ARTICLE SUMMARY: Treatment for meth addiction mainly includes talk therapy. While some medications are being tested, no one medicine has been FDA-approved for crystal meth addiction (yet). We’ll look at how meth gets you hooked and its effects on the brain. Plus, this article will give you a good foundation for understanding the nature of addiction and how to treat it.
ESTIMATED READING TIME: 15 minutes.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- A Global Problem
- Definitions of Addiction
- Brain Changes
- How Meth Gets You Hooked
- Signs of a Problem
- What’s It Like to Be Addicted
- Treatment Options
- Your Questions
A Global Problem
Crystal methamphetamine – or crystal meth – is the illicit, crystalline form of methamphetamine, which is a powerful central nervous stimulant with highly addictive properties. While it may feel like you’re the only person n the world with a problem…you are certainly not alone.
How many people are using meth?
Statistics published by the U. N. World Drug Report in 2016 estimated that there are more than 247 million current drug users in the world, 29 million of whom can be diagnosed with addiction. According the UN Office on Drugs and Crime further estimates the global market for amphetamine-type stimulants is estimated at US$65 billion, wholesale and retail combined. This 2017 UNODC report on amphetamine-like drugs notes that:
“Methamphetamine use is widespread and treatment demand is growing.”
In the U.S., The National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported in 2016 that approximately 667,000 people aged 12 or older were current users of methamphetamine and 684,000 people aged 12 or older had a methamphetamine use disorder. This study, looking at meth-related emergency room visits in one hospital over 20 years, predicts that the trend is only going to increase.
Looking at these numbers, crystal meth ranks among the most addictive substances used in the U.S.. In fact, in some areas of the country, methamphetamine addiction outpaces the rates for both heroin and cocaine. But what is addiction really? How can we begin to understand it as a brain disease?
Definitions of Addiction
As defined by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, addiction is a chronic and relapsing brain disease. It can be experienced as a powerful need for crystal meth’s effects in order to feel normal…combined with the physical need for the drug in order to function. The hallmark characteristics of any type of drug addiction are:
- Loss of control of drug use.
- Continued use of the drug, even in the face of extremely negative consequences.
- Drug craving.
People who use crystal forms of meth can particularly feel profound panic, pain, and sadness at even the thought of running out of the drug. But, at the same time…as much as users crave crystal meth, many wish to it for good. Most users hate what the drug use is doing to them and everyone around them.
Once crystal meth addiction has fully taken hold, the road to recovery is a tough one. The strong relationship between pleasure and meth is difficult to overcome. Plus, the brain’s adaptation to having meth present makes it very difficult to quit. As the pleasurable effects wear off, users immediately feel like they need another dose.
In this way, addiction becomes a cage that you cannot escape on your own.
Crystal meth works by forcing the release of a higher-than-usual amount of dopamine in the brain’s reward center. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure, mood, and energy that the brain releases when you do something significant for your survival, such as eating food or haing sex.
But crystal also causes a rush of norepinephrine, known as adrenaline.
With chronic and repeated use, chemical changes occur in the central nervous system and rewire the decision-making centers of the brain. Soon, your decision to take crystal meth is no longer yours. Instead, it becomes a compulsion or an non-voluntary action such as blinking and breathing. Crystal meth use becomes something that the brain believes is crucial to your survival…so it craves it in order to keep you alive.
So, if you’ve used crystal meth more than once and want to use it again, you may be on your way to addiction…or already there. In such cases, SEEK HELP NOW! The sooner you start treatment , the better chances you have of making a full recovery.
How Crystal Meth Gets You Hooked
Crystal meth gets you addicted quickly and creates a powerful bond due to two of its properties:
1) It makes you feel extremely good when using, and
2) It makes you feel extremely bad when off the drug.
Here is how it all works:
When smoking or injecting crystal methamphetamine, you immediately feel a “rush”. Your heart rate increases, your metabolism is accelerated, and your blood pressure rises. All these effects can last up to half an hour. The rush is followed by “a high”, a stage where you feel smarter, better, and more powerful than others…and may even become argumentative. The high can last anywhere from 4 and up to 16 hours.
As the drugs effects wear off, and the feeling of high diminishes in intensity, you start to feel an urge to use again in order to maintain the high. This is a stage called “the binge”, and an addict can binge use crystal meth for 3-15 days. While binging, users become mentally and physically hyperactive.
Next follows “the crash” period as crystal meth effects start to wear off more and more. After prolonged binging, the feelings of rush and high cannot be achieved any longer. When crystal meth looses it’s stimulative powers and has no effect, cravings step in. This stage, also known as “tweaking”, is characterized by bug crawling and intense skin itches. The insomnia following use can last for days at a time. Hallucinations, psychotic experiences, hostility, derealization and dangerous behaviors are recorded as common side-effects during this period.
After the crash, you will likely start to experience symptoms of “withdrawal”. You can expect to become depressed, to lose your energy and the ability to experience pleasure, and may even become suicidal as the cravings for crystal meth hit. Since crystal meth withdrawal is extremely painful and difficult, most people tend to relapse back to use, especially if they do not seek medical help.
Signs of a Problem
Most people who use meth develop a drug problem within days to weeks of regualr use. That’s how addictive it is!
Addiction to a drug such as crystal meth cannot go unnoticed, at least not for a long time. These are the main characteristics of crystal meth addiction that a person using the drug will likely display:
- Being secretive and denying addiction problems.
- Continuing crystal meth use despite health problem awareness.
- Displaying risky and dangerous behaviors.
- Experiencing relationship problems because of drug use.
- Having compulsive urges to use again and again.
- Legal and financial difficulties as a result of drug use.
- Losing interest in friends, family, work and other interests.
- Obsessing over obtaining and using crystal meth.
- Using crystal meth more frequently and longer than initially intended.
- Withdrawal symptoms occur whenever use is stopped.
Recognize yourself or a loved one in these case-scenarios?
Why suffer any longer when help is so close? If you recognize that you or someone close to you have a problem with crystal meth… Don’t wait!
Trained Helpline staff can help you find the best treatment options for you.
Call us to break free from addiction.
Why wait when help is one phone call away?
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What’s it Like?
Here are two (2) confessions from people affected by crystal meth addiction. They tell their personal stories of how they started using crystal meth and what it felt like.
STORY #1: “I started using crystal meth when I was a senior in high school. Before my first semester of college was up, it became such a big problem that I had to drop out. I looked like I had chicken pox, from hours of staring at myself in the mirror and picking at myself. I spent all my time either doing meth, or trying to get it.”
STORY #2: “I tried it for the first time with my older brother when I was 17. Come to find out, my mother also smoked it. I had no idea up until this point. After smoking it and only feeling similar effects from what I felt from Adderall, I wasn’t all that impressed. I remember my brother holding the pipe for me because I didn’t even know how to take a hit. He explained it several times but I just never understood at first. After a few months of smoking it with him every now and then, the cat got let out of the bag to my mom. Of course, at first she was upset, but couldn’t really do anything because of her own usage. They would always go into their bedroom when I was over growing up, and lock themselves away, and I finally realized that’s what they must have been doing this whole time. So after I started using, I would ask to join them. I got denied at first, but eventually, they let me come in and thus began the family meth bonding.”
Crystal meth addiction is a debilitating disease, but there is hope for recovery. Many users are successful in their efforts to quit using the drug long-term. In fact, there is evidence that an addict’s brain can return to normal after a significant period of sobriety.
Q: So, how can you treat crystal meth addiction?
A: Treatment usually follows in 3 stages: medical detox, rehab, and aftercare.
STAGE 1. Medical detox. Attending a detoxification clinic when coming off of crystal meth is te safest way to stop use. Quitting meth can provoke ideas of suicide. In fact, this thinking if common, because people cannot experience any pleasure without the drug. How long will detox last? This 2005 study on meth withdrawal symptoms published in the medical journal, Addiction, found that detox can be categorized into two phases: an acute phase lasting 7-10 days during which overall symptom severity declines in a linear pattern from a high initial peak, and a subacute phase lasting at least a further 2 weeks.
Doctors and nurses monitor your state of health around-the-clock, provide support, and motivate you throughout this period. A replacement drug or antidepressants may also be given to you as you are going through crystal meth withdrawal. Some medications like Vigabatrin are showing promise in helping people avoid relapse. Still, it is important to have the necessary help for dealing with the psychological withdrawal symptoms.
STAGE 2. Addiction rehab. Crystal meth treatment usually involves attending a rehab center, first an inpatient and then an outpatient. Many people need at least 90 days of residential care in order to “restart” the body and mind. The centers work to help you cope effectively with withdrawal symptoms, while teaching you how to change negative behaviors. Psychotherapy is an important pillar in crystal meth rehabilitation as it allows you to have an insight of how the addiction has affected you, factors that contributed to the drug addiction, and factors that may trigger a relapse (and how to avoid them). Plus, you’ll benefit from routines like regualr eating, sleeping, and exercise. The main goal is to help you live long-term without the need to reach for a stimulant drug in order to feel good.
STAGE 3. Aftercare. Also called ‘continued care’, this part of recovery extends into the months and years following initial treatment programs. Intensive rehab followed by long-term psychotherapeutic care and aftercare services are the key to long-term sobriety. Aftercare also plays an important role in relapse prevention. Currents suggestions to prevent relapse include living in a halfway house, attending ongoing psychotherapy, psycho-social, and group support approaches.
We hope to have addressed your main concerns about crystal meth and its treatment. But we understand that you might want to know more. If you have any further questions and concerns on this subject, feel free to post them in the comments section below. We try to respond to all of our readers’ legitimate inquiries with a personal and prompt response.