All addictions to drugs and alcohol are dangerous. The worst-case scenario is death while the best-case scenario is managing to live in a sober manner after recovery. The most abused substances in the United States are alcohol and painkillers, but in 2017, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 1.6 million respondents had used methamphetamine in the last month. The average meth user age was 23 years old.
The 2017 survey also found that 964,000 people 12 years or older, or 0.4% of the population, had a methamphetamine use disorder. This was an increase from 2016 when it was only 684,000.
The following information is about meth, withdrawal and the detox process.
What Is Meth?
Methamphetamine is a highly addictive stimulant. The substance takes a hold of the user because it rewires the central nervous system. Crystal methamphetamine is a variation of the substance. Chemically, the crystal version is similar to amphetamine, which is used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and the sleep disorder narcolepsy.
Methamphetamine can be smoked, swallowed in pill form or snorted after being crushed into a powder. The powder form can also be dissolved in water and alcohol. That process prepares it for injection. Meth is similar to cocaine in that the high does not last long periods of time, so users end up binging on the substance over a desired time frame. When the high begins to fade away, the user takes another hit. This can take place over a span of several days. Eventually, the desired effect is no longer achieved. This means that the user has to consume the substance more often and in higher amounts. Although a high is achieved, so is a tolerance to the drug.
This substance is dangerous to manufacture. When it is manufactured in the United States, it is often found in the Midwest being cooked in a home kitchen. While cocaine in its purest form is considered to be the drug of choice for those with disposable income, meth is the low-income equivalent. It is affordable, and users report that it is effective.
Pseudoephedrine is a main ingredient. Law enforcement and other agencies, therefore, have placed limits on the amount people can purchase at pharmacies. This has allowed law enforcement to find meth labs and shut them down. Even after a lab is shut down, however, the problem is that the chemicals remain in the environment for extended periods of time. The area may then be unfit for living or working, causing further hardship for those who are addicted to the drug.
What Is a Meth Addiction?
An addiction to a drug can occur on the first try. For many people, addiction occurs because they continue to chase the high. Since a tolerance begins to build, the substance has to be consumed more often and in higher doses. Before a user knows it, they are deep into their addiction.
Meth, like other drugs, delivers a rush of dopamine to the brain. The rush of dopamine stimulates a person’s desire for reward. In this situation, the dopamine rush is the reward, and the manner to achieve that reward is to consume the drug.
Short-term effects of consuming meth include:
- A decrease in appetite
- Faster breathing
- Irregular heartbeat
- An increase in body temperature and blood pressure
Long-term effects of consuming meth include:
- Extreme weight loss
- “Meth mouth,” or severe tooth decay
- Skin sores due to severe itchiness and scratching
- Sleeping problems
Those who decide to inject meth also open themselves up to the possibility of contracting Hepatitis C and HIV if users share needles. In the midst of a high, users often become careless. Since they are only interested in getting high, they typically do not take the time to use a clean or new needle.
The effects of meth are serious for those who become severely addicted. Loss of motor function, memory and ability to process emotions are common.
Can People Recover from a Meth Addiction?
It is important to be realistic about the severity of a meth addiction. A user can become hooked on the first try, and every additional hit eats away at the receptors in the central nervous system. Recovery is possible, and help is available for those struggling.
The first step toward recovery is detox.
What Is Meth Withdrawal?
Meth withdrawal occurs when the user is detoxing. It can also occur when a user has gone a certain time period without a hit. The withdrawal process for a meth addiction can last a couple of weeks. In comparison, the withdrawal process for a cocaine addiction only lasts one week.
Research shows that withdrawal for a meth addiction takes place in two phases. The first phase takes 24 hours, and the second takes place over a couple of weeks. A medical staff cannot predict how exactly the withdrawal phase will unfold for every patient, but they take several factors into consideration to help them prepare. If you enter a rehab facility for medical detox, during the intake step, you will be asked:
- How long have you been using meth?
- How much meth have you been consuming?
- How often do you take the drug and when was your last hit?
Someone who has only taken a few hits of meth over a few months has a better chance of overcoming the addiction more quickly. Someone who has been using the substance for years will have a longer road to recovery. Age also plays a role. Someone in their 20s is generally healthier than someone in their 40s or older. A younger person may recover from injuries more easily because their body has the ability to heal faster from infections. Therefore, a 23-year-old is better equipped to battle an addiction, including the incoming withdrawal symptoms, than someone in their later years.
Detoxing from a substance takes its toll on the body. There are cases when a person trying to detox alone does not make it out of this stage simply because their body cannot handle the shock, and they quickly relapse. This is why a person who is seeking help is encouraged to enter a private facility to detox and receive treatment.
A private rehab center such as Green Mountain Treatment Center in New Hampshire offers medical detox. Meth withdrawal is a high-to-manageable risk, so at a center, there is a trained staff available to you around the clock. When you begin to feel intense withdrawal symptoms, the staff takes steps to keep you comfortable and safe. Your medical history also plays a role. A rehab staff has all this information available to them. This helps them make good decisions about the steps to take throughout the withdrawal process.
Duration and Severity of Withdrawal Symptoms
A meth user can go into withdrawal hours after their last hit. Withdrawal is common even for those who are not even trying to get clean. Those symptoms appear because it is time for the next hit. An addicted individual reaches for the drug while a person trying to get clean reaches for help.
Meth withdrawal is most intense for the first 24 hours for someone who is trying to get clean. If you can make it through those 24 hours, the withdrawal symptoms become less intense over the following two to three weeks. Afterwards, there can still be sudden withdrawal pangs for a couple more weeks, but they are far less intense. This is known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome, which can last a couple of months.
The duration and severity of meth withdrawal partly depends on the person’s mental and physical health. The healthier they are, the better chance they have to get through it more easily. The quality of the meth that was consumed matters, too. If a person was using other drugs or alcohol with meth, the duration and severity of the withdrawal is likely to be more intense.
Signs and Symptoms of Meth Withdrawal
The medical field has found that no two withdrawal cases are the same, but the signs and symptoms of meth withdrawal generally include:
- Fatigue and sleepiness
- Cravings for meth
In severe situations, a person can develop suicidal thoughts and actions. This is why it is never recommended to try to detox alone without professional help.
Coping and Relief During Withdrawal and Cravings
Someone who is addicted to meth and wants to stop using will be encouraged to enter a rehab program. During rehab, therapy helps an individual deal with the circumstances that led to the addiction in the first place. Meth is a more affordable drug, so it tends to be the substance of choice for those with lower incomes and young people. During a person’s early years, especially if they attend college, peer pressure is rampant. If an addicted individual fell into this situation due to peer pressure, for example, they are taught how deal with peer pressure going forward.
Some coping and relief methods that a person learns in a rehab center such as Green Mountain Treatment Center are:
- Avoiding triggers through cognitive behavioral therapy
- Exercising, including yoga and meditation
- Eating a healthy diet
- Distracting oneself when cravings are particularly strong
In situations where it is deemed necessary, a person may be prescribed antipsychotic drugs to treat psychiatric symptoms. Many addicted individuals have co-occurring mental illnesses, so treatment of the addiction will also include mental health treatment.
A rehab center may include amenities such as an onsite gym, chef-prepared meals and group outings in order to help individuals relax as they confront their addiction. The program requires commitment, effort and vulnerability because remembering how a person fell into addiction can be traumatic. There may be things under the surface that a person does not want to admit because they are embarrassing or because they were involved in actions that were wrong. Every person, therefore, has to enter a program with the goal to get sober and be honest about their journey. A commitment to recovery will help set an individual up for success.
Long-Term Treatment After Rehabilitation
Even after one use, meth rewires your brain and central nervous system. The dopamine rush changes the receptors, so your brain desires the reward that meth provides. In order to overcome the re-wiring, you will go through therapy. Therapy is a long-term treatment because recovery from meth does not occur right away but after consistently learning to deal with triggers and make healthy choices.
At Green Mountain Treatment Center, our rehab options include:
- Individualized treatment plans
- Holistic therapy
- 12-step curriculum
- Client-to-client program
Based on your medical history, diagnosis and current health, qualified professionals will devise your treatment plan. The goal is to provide methods and strategies that achieve long-term results. An inpatient program typically lasts at least 30 days, during which therapy will give you tools for dealing with cravings and behaviors that led to your addiction in the first place. When you step back into the world with your new tools in hand, you should be able to cope as well as live in a sober manner. Even when you are faced with situations that trigger your addiction, through cognitive behavioral therapy, you will be able to remove yourself from the situation or cope until you can move away from it.
Attending support meetings is also encouraged in order to maintain long-term treatment and results after rehab. These programs are typically easy to find and will support former meth users in their recovery.
A meth addiction is serious and should be treated that way. However, through recovery, it’s possible for an addicted individual to get their life back. A person who is ready to get clean should know that help is readily available.