Treatment for Meth Addiction

We all have a perception of what a person addicted to meth may look or act like, but unfortunately a lot of these thoughts and opinions are shaped by resources that may not be concerned with helping those in need. TV shows like Breaking Bad give us a perception of meth that is not going to coincide with 99% of the public’s experience when it comes to methamphetamine.

There are a lot of reasons for this, obviously, but one of the most important is that the number of people struggling with meth addiction in the United States means it’s a much more common problem than TV or movies may present. According to a 2017 survey, nearly two million people in the United States said they had used meth in the previous year.

This means meth use is much more prevalent, and you may be surprised to know whose lives are being impacted by the drug. It also means there is a strong possibility of meth addiction for each of those who are using it regularly, or even for someone who only uses it once. Meth can be incredibly addictive and quickly lead to dependence, which can then lead to addiction.

A Definition of Meth

Meth is made via various chemical reactions produced by combining a long list of substances, some of which can be found at a local grocery store or a gas station. When these substances are combined they become highly toxic and can be extremely harmful, even deadly, to those nearby. 

Methamphetamine, which is usually shortened to meth, is a man-made stimulant that interacts with, and alters, the responses within the central nervous system. Like other stimulants, when it is consumed the results tend to be higher levels of energy, an increased awareness/alertness, higher heart rate, potentially rapid breathing, and occasionally the loss of appetite. Someone who has used meth may find it increasingly difficult to sleep or relax in any way.

Some of the ingredients that can be used to make meth showcase exactly why it is so destructive to the human body. 

  • brake fluid
  • brake cleaner
  • iodine crystals
  • lithium metal
  • lighter fluid
  • drain cleaners
  • ethyl ether
  • anhydrous ammonia
  • sodium metal
  • pseudoephedrine
  • red phosphorus

By themselves, nearly all of these are dangerous substances that should never be ingested. When combined they become much more toxic and dangerous and can cause incredible amounts of damage to the lungs, skin, eyes, and teeth of someone who is using meth. More than that, the materials used in a meth lab can become and remain toxic for a long time and pose a threat to someone who accidentally comes across the site of a meth lab.

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What Happens During the First Use?

Meth is special when it comes to the way it impacts the body. The thing that makes it so special is the ability to rapidly release high levels of dopamine in the reward center of the brain. This reinforces the drug-taking behavior, and it can make those who use it want to repeat their use.

During the first time someone uses methamphetamine they will most likely not actually experience the negative consequences of using meth or having a meth addiction. Instead, they will feel very active and an intense euphoria. The feeling of euphoria is what is most often described as being high. These effects can linger as long as 6 to 12 hours. 

This feeling of euphoria and its lingering effects are due to the way that meth tends to take over the brain’s natural reward systems and processes.

Brain Neurons Firing

When we do something that inspires us, or makes us feel joy, happiness, or satisfaction, our brains mark the moment through a special type of chemical response. Dopamine is the name of the specific chemical that is responsible for this response. It helps us feel rewarded, motivated, impacts our forming of memories, and affects how we can pay attention. In some cases, dopamine even helps regulate body movements. 

It shouldn’t be a surprise then, that dopamine actually plays a huge role in your daily life and natural processes. From the brain chemical to how we are feeling, it is all impacted by dopamine. Low dopamine levels can lead to negative effects on mood, motivation, and memory.

When someone is using meth, their reward cycles fueled by dopamine get taken over, similar to a pirate boarding and taking over a rival ship on the high seas. Once the methamphetamine is acting as captain of the ship, it won’t want to give over control back to the natural processes very easily. 

This is common in stimulant-style drugs like meth. In general, meth works by releasing dopamine and norepinephrine. Together, the dopamine and norepinephrine act as messengers in the brain, which is how they got the name “neurotransmitter,” and they control a lot of emotions and feelings for us. Since meth takes the normal cycle and turns it on its head, it leads to feelings of euphoria, or feeling “high,” along with potential increases in energy and feelings of invulnerability. 

Sometimes those who are using—or have used—meth will describe it as feeling invincible when they are currently experiencing their “high.” Some of this is why there is a phenomenon known as “chasing the dragon” when it comes to using meth. It means that you need to keep using more and more and doing it more often in order to capture the same high as the very first time you tried it. 

This leads to a strengthening of the addiction to meth in the brain. But, that isn't where the effects of the meth end.

Signs and Symptoms of Meth Addiction

Methamphetamine is considered a very powerful substance because of its massive effects on the body. This also means there are some clear signs to look for when it comes to meth addiction and meth use.

Symptoms of meth addiction can range from minor to life-threatening, so it can be really important to be aware of them all.

One of the first signs that someone may be experiencing an addiction to meth is the sudden loss of interest in areas of life that were once a personal priority. Career goals, hobbies, relationships and so much more of our daily lives can become a secondary priority when it comes to using meth if someone is struggling with addiction.

It is common for those struggling with addiction to meth to try to hide their use, but with continued use the brain’s reward cycles become altered and are now actively looking for the effects of meth. This is when signs of meth addiction can become very obvious.

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Some of these warning signs and symptoms of methamphetamine addiction may include

  • Weight loss
  • Sleep deprivation or insomnia
  • Dehydration
  • Rotten teeth, or what is known as “meth mouth”
  • Elevated body temperatures
  • Skin abscesses and infections

Of course that isn’t where the negative outcomes come from using methamphetamine end. There are also a lot of possible side effects from using that someone can experience.

Side Effects of Using Methamphetamine

Meth comes in a lot of different forms, from powder to capsules to an injectable. There are also crystallized versions of meth, similar to that from Breaking Bad, that are known as “crystal” or “crystal meth.” Actually, the way that meth is made is part of where the names come from. Some common street names for meth include crystal, crank and more. 

But, whatever form it comes in, methamphetamine can have some really horrible effects on the human body. Some effects are short-lived, while others are long-term and even potentially life-threatening.

Short-Term Effects of Meth Use

Like we saw above, meth works because it releases seriously high levels of dopamine in the reward circuit of our brains. This in turn teaches our brain to repeat the pleasurable process of taking the drug. This can make it so we often don’t even notice the short-term effects of use as they get masked by the pleasant effects.

A lot of people will use more, or continue to use it to deal with negative effects of not only the drug itself but also from other life circumstances. Some of the short term effects are:

Hyperactivity and Heightened Awareness

A user may also feel that the drug increases their productivity in spades, leading to justifying their use of the drug. 

Aggressive Behavior

Meth use has also been linked to aggressive or violent behavior in its users. Studies by the National Institute of Health have shown that this increase in aggressive behavior may be due to the paranoia-inducing effects of the drug.

Appetite Loss

Like some other stimulants, meth has been linked to a severe decrease in appetite. 

Hypertension and Heartbeat Abnormalities

Increased blood pressure and a higher risk of heart attack has been associated with the stimulant effects of meth use.

Hyperthermia

Hyperthermia is an abnormally high body temperature and is typically caused by the failure of the body’s heat-regulating mechanisms. As we know, meth can override some of the body’s natural systems, causing many complications. 

Dehydration:

Many meth users experience dehydration as a short-term effect for a number of reasons. One reason is that the brain and body are overrun by so many stimulants that the person may not even think about drinking water. 


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Possible Side Effects of Long-Term Meth Use

Aside from your brain chemistry changing and addiction forming, the other side effects of long-term meth use are pretty scary. Many of the long-term effects are continuations or results of some of the short-term effects listed above. 

As is the case with many drugs, tolerance to meth’s pleasurable effects begins to develop after repeated use. Like we saw above, users often use more and more in increasing frequency to get the same level of effect as that first time. 

This leads to chronic use, and chronic use will lead to a person having difficulty in deriving natural pleasure from anything that doesn't involve the use of meth. These cravings and dependencies are the foundation to form long-term addiction. So, when this occurs, some long-term effects can pop up as well. They include

  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Tics, such as repetitive motor functions with the hands or face
  • Decreased mental ability and/or motor function
  • Becoming easily distracted
  • Loss of short- and/or long-term memory
  • Showcasing violent behavior
  • Unstable mood
  • Dental problems, also known as “meth mouth”
  • Severe weight loss

Chronic long-term use of methamphetamine can also result in decreased blood circulation, and increased blood pressure. This can lead to weakened veins and potentially a heart attack or stroke.

Another thing to know is that crystal meth, since it is a unique type of meth, can also be associated with a greater likelihood of experiencing all the negative side effects of the drug. The sooner someone decides to make a change and to stop using, the better the outcomes will be.

Remember, some of these can be reversed by getting treatment for meth addiction. There are a few factors that go into how exactly someone will recover, one of the most important being how long they have been addicted and how often they were using meth.

It is very important to remember that help is out there. If you don’t know what to do, whether for yourself or someone else, let’s look at some of the ways a person can get help to recover from meth addiction.

Recovering From Meth Addiction

One aspect of recovering from meth is what is known as the “comedown.” This is when the experience of using meth wears off. Since we know that methamphetamine causes the brain to produce an abnormal amount of dopamine, it’s not that much of a surprise that it can lead to some unique issues during recovery.

The comedown on methamphetamine is most often compared to an alcohol hangover. This is not the same as meth withdrawal, but it can still impact you just as deeply. 

Actually, after prolonged use of meth, the brain may struggle to make its own dopamine which can lead to extreme sadness, depression, and recurring negative thoughts. This extra stimulation followed by a sharp drop of dopamine can often lead to physical exhaustion and dehydration.

So, when in recovery for meth, there are a lot of issues that can come up. Some of these issues are the withdrawal symptoms.

Meth Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal is the natural progression of the meth comedown. The most serious of meth withdrawal symptoms come in the form of psychological and emotional challenges. Of course, there are physical symptoms that accompany the psychological issues, but they aren’t as severe.

Methamphetamine withdrawal is certainly uncomfortable, but it has not been shown to be life-threatening, unlike other drugs, including alcohol. One of the more severe withdrawal symptoms that can occur is the increased potential for self-harm due to depression.

The withdrawal symptoms won’t be the same for everyone, and all of them may not always happen to everyone. These are some of the possible withdrawal symptoms when detoxing from meth:

  • Itchy eyes
  • Fatigue/exhaustion
  • Feeling anxious/agitated
  • Increased appetite
  • Inability to sleep
  • Slurred and/or incoherent speech
  • Paranoia
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Hallucinations

According to a study by the National Institute of Health, meth withdrawal seems to adhere to a consistent timeline, allowing for clinicians to form a plan to effectively treat withdrawal symptoms. According to this study, the timeline for meth withdrawal is typically as follows:

  • Symptoms begin to show within 24 hours of abstaining from the drug.
  • The peak of withdrawal symptoms begins to occur within 7 to 10 days of discontinuing the drug, with the severity of symptoms steadily declining after they peak.
  • Meth withdrawal has an average duration of 14 to 20 days, with 14 days being the most commonly reported length of withdrawal symptoms.


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Factors That Can Affect Meth Addiction Treatment

While there is a general timeline of symptoms that a person detoxing from meth can expect to experience, they can vary from person-to-person depending on a variety of different factors. Some of these factors include:

Metabolism

Everybody metabolizes substances differently and at different rates. This is no different when it comes to metabolizing meth. Personal factors such as height, weight, and length of meth use can affect metabolism.

Environmental Factors

A highly chaotic or unstable home environment can make the withdrawal process much more difficult. High levels of support and encouragement can help the individual manage and minimize withdrawal symptoms.

Method of Use

The method in which a person regularly uses crystal meth can influence their withdrawal experience. The effects of crystal meth don’t last as long when it is smoked or injected, leading to individuals using an increased amount of the drug. This increased amount can be associated with more intense withdrawal symptoms.

Walk the Path With Us at East Coast Recovery

At East Coast Recovery Center, we realize and celebrate that there are many paths to recovery. That’s why we offer many different treatment modalities in an effort to find the approach that is most effective for you and your unique situation. Your journey may differ from the journey of others, but we’ll be there every step of the way, guiding you toward the path that is most effective in helping you achieve your goals in recovery.

Call us today at 781-400-8018 to get started on your journey toward success in recovery.

Frequently Asked Questions:

  • What is meth addiction?

Meth addiction occurs when someone experiences physical or mental dependence on methamphetamine.

  • How to help someone with meth addiction?

The best ways to help someone struggling with addiction are to provide them with support and access to a treatment program.

  • What are the signs of meth addiction?

Symptoms of meth addiction can range from minor to life-threatening, so it can be really important to be aware of them all. One of the first signs that someone may be experiencing an addiction to meth is the sudden loss of interest in areas of life that were once a personal priority. Career goals, hobbies, relationships and so much more of our daily lives can become a secondary priority when it comes to using meth when someone is struggling with addiction.