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Meth Addiction

Methamphetamine is a powerful synthetic stimulant also known as meth or crystal meth, and meth addiction remains a pressing concern in the United States. 

Using meth triggers the release of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a chemical messenger (neurotransmitter) associated with pleasure and informally known as a feel-good chemical. The substance floods your system with intense feelings of euphoria combined with a powerful surge of energy.  Self-confidence is boosted at the same time.

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These effects are short-lived, though. A few hours after taking the drug, you’ll find all that energy drained as you experience your mind and body crashing during the comedown. 

Meth is highly addictive, and sustained use can lead to serious and long-term harm, both physical and psychological. Abusing meth can even be fatal.

Article at a Glance:

What is Meth Addiction?

According to the most current data from SAMHSA’s annual drug survey (NSDUH 2020), 2.5 million people used meth in the previous year. Of those, 1.5 million developed a substance use disorder associated with meth. One-third of those engaged with professional treatment. 

When you take crystal meth, it boosts the release of dopamine while simultaneously prevented its reuptake. 

Dopamine is a brain chemical that plays a pivotal role in motivation and reward. Dopamine is also responsible for the way the brain experiences pleasure, and for how it interprets that pleasure. Beyond this, dopamine is associated with motor function. 

The rush meth triggers is due to the brain’s reward centers being barraged with dopamine. The resultant feelings of euphoria are what makes meth an especially addictive substance. 

The sustained use of meth can cause dopamine to start accumulating in the brain. This is common to many drugs of abuse. 

Continuing to abuse meth can lead to substantial changes in brain function because of the excessive production of dopamine. The brain is no longer able to experience joy without this chemical crutch. Over time, your motor skills and verbal learning can be demonstrably impaired. 

Meth also exerts a negative effect on the function of areas of the brain associated with memory and emotion. Long-term meth use can lead to the development of cognitive and emotional difficulties, as well as addiction in the form of stimulant use disorder. 

Regrettably, some of the changes brought about by habitual meth abuse linger even when meth use is discontinued. While some of these changes are reversible after an extended period of abstinence, it takes time for your brain to recalibrate, often a year or more.

How Addictive is Meth?

If you take meth, it will induce an intense wave of euphoria and pleasure. The effects are fleeting, though, leading you to experience powerful cravings to use more meth and recreate those feelings. This pattern of use can easily initiate a vicious cycle leading to tolerance and physical dependence building, followed by addiction. 

As outlined, taking methamphetamine increases the release of dopamine in the brain. The elevated and euphoric mood triggered is an intense high much stronger than the cocaine high. 

Some meth users report feeling addicted to meth after a single use. In other cases, abusive patterns of meth consumption leads to dependence and addiction more rapidly than many drugs of abuse. 

The prolonged and sustained abuse of meth can prompt a battery of mental and physical health problems, some permanent, and others potentially deadly. Meth can damage the brain, as well as causing internal and external damage to your body. Some of that damage will be irreversible.

Signs of Meth Addiction

The signs of meth addiction manifests vary from person to person. Signs of meth addiction also vary according to how much of the drug is being used, how long it’s been abused for, and the route of delivery. 

That said, the following symptoms are all common indicators of meth addiction: 

  • Increased heart rate
  • Raised body temperature
  • Itchiness
  • Flushed skin
  • Dilated pupils and rapid eye movement
  • Uncontrollable twitching
  • Hyperactivity
  • Weight loss
  • Damage to the teeth and gums
  • Bruised and scabbed skin 

If tolerance to methamphetamine is building, so is the probability of addiction. As you start requiring more meth to achieve the same effects, so increased consumption heightens the risk of physical dependence developing. At the same time, the abuse patterns of meth use will likely lead to psychological dependence and addiction. 

If you experience withdrawal symptoms in the absence of methamphetamine, you could already be developing a meth addiction.

Physical Signs

The physical signs of meth addiction include: 

  • Elevated body temperature
  • Dry mouth and skin
  • Anorexia
  • Blurred vision
  • Acne
  • Itchy skin
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • High blood pressure
  • Dizziness
  • Dilated pupils
  • Headache
  • Flushing
  • Pale skin
  • Numbness
  • Rapid breathing
  • Profuse sweating
  • Twitching
  • Tremors
  • Restlessness
  • Abnormal heart rhythm
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Palpitations 

The chronic use of meth or meth overdose can bring about: 

  • Convulsions
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Death

Meth Addiction Symptoms

Meth has a strong potential for abuse and addiction. Meth addiction is clinically diagnosed as stimulant use disorder against the criteria in DSM-5-TR, the latest edition of APA’s diagnostic tool, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 

You will be asked questions about your meth use over the previous year as follows: 

  1. Do you use meth in dangerous situations?
  2. Are you neglecting your personal and professional responsibilities due to meth use?
  3. Is meth use causing problems in your closest relationships?
  4. Are you spending less time doing things you previously enjoyed?
  5. Do you need more meth to deliver the same effects?
  6. Have you encountered withdrawal symptoms in the absence of meth?
  7. Do you use meth for longer than intended or in greater quantities than planned?
  8. Have you tried and failed to discontinue or moderate your meth use?
  9. Do you spend lots of time using meth and recovering from its effects?
  10. Do you still use meth despite developing psychological or physical problems
  11. Have you experienced cravings for meth?

Meth addiction is diagnosed as follows: 

  • Mild stimulant use disorder: 2 to 3 criteria
  • Moderate stimulant use disorder: 4 to 5 criteria
  • Severe stimulant use disorder: 6 or more criteria

Psychological Symptoms

Repeated use of meth can bring about the following psychological symptoms: 

  • Anxiety and irritability
  • Aggressive or violent behavior
  • Hyperactivity
  • Insomnia
  • Alertness
  • Increased concentration
  • Boosted energy levels
  • Enhanced libido
  • Improved feelings of confidence, self-esteem, and sociability
  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Delusions of grandeur
  • Psychomotor agitation
  • Compulsive skin picking
  • Repetitive behaviors
  • Obsessive behaviors
  • Psychosomatic disorders
  • Psychosis

Physical Symptoms

These are some of the most common physical symptoms of meth addiction: 

  • Meth mouth (rotted teeth)
  • Emaciated body
  • Facial sores
  • Acne
  • Droopy quality to skin
  • Liver damage
  • Intense scratching
  • Increased sex drive
  • Convulsions
  • Compromised immune system
  • Stroke
  • Dramatically raised body temperature

How to Help a Meth Addict

If you have a loved one abusing meth, recovery in a structured addiction treatment program is the most effective approach in most cases. 

Fortunately, despite its highly addictive and damaging nature, recovery from even the most severe meth addiction is possible. 

You should reach out to rehab centers offering a full continuum of care services, including medical detox services and inpatient treatment programs. 

In some cases, it may be possible for your loved one to engage with outpatient rehab after completing a medically supervised detox. 

To shortcut the process, consider our meth addiction treatment programs here at California Detox.

Meth Rehab at California Detox

Research into meth addiction treatment is ongoing. There are no FDA-approved medications for treating meth addiction, but don’t let that put you off trying to conquer dependence on crystal. 

Behavioral therapies can be used to discourage meth use and to promote ongoing recovery. Suitable therapies include: 

  • CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy): CBT will help you to explore the triggers that cause you to use drugs. You’ll also learn healthier coping strategies so you can leave meth alone and pursue sustained sobriety.
  • Contingency management: This form of behavioral therapy incentivizes healthy behaviors with small rewards like vouchers or a cash sum. As your brain’s reward center has been damaged, this can be a healthy way of encouraging you to stick with sobriety rather than buckling and using meth again. 

Here at California Detox, we will help you or your loved one to reclaim your life from meth addiction with a personalized treatment program at the required level of intensity. We will also ensure you are equipped with a comprehensive aftercare and relapse prevention plan when you complete your treatment program. 

Get started by calling admissions today at 949.567.8790.

FAQs

Animal studies shows that meth alters the brain structures associated with decision-making, while also suppressing useless habitual behaviors. These changes in brain function and structure could explain why meth addiction is so challenging to treat, with a high chance of relapse early in treatment. 

Beyond these brain changes, meth also prompts intense cravings due to its alluring euphoric effects. 

  1. Depressants (barbiturates, benzodiazepines, sleep aids)
  2. Opioids and derivatives of morphine (prescription opioid painkillers, codeine, morphine, methadone, fentanyl)
  3. Stimulants (amphetamine and methylphenidate)

Sources

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