How Meth Addiction Treatment Works

In a 2020 survey, 2.6 million people reported using methamphetamine in the year before the survey. Of that number, 1.5 million reported having a methamphetamine use disorder, and nearly 24,000 people died from an overdose involving methamphetamines. Methamphetamines, or meth, cause destruction to the people misusing it and the communities in which they live. With any substance use disorder comes dangerous behaviors, such as theft and making drug deals in neighborhoods. Below you’ll learn all about meth and meth addiction treatment.

What Is Meth?

Methamphetamines are illegal amphetamines, also known as crystal meth, stimulants, uppers, and speed. The difference between the two is that more methamphetamine gets into the brain than amphetamines regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Meth is a crystalline powder-like substance that affects the central nervous system. It gives you energy, makes you talkative, suppresses appetite, and can make you feel euphoric briefly. It also causes your heart to beat rapidly for an extended, dangerous period. You quickly become overheated due to irregular internal temperatures.

How Does Someone Misuse Meth?

While a doctor can prescribe it, most meth is created in a clandestine lab, in bulk, and distributed on the streets to local drug dealers, who then distribute it to drug users. The pureness of the drug depends on who creates it. However, it would be extremely rare to get 100% pure meth. If a doctor were ever to prescribe the drug, it would be at a dose too low for misuse. 

Meth can be ingested orally, snorted, injected, or smoked. Smoking and injecting get meth into the bloodstream the fastest and metabolize it out of the body the quickest. Anyone ingesting meth is misusing it because they do not know how much is a safe amount to take. Therefore, they typically take too much. Some go on a meth binge and stay up for days, constantly consuming meth and little else.

How Does Meth Affect You?

Meth affects each person differently, but common side effects include feeling:

  • Energized and hyper
  • Confident
  • Euphoric
  • Sexual
  • Agitated
  • Sociable
  • Alert
  • Uninhibited
  • Paranoid
  • Delusional
  • Confused

Physically you may feel like your heartbeat cannot slow down, your breaths are too short and fast, you have increased blood pressure, and an inability to stop fidgeting or moving around.

What Is Meth Addiction?

Addiction is often confused with dependence, which is also concerning. Meth dependence means your brain and body have become so used to having meth in your system that it thinks it needs it to survive. When you try to stop using meth or even cut back, withdrawal symptoms appear, which can be painful and interfere with daily functioning. Withdrawal symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, muscle spasms, paranoia, hallucinations, flu-like symptoms, etc.

To prevent or ease the debilitating withdrawal symptoms, your brain convinces you to do whatever is needed to obtain and use more meth. Soon you find yourself in a cycle of seeking and using meth. Even when this cycle creates negative consequences in your life, you cannot stop. You may lose relationships, jobs, homes, cars, and more, yet you continue to misuse meth because you do not know how to get out of the cycle. This is the cycle of meth addiction.

Signs of Meth Addiction

Suppose you have a methamphetamine use disorder or know someone who does. In that case, there will be apparent signs, like the following, which are the criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM5):

  • You have tried to stop using meth but have not been able to do so.
  • You often use more meth and for longer than you intend to.
  • Put yourself in risky situations to obtain or use meth.
  • You continue to use meth even though doing so has caused personal, professional, and social problems.
  • Continue to use meth even though you know you are worsening a physical or psychological condition.
  • Have cravings for meth when you have gone without for a while.
  • You have built up a tolerance to meth.
  • Most of your time is spent obtaining and using meth.
  • Have neglected major roles at home, work, or socially to use meth.
  • You avoid activities you once enjoyed to use meth.
  • Withdrawal symptoms when you stop using meth.

Detox for Meth Addiction

There are effective treatment programs available for anyone with a methamphetamine use disorder. Treatment begins with a comprehensive assessment to create a treatment plan specific to your needs. Depending on your meth use behaviors, you may need to start with a medically supervised detox program. Medications are being considered for meth withdrawal, like naltrexone, used for opioid and alcohol use disorder treatment. Other medicines being studied are anti-methamphetamine monoclonal antibodies and Ibudilast, which change how meth processes through the brain, changing its effects.

Meth Addiction Treatment

Inpatient or residential treatment is recommended following detox unless you have a healthy support system at home. In that case, you may be recommended for partial hospitalization or intensive outpatient programs. Each program provides individual and group counseling to teach you early recovery and relapse prevention skills. Skills are taught using behavioral therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, contingency management, and the Matrix Model specifically for stimulant use disorders. 

Most treatment centers offer integrated treatment services to heal your mind, body, and spirit simultaneously, giving you the best chance for recovery success. If you have a mental health disorder, co-occurring therapies are available. To reduce stress, holistic therapies such as yoga, meditation, tai chi, art and music therapy, and stress management are incorporated into your treatment plan. 

Family therapy, 12 Step facilitation groups, fitness and nutrition therapy, and aftercare planning and case management are a few more available meth addiction treatment at all levels of care. Think of these therapies and skills as protection from relapse. The more skills you learn, the more protection you have against relapse triggers. Make yourself and your recovery a priority by spending more time in treatment. You deserve it.


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