For the past decade, the use of methamphetamine—most commonly known as crystal meth—has reached epidemic proportions in our country. In the most recent methamphetamine use statistics available, the National Institute of Health reports that more than 1.5 million people in the United States have used methamphetamine in the past year, and nearly half a million report having used it in the past month.

 

Methamphetamine Addiction Facts

The most serious methamphetamine addiction involves, sadly, our children. The average age of the new methamphetamine user is now around 18 and just over one percent of all adolescents from 8th to 12th grades have used the drug at least once. And according to the Drug Abuse Warning Network, which gathers information from hospital emergency rooms around the country, methamphetamine accounted for more than 103,000 visits a year for the past four years, making it the fourth most mentioned illegal drug.

Whether you’ve just heard the methamphetamine nicknames—amp, crank, crystal and dozens of others—or just the methamphetamine Methamphetamine Addiction Treatment Centeraddiction stories, to really understand the role the drug play in our society today it’s important to know that the use and abuse of methamphetamine has a long history. Its chemical cousin—amphetamine—was first constructed in 1887, with methamphetamine being discovered 30 years later. Both drugs were used to treat a variety of conditions, including obesity, depression, narcolepsy and what we now know as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. It was even given to soldiers during World War II to keep them alert while on duty. However, in 1971 the U.S. Congress formally placed both drugs on its Schedule II classification, leading to an immediate surge in their demand.

Like amphetamine, the chemical structure of methamphetamine makes it a stimulant that works directly on the central nervous system. In its pure form, it’s an odorless, clear crystal that can be swallowed, snorted, smoked or injected. The effects of one dose usually last from four to eight hours and include a decrease in appetite, an increase in activity and a sense of general well-being. Methamphetamine causes a surge of dopamine in the brain—twelve times more than is released during any normal activity—but over time the drug destroys the receptors that register dopamine, meaning methamphetamine addicts eventually reach a point where they must take more and more of the drug to achieve any sort of high.

Today, methamphetamine addiction is so rampant that it’s difficult to determine exact numbers: drug policy experts estimate that nearly 700,000 people may be addicted to the drug at any one point in time. And much of that addiction is because, as its prescription form is so highly regulated, the drug is mainly produced in illegal labs both here and overseas, and its production is very simple and extremely inexpensive given its few ingredients which are easy to obtain. Unfortunately, the illegal production of methamphetamine—resulting in its attractive price of between $5 and $20 a dose—has led to vastly unpredictable forms and strengths of the drug that can range from fairly mild to instantly deadly.

Understanding Methamphetamine Side Effects

There are both short- and long-term effects of regular methamphetamine use and abuse. When it’s smoked, snorted or injected, users experience an immediate increase in heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature as well as an instant sense of euphoria and general well-being. A sudden burst of physical activity is common, along with increased talkativeness, and users may reach a state of hyperexcitability. Also, to be expected in the short term is a loss of appetite, the inability to sleep, nausea, panic and—with regular use—bizarre, erratic and sometimes violent behavior and hallucinations. Convulsions and seizures can occur in even the occasional user given the unpredictable strength of a certain batch of the drug.

The body can certainly recover from the short-term effects of methamphetamine if the user stops taking it. The long-term effects, however, can be much more destructive both physically and psychologically. Methamphetamine causes permanent damage to the blood vessels of the heart and brain leading to heart attacks, strokes and death. It also has serious debilitating effects on the liver, kidney and lungs, and destroys nasal tissue when snorted.

If snorted, respiratory and breathing problems are common, as are exposure to infectious diseases and abscesses if it’s injected directly into the bloodstream. And recent studies have identified a direct link between regular methamphetamine use and brain damage that mimics Alzheimer’s disease as well as the symptoms epilepsy. Tooth decay, which occurs when frequent users constantly grind and gnash their teeth, is also to be expected.

Methamphetamine overdose is most common when the drug is injected.

Overdose symptoms—which can quickly turn fatal—include:

  • confusion and restlessness
  • aggressive or paranoid behavior
  • profuse sweating
  • spots in one’s field of vision
  • high fever
  • loss of muscle control
  • severe stomach and chest pain
  • arrhythmia of the heart
  • convulsions

When a user is experiencing any combination of these symptoms, convulsions are likely and, if medical attention isn’t given immediately there is the possibility of slipping into a coma.

Methamphetamine use during pregnancy is a topic still being investigated by researchers and physicians, but direct links have already been established between the drug’s use and fetal development. Premature deliveries by women who used methamphetamine while pregnant are being widely reported, as are placental abruptions (a separation of the placental lining from the uterus), small birth weights and sizes, lethargy in newborns and heart and brain abnormalities. Additionally, as children of methamphetamine-addicted women develop they are more likely to have neurobehavioral problems such as decreased arousal and increased stress patterns as well as attention deficit disorders.

What are Meth Addiction Symptoms?

There’s a common misconception that methamphetamine is an instantly addictive drug, that one “hit” will make you hooked for life. Researchers, physicians and addiction specialists are quick to report that this isn’t true, and in fact there are many stages of methamphetamine addiction that may take weeks, months and even years to develop fully. But although most people who experiment with methamphetamine don’t become addicts, those who do face serious physical and psychological problems.

The signs of methamphetamine addiction—those that come with a sudden or prolonged increase in its use—vary widely from person to person.

In terms of mood changes, a methamphetamine addict will gravitate between depression and anxiety and display bouts of euphoria.

Behaviorally, the addict becomes preoccupied with obtaining and using the drug, hides their use from others and may socially isolate themselves from friends and family. It’s also common for the addict to engage in dangerous and risky behaviors, be impulsive, exhibit aggressive and violent tendencies and have changes in memory and the ability to think and reason.

Physically, the methamphetamine addict will tremble and shake constantly, experience nausea and vomiting, appear sweaty without it being hot, have dilated pupils, suffer from sleeplessness, a loss of appetite and exhibit extreme paranoia, psychosis, disordered thinking, and, in rare circumstances, hallucinations. Anhedonia—the inability to feel pleasure—also occurs with methamphetamine abuse, and additionally many regular methamphetamine users become physically rundown, leaving them susceptible to a host of illnesses. Liver damage is common with frequent methamphetamine use, and because the drug decreases blood flow through the body’s tissues, serious methamphetamine addicts are at an increased risk of seizures, heart attacks and strokes.

Long-term use of methamphetamine also leads to a condition known as rhabdomyolysis, a serious breakdown of skeletal tissue that leads to a release of muscle fiber—called myoglobin—into the bloodstream. The condition is extremely harmful to the kidneys and can damage them permanently. Addicts also suffer from malnutrition as they fail to eat regularly, and as a result there is a constant destruction of organ tissue and an inability for the body to repair the damage.

Pictures of long-term methamphetamine users present a disturbing outward physical appearance, and those pictures are often used by health professionals and drug researchers as examples of what the drug is capable of doing to the human body. “Meth mouth” —a condition of severe tooth decay—is one of the most apparent characteristics of the addict, as are open sores on the face and body and a loss of hair and skin elasticity.

Aside from the physical and psychological symptoms of methamphetamine addiction, users are at a greatly increased risk of homelessness, divorce and financial and legal problems. And studies also indicate that domestic and child abuse is increasingly common in homes with methamphetamine addicts.

Coping with Meth Withdrawal Symptoms

Methamphetamine is a particularly addictive drug, characterized by intense cravings that can easily surpass those for other drugs or even alcohol. Like other stimulants that create a euphoric “high,” methamphetamine leads users to want more and more of the drug so that its effects can be sustained for as long as possible, yet the human body’s tolerance for its narcotic effects develop relatively quickly. When methamphetamine is suddenly absent from the body of a regular user, therefore, the intense desire and perceived need for the drug can be overwhelming and extremely difficult to resist.

When a methamphetamine addict stops taking the drug, the levels of dopamine in the brain drop quickly. In the case of the long-time methamphetamine user there are also less dopamine receptors available, so it’s not surprising that many addicts coming down off the drug experience a state of anhedonia, or the inability to feel pleasure. And sadly, it can take as long as two years of being off the drug for the dopamine functions of the addict to return to a normal state. Relapse into methamphetamine use is, therefore, an unfortunate reality for many addicts who simply can’t find a suitable substitute for the euphoria the drug provides.

The severity of methamphetamine withdrawal varies according to many different factors, including-

  • how long the users has been taking the drug and how much they typically consume
  • the user’s age (the older an addict is, the more difficult withdrawal tends to be)
  • the state of the user’s mental and physical health before methamphetamine abuse began
  • the quality of the methamphetamine that was being taken

Addiction counselors and researchers note that withdrawal from methamphetamine abuse lasts longer and is, in many cases, far more severe than even withdrawal from cocaine.

The most common symptoms of methamphetamine withdrawal are:

  • excessive sleeping and extreme lethargy
  • an increased appetite (which should be expected as methamphetamine naturally decreases appetite when it’s being taken)
  • heightened anxiety
  • psychosis (which can be severe especially if the drug has been taken regularly for months or years)
  • varying levels of paranoia
  • profound depression

Generally, initial withdrawal from methamphetamine is viewed in two phases:

  • The first phase is most intense during the first 24-hours after the addict’s last dose, and becomes gradually less intense over the next two weeks.
  • The second phase is reported to be easier to cope with physically and lasts about another two to three weeks.

However, after the initial physical symptoms of withdrawal have passed, it’s vital that the addict seeks drug counseling and rehabilitation therapy immediately, as the psychological problems associated with methamphetamine withdrawal can be difficult to overcome alone.

Getting Meth Addiction Treatment

With the highly addictive nature of methamphetamine comes the obvious chance of an accidental overdose. And when this situation is suspected, it’s crucial that the user obtain medical care immediately.

Symptoms of an overdose include:

  • extreme agitation and paranoia
  • difficulty breathing
  • chest pains
  • severe stomach pain
  • seizures
  • heart attacks
  • strokes

Once in an emergency room, methamphetamine overdose treatments usually involve close monitoring of the patient’s vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate and blood pressure, and any dangerous variations in these signs are treated accordingly. Additionally, the overdose victim will likely receive intravenous fluids to maintain hydration, medications that regulate heart rate and blood pressure and, if the methamphetamine was swallowed in its crystal form, activated charcoal and laxative to clear the drug from the body as quickly as possible.

Whether an overdose of methamphetamine was accidental or the result of long-term abuse, it’s important that the addict seek treatment for methamphetamine addiction immediately at a qualified and comprehensive drug rehabilitation center. Currently, addiction specialists are reporting that the most effective treatments to help someone in overcoming methamphetamine addiction are comprehensive behavioral therapies that combine education for both the addict and his or her family, individual counseling, a standard 12-Step support program and strong encouragement for non-drug-related activities. Each of these has shown to be very effective in reducing and eliminating methamphetamine abuse.

Although there are many medications that have been shown to be effective in treating certain substance disorders—medications that help ease cravings for cocaine and alcohol, for instance—there are currently no medications that counteract the specific effects of methamphetamine or help with long-term avoidance of the drug.

As with so many addictive substances, breaking the cycle of chronic methamphetamine addiction occurs in a series of stages.

In stage one, which typically lasts for two weeks, the body is purging the drug from its system quickly. It’s during this time that the body is attempting to heal itself and return to a state of normal activity, and as methamphetamine addicts often eat poorly, don’t sleep enough and become severely dehydrated, this period is sometimes referred to as the “sleep, eat and drink” stage.

By stage two the “crash” of detoxification has eased, and for two to three weeks the addict is beginning to feel stronger both emotionally and physically. However, because the addict may feel exceptionally better the chance for a quick relapse is good, as overconfidence leads to thoughts that their addiction wasn’t that serious after all and they can control their use in the future.

During stage three, which may last up to four months, it’s common for the addict to experience a difficult period of depression, boredom and despair. Because the user wants to fight these feelings, restarting their use of methamphetamine seems like a logical idea, a way to reconnect with the world of enjoyment—being with friends and fellow users, having nearly unlimited energy and stamina etc.—that comes with taking the drug. Therefore, relapse is also a concern during this time, and a critical time for the addict to be getting intensive counseling from qualified rehabilitation specialists who can suggest effective methods for coping with the feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Through stage four, which generally runs to the six-month mark from initial withdrawal, the addict needs to work at adjusting back to a life free of methamphetamine use. Again, with the help of therapists in a comprehensive in- or outpatient program, addicts can develop tools to help them reintegrate back into their old lives, fight the cravings for the drug (which have become much more manageable at this point) and generally discover the things that made life interesting before they began their spiral into addiction.

During stage five—six months to one year since the addict quit using methamphetamine—it’s likely that their previous addiction is a distant memory or, at worst, something they think about only occasionally and in short, fleeting moments. But as with any addiction it’s important to remember that there can never be a true “cure” for methamphetamine abuse, and so this stage should be viewed as ongoing despite the fact that their addiction may seem far in the past. By utilizing the coping tools provided them from addiction specialists and rehabilitation counselors and therapists, the methamphetamine addict can reach long-term, permanent recovery free of the devastating social, physical and psychological effects of chronic methamphetamine use.

 

Meth Addiction Treatment Center in Northern California

Thousands of Americans struggle with meth abuse each and every day. This drug is reaching epidemic proportions in America. However, a Meth Addiction Treatment Center can change your life for the better. With professional staff and effective programs, you can overcome addiction in a safe, supportive environment. For example, Addiction Therapy Services at Beacon House include:

Through Experiential Therapy, you will have access to fun activities such as golf and horseback riding. This will teach you how to enjoy life without the use of meth. Moreover, it’s a time for reflection and understanding, while working with peers in recovery.

Face Meth Addiction With Beacon House

Face your meth addiction head-on with the support and guidance of Beacon House. In fact, our staff provides around-the-clock medical supervision and support. Learn more about our Meth Addiction Treatment Center today. Call us now for more information.