ARTICLE SUMMARY: Meth is one of the most addictive of all drugs. If you are struggling with quitting, getting off meth on your own can feel like a merry-go-round. Relapse is common and cravings are strong. However, addiction is a medical condition that responds to medical treatment. Here, we’ll review the basics of the disorder and let you know where to go for help.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Addictive Potential
- Dopamine Effects
- Other Brain Effects
- Brain Damage
- Stats & Facts
- Signs of a Problem
- The Best Way to Quit
- Dealing with Withdrawal
- Types of Rehab
- Dual Diagnosis
- Stages of Treatment
- Private Rehab
- How to Help a Loved One
- Getting Help
Q: Is meth addictive?
A: Yes. Methamphetamine is a highly addictive stimulant.
Its effects on the body and mind are habit forming. Meth can:
- decrease fatigue
- experience and extend euphoria and pleasure
- increase energy
- increase focus and attention
Like amphetamine, methamphetamine stimulates the brain and body. It causes increased activity and talkativeness, decreased appetite, and a pleasurable sense of well-being. However, methamphetamine is highly efficient. Greater amounts of the meth get into the brain compared to amphetamine, making it more potent. It also has longer-lasting and more harmful effects on the central nervous system.
Methamphetamine is extremely addictive. Meth causes chemical reactions in the brain that trigger bursts of energy but drain energy reserves needed for other parts of the body.
To understand why it’s difficult to quit meth, it is helpful to review the effects of this stimulant drug on the brain. Mainly, methamphetamine triggers the release of large amounts of dopamine in areas of the brain that regulate feelings of pleasure and body movement. This is what causes an extreme high. Additionally, dopamine facilitates other critical brain functions.
Over time, meth takes a toll. A significant effect of methamphetamine use is the loss of dopamine transporters in the brain. It paradoxically reduces levels of dopamine so that when the user stops taking the drug, the brain is unable to function normally for a period of days, weeks, or even months. People who quit using meth report feeling no pleasure whatsoever. This feeling can persist…but eventually gets better.
Other Brain Effects
Methamphetamine produces abnormal brain chemistry in all areas of the brain. It appears to cause long-term structural damage to the regions of the brain that control memory and motor coordination. Research has shown that active methamphetamine users are impaired in their ability to:
- Ignore irrelevant information
- Make inferences
- Manipulate information
So, does brain damage occur? Who is most at risk of brain damage?
Methamphetamine use does cause brain damage. Users with the greatest cumulative lifetime use have the strongest indications of cell damage. Still, long-term abstinence appears to reverse at least some of that damage. The degree of recovery is related to the length of time that the methamphetamine user remains abstinent.
Some of the deficits mentioned above are resolved within a few months after quitting, some within years. For instance, research reported in 2003 to the National Academy of Sciences showed that exposure to stimulant drugs can impair the ability of specific brain cells to change as a result of experience. Thus, the ability to learn from experience may be decreased because of meth. However, this 2006 study published in the medical journal, Psychopharmacology reported no deficits in motor function, memory, learning, attention, or executive function in methamphetamine users after four years of abstinence.
NOTE HERE: Anyone who becomes addicted to meth may experience brain problems. Brain effects may be related to the length of time that methamphetamine remains in the user’s system. When the National Institute of Drug Abuse compared meth to cocaine, experts found that meth remains in the brain longer, producing prolonged stimulant effects that can permanently damage blood vessels in the brain.
Facts & Stats
According to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, most methamphetamine that is now used in the United States is produced and distributed illicitly rather than through the pharmaceutical industry. But who is using it? And how many people are addicted to meth?
Use: In 2016, approximately 667,000 people aged 12 or older (0.2% of the population) were current users of methamphetamine. This breaks down into:
- About 9,000 adolescents aged 12 to 17.
- About 65,000 young adults aged 18 to 25.
- About 594,000 adults aged 26 or older.
Addiction: In 2016, an estimated 684,000 people aged 12 or older (0.3% of the population) had a methamphetamine use disorder.
- About 10,000 adolescents aged 12 to 17.
- About 135,000 young adults aged 18 to 25.
- About 539,000 adults aged 26 or older.
The bottom line is that you are not alone. Meth can take you by surprise. It starts out as an incredible high…but can keep you coming back for more, even against your will. If you think you have a problem with meth, be honest with yourself. And if you want to get help, keep reading to know where to go.
Signs of a Problem
The first sign of meth addiction is when an individual realizes that s/he likes the drug less, but needs it more. The medical term for this type of addiction is “Methamphetamine Use Disorder”. Addiction occurs when someone
experiences significant life problems caused by the recurrent use of methamphetamine, including health
problems, physical withdrawal, persistent or increasing use, and failure to meet major responsibilities at work, school, or home.
The main signs of addiction involve:
- Life revolving around methamphetamine use.
- Loss of control over methamphetamine use.
- Negative consequences to life, work, or health.
- Taking methamphetamine to avoid or relieve withdrawal.
When left untreated, this condition can destroy your finances, health, relationships… your entire life. But recovery can get you get back on track! You can restore your brain and body to health. But you may need professional help to do this.
The Best Way to Quit
Q: What is the secret to breaking free from methamphetamine?
A: The secret is to stop denying a problem. Then, ask for help.
For many people, drugs are a temporary escape from a dissatisfying life. But not long after the brief, intense high, felt during initial use, methamphetamine use quickly progresses to dependence and addiction. What used to make you feel good no longer works.
However, addiction and denial are closely related issues. Running away from a drug problem will do no good. It will prevent you from explorin recovery options. Ask yourself if it is time to quit. If the answer is, “Yes,” then seek treatment. You can call us and our trained helpline staff can talk you through your next steps.
The best type of addiction treatment is one that is customized to you. Determining where are you in the process of recovery and where you need help is a part of matching treatment to your specific needs. Why should treatment be individualized?
All people do not respond to treatment in the same, predictable way. A method that works very well for one person may be ineffective, and/or culturally inappropriate for another. Because one size does not fit all, the best treatment is tailor made. So, while managing a chronic condition such as addiction, it is helpful to know all your options.
Don’t Let Withdrawal Get in the Way
Metamphetamine withdrawal is the group of symptoms that occur after you discontinue or decrease doses of the drug. The presence of these symptoms means you have developed a physical dependence on methamphetamine. When you decide you want to quit methamphetamine, the following symptoms are common:
- Arrhythmia or palpitations
- Decreased energy
- Difficulty sleeping
- Fever, chills, and sweating
- Increased appetite
- Irritated, itchy, or red eyes
- Respiratory failure
NOTE HERE: Extreme fatigue and depression can occur when coming off meth. This is why experts recommend that you seek medical management during detox If you are having suicidal thoughts, please call the Suicide Lifeline at: 1-800-273-8255.
Because of the specific nature of methamphetamine withdrawal, a higher level of care is need. If addicted to methamphetamine and willing to come off of this drug without hurting yourself call our helpline or the nearest detoxification clinic. Medical detox is crucial during meth withdrawal.
The development of medicines is at an early stage for treating meth problems. In fact, no substantial evidence for efficient treatments has emerged. And while medications have proven effective in treating some addictions, there are currently no medications that counteract the specific effects of methamphetamine or that prolong abstinence from and reduce the abuse of methamphetamine by an individual addicted to the drug.
Still, some clinical trials have shown positive results in reducing meth use. This 2011 article from the British Journal of Pharmacology noted the possible use of the following medicines to treat a meth problem:
1. Naltrexone has shown evidence as a good medicine for amphetamine dependence.
2. Bupropion has shown benefit in selected drug dependent patients
3. Modafinil has shown benefit in selected drug dependent patients
The use of agonist replacement medications such as d-amphetnaine and modafinil may also hold promise in the treatment of methamphetamine dependence. Clinical trials using aripiprazole, GABA agents (gabapentin, baclofen, vigabatrin), SSRIs, ondansetron, and mirtazapine have failed to help. However, researchers are looking into developing new medicines to help manage dependence and cravings.
Types of Rehab Treatment
The most effective treatments for methamphetamine addiction at this point are behavioral therapies, such as cognitive behavioral talk therapy and contingency management interventions. While you can seek help from an outpatient mental health clinic, sometimes going to rehab can be more successful. This is because meth causes strong cravings. A change of scene and 24-7 medical supervision can be a great start to a new life.
Not sure if you should leave home for treatment, or not? Inpatient or outpatient settings are usually suggested after a careful look into the following:
- Family responsibilities
- Mental and medical health history
- Severity of addiction
- Support system
- Work obligations
Addiction programs usually offer a combination of 12-step philosophies, evidence-based therapy protocols, and alternative holistic options that when applied together can maximize your chances of successful recovery and long-lasting sobriety. Some of the most common types of rehabs are:
Inpatient (residential) treatment: For those with a long-term meth problem, inpatient treatment is usually recommended. Residential treatment programs require that you live at a facility 24-7 for a period of time. This treatment option provides medical and psychosocial therapy, group counseling, and other programs designed to facilitate your recovery. A positive, supervised environment can be just what you need to help avoid relapse and stay safe!
Outpatient treatment centers: Outpatient programs are a suitable option for those with less serious dependency issues. You’ll be able to undergo treatment during the day and then return to your home and work duties at the end of the day. However, outpatient care for addiction requires HIGH levels of motivation. Also, you’ll want to have a strong support system in place, as you do the intensive work of pscyhotherapy daily (or multiple times each week).
30 -60- 90 DAY recovery programs: The addiction therapy menu allows people to choose from a wide variety of treatment modalities and lengths. Some people choose a 30 day program, others feel the need to stay longer: 60-90 days, or even more. In these cases, long term recovery programs are appropriate for those with a more serious dependency. People using meth at high doses or for years can highly benefit from a 90-day stay. Chronic methamphetamine abusers sometimes need treatment which lasts even longer than 90 days. In the end, the decision how long you’ll stay in treatment is yours, but should be done in consultation with a trained professional in order to determine the course that best suits your addiction case.
Did you known that individuals who suffer a metal heath disorder, or a personality disorders are about twice as likely to use and abuse methamphetamine? One of the most common underlying reasons why people turn to methamphetamine is because they are self-medicating issues such as:
- Eating disorders
- Lack of self-esteem
- Social anxiety
- Workaholic and compulsion driven behaviors
Many people with drug problems have underlying psychiatric problems that need to be addressed AT THE SAME TIME. In fact, treatment outcomes can improve when mental health problems are addressed during treatment. Recent research into the correlation between methamphetamine use and psychiatric disorders, particularly depression and anxiety, has highlighted this need.
The connection between addiction and other psychological problems signals the need for a dual diagnosis treatment. But this should not worry you, because with the right course of treatment, strong support network and continued care you can manage both conditions successfully. Here are some therapies that may help you:
Medication: Doctors at dual-diagnosis recovery centers prescribe patients with medication and other type of treatment suitable for their addiction case.
Dialectic Behavioral Therapy (DBT): This type of therapy has the goal of reducing self-harming behaviours that often accompany mental health conditions and substance use disorders.
Integrated Group Therapy: Treats the symptoms of both substance use disorders and mental health illnesses all at once.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Works to minimize problematic beliefs and behaviors and develop healthier thinking and behavioral patterns to sustain sobriety.
Individual psychotherapy: This type of therapy treats behaviors related to substance abuse and/or particular behavioral or mental health problems.
The bottom line is that if you have underlying mental health issues, seek help from a specialized clinic. Meth withdrawal alone can provoke suicidal thoughts. However, specific psychotherapy and the appropriate use of necessary medications can address these issues better than one modality on its own.
What Are The Stages of Treatment?
FIRST STAGE: SCREENING
This is a procedure that aims to confirm or deny the presence of a drug addiction disorder. The purpose of screening is to help classify an addiction. Screening procedures are the starting point of diagnosis. These initial assessments provide rehab staff with direction on what is needed for your particular case. Additionally, further evaluation is built into the process. Expect to submit a drug testing sample and answer formal questionnaires about your drug ab(use).
Commonly used tests to establish a primary drug problem include:
TIP: When answering these questionnaires try to be honest! Revealing as much as you can about your addiction can help you and your counselor make the best treatment plan and achieve long term sobriety.
SECOND STAGE: EVALUATION AND DIAGNOSIS
Addiction has multiple facets. Knowing about one dimension may tell surprisingly little about the others. Evaluation helps addiction professionals understand the nature and causes of your particular situation and consider possible routes for change. During an evaluation expect to be asked the following questions:
- What events or conditions usually motivate you to reach for meth?
- How does your drug use affect your employment, social networks, emotional states, finances?
- What resources do you have in terms of coping skills, personal strengths, and social support?
- What motivates you to quit methamphetamine? What do you care about (consider valuable)?
After your screening and evaluation are completed, your addiction counsellor will tell you your current diagnosis. This means that your doctor will determine whether you meet the criteria for having methamphetamine addiction. Diagnosis are usually meant to establish the seriousness of a condition and suggest what treatment is most appropriate.
THIRD STAGE: DETOX + THERAPY
The purpose of detox is to clear previously used drugs (methamphetamine) from the body while minimizing the withdrawal risk and discomfort. In addition to providing a safe and drug-free environment in which to recover, good rehab programs provide EVIDENCE BASED TREATMENT modalities, including
- Access to medical services.
- Family therapy.
- Individual and group therapy sessions.
- Nutritional counseling and wellness activities.
- Psychotherapy and behavioral therapies.
- Thorough planning for aftercare programs.
FOURTH STAGE: AFTERCARE
Treatment and recovery from any addiction is a process that extends over time. If addiction is a chronic disease, then it does not make sense to view it as a time limited course with a specific number of treatment episodes. Instead, most aftercare programs recommend formal follow up care for at least a year after rehab…and ongoing support for a lifetime. Aftercare services provide you with the tools that always remind you to keep your focus on maintaining your sobriety.
Private Rehab Options
Executive or luxury methamphetamine treatment centers are inpatient facilities created for those who can’t leave their job or businesses unattended or in other hands during addiction recovery. These inpatient facilities are designed to meet the specific needs of a exec. They provide services far beyond those offered at standard rehabs. Residency at these facilities allows executives to continue working while they undergo treatment. Some of the benefits include:
Privacy. No one except you, your doctor, and the people you choose to tell knows about your rehab attendance.
Inspiration. Beautiful surroundings, attractive landscaping, and natural features are a hallmark.
Lifestyle help. Private gym and personal trainers.
Relaxation. Additional services such as acupuncture, pools, spas, and massage.
Healthy eating. Special nutrition programs.
Seamless work transition. Private space to do your work at the center with Wi-Fi and access to phones.
Recreation. Other indoor and outdoor activities, which may include sailing, billiards, fishing, surfing, or hiking.
Does this sound like the type of treatment you are looking for? We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week if you need help finding the best program for you.
How to Help a Loved one with Meth Addiction
Tried everything? Haven’t yet convinced your loved one seek help for his/her methamphetamine addiction problem? Here are some issues to keep in mind when attempting to help a meth-addicted loved one:
1. Drug users have to be the ones to take the initiative to seek help when they are ready.
2. Your role is in support and information gatherer. Learn as much as you can about addiction and treatment options.
3. Look into the Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT) Model of Family Intervention. The purpose of CRAFT is to teach families that they can make a difference and provide them with practical tools on how to do so. Some of CRAFT basic principles include:
- Do not buy, otherwise provide drugs, or gives money that can be used to buy them.
- Do not protect a family member from negative consequences of drug use.
- Give positive feedback and reinforcement when your addicted loved one is not using.
- Schedule time and activities together to replace ordinary periods of drug use.
REMEMBER: It is not appropriate or recommended that you attempt therapy or counseling with a loved one on your own. You are not properly trained or qualified…and you may do more harm than good. Instead, find a professional.
Questions that a professional rehab will typically ask include:
- Which substance/drug does the person abuse?
- What other drugs or alcohol do you think they’re using?
- How do they abuse meth (orally, snorting, smoking, injecting)?
- How long do you suspect they have been using?
- How long have they been showing signs of addiction?
- What payment options are available to you?
- Has the loved one been diagnosed with other mental or behavioral disorders?
Ongoing Treatment and Relapse Prevention
Addiction recovery is a continuum of care.
Meth addiction treatment is a process that can last for months or years. At its best, it should help people 100% quit their drug of choice. So, when you complete a formal program, you should receive a comprehensive aftercare plan that will help you keep addiction at bay. Relapse prevention coaching should also be part of your discharge process.
Relapse prevention techniques for addiction usually involve:
- Coaching in addressing slips.
- Developing a lifestyle that’s protective.
- Developing coping skills and stress-management skills.
- Knowledge about the relapse process.
- Reminding users not to test the limits of their sobriety.
- Training in identifying warning signs and high-risk situations.
This is a long task list, which is why aftercare help extends into the weeks and months that follow formal treatment. You can receive this ongoing support in the form of:
- alumni support
- support groups
- touch-up counselling
These elements will help you stay involved with the sobriety community, and prompt you to continue to work on your recovery, so they won’t slip back into destructive habits.
It’s time for real change! If you are reach to reach out, we can help.
Addiction to meth has a compulsive nature, that oftentimes drives you out of control. When people are under the influence they cannot rationally think or behave in a proper manner. This is why you can’t perceive when the problem has worsened and there is a need to call for professional help. But do not worry, we are familiar with these processes and understand that you need support and encouragement to get better.
Our methamphetamine helpline provides you with on-phone assistance 24/7. Our staff will help you:
- Describe appropriate treatment options.
- Give you details on inpatient and outpatient facilities.
- Listen and relate to your struggles.
- Offer a kind, compassionate ear.
With the proper help you CAN win the control over your life back.
Reference Sources: State of Illinois: Strategies for Fighting Meth Addiction
All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a licensed medical professional.