How to Treat Crystal Meth Addiction

How do you treat crystal meth addiction? Options treatment include acute detox followed by behavioral and pyschological treatment. More on protocols for treating crystal meth addiction here.

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ARTICLE SUMMARY: Crystal meth addiction is characterized by the psychological need to use meth DESPITE negative consequences to your health, home, or work life. Many new treatments show promise and success in treating this addiction, although medications are not currently in use.


How Do People Get Addicted?

Addiction is a complex brain disease that can easily mess up your life. Addiction occurs because substances affect many areas of the brain, including areas that regulate decision-making and rational control. Additionally, over time, the body adapts to psychoactive substances like meth and cannot function normally without them. This phenomenon is known as “dependence”.

But, how do medical experts view addiction? The National Institute on Drug Abuse defines addiction as a:

“Chronic, relapsing brain disease characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences.”

In fact, it’s extremely likely for even casual users to become addicted to crystal meth. This is because the crystalized form of meth is one of the most effective stimulant drugs, one reason that it has become a Schedule II Drug under  Controlled Substance Act, enforced by DEA. How does it work?

As a highly, powerful synthetic stimulant, crystal meth use easily leads to dependence and addiction because it affects the pleasure center of the brain. Its ability to produce desirable feelings such as an intense sense of wellbeing, increased confidence, and alertness, crystal meth may tricked you into using it over and over again. Once your brain and body adopt the presence of the drug as normal, you get hooked on it, and you brain wants to reaped the behavior of using the substance that will bring pleasure.

Crystal meth addiction is dangerous because use of meth is a race with time. Here, we explain how can you recognize a stimulant addict and then present you with the big picture – what treatment options exist? Then, in the case of any questions, we invite you to ask about help with crystal meth addiction and its treatment at the end. We try to respond to all questions personally and promptly.

In simple words, using crystal meth hijacks the brain. Then, it rewires the way the brain functions.

Brain Changes

Over a period of use, crystal meth changes the way your brain functions. Once it enters the brain, this drug increases the levels of dopamine, serotonin (5-HT), and norepinephrine. Its ability to release high levels of dopamine in the reward center of the brain wakes up the drug-seeking behavior, making the user wanting and repeating the act of using the drug in order to feel the ‘high’.

However, according to some brain imaging studies, this drug speeds up the activity of the dopamine system that are associated with reduced motor skills and impaired verbal learning which later can cause many emotional and cognitive problems observed in regular meth users.

Signs of a Problem

Crystal meth is a dangerous choice of drug that can be taken in various methods such as snorting, smoking, and injecting. No matter the mode of administration, you can get addicted even only after few times of use. Moreover, you risk addiction if:

  • You use crystal meth in high doses.
  • You use crystal meth more frequently.
  • You use crystal meth to get high.
  • You use crystal meth in combination with other substances (alcohol, or prescription pills)

However, there are 4 stepping stone signs of any addiction known ad the 4 C’s:

  1. CRAVINGS for the drug.
  2. Loss of CONTROL of amount or frequently of use.
  3. COMPULSION to use.
  4. Use despite CONSEQUENCES.

Am I Addicted?

People with an addiction to crystal meth exhibit very different and easily noticeable behavior during use. When they are high, crystal meth addicts do not feel hunger, fatigue nor they orient in time and space. In fact, one of the most common signs of a crystal meth addict is to observe his sleeping schedule. If a person can stay up for days at a time followed by an extreme crash, where s/he sleeps for long period of time, this is another signal of addiction to crystal meth.

Further signs include extreme weight loss due to an affected immune system and malnutrition. Rotten teeth is another symptom , accompanied with sores on the mouth and face. Crystal meth seriously affects the skin and causes abscesses that often become infected. Periods of sickness are considered to be a normal thing, but unfortunately go unnoticed by the addict. High temperature, or a minor cough could endanger vital organs. However, all of these symptom can be mistaken for other diseases.

The psychological symptoms of crystal meth addiction include:

  • Aggressive behavior
  • Delusions
  • Mood instability
  • Paranoia
  • Schizophrenia
  • Suicidal thoughts

Find more info on how to diagnose addiction in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V).

Main Treatments

Specialized treatment centers offer a variety of services for treating addiction to crystal meth. Bear in mind that a combination of pharmacological and behavioral treatments usually work best, although addiction treatment should be catered and customized to the individual.

1. Pharmacological treatments

Pharmacological (medications) may help in treating crystal meth addiction. However, many medications for crystal meth addiction treatment do not have high efficacy in preventing drug relapse in the majority of methamphetamine users. The reason for this is that chronic use of meth can cause serious damage to the brain cells. At some point, brain neurons become resistant to therapeutic intervention.

But, professional addiction specialists encourage us to not to lose hope. There is always a chance for a new discovery of a medication, strong enough to address withdrawal symptoms. This is suggested by the very preliminary findings that bupropion and the opioid-receptor antagonist naltrexone can influence aspects of amphetamine cravings.

2. Behavioral and psychological treatments

A combination of treatments which target patterned responses can help crystal meth addicts remain abstinent from meth. Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on understanding the role of crystal meth abuse in a person’s life and fosters the development of coping skills to avoid addiction relapse. The Matrix model is a structured, multi-faceted and simplified approach. And contingency management employs operant conditioning principles to reinforce positive consequences. These methods have helped crystal meth addicts experience longer periods of abstinence than those who undergo little to no psychological therapy.

Stages of Treatment

STAGE 1: Assessment and Evaluation

This stage consists of two main activities: competition of the paperwork and evaluation process. The goal is to diagnose the severity of addiction that will help clinicians plan the individualized treatment. The services include:

  • A physical examination
  • A psychological evaluation.
  • Drug testing
  • Interview questioning
  • Gathering medical history information.

STAGE 2: Medical Detox

Crystal meth withdrawal may be uncomfortable and severe to overcome, and because of this withdrawal under medical supervision is always recommended. Some of the most common symptoms of withdrawal include:

  • Anxiety
  • Aches & pains
  • Agitation
  • Cravings
  • Depression
  • Exhaustion
  • Hallucinations
  • Hunger
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Panic
  • Paranoia
  • Sleep disorders
  • Suicidal thoughts

These are serious symptom, so get prepared by learning the symptoms of crystal meth by time of appearance.

STAGE 3: Medications

Currently, there are no specific medications for treating crystal meth addiction. However, when withdrawal is supervised with medically trained staff, the patient can receive the appropriate medications to ease symptoms as they appear. Some medications that may reduce cravings include:

Buproprion: This drug has been correlated with reduced cravings for meth.
Dextroamphetamine: This is an addictive stimulant, but is available as a prescription tablet, potentially facilitating closer medical vigilance and safer dosing while mitigate cravings.
Naltrexone: Naltrexone has appeared to reduce cravings for crystal meth users.
Rivastigmine: Studies have suggested this drug might help reduce meth users’ desire for meth.

Many studies and researches have been conducted to show specific medications that may be approved by FDA in future in treating crystal meth addiction.

STAGE 4: Psychotherapy

During this stage, patients will learn how to live a live without substances, and how to deal with everyday triggers to avoid relapse. The most used psychotherapies in addiction treatment include:

  • Behavioral therapy
  • Individual therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy

STAGE 5: Aftercare

Aftercare therapy takes place after completing of the rehab program, and it includes counseling sessions that can last for several months or years. Also, this stage can recommend living in a sober housing or enrolling into support groups.


A 2009 report from the RAND Corporation noted that methamphetamine abuse cost the Nation approximately $23.4 billion in 2005.

Q: But how much does crystal meth addiction treatment cost?

A: It depends upon the services you receive.

For instance, inpatient rehabs are more expensive than outpatient, because they provide constant medical care.

The most common addiction services cost:

  • Detox can cost anywhere between $6 and 12K.
  • Psychotherapy costs from almost free to $150 or more per hour.
  • Outpatient treatment ranges from $50-$135 per day.
  • Inpatient treatment costs from $235-700 per day.

Find more information on the cost of addiction treatment here.

Who to Ask for Help

Once you decide you’re ready for help…what next? Medical and mental health professionals supervise and guide the treatment. Where do you start?

  • Licensed clinical social workers
  • Psychologists
  • Psychiatrists
  • Your personal physician

These are a good place to start. Likewise, a spiritual leader can often help you deal with addiction, when you are ready to seek treatment. Other sources of treatment for addiction include:

Detox clinics. These clinics are medical clinics wherein doctors and nurses supervise the process of detoxification when crystal meth is leaving the system. A period of withdrawal symptoms often requires 24/7 medical supervision and attention in order to increase chances of success due to suicidal ideation, paranoia, or hallucinations.

Mental health professionals. Clinical psychologists or psychiatrists specializing in addiction treatment can offer applicable and useful advice for crystal meth addiction. Services provided by either of these professionals are often implemented within treatment programs.

Support groups.  Non formal facilitated meetings among peers including sharing and mentoring one another to encourage positive outcomes in recovery. Support and understanding is what count here the most.

Treatment centers. A rehab clinic is a facility where patients could choose between combinations of addiction treatments, either as a resident for several months or on an outpatient basis.


According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health of 2016 there are about 684,000 people aged 12 or older in the past year who could be diagnosed with a methamphetamine use disorder. The numbers break down by age as follows:

  • 10,000 adolescents aged 12 to 17.
  • 135,000 young adults aged 18 to 25.
  • 539,000 adults aged 26 and more.

Moreover, the Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health found out that 14.5 million persons aged 12 or older have used meth in their lifetime, and the average age of initiation is 25.8.

In addition, meth is extremely dangerous! The 2014 DAWN Report on ER Visits involving methamphetamine reported that between 2009 and 2011 there was a significant increase in the number of ED visits involving methamphetamine. The numbers increased from 64,117 in 2009 to 102,961 in 2011.There was also a rise in the number of drug overdose deaths that involved meth. In fact, the 2016 National Vital Statistics Report showed that there were 3,728 meth OD deaths in 2014.

If you or a loved one is using crystal meth, don’t wait until you have become a number. Seek help!

Got any questions?

We hope we have managed to inform you on the basics of treating stimulant addiction. However, if there are any questions you still have, feel free to post them in the comments section below. We will try to answer each questions personally and as soon as possible.

References Sources: NIH: The Burden and Management of Crystal Meth Use
NIDA: Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment
US Department of Justice: Crystal Meth
­State of Illinois: Strategies for Fighting Meth Addiction
NCBI: Treatment for Stimulant Use Disorders
SAMHSA: Meth Addiction, Treatment, and Outcomes
NCBI: Availability and Effectiveness of Programs to Treat Methamphetamine Abuse
NCBI: The Search for Medications to Treat Stimulant Dependence
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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