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Methamphetamine Addiction: Side Effects, Detox, Withdrawal, and Treatment

methamphetamine crystals

Updated on July 8th 2020

What is Methamphetamine?

Methamphetamine is a highly addictive stimulant drug that floods the brain with dopamine, resulting in a very quick “high” or euphoric feeling. It increases the body’s metabolism and produces euphoria, heightens alertness, and gives a sense of boosted energy.

The drug was developed in 1893 from its parent drug, amphetamine, and was used originally in nasal decongestants and bronchial inhalers. Methamphetamine is typically made in the form of a powder or pill, but it can also be made into bluish-white crystals, called crystal meth. The legal prescription version of the drug comes in tablet form and is used to treat obesity and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), although it is very rarely prescribed.

Methamphetamine is more potent than amphetamine, and it affects the brain more readily. It also has longer-lasting and more harmful effects on the central nervous system. Although the effects of methamphetamine are felt by the user almost immediately, they also wear off quickly. As a result, many meth abusers binge on the drug, taking it every few hours for several days straight. Many addicts do this for an extended period, neglecting other basic necessities like food and sleep.  These characteristics make it a drug with high potential for widespread abuse.

Most users snort, swallow, or smoke methamphetamine. Some will also dissolve the powder in water or alcohol and inject it with a needle. Users typically become addicted very quickly and as they continue to use, they develop a tolerance, which means they continually need to take larger doses of methamphetamine to get high.

methamphetamine crystals

What Are Slang Terms for Methamphetamine?

The following terms are street names or slang for methamphetamine:

  • Speed
  • Meth
  • Chalk
  • Crystal
  • Ice
  • Glass
  • Fire
  • Go Fast
  • Crank

How Common Is Methamphetamine Addiction and Abuse?

While it’s true that any drug can become deadly when abused, methamphetamine has earned a well-deserved reputation as one of the most dangerous illicit drugs. Despite the warnings and severe risks associated with its use, the intense and long-lasting high keeps meth in great demand on the street.

Methamphetamine is a highly addictive drug and can cause many serious medical issues or even death. Addiction to methamphetamine is a growing problem in the United States. According to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 1.4 million Americans (0.5 percent of the population) reported using methamphetamine during the past year. The widespread abuse of methamphetamine has also increased the risk and rate of individuals contracting HIV, hepatitis, and other infectious diseases caused by shared or dirty needles.

How Prevalent is Meth in Texas?

According to a recent National Drug Early Warning System report, meth is the No. 1 drug threat ranked by the Dallas, El Paso, and Houston DEA divisions in Texas. Based on Texas poison control calls, treatment admissions, deaths, and toxicology reports on substances seized and identified, methamphetamine is a larger problem than heroin in Texas. Nearly all the meth nationwide is produced in Mexico and it continues to be made using phenyl-2-propanone (a chemical that is not legal in the United States), not cold medicines. Meth seizures on the Texas-Mexico border are increasing.

Due to a readily available supply of high-purity, low-cost forms of the drug, law enforcement agencies throughout the state report high levels of abuse. Based on the responses to the National Drug Threat Survey, 47 percent of the law enforcement respondents rated meth abuse in their jurisdictions as high, and 30 percent reported medium levels of abuse.

In 2017, 17 percent of substance abuse treatment admissions in Texas were for meth addiction. 7,586 Texans sought substance abuse treatment for methamphetamine and amphetamine addiction, up 499 from the previous year, according to the Treatment Episode Survey data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Methamphetamine Addiction Statistics

  • Most stimulant-related drug deaths (85-90 percent) involve methamphetamine.
  • In 2018, psychostimulant drugs, including meth, were responsible for 12,676 overdose deaths in the U.S.
  • S. admissions for meth addiction treatment rose from 8.6 percent in 2015 to 10.3 percent in 2017.
  • In 2017, 198,014 individuals were admitted to an addiction treatment program for meth addiction at publically-funded treatment facilities.
  • Most people who received publicly-funded treatment for methamphetamine addiction in 2017 were 26 to 30 years old.

What Are the Effects of Methamphetamine Addiction and Abuse?

Methamphetamine addiction side effects involve a wide range of physical, social, and psychological consequences and should be taken very seriously.

Immediate short-term effects of methamphetamine addiction and abuse include:

  • Euphoria
  • Increased energy and physical activity
  • Increased respiration
  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased body temperature
  • Rapid/irregular heartbeat
  • Increased blood pressure

Because it is metabolized slowly in the body, the effects of a single dose of methamphetamine can last up to two days. Over time, the damage done to the body and brain accumulate, producing long-term and sometimes permanent adverse health effects. Long-term effects of methamphetamine addiction and abuse include:

  • Increased risk of HIV and Hepatitis B and Cman depressed because of methamphetamine abuse
  • Cognitive impairments
  • Memory problems
  • Dental problems
  • Weight loss
  • Extreme itching
  • Anxiety
  • Sleeping problems
  • Violent behavior
  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia

Methamphetamine addiction can also lead to (or contribute to) psychological problems, such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Insomnia
  • Psychosis
  • Hallucinations
  • Homicidal thoughts
  • Suicidal thoughts

A variety of social problems may also come as a result of methamphetamine addiction, including:

  • Aggressive behavior/crime
  • Financial problems
  • Job loss
  • Strained relationships

Meth has a long list of adverse effects and consequences, with the severity and danger rising exponentially with larger doses and increased frequency.

What Are Risk Factors for Meth Addiction?

Methamphetamine addiction causes are not always cut and dry, but there are certain factors that increase a person’s risk. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), children and adolescents most at risk for developing an addiction later in life share several risk factors, including:

  • Lack of parental supervision
  • Poverty
  • Substance use and abuse among peers
  • Aggressive behavior early in life
  • Availability of drugs and alcohol

Although having one or more of these risk factors does not guarantee that a person will become addicted to methamphetamine or any other drug later in life, it does increase their risk significantly.

What Are the Signs of Meth Use?

Methamphetamine abuse has three general patterns: low intensity, binge, and high intensity. Each of these patterns has similar signs, but as abuse intensity increases, more dramatic and severe symptoms will be present.

Typically, a low-intensity user is not psychologically addicted and takes the drug by swallowing or snorting it. Binge and high-intensity patterns involve much greater frequency of abuse and include psychological addiction, along with a preference to smoke or inject methamphetamine to achieve a faster and stronger high.

If you suspect that you or a loved one is addicted, there are several signs and symptoms to look for. Methamphetamine addiction signs may not always be obvious, but here are a few of the most common red flags:

  1. Inability to control methamphetamine use.
  2. Having strong cravings for methamphetamine.
  3. Having problems at work, school, or home as a result of methamphetamine abuse.
  4. Experiencing uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms when the effects of methamphetamine wear off.
  5. Repeatedly finding oneself in harmful or life-threatening situations while under the influence of methamphetamine.
  6. Developing a tolerance (needing more methamphetamine to achieve the same effect).
  7. Continuing to use methamphetamine despite all the negative consequences.

==> Much more on the signs of meth abuse

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    Methamphetamine Addiction Withdrawal Symptoms and Detox

    Although many people attempt to get sober on their own, long-term methamphetamine addiction recovery is much more likely with professional drug treatment. The process of beating methamphetamine addiction starts with a medically assisted detox program. Medical drug detox programs provide round-the-clock medical care for individuals who are withdrawing from addictive substances, such as methamphetamine.

    Because the physical symptoms of withdrawal can be very uncomfortable, methamphetamine detox is best completed in a trusted detox center that is staffed with professionals who are trained to recognize and treat the symptoms of methamphetamine withdrawal. This will not only increase the likelihood that a person will complete the withdrawal process without giving up and using meth, but it will also ensure their safety and overall well-being throughout the entire process.

    methamphetamine detox

    Methamphetamine withdrawal typically produces the same types of symptoms, although each individual’s experience in drug detox will vary. Some common symptoms of methamphetamine withdrawal include:

    • Exhaustion
    • Increased appetite
    • Strong cravings
    • Jitteriness
    • Anxiety
    • Suicidal thoughts or self-harm
    • Feelings of hopelessness
    • Depression

    Because the withdrawal symptoms can sometimes be severe, methamphetamine treatment for detox is often the safest and most effective way to stop using it and get sober.

    Methamphetamine Withdrawal Timeline

    1-3 days after the last dose:Exhaustion, anxiety, and paranoia set in during the first few days of methamphetamine detox. Some people may experience more extreme withdrawal symptoms during this time, such as suicidal thoughts or hallucinations.
    4-7 days after the last dose:Methamphetamine withdrawal symptoms may range from severe cravings, feelings of hopelessness, aches, and pains. Headaches, difficulty concentrating, and weight gain are also common during methamphetamine detox.
    8-14 days after the last dose:Most methamphetamine withdrawal symptoms subside by this time. Some symptoms may linger for a few weeks, including mood swings, depression, and difficulty sleeping.

    How to Detox From Meth

    Although many people attempt to get sober on their own, long-term methamphetamine addiction recovery is much more likely with professional drug treatment. The process of beating methamphetamine addiction starts with a medically assisted detox program. Medical methamphetamine detox programs provide round-the-clock medical care for individuals who are withdrawing from meth.

    Because the physical symptoms of withdrawal can be very uncomfortable, methamphetamine detox is best completed in a trusted detox center that is staffed with professionals who are trained to recognize and treat the symptoms of methamphetamine withdrawal. This will not only increase the likelihood that a person will complete the withdrawal process without giving up and using meth, but it will also ensure their safety and overall well-being throughout the entire process.

    Long-Term Rehab for Methamphetamine Addiction

    For those who want to achieve lasting sobriety and freedom from methamphetamine addiction, methamphetamine rehab centers can provide the skills, tools, support, and time to learn how to live a sober life. Research shows that addiction treatment of at least 90 days is ideal to achieve the most successful treatment results.

    During drug rehab for ice addiction, addicts can expect to work with a variety of treatment professionals, including counselors, therapists, and recovery specialists who have personal and/or professional experience overcoming addiction. Clients will also actively work with their peers to develop and practice effective coping strategies to manage cravings, triggers, and high-risk situations they will face outside of methamphetamine rehab.

    residential rehab center for methamphetamine

    Although medications help treat some substance use disorders, there are currently no medications available that counteract the specific effects of methamphetamine or that prevent cravings for the drug. Therefore, the most effective treatments for meth addiction are various psychological behavioral therapies.

    Cognitive behavioral treatment combines family education, individual counseling, 12-Step support, drug testing, and encouragement to engage in non-drug-related activities. This approach has been effective in reducing methamphetamine abuse.

    Other forms of therapy, such as contingency management interventions, provide motivational incentives to encourage those suffering from addiction to participate in treatment and maintain abstinence. Methamphetamine treatment programs of this type have also reported effectiveness in treating methamphetamine addiction, according to the National Drug Abuse Clinical Trials Network.

    Recovery from any addiction requires hard work and diligence to maintain sobriety. However, due to its potent effects on mind and body, recovering from meth addiction requires even greater levels of commitment and discipline.

    Inpatient Drug Rehab vs. Outpatient Drug Rehab

    Inpatient drug rehab is different from outpatient rehab. The primary difference is that an inpatient methamphetamine rehab program requires the addict to live at the addiction treatment center while they complete their drug rehab program. While living at the center, they must abide by a strict daily schedule and interaction with the outside world is limited.

    On the other hand, outpatient methamphetamine treatment provides a more flexible addiction treatment option for parents with children or individuals who cannot otherwise commit to living at a rehab center for an extended period. Programs consist of a series of group meetings hosted in an addiction treatment center and held three or more times each week.

    The cost of long-term methamphetamine treatment for addiction will vary depending on the program you choose and any additional recovery support services. If you have medical insurance, you can use those medical benefits to help supplement the cost of treatment. Additional payment options include private loans or out-of-pocket payments. Some employers may also offer an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) which is designed to help employees deal with personal issues such as substance abuse. Benefits from this program (if available) may also help lower the cost of addiction treatment.

    Continued Care Options for Methamphetamine Addiction Treatment

    Once a client has completed methamphetamine detox and rehab, they may still need some additional support to maintain their sobriety on a long-term basis. Sober living and aftercare programs are designed to provide various levels of support for individuals in different stages of their sobriety journey.

    Sober Living Programs

    The primary purpose of a sober living program is to help a person transition from a life of addiction to a life of sobriety. This lifestyle change comes with many challenges, therefore it is best to have a team of supportive individuals who can help the person overcome the obstacles they face in the process.

    Sober living programs, also known as transitional housing programs, provide structured living in sober group homes with house managers. These transitional living programs can also be enhanced with other recovery support services like regular drug and alcohol testing, 12-step support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA), or employment and educational assistance.

    Transitional housing programs vary in cost, depending on the location of the home, the type of residence, and any additional recovery support services or IOP. Payment is collected from residents every month as rent would be.

    Aftercare Programs

    Aftercare programs are designed to provide support to individuals who have already graduated from a drug and alcohol rehab program, also known as alumni. These programs consist of group meetings that serve as sobriety check-ins for those who would like some additional support maintaining their sobriety.

    Overcoming methamphetamine addiction is a process that will require time, effort, and continued treatment. Although it may be difficult, it is completely possible to get sober and stay that way for good. If you or a loved one needs methamphetamine addiction help, call Nova today to learn about our methamphetamine rehab programs.

    Nova Recovery Center offers a large range of substance abuse treatment services: detox, residential, outpatient and sober living.

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