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How to treat meth addiction

Over time, a meth user’s ability to choose not to abuse drugs becomes compromised and the urge for the drug grows with each dose. In fact, drug dependence and eventual drug addiction are expected outcomes of how meth works in the brain.

So where can you find help with meth addiction and who are the principle points of contact? We review the basics of meth addiction treatment here. And then, we invite your questions about meth addiction or how to ease withdrawal symptoms from meth at the end.

Meth addiction treatment: Are you even addicted?

Methamphetamine is extremely addictive. Meth causes chemical reactions in the brain that trick the body into believing it has unlimited energy supplies. It drains energy reserves needed for other parts of the body scheduled to be used over a longer period of time. This causes meth addicts to stay awake for long periods of time until they crash from exhaustion. Meth also reduces the levels of dopamine (a chemical in the brain that causes feelings of pleasure) produced by the brain. So how do you know you’re addicted to meth?

There is a significant difference between addiction and physical dependence. Dependence occurs when the brain adapts to the regular presence of meth in the system. The body’s reaction to that is the manifestation of withdrawal symptoms once the doses are significantly reduced or stopped completely. Some examples of meth withdrawal symptoms include:

  • agitation
  • anxiety
  • deep REM sleep
  • depression
  • excessive sleeping
  • fatigue
  • headaches
  • increased appetite
  • losing teeth/meth mouth
  • irritability
  • restlessness
  • suicidal ideation
  • vivid or lucid dreams

Addiction, on the other hand, is primarily a mental condition. Once you stop taking meth, a meth addict will experience psychological withdrawal symptoms, which may last for days with occasional use and weeks or months with chronic use. The main characteristics of meth addiction are:

  1. drug craving
  2. compulsion to use
  3. continued meth use, despite negative consequences
  4. loss of control of drug use

Treating meth addiction

Methamphetamine addiction is one of the most difficult forms of addiction to treat. Because traditional treatment models are not effective, meth-specific treatment programs have been developed.

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A critical consideration in meth treatment is something known as the “wall.” Around 45 to 120 days into treatment, recovering addicts experience physiological changes that often lead to a return to meth use. This period of increased depression and need for the drug is the single significant factor today to the false perception that meth addiction is “untreatable.” Therapies in current use for meth addiction include:

1. Behavioral Therapies

The most effective treatments for methamphetamine addiction at this point are behavioral therapies. The Matrix Model, a 16-week comprehensive behavioral treatment approach that combines behavioral therapy, family education, individual counseling, 12-Step support, drug testing, and encouragement for non-drug-related activities, has been shown to be effective in reducing methamphetamine abuse. Recovering addicts learn to manage their lives more successfully, increase their confidence and self-esteem, and set positive personal goals.

2. Medications

Although medications have proven effective in treating some substance use disorders, there are currently no medications that counteract the specific effects of methamphetamine. Bupropion, aripiprazole, and baclofen are often mentioned in medical trials, but the success rate is low. Modafinil is somewhat more successful, but this is a Class IV scheduled drug.

3. Psychotherapy

Meth addiction treatment can also involves both individual and small group approaches to psychotherapy. Addicts talk about their experiences and are walked through a variety of exercises, activities, and interactions designed to further their recovery by increasing self-awareness.

4. Concurrent health treatment

Treatment also addresses other medical or mental health issues facing the user and includes education on the risks of HIV and AIDS associated with meth use.

Treatment for meth addiction

Although recovering from meth addiction is challenging, it is not impossible. There are several options for you as you start to consider getting off meth. Treatment settings or professionals that you can consult for more information about treatment for meth addiction include:

Addiction treatment centers – A meth treatment center is a facility specialized for residential treating drug addictions. Treatment centers work with both an addict and their families. They offer 24 hour help, provide training in setting boundaries, require compulsory activities, group therapies etc. All you need to do is find a local treatment center and schedule an appointment for initial assessment and then get started on recovery.

Detox clinics – A meth detox clinic is an in-patient program that can carefully monitor patients’ progress and medically attend to their needs during the difficult process of initial withdrawal.

Licensed clinical social workers (LCSW) – Licensed clinical social workers are people who are devoting their time to understanding the context of being a meth addict through informal conversations with him personally. Social workers then suggest positive actions that can be taken and connect a meth addict with appropriate state sponsored programs that can help.

Psychologists or psychiatrists – Clinical psychologists, specializing in meth addiction treatment or a psychiatrists, are professional in facilitating therapies affecting the psychological and emotional state of the meth addict.

Support groups – Meth addiction support groups are organized groups of former meth addicts, meeting in groups and sharing personal experiences. These groups provide mutual aid and support self-esteem and self-confidence by raising self-awareness and connecting with others.

Your doctor – Your primary physician may be your first point of contact for getting meth addiction treatment. A doctor can first recognize addiction symptoms. You can discussing your body’s condition frankly with a primary physician and get further recommendations for treatment. In fact, your own doctor may be the best positioned person to suggest local treatment options for you.

A trusted leader – A trusted religious or spiritual leader can provide you with unconditional support that comes from having deep faith and strong beliefs. Sometimes, getting rid of the weight from your chest through by asking for help can be the first, but most important step, in starting a course of meth addiction treatment.

How to treat meth addiction questions

Do you know someone who is addicted to meth? Do you want to help that person overcome the situation? If you want to know more about how to treat meth addiction, you are welcome to post your questions, or share your thoughts about meth addiction in the comments section below. We will try to provide you with a prompt and personal response.

Reference resources: Illinois Attorney General: Fight Meth Treatment
National Institute on Drug Abuse: Treatment Approaches to Drug Addiction
Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation: Methamphetamine
Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services: Meth Abuse

Photo credit: Wiki Media Commons

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6 Responses to “How to treat meth addiction
11:30 pm June 14th, 2014

If a family member is willing to sacrifice a part of their life to follow a schedule in way such as a inpatient treatment would and the addicted person also ready to stop. This would be lack of Medicial Insurance but no of the determination of persons involved. Do you think this will affect staying clean long term or even to begin with?

3:15 pm June 16th, 2014

Hi Gina. If an addict is not willing to stop, you cannot shake the heavens or the earth to make it happen. Have you checked in with a family therapist to get help for the family unit? Getting help for yourself or for others involved in an addictive family IS something that you can control.

4:21 pm June 24th, 2016

how do you approach your child about this, he is an adult and I know he is using but deny’s it. he is starting to get symptoms about not being able to sleep, not eating, staying out late, missing work and etc. I don’t know exactly how much he is using. when we found out he was using he said that he quit when his family found out, that was a lie because he was caught again. I don’t know what to do. we have no insurance on him and he don’t have the money to get help and anyways he won’t admit he has a problem. I honestly believe he almost od on the stuff on day because he was vomiting, sweating and cold and had severe stomach pains. please give me advice on how to go about this. I am the mom and it is killing me to see him do this to himself.
please help

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
4:20 pm July 13th, 2016

Hi SD. I suggest you look into the CRAFT model for families and interventions. There is an NGO, called Allies in Recovery that has some interesting topics covered that can help:

9:51 am January 21st, 2017

My son once was a herion addict who I now believe is using meth. He’s currently in jail because he hit his girlfriend in the arm and I don’t know what to do. He was on Suboxone for his heroine treatment then quit saying he was ok and just smoked weed. He did change so I thought maybe that was the case. I found out from his girlfriend they both used ‘speed’ together and she said she quit but he didn’t. Whatever the truth is I’m afraid my son will die if he doesn’t get treated. We are poor and have no money so any treatment must be free. He doesn’t have medicaid or any other insurance.

Please help.

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
6:11 pm January 25th, 2017

Hi Jim. You may start your search on SAMHSA’s treatment locator:
Also, call the helpline displayed on the website to speak with a trusted treatment consultant.

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