What Is Meth?
Meth is short for methamphetamine, a type of stimulant drug that is derived from amphetamines. As a stimulant, meth increases central nervous system activity, resulting in high levels of energy.
When it was first produced, methamphetamine was used as a decongestant, energy aid, and weight-loss aid. However, once it was realized that the drug was causing more harm than it helped, the United States greatly restricted the drug. The only legal form of meth now is Desoxyn, a type of medication for people with severe ADHD.
Most forms of methamphetamine that people abuse are not prescription pills, however. Instead, the most common forms of meth are made illegally by mixing together a variety of chemicals. The majority of meth comes in either a powder or a crystal form. The powder form of meth is a fine, crystalline dust in whitish, yellowish, pinkish, and brownish shades. Some people dissolve it in liquid to inject while others take it orally, smoke it, or snort it. Crystal meth is a type of meth that comes in larger clear, whitish, or bluish chunks. These rocks can be smoked to create a high feeling. There are a variety of “street names” for meth, including glass, ice, crystal, crank, tweak, and chalk.
With roughly 6.5% of all people over the age of 26 having used meth at least once, it remains one of the most commonly abused drugs. This highly addictive drug can cause a variety of health and behavioral problems when abused, so it is very important to seek help if you or a loved one has a meth addiction. Understanding how this devastating substance use disorder works can help you find ways to overcome it.
Meth’s Effects on the Body
Meth creates a “high” feeling by causing the brain to produce a huge burst of dopamine. This dopamine rush creates feelings of pleasure, motivation, and energy. In general, people who abuse meth will feel a lot more energetic and active. However, not all the results of meth are enjoyable. Many people have a negative reaction to meth, experiencing issues like mood swings and mental disorders. Some of the most common effects of meth are:
• Intense good mood
• Extreme alertness
• Loss of appetite
• Weight loss
• Rapid heart rate
In some cases, the effects of meth can be deadly. Due to the stimulant effects of meth, it puts a lot of stress on the heart and central nervous system. This can lead to seizures, heart attacks, and strokes. Meth is one of the leading causes of drug overdoses nationally, with over 9,000 people overdosing each year. In some cases, these deadly effects happen rapidly after a person takes a very large dosage of meth. However, not all cases of meth-related cardiac events are from overdoses. Taking the drug regularly can put stress on your cardiovascular system, increasing your risk of these issues.
There are also a variety of symptoms indirectly associated with meth, ranging from minor health issues to severe mental disorders. Many people feel compelled to pick at their skin, which can cause sores and infections. Meth use also dries out the mouth, increasing tooth decay and causing the signature “meth mouth.” Additionally, there is a rare condition called meth psychosis that may happen when a person overdoses or regularly takes very high doses of meth. This causes them to experience delusions, hallucinations, and paranoia that can lead to all sorts of problematic and unsafe behavior.
Identifying Meth Addiction
Meth currently ranks as one of the top five most addictive drugs, with over 500,000 Americans having a methamphetamine addiction. Though it is possible to use meth just once without being addicted, that is very rare. Most of the people who take meth become addicted to the drug, especially after using it a few times. A person with an addiction to meth has both a physical and mental dependence on the drug that makes it hard for them to quit using it. However, spotting an addiction can be hard.
Many people with addictions lie to themselves because they do not want to admit that they have a problem. You may have a problem with your meth use if you answer “yes” to one or more of these statements about meth use:
• You want to quit using meth but cannot stop.
• You are in financial trouble or participating in illegal activities because of how much meth you purchase.
• You neglect personal responsibilities to use meth instead.
• You have lost interest in hobbies or spending time with loved ones.
• You have insomnia, poor oral health, skin sores, or other physical signs of meth addiction.
• You find yourself needing more and more meth to get the same feeling.
• You feel sick when you do not take meth.
• You no longer take care of yourself and have poor personal hygiene now.
It can also be tricky to tell if a loved one has an addiction because people with a substance use disorder may hide their behavior from others. Here are some of the signs that a friend or family member may be abusing meth:
• They are more energetic than usual.
• They constantly have burns or injection marks without an explanation.
• They have become withdrawn and secretive.
• They are participating in unusually risky behavior.
• They frequently stay up for long periods of time and struggle with insomnia.
• They are no longer fulfilling duties like child care or going to work.
• They experience strange mood swings, including euphoria, paranoia, and irritability.
• They have unexplained money problems.
Understanding the Link Between Meth Addiction and Withdrawal
Withdrawal is closely related to meth addiction, so it can be helpful to understand how it works. Withdrawal happens when your brain develops a dependence on meth. Since the brain is used to constantly getting the extra dopamine from meth, it may quit producing its own as it tries to develop a more stable equilibrium. Then, when you quit using meth, you end up feeling very sick.
Meth withdrawal usually starts 24 hours after using it, and it is associated with symptoms like fatigue, anxiety, depression, increased appetite, and muscle pain. Withdrawal may last for up to a month. It can be very intense, so many people with addiction keep using meth simply to avoid the withdrawal. This can make it even harder to deal with addictions.
The Dangers of Abusing Meth
There are all sorts of reasons you should fight addiction to meth. Methamphetamine is a very dangerous substance, and repeatedly using it can cause many problems.
Studies that have examined the brains of meth users over time find that there are severe structural and functional changes to the brain. Those who abuse meth gradually lose brain cells in the parts of the brain associated with motor speed, verbal learning, emotion, and memory. These changes to the brain can express themselves as increased anxiety, mood swings, violent behavior, and paranoia.
People who abuse meth very heavily can even end up with delusions, visual hallucinations, and auditory hallucinations. People who regularly use meth tend to have weight loss, severe tooth decay, and skin sores that can further impact their health.
In addition to the physical and mental problems associated with meth use, you also need to be concerned about the general dangers of addiction. Because it is a highly addictive substance, you can end up with an addiction to meth after using it just one or two times. People with drug addictions often struggle to hold down a job, so they may face homelessness or poverty. The inability to easily pay for meth can also encourage addicts to steal or engage in other illegal activities to get more money.
Addiction can also destroy your relationships. Being unable or unwilling to care for and interact with loved ones can end up completely destroying your family and friendships.
Work Toward Overcoming Your Meth Addiction
If you or a loved one has a meth addiction, there is hope. The right treatments can make a huge difference. Most drug rehab centers are divided into inpatient and outpatient facilities. Inpatient, or residential, drug rehab centers are places where you live for a certain period of time while you undergo treatment. This lets you escape bad influences and focus on your recovery.
Outpatient drug rehab centers are locations you visit multiple times a week for treatment, so you can continue to live at home, care for family, go to work, or go to school while you get the help you need. Regardless of the style of rehab you select, your treatment will typically revolve around a blend of medical care and therapy.
Medication for Meth Addiction
There are no medications that reduce meth cravings and withdrawal without resulting in an addiction to another substance. However, this does not mean that treatment never includes medication.
When a person is dealing with meth withdrawal, they may feel very ill. Selecting a rehab center with a medical detox option can help addicts get nonaddictive pain medications, anti-nausea medications, and antipsychotic medications to help with the symptoms of withdrawal. If a former meth user is suffering from depression or anxiety, they may also benefit from a psychiatrist who can prescribe them with antidepressant or anti-anxiety medications.
Therapy for Meth Addiction
Current research indicates that the most effective treatment for meth addiction is behavioral therapy. This works well because it addresses the mental aspects of addiction.
Psychologists can provide psychotherapy to help people identify and deal with past traumas that may be at the root of their meth addiction. Therapists can also provide people with coping skills for managing cravings and dealing with the consequences of their addiction. There are all sorts of therapies used for meth recovery, including cognitive behavioral therapy, 12-step programs, motivational interviewing, and more.
Explore Your Treatment Options
Looking for a meth addiction treatment center in the New England area? There are several excellent options to choose from. One of the premier options in the region is the Green Mountain Treatment Center. This flagship facility from Granite Recovery Centers is a residential rehab facility for both men and women. In the gender-separate programs, people work to overcome their addictions through a variety of techniques. Medical detox is available, and there is also a blend of holistic treatments like meditation, yoga, and exercise therapy. Fully licensed professionals can provide both standard therapy and treatment for co-occurring mental disorders.
For those who want a more boutique setting, New Freedom Academy is an excellent choice. This smaller facility has a 20-patient limit, ensuring that there are plenty of staff members available to care for each patient. There are plenty of opportunities for one-on-one individual therapy, but patients can also meet together for group therapy, workshops, and group outings. The holistic approach of New Freedom Academy gives you time to de-stress and rebuild your life as you work on fighting your addiction.
Overcoming a meth addiction is difficult, but with the right treatment, you can take back your life.