and feelings of loneliness
  • Heart palpitations and irregular heartbeats

Methamphetamine and Alcohol

Meth users will often drink while high. Because meth is a stimulant, it masks the sedative effects of alcohol, leading to higher quantities of alcohol being consumed. Consuming meth and alcohol together can result in dangerous side-effects, including psychosis, liver damage, cancer, and even death.

Meth Addiction Treatment

Meth use is rife in America, leading to the need for highly specialized treatment programs for treating meth addiction. Today, there are many options for those seeking recovery from meth addiction.

Detox from Methamphetamine

Medical detox is the first step on the road to recovery from meth addiction. Detox involves tapering the user off the drug in order to remove all traces from the body. Often, medication is administered to counteract the painful effects of meth withdrawal. This is why meth detox must be only done in a registered rehab facility under the supervision of a clinician.

Methamphetamine Withdrawal

Depending on the duration of abuse, withdrawal symptoms can last between two to three weeks. The severity of meth withdrawal symptoms depends on the duration and frequency of use, the amount used, and whether it was smoked, snorted or injected.

Meth withdrawal can be uncomfortable and even dangerous. The effects of meth withdrawal can lead to the user relapsing, which is why detox and withdrawal should only be done at an inpatient facility.

Common meth withdrawal symptoms include:
  • Agitation
  • Insomnia
  • Excessive sweating
  • Paranoia
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Hallucinations
  • Fever
  • Tremors
  • Severe depression
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Anxiety
  • Dehydration

Medication can be used to ease the symptoms of withdrawal.

Therapies Used in Meth Addiction

Once the worst of the detox and withdrawal symptoms have passed, the next step in treatment is to tackle the underlying psychological causes and effects of addiction. The most effective treatments for methamphetamine addiction are behavioral therapies carried out at an inpatient rehabilitation center by professional health care providers.

Often, meth addicts will have underlying mental health disorders, making therapy even more effective in helping the addict get their life back on track.

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: CBT is widely used in addiction treatment. These sessions will help the patient identify their triggers, develop tools to cope with negative thoughts, and overcome the behavioral patterns that can influence addiction.
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy: DBT was first developed to treat patients suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder and other mental illnesses of a similar nature. When used for addiction recovery, DBT helps the patient manage their emotions, behavior, and surroundings. The focus of DBT is to help the patient remove triggers, boost self-esteem, and manage stress in order to maintain sobriety.
  • Group Therapy: Group therapy such as groups like Narcotics Anonymous are a great way to meet and connect with other like-minded individuals who are working to overcome addiction. Meetings are usually held regularly and foster a community spirit and sense of accountability.

Recovery from Meth Addiction

Meth addiction is one of the hardest addictions to overcome, but recovery is possible with the right treatment plan. Everyone is different, as are the nuances of addiction. This is why it is best to seek professional help for overcoming meth addiction.

With the right, individualized treatment plan as an inpatient at a rehab center, individuals can fight meth addiction and take back control of their lives.

Don’t wait for meth addiction to ruin your life. Get in touch with us today and let one of our committed and caring treatment navigators guide you to the right treatment facility for meth addiction.

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