Physical addiction to meth

Physical addiction to meth is manifested in 1) growing tolerance to the drug, and 2) occurrence of withdrawal symptoms when you try to quit. What can you expect when you get physically addicted to meth and what can you do about it? We explain here.

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Addiction onset is fast!

Meth is an extremely addictive drug. In fact, it is classified as a Schedule II drug due to its strong effects on the central nervous system and high potential for abuse. While it may take some people the course of weeks or months to become addicted to methamphetamine, others are hooked after the first use.

So, when do you know that you’ve crossed the line?

Here, we’ll review the main signs of a physical problem with meth. In this article we explain what it means to be physically dependent on meth and how you can treat it. Then, we welcome your questions at the end.  We’ll try to answer all real-life questions or situations personally.


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Physical dependence on meth

Methamphetamine is mainly used as a recreational drug. But while it can get you incredibly high  for a long time – euphoric effect lasts for up to 12 hours – using meth comes with high risks. Simply speaking, people who use methamphetamine get exposed to the risk of developing physical dependence on the stimulant, especially when occasional use turns into regular use.

What exactly does it mean to be physically dependent on meth?

Physical dependence on any drug is a physiological state of adaptation to the drug. What happens is that the brain chemistry adapts to meth the more you use it. After all, the brain needs to continue operating, even in the face of large doses of stimulating chemicals. So, in order to maintain “homeostasis”, or balance, the central nervous system changes.

How do you know you’re dependent?

Q: What’s the main way you know you’re meth dependent?

A: Try quitting meth. If you experience signs and symptoms of meth withdrawal, you are physically dependent on meth.

NOTE HERE: The occurrence of withdrawal symptoms often leads to relapse and makes it difficult to quit meth for good. Why is relapse so common with meth? As withdrawal symptoms peak, they can become unbearable and too much for people to handle. Once you take meth again, the withdrawal symptoms subside almost immediately.

However, this isn’t the end of the world. In fact, treatment can help!

Meth dependence is a biological state that can be addressed in a medical setting. With the correct help and support, you can quit for good! Call us at 1-877-752-1827 for more information about medical treatment for a meth problem.

How long for physical dependence?

The speed at which a person becomes “physically addicted” to meth varies by:

  • the frequency of use
  • the method of use
  • the intensity of pleasure
  • genetic predisposition of drug metabolism
  • psychological susceptibility to drug use

How long it takes to become dependent on meth mainly depends on the frequency of use. So, if you’re using meth on the weekends you are a little less likely to become dependent on meth than someone who uses meth every-other-day. If you use methamphetamine several times per week, you are likely to manifest at least some symptoms of dependence within a 4 to 6 week period.

The appearance of increased tolerance

Still, becoming physically dependent on methamphetamine should not come as a surprise. In addition to a need for meth, you may also notice that you need MORE METH MORE OFTEN. This phenomenon is called increased “tolerance”. Tolerance often accompanies cases of drug dependence. What is really happening?

With prolonged use, methamphetamine changes the way a person experiences any type of pleasure. In order to cope with excessive levels of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, the brain needs to “dull down” its reactions. So, over time, meth users start to take larger doses more frequently to be able to achieve the effects they once felt.

Once tolerance is developed, the meth user tries to experience the same rush and high over and over again. But it’s nearly impossible. This is always a downward spiral because effects of meth become more and more faded over time. You just can get as high for as long as you once did.

If you continue seeking the high after you’re meth dependent, chances are you are not only physically addicted to meth. You are probably mentally – or psychologically – addicted, as well.

Physical signs of addiction to meth

Physical dependence is diagnosed after discontinuation of regular meth administration or decrease in doses or frequency. If you notice some of the following withdrawal symptoms after cutting down on use or stopping altogether, you may have developed physical dependence on meth:

  • extreme fatigue
  • fever
  • nausea
  • shaking hands
  • sweating
  • tachycardia (fast hearbeat)

Treating physical symptoms of addiction to meth

The best way to treat methamphetamine physical dependence will address BOTH the physical addiction and the mental addiction to meth. To do this, you’ll need professional help. This is why the best way to come off meth is with the help of a rehab or residential treatment clinic.

The best treatment for meth dependence includes a clear, mutually acceptable treatment plan. You’ll need to outline your individual needs and follow basic treatment advice. The following factors contribute towards success and are considered to be crucial for successfully treating the symptoms of physical meth addiction:

  • Early treatment, the earlier the better
  • Good communication
  • Trusting relationship with a counselor

The treatment approaches used for meth addiction are commonly used for the treatment of other substance abuses, such as:

  • Counseling
  • Behavioral approaches
  • Residential rehabilitation
  • Self-help or mutual support groups
  • Medications (pharmacotherapies)

Furthermore, psychosocial treatments, especially cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), should be a standard intervention in methamphetamine treatment. CBT also assist with mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety, which are common among methamphetamine users.

Physically addicted to meth questions

Still wondering how to identify or address a meth problem? If you still have questions about meth physical dependence, addiction or treatment options please contact us or let us know. We’ll be happy to help. We invite your questions, comments, or feedback in the comments section below.

Reference sources: SAMHSA: Handout Physical and Psychological Effects of Substance Use
NSF: Treatment Approaches for users of methamphetamine
HEALTH: Specific types of methamphetamine users and behavioural contexts
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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