People who are interested in methamphetamine addiction treatment for themselves or loved ones can prepare for the process by learning more about the drug and the methods used for detox and rehab.
What Is Methamphetamine?
Methamphetamine, which is commonly referred to as meth, was once prescribed to treat certain medical conditions. Today, however, the synthetic drug is infrequently prescribed and typically produced in illegal home-based labs, which are known as meth labs. One prescription form of the drug used today is Desoxyn. Methamphetamine is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance, meaning it has a high potential for abuse and dependence. People who have developed a dependence to the drug can overcome it with methamphetamine addiction treatment.
“…the effects of methamphetamine are more intense and last longer than those of cocaine.” Methamphetamine is a crystalline powder with properties similar to those of amphetamine. The substance is similar to cocaine by the way it stimulates the central nervous system; however, the effects of methamphetamine are more intense and last longer than those of cocaine. Use of the drug causes the brain to release higher levels of dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter related to feelings of well-being and a rewarding response to specific behaviors. Methamphetamine also alters the brain’s re-uptake of dopamine.
The powdered form of methamphetamine is snorted or mixed with water or alcohol for intravenous injection. The substance is also used in concentrated chunks called “crystal” and “glass,” which are smoked or crushed for the other methods of abuse. Methamphetamine is sometimes taken orally as well.
The Effects and Consequences of Using
A methamphetamine high can cause intense euphoric feelings and increased energy. Like other stimulants, methamphetamine typically decreases a person’s appetite, increases feelings of alertness, and increases the heart and respiratory rate. Other short-term effects may include uncontrollable movements, impaired speech, hallucinations, excessive talking, feelings of intense excitement, paranoia, numbness, insomnia, and aggression. The high usually peaks about two to three hours after using the drug.
Because a methamphetamine high lowers inhibitions, people often engage in risky behaviors while using it. Users are at risk of contracting HIV and hepatitis from sharing needles for intravenous use of the drug, and other dangers are present when users engage in unprotected sex and other high-risk behaviors, such as driving while under the influence of the drug. Methamphetamine addiction treatment can help people avoid these associated risks and consequences.
When people come down from methamphetamine, they can feel exhausted and depressed. If use triggered symptoms of psychosis, the user may continue to experience the symptoms for several days after using. People often sleep for long periods after taking methamphetamine, unless they take more to experience another high. During the subsequent depression, some people feel suicidal. Coming down from the drug can also cause intense agitation, and some users act violently when experiencing this. People are often tempted to use more to experience the high and avoid the discomfort of withdrawal symptoms.
Fact:Methamphetamine does not metabolize as quickly as some of the other stimulants. The effects can last for about eight hours, and the drug can remain in a person’s system for up to two days.
With consistent use of methamphetamine, a person may begin to experience more negative effects. A regular user may experience moodiness, sleep disturbances, anxiety and nervousness, and a lack of interest in eating and maintaining friendships. Long-term use often results in physical and psychological changes. Frequent use may result in skin ulcerations, as users tend to scratch and pick at their skin in response to a feeling of bugs crawling on them. The loss of appetite can lead to malnutrition and extreme weight loss. Methamphetamine use is also associated with severe dental problems, known as “meth mouth,” as well as disorders of the kidneys and lungs. The physical effects of long-term use are sometimes fatal without methamphetamine addiction treatment.
Fact:Long-term methamphetamine use can damage the brain and result in personality changes. A user may develop a psychosis resembling paranoid schizophrenia.
Typical Signs and Symptoms of Addiction
An addiction to methamphetamine is characterized by withdrawal symptoms, drug-seeking behaviors, and psychological dependence. When physically dependent on methamphetamine, a person may experience strong cravings to use, confusion, difficulties concentrating, feelings of apathy, restlessness, and depression when not using.
Recreational users of this substance generally snort it or take it orally on occasion. This form of abuse frequently occurs at raves and parties. Although recreational users experience negative effects, such as exhaustion, when coming down from it, they are not necessarily addicted to it or experiencing withdrawal. Smoking or injecting methamphetamine is often the preferred method of abuse for those who are addicted to it, as these methods cause a more intense high and quicken the onset of meth’s effects. Those who are addicted to it tend to binge on the drug as well.
“People who are tweaking from methamphetamine are considered dangerous…” Methamphetamine addicts often get into a cycle of use. This cycle includes a period in which the user binges on the substance for days and stops once he or she runs out of methamphetamine or becomes too disoriented to use. In some cases, the drug stops having the desired effects during a binge, resulting in even more use and increased agitation. This is known as tweaking. People who are tweaking from methamphetamine are considered dangerous, as they often behave erratically and violently. Signs of tweaking include jerky movements, rapid eye movements, and a quivering voice. A person in this stage usually has not slept for days, sometimes having gone as long as 15 days without sleep. This instability is intensified if the person uses alcohol; however, alcohol use can conceal the signs from other people.
Following the binging and tweaking stage of the cycle, a user typically crashes. This part of the cycle is characterized by exhaustion and depression. The user may sleep deeply for a long period and then suffer from a low mood. When withdrawal symptoms begin for the addicted user, the cycle is repeated. Methamphetamine addiction treatment can help people stop this cycle.
General signs and symptoms of addiction are also present when a person is addicted to methamphetamine. People may withdraw from their families and friends and spend the majority of their time alone or with other users. Interpersonal conflicts over the users’ behaviors can also arise. Addiction can also result in problems at school or work, financial difficulties, and legal issues.
Help is available to break this cycle and overcome the problems associated with addiction.
The Detox and Rehab Process
The first step to methamphetamine addiction treatment is detox. This can be completed at home; however, medically assisted methamphetamine detox can help people increase their chances of remaining clean. Medical assistance and inpatient treatment provide help for both psychological and physical withdrawal symptoms, and this support can ease the process. Being in a drug-free environment during detox also eliminates the risk of using in response to these symptoms and helps a person prepare for sober living.
Sober LivingYou have admitted to yourself and to others that you have developed an addiction to alcohol or drugs and have recently completed a drug or alcohol addiction treatment program. The journey to a drug- and alcohol-free life does not end here. Most recovering addicts, regardless of the type of drug addiction they are recovering from, are not prepared to function in a sober world without having adequate sober living plans in place.Read More
Medications may be prescribed for withdrawal symptoms and for the treatment of any underlying conditions. Methamphetamine users who experience symptoms of psychosis may have preexisting psychiatric disorders, and medications can help treat those conditions as well psychological disturbances resulting from meth use. Following an evaluation of the user, a physician or psychiatrist may prescribe an antidepressant or anti anxiety medication. Medical treatment can also help a person manage the physical effects of long-term drug use.
Detox and medical treatment prepare a person for the actual rehabilitation process, which can take place in an inpatient rehab center or on an outpatient basis. Once methamphetamine is out of a person’s system and withdrawal symptoms are under control, the patient can focus issues related to addiction and drug use. Factors that may need to be addressed in methamphetamine addiction treatment include interpersonal relationships, social circles, the home environment, and the person’s coping skills. The initial stage of rehab may also include a focus on nutrition to assist people with improving their physical health.
A primary component of methamphetamine rehab is relapse prevention. Counselors help users in recovery identify their triggers to drug use and learn healthy methods of dealing with those triggers. Stress is one factor that may lead to intense cravings or the tendency to use drugs, so stress management is often an important aspect of relapse prevention. Counselors work with people individually and in group settings for this portion of treatment.
In group settings, patients may be encouraged to practice methods for turning down drugs and managing interpersonal conflicts in role-playing scenarios. Group therapy also provides an opportunity for people to discuss their struggles with methamphetamine and share their experiences and ideas for coping with addiction. The relationships built during the course of group therapy can become sources of support for everyone involved.
“The relationships built during the course of group therapy can become sources of support for everyone involved.” Patients may also be encouraged to attend community-based meetings for drug abuse, such as those conducted by Narcotics Anonymous, Crystal Meth Anonymous, and SMART Recovery. While inpatient group therapy sessions are facilitated by professional counselors, community-based programs are typically run by recovering addicts. These groups provide educational materials, a supportive environment, and an outlet for sharing concerns. Sponsors from NA or CMA also help individuals as needed between scheduled meetings. When people are having a difficult time or struggling with urges to use, sponsors attempt to talk them through it and redirect them to healthier activities.
Methamphetamine addiction treatment is usually a combination of different rehabilitation methods. Treatment professionals provide cognitive therapy to help people manage the psychological aspects of addiction, and they also focus on behavioral management to assist people with developing healthier lifestyles and abstaining from methamphetamine and other substances. The behavioral management portion may include routine drug testing with a rewards system for sobriety. The reward for clean test results provides additional incentive to abstain from drug use.
Another form of therapy that may be used in treatment is family therapy, which addresses unhealthy family dynamics and patterns that influence or relate to the person’s methamphetamine use. This can help family members build healthier relationships with each other, and it also provides instruction for handling different aspects of addiction. Certain family members may realize that they were enabling the person’s drug use or that they have problems with codependency. Therapy can help resolve these issues and teach family members how to assist their loved one with relapse prevention.
Choosing the Right Treatment for You
Inpatient methamphetamine treatment may be a better option for users who have coexisting mental health conditions or highly stressful living environments. Staying in a rehab center provides respite from environmental stressors and allows a person to focus strictly on recovery. Inpatient treatment may include medical monitoring, individual and group therapy sessions, and recreational activities. The length of stay depends on the individual and his or her circumstances. Following detox and intensive therapy in the clinic, the person can then transition into residential or outpatient treatment.
A residential program also provides a high level of support and structure. Depending on the individual, placement in this type of program generally lasts a few months to a year. Recovering drug users live together in a structured environment while following their individual rehab plans, which may include daily meetings and weekly counseling. A person does not necessarily need to enter inpatient treatment prior to entering a residential program. A counselor, physician, or licensed social worker may provide a referral to this type of program when a person initially seeks treatment.
Outpatient methamphetamine addiction treatment offers the same types of treatment but on a less intensive level. This may be ideal for those who are employed and wish to continue meeting their daily obligations while receiving help. Outpatient treatment is also a long-term option for people exiting more intensive programs. Weekly or monthly counseling sessions can help people maintain their sobriety, manage stressors as they arise, achieve personal goals, and work toward a happier, healthier life.