What is Meth Addiction?
Methamphetamine is a powerful and highly addictive stimulant that may affect your central nervous system. Although medications have proven effective in treating some substance use disorders, there are currently no medications that counteract the specific effects of methamphetamine. Also, there is no medication yet to prolong the abstinence from meth or to reduce the misuse of the drug. The most effective meth addiction treatment at this point are behavioral therapies, such as cognitive-behavioral and contingency management interventions.
The methamphetamine drug is also known as meth, blue, ice, and crystal. It takes the form of a white, odorless, bitter-tasting crystalline powder that easily dissolves in water or alcohol. Meth can also be smoked, snorted, injected, or orally ingested. Long-term methamphetamine abuse has many negative consequences, including addiction. Addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease, characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use and accompanied by functional and molecular changes in the brain.
As is the case with many drugs, tolerance to methamphetamine’s pleasurable effects develops when it is taken repeatedly. Abusers often need to take higher doses of the drug, take it more frequently, or change how they take it to get the desired effect. Chronic methamphetamine abusers may develop difficulty feeling any pleasure other than that provided by the drug, fueling further abuse. Withdrawal from methamphetamine occurs when a chronic abuser stops taking the drug; symptoms of withdrawal include depression, anxiety, fatigue, and an intense craving for the drug.
How Addictive is Meth?
The experience of “high” from meth only lasts five to 30 minutes then, the lingering effects can last up to 12 hours. Consequently, it causes difficult emotional and physical symptoms, such as depression and insomnia. As a result, meth addiction often follows a pattern of bingeing on the drug for several days at a time, followed by a crash.
Certainly that the short duration of the drug’s euphoric effects may cause you to reuse the substance, which can increase your tolerance to meth. As a result of your tolerance to the drug, you will need to take higher doses to achieve the desired effects. Some users are smoking or injecting meth to experience a stronger, more immediate high.
The Current Reality of Methamphetamines
The dangers of illicit drugs don’t usually end with the effects of the substance itself. There’s always a bigger problem behind them. In the case of methamphetamine, many drug dealers will also “cut” this drug with other substances to sell less of the actual drug for the same price and fetch a greater profit margin.
In some cases, methamphetamine is cut with prescription medications, ranging from antidepressants to opioids. These additives can be extremely dangerous due to the drug interactions and increase the risk of overdose.
The vast majority of meth that is distributed today comes from illegal laboratories and imports. The product is typically cooked in “home labs” or “stovetops” in which a few people will produce small amounts of the substance.
While the structural makeup of the two variations differs, both meth and crystal meth are chemically the same thing. Street names for methamphetamine include:
- Redneck cocaine
- No doze
- White cross
- Cotton candy
Meth is also produced in cartel “super labs” that include professional-grade equipment to produce the drug at higher quantities and quality. The key ingredient in meth is typically the stimulant ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, which is found in some common over-the-counter cough and cold medications. Meth labs are notoriously dangerous because the gas and chemicals that are released during the drug’s creation process are toxic and combustible.
Meth Addiction Effects
Most users try to maintain the high by taking more of the drug. In some cases, people indulge in a form of binging known as a “run,” foregoing food and sleep while continuing to take the drug for up to several days.
The short-term effects of meth according to the SAMHSA includes the following:
- Even taking small amounts of meth can cause harmful health effects such as irritability
- Increased blood pressure and body temperature
- Faster breathing
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
- Loss of appetite, disturbed sleep patterns, or nausea
- Erratic, aggressive, or violent behavior
Drug abuse of meth can lead to many damaging, long-term health risks, even when people stop taking meth, including:
- Permanent damage to the heart and brain
- High blood pressure leading to heart attacks, strokes, and death
- Liver, kidney, and lung damage
- Anxiety, confusion, and insomnia
- Paranoia, hallucinations, mood disturbances, delusions, or violent behavior (psychotic symptoms can sometimes last for months or years after meth use)
- Intense itching, causing skin sores from scratching
- Premature osteoporosis
- Severe dental problems
Meth Addiction Symptoms Variations
Meth has a great influence even in small quantities because its effects are like those of other stimulant drugs like cocaine. Moreover, side effects may include:
- Feeling exhilarated
- Feeling confident and empowered
- Dulled or “blunted” emotions
- Increased sexual arousal
- Increased sociability
- Increased aggression
- Bizarre behavior
- Lack of social awareness
- Increased alertness and wakefulness
- High blood pressure
- Increased breathing
- Lack of appetite
- Irregular heartbeat
- Increased physical activity and fidgeting
- Lack of inhibitions
Meth Addiction Withdrawal and Detox
Research has shown that meth withdrawal follows a predictable pattern. Firstly, symptoms appear within 24 hours after the last dose. These symptoms peak after 7 to 10 days of abstinence. And then, they disappear within 14 to 20 days of abstinence.
Further meth withdrawal symptoms include the following:
- Red, itchy eyes
- Joint pain
- Clammy skin
- Irregular heartbeat
While going through meth withdrawal during detox, people often become angry, nervous, or anxious. Some may experience severe mental health problems such as depression or meth psychosis. You may also feel intense cravings for the drug often because of the discomfort you feel without the effects of the drug.
Given that, you should undergo detox in a supervised treatment center to help you ease with these withdrawal symptoms. Detoxification is a process aimed at helping you stop taking meth as safely and as quickly as possible.
Behavioral Signs of Meth Addiction
Recognizing an addiction problem in someone you know can be harder than it seems. The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) defines addiction as a chronic disease that affects the brain’s reward, motivation, and memory functions. Someone with an addiction will crave a substance or other behavioral habits. They’ll often ignore other areas of life to fulfill or support their desires.
General signs of meth addiction are:
- Lack of control, or inability to stay away from a substance or behavior
- Decreased socialization, like abandoning commitments or ignoring relationships
- Ignoring risk factors, like sharing needles despite potential consequences
- Physical effects, like withdrawal symptoms or needing higher dosage for effect
These signs are commonly linked. The degree of intensity for each sign may depend on how long the addiction has been going on. A healthy person can usually identify negative behavior and get rid of it. This is not the case with someone with an addiction. Rather than admit the problem exists, they’ll find ways to justify and continue the behavior. The first step to getting help is being able to recognize the physical, mental, and emotional signs, like abrupt weight or personality changes in your friends or family members.
Methamphetamine is a leading cause of drug overdoses, which claimed 67,367 lives in the U.S. in 2018 alone. A meth overdose is a treatable condition, but every second counts. If you delay treatment because you’re afraid to admit to meth use or you’re not sure whether you have overdosed, it could cost you your life. Knowing the symptoms of a meth overdose is critical to get prompt care.
Meth Overdose Symptoms
Meth addiction does not have to lead to an overdose. It is a treatable medical condition. The early symptoms of a meth overdose may look similar to being high on meth. But you may notice subtle differences, like a more intense high or a rapid or irregular heartbeat. Some other symptoms of a meth overdose are:
- Trouble breathing
- Signs of a heart attack or stroke, such as chest pain or confusion
- High or low blood pressure
- A high body temperature
- Kidney failure, which might cause symptoms such as peeing less or very dark urine
- Intense stomach pain
- Changes in personality or alertness
- Loss of consciousness
- Intensely hyper or aggressive behavior
Meth Addiction Treatment
The longer someone takes meth, and the higher the dosage, the more severely dependent on the drug they are likely to be. A high level of dependence means that withdrawal will be difficult. Withdrawal symptoms are optimally managed through a medical detox regime like that provided in a comprehensive treatment program. There are no specific medications designed to treat Meth Addiction; however, some medications can help manage specific symptoms of withdrawal like those that address depression, anxiety, and tremors.
The National Library of Medicine (NLM) reports that the sooner someone receives help for meth abuse, the better the long-term prognosis is. Meth is highly addictive, and the emotional lows and severe drug cravings associated with its use can make relapse highly likely. It is important to stay vigilant and for an individual to remain in an addiction treatment program for long enough to form healthy habits, to allow new brain connections to form, and to learn relapse prevention techniques to control cravings.
Behavioral therapies are usually considered the ideal form of treatment for Meth Addiction, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) uses both individual and group sessions to teach stress management, coping tools, communication, and other life skills to maintain abstinence and improve thinking and behavior patterns overall.
Another form of behavioral therapy used for meth addiction is one that uses motivational incentives, or contingency management, as a method to maintain sobriety. With this program, individuals are rewarded for clean drug tests, and this can help to boost treatment compliance and the motivation to continue to remain drug-free.
Support groups, such as the 12-Step-based program Crystal Meth Anonymous (CMA), can connect individuals with peers who can relate to what they are going through and offer hope, encouragement, and tips on remaining abstinent. Family therapy, counseling, and educational programs can all help to promote a lasting recovery as well.
Methamphetamine can cause long-term damage to the brain, which can require specialized treatment and continuous care over a sustained period of time to promote abstinence. With proper treatment, individuals can learn to manage the possible side effects of repeated abuse and disruption to the brain, and minimize instances of relapse for a healthy recovery.
Reclaim your life from Meth Addiction
Meth Addiction is a serious condition that should not be taken lightly. We Level Up Washington center can provide you, or someone you love, the tools to recover from Meth Addiction with professional and safe treatment. Feel free to call us to speak with one of our counselors. We can inform you about this condition by giving you relevant information. Our specialists know what you are going through. Please know that each call is private and confidential.
We Level Up Washington Mental Health Center: Primary Mental Health Treatment with Secondary Co-Occurring Treatments
The We Level Up Washington primary mental health center stands ready to help. Offering secondary treatment programs for underlying conditions like Meth addiction that frequently fuels harmful behaviors. Taking that first step to get the professional support you need can be life-transforming.
We know how mental health disorders and secondary co-occurring substance abuse diagnoses directly affect one another. The We Level Up Washington treatment center provides recovery programs through science-based mental health treatments that can help you feel better. Call us now for a free mental health evaluation!
Inpatient medical detox and residential primary addiction treatment may be available at affiliated facilities at other We Level Up Treatment Centers locations beyond the Washington treatment facility.
 Methamphetamine – National Institute on Drug Abuse
 Meth – Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA)
 Methamphetamine Misused – National Institute on Drug Abuse
 https://www.samhsa.gov/meth – Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration