Methamphetamine, often shortened to “meth,” is a major recreational drug in the United States that inflicts enormous damage on people’s lives. The drug, which often comes in the form of bluish-white rock-like shards, is not only physically addictive, but it harms users’ physical and mental health. Methamphetamine is a central nervous system stimulant. It is closely related to amphetamine, a medication often used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), narcolepsy, and other conditions. Methamphetamine, however, is rarely prescribed as a legitimate medication due to its neurotoxicity and high potential for addiction. However, the demand for methamphetamine among recreational drug users has remained high and is currently on the rise.
People take methamphetamine to get high. While the various possible routes of administration, which include smoking, snorting, and injecting, alter the speed and intensity of the high, the side effects of methamphetamine are relatively consistent. The effects of meth include euphoria, improved focus, energy, and concentration. Many people also experience surges in libido while intoxicated on methamphetamine. As a result, the drug has long been a popular party drug used to improve sexual performance. Others use it for its perceived cognitive-enhancing effects. However, because methamphetamine use so quickly turns to addiction, the vast majority of methamphetamine users take it simply to ward off withdrawal symptoms.
People addicted to meth suffer painful side effects very quickly after they stop taking the drug. For this reason, people suffering from substance use disorders are often unable to stop taking the drug on their own no matter how determined they are. Drug addiction, especially methamphetamine addiction, also exerts chemical changes in users’ brains that make it difficult for them to remain drug free without outside intervention. Fortunately, a wide variety of treatment programs exist to help people who suffer from crystal meth addiction. Addiction experts recommend that any person hoping to treat meth addiction first reach out to a medical detox center where they can safely withdraw from the drug in a safe and supportive environment. After that, they can attend a treatment center, such as an outpatient program or inpatient rehab center, where they can tackle the underlying issues behind their addictions and develop new coping strategies.
It is important to understand that methamphetamine addiction is not a failure of willpower. It is a legitimate and serious mental health condition that is impossible to eradicate without outside help. Methamphetamine addiction is also a progressive illness that is likely to inflict increasingly severe personal and health consequences as time goes on. However, methamphetamine addiction is treatable. By taking advantage of formal treatment options and developing a sober social support system using support groups, individuals can successfully put their substance use disorders into remission.
Individuals who suffer from a methamphetamine addiction are often diagnosed by psychiatrists and other mental health professionals with a substance use disorder, an umbrella term that covers addictions to all drugs. Substance use disorders, which exist on a spectrum, are extremely diverse in terms of their consequences. However, any individual with a substance use disorder finds it difficult to control their substance use. They may also find their quality of life deteriorating as a result of continued use. While not everyone suffers from methamphetamine addiction to the same extent, these common traits make a substance use disorder easily identifiable.
Psychiatrists use a book called Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which is published by the American Psychiatric Association, to diagnose mental health disorders. The DSM-5, the latest edition, categorizes methamphetamine addiction as a variety of substance use disorder called stimulant use disorder. Since substance use disorders exist on a wide spectrum, the DSM-5 lists eleven common symptoms and only requires an individual to suffer from two of them to qualify for a diagnosis. If an individual suffers from two to three, they can be said to suffer from a mild stimulant use disorder. Experiencing four to five symptoms implies a moderate disorder. Exhibiting six or more symptoms is a sign that a person’s disorder has progressed to a severe level. The eleven symptoms of a stimulant use disorder are as follows:
However, it should be noted that the symptoms of a methamphetamine addiction often present themselves long before a person gets diagnosed by a psychiatrist. Common health problems associated with a meth addiction include tooth decay (often referred to as “meth mouth”), dramatic weight loss, and mental health problems. Chronic methamphetamine abusers often scratch intensely at themselves and might have visible sores on their skin. The most obvious sign of a methamphetamine addiction, however, is an inability to stop engaging in substance abuse.
Methamphetamine poses a number of risks to mental and physical health. Over the short term, it can lead to a number of symptoms, including loss of appetite, increased heart rate and blood pressure, nausea, problems with sleep, unpredictable violent behavior, mood swings, irritability hallucinations, panic attacks, psychotic episodes, and even seizures.
Many of the long term effects are the result of experiencing the short term side effects of this highly addictive drug over a sufficient period of time. Methamphetamine addiction can lead to dangerous weight loss and malnutrition due to the drug’s appetite-suppressing effects. Meth abuse can also lead to high blood pressure and cause permanent damage to blood vessels in the heart and brain. People who inject crystal meth are at a higher risk for infectious diseases, and those who smoke it often suffer from respiratory ailments. Most meth users suffer from extreme tooth decay, known as “meth mouth.” Regular methamphetamine use also leads to brain damage that can take years to heal even after getting sober.
However, some of the greatest risks of methamphetamine addiction are interpersonal in nature. Methamphetamine provides people with a false sense of confidence and a feeling of unlimited energy. As a result, many people push themselves and their bodies beyond a healthy point. The result is often extreme withdrawal symptoms, or a “crash,” that can cause methamphetamine users to either seek more of the drug or withdraw from life completely. Their unpredictable and often psychotic behavior can alienate others. Many end up destroying important relationships, losing their jobs, and dropping out of life completely. As a result, they may lose access to their social support system financial resources. This can make it more difficult for an individual to get access to treatment resources. It can also make people less likely to want to get sober at all, especially once they no longer have any meaningful activities or relationships left in their life to return to.
Methamphetamine users, whether they have spent years taking the drug or only just began, are all risking their lives. Far worse than the interpersonal tragedies and the long-term physical and mental health consequences, an overdose on crystal meth can cut a life short prematurely. The risk of an overdose increases when methamphetamine is used alongside other drugs, because drug interactions can make the central nervous system more vulnerable. Unfortunately, methamphetamine purchased off the street is often mixed with other drugs, including dangerous synthetic opioids.
In 2011 alone, there were over 150,000 emergency room visits in the United States as a result of methamphetamine overdose. Methamphetamine overdoses are unpredictable and produce a range of physical effects. There are two types of methamphetamine overdose: chronic methamphetamine overdose and acute methamphetamine overdose. Chronic methamphetamine overdoses occur as a result of the accumulated effects of meth abuse over a long period of time. It can lead to psychological side effects including panic attacks, sleep disturbances, extreme mood changes, violent behavior, hallucinations, and psychotic episodes. Acute methamphetamine overdoses, however, occur when an individual takes a dangerously high quantity of methamphetamine in a short period of time. Both types of overdose can be fatal.
The physical effects of crystal meth overdose are numerous and unpredictable. Moderate overdoses can produce the following effects:
However, more severe overdoses can lead to more dangerous symptoms. These can be life-threatening and include:
It is possible to die during a methamphetamine overdose, often due to convulsions or coma, but also as a result of interactions among the above-listed symptoms. Individuals with poor health or pre-existing conditions are more likely to suffer fatal consequences during a methamphetamine overdose. Even those who survive are likely to suffer from brain damage as a result of the drug’s neurotoxicity.
It does not take a long time for methamphetamine to inflict serious damage on a person’s life. Like other forms of substance abuse, methamphetamine abuse changes users’ brains so that they are unable to get pleasure from any other activity. Fear of withdrawal can lead people to prioritize methamphetamine use over all other activities. While methamphetamine abuse has dangerous short term side effects that are worth noting, including heart complications and blood vessel problems, chronic methamphetamine abusers and individuals suffering from methamphetamine addiction are likely to suffer from a number of debilitating consequences that can destroy their personal lives, their health, and even their sanity.
Meth addiction entails a number of issues with physical health. Many methamphetamine users experience extreme weight loss due to the appetite-suppressing effects of the drug. They may get skin sores from the intense itching that chronic methamphetamine use causes. One of the most visually obvious symptoms of meth addiction is a condition often known colloquially as “meth mouth,” a condition characterized by extreme tooth decay that is common among chronic methamphetamine abusers.
However, the dangers of methamphetamine abuse extend beyond physical health. Mental health generally suffers enormously. Long term methamphetamine use can cause anxiety, confusion, memory loss, sleeping problems, and even change the personalities of those suffering from addiction. The behavior of a chronic methamphetamine user can be unpredictable. Many engage in erratic and violent behavior. Paranoia is common as well. In extreme cases, some methamphetamine users experience hallucinations and have full-blown psychotic episodes. Most tragically, methamphetamine use leads to semi-permanent changes in individual’s brains on the neurological level. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, changes in the brain’s dopamine system can impair verbal learning, motor coordination, and the brain’s emotion and memory centers. Even after getting sober, it can take years for the brain cells to repair themselves and return to normal.
The long term dangers of methamphetamine also greatly depend on the route of administration used. People who inject methamphetamine are at a far greater risk of contracting blood-borne diseases. These include HIV, Hepatitis B and C, and other infectious diseases. Sexually transmitted diseases are also far more common among methamphetamine users than the general population. Not only does methamphetamine use lead to decreased inhibition and risky behavior, but it is also often used in sexual circumstances to improve performance. As such, unprotected sex can lead to illness, pregnancy, and other complications. For those with pre-existing conditions like AIDS, methamphetamine use can exacerbate symptoms and make the progress of the illness more rapid and debilitating.
Chronic methamphetamine abuse can destroy a person’s mental and physical health. However, many users are forced to undergo this suffering in isolation, since meth use causes people to drop out of their own lives. People addicted to meth often damage their relationships with friends and family. They are far more likely to get divorced, lose custody of their children, and become estranged from loved ones in general. Most are unable to keep a job or remain in school due to the psychotic symptoms of methamphetamine use. As relationships and resources disappear, addiction often gets worse and it can be more difficult for an individual to get access to proper treatment.
Individuals who abuse methamphetamine are at a higher risk of developing a mental health disorder. Methamphetamine addiction and long term methamphetamine abuse leads to conditions ranging from depression to panic attacks. The effects of meth range from psychotic symptoms to hallucinations. Unfortunately, many people use methamphetamine to alleviate the signs and symptoms of their mental illness. The result is a vicious cycle that produces intense co-occurring disorders. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, there are approximately 9.2 million adults in the United States who suffer from dual diagnosis conditions. Treating comorbid individuals who suffer from both meth addiction and mental health disorders requires a higher degree of care, since neglecting one condition can trigger a relapse in the other. Inpatient treatment programs or partial hospitalization programs are recommended for this population.
Individuals who abuse methamphetamine often discover that it is very difficult to stop using methamphetamine without outside help. People who try to stop using methamphetamine on their own, a method known as “cold turkey,” generally find that they are unable to follow through with their plans. Even if they do succeed in attaining abstinence, it is common for people who quit on their own to relapse within a matter of days, weeks, or months. A return to substance abuse is not only dangerous, it is also demoralizing for individuals who have already suffered through the withdrawal process only to return to old habits shortly thereafter. It is crucial for people to understand that tackling drug addiction requires an individual to address the causes and conditions that led them to turn to crystal meth abuse in the first place. While physical abstinence is a necessary condition for sobriety, people who pursue physical abstinence without developing a plan to tackle addiction are likely to relapse.
One of the primary reasons methamphetamine is so difficult to quit without outside help is that regular methamphetamine abuse actually causes permanent changes in brain chemistry. Tolerance to dopamine can drive users to take larger amounts of the drug. When the brain is accustomed to the high levels of dopamine that methamphetamine provides, users often find that they cannot experience pleasure while engaging in any other activity. Moreover, methamphetamine use leads to lasting changes in the very structure of the brain. Methamphetamine damages areas of the brain associated with emotion and memory. Even after quitting methamphetamine, many of these changes take years to heal. Given that methamphetamine inflicts brain damage and causes a variety of other mental health conditions, it is no surprise that most people are unable to stay sober without the help of treatment facilities.
It is essential that anyone considering quitting methamphetamine enroll in a medical detox center. The withdrawal process for methamphetamine is very arduous. The signs of symptoms of meth withdrawal include paranoia, psychosis, fatigue, anxiety, severe depression, and strong drug cravings. Many people also experience health complications while undergoing the detox process. Detox centers offer safe and supportive environments to go withdraw from meth while receiving medical assistance for any physical or mental health problems that may arise. A medical detox facility can also help individuals connect with other treatment facilities so that get further support after the withdrawal process ends. By taking advantage of a variety of treatment options, it is indeed possible for even the most seemingly hopeless individuals to overcome a methamphetamine addiction and stay sober for the rest of their life.
One of the chief reasons people find it difficult to stop using methamphetamine is that the withdrawal process is extremely painful. After only a short period of using methamphetamine, users develop a tolerance and require greater quantities of the drug to achieve the desired high. Having a higher tolerance for meth is correlated with more severe withdrawal symptoms. When people stop using the drug, crystal meth withdrawal syndrome begins. Withdrawal from methamphetamine can compromise both mental and physical health, making it extremely difficult for individuals to remain committed to staying drug free. Signs and symptoms include:
It should be noted that mothers who take methamphetamine can pass the drug to a fetus through the bloodstream. It can also be present in breast milk. As a result, infant children of addicted parents often suffer from methamphetamine withdrawal. Infants experiencing withdrawal often suffer from poor sleep and feeding habits, tremors, and spasticity.
Methamphetamine abusers who are ready to tackle their meth addiction should not withdraw from meth alone. Seeking proper addiction treatment at a medical detox center is both the safest and most effective way of getting through this difficult period of time.
Crystal meth withdrawal usually begins within 24 hours after people stop using the drug. The withdrawal process proceeds in several stages whose severity depends upon the tolerance that the user has built up. Those with less or more severe substance use disorders might deviate from the general timeline.
The initial withdrawal phase, which begins several hours after the last dose of methamphetamine, presents itself via a number of psychological effects and physical symptoms. It is common for newly abstinent meth users to experience extreme fatigue and increased appetite (especially carbohydrates). They may also suffer from irritability, depression, and anxiety. Cravings for crystal meth are likely to be most extreme during the first day of meth detox.
After the first day, it takes approximately one week for the vast majority of symptoms to begin to subside. However, many methamphetamine users experience a second phase. This phase is generally less severe. However, depression and severe anxiety can be debilitating. It is important that individuals get proper support for their mental health to prevent a relapse.
It is crucial that anyone suffering from meth addiction begin the withdrawal process in a medical detox center. There they can ensure that the more severe symptoms are treated via a combination of counseling and pharmaceutical interventions (often using benzodiazepines). Case workers at medical detox centers can also help put patients in contact with treatment centers so that they can continue to treat their addictions after they stop using the drug.
Treating a methamphetamine addiction is a multi-stage process. While the initial withdrawal symptoms often require acute medical intervention, the following months are crucial to developing a strong foundation in sobriety and avoiding relapse. In fact, multiple studies have shown that people who continue to pursue substance abuse treatment after detoxing have a decreased likelihood of returning to methamphetamine abuse.
Create Recovery’s methamphetamine addiction treatment program is run by trained counselors and medical professionals with both experience and expertise in addiction recovery. Create Recovery Center offers evidence-based treatment modalities in a nonjudgmental and safe environment. The staff takes a holistic approach to each individual to make sure that all of their unique needs are met.
Create Recovery Center understands that achieving sobriety involves much more than mere abstinence from methamphetamine. Individuals taking part in Create Recovery Center’s treatment programs work every day to rebuild their lives from the ground up. Staff members work with residents to help them develop skills that will aid them in the future. We work with every person on an individual basis to ensure that they are not only prepared to avoid relapse, but to live happy and prosperous lives in sobriety.
Services we offer include:
Whether you are currently suffering from methamphetamine addiction, a few days into the withdrawal process, or several months sober, Create Recovery Center has the resources you need to develop a new life in sobriety. Methamphetamine addiction can feel hopeless and demoralizing, but individuals who have attended our treatment programs are awarded with a newfound freedom from drugs and alcohol. Long term sobriety is yours for the taking. Contact Create Recovery today to discuss your treatment needs.