Is Meth Dangerous or Addictive?
Meth – methamphetamine – is one of the most harmful and destructive drugs of our time. It has a strong addiction potential. In fact, continued use can have a seriously negative impact on your life. Some of the direct effects of methamphetamine abuse include acquiring diseases like AIDS and hepatitis, full-blown psychosis, permanent brain damage, and/or decline in physical and cognitive functioning.
But, there is hope for recovery.
Many people diagnosed with a meth use problem who seek professional help are successful. They can change their lives and learn to live meth-free. In fact, the sooner a person gets help for meth addiction, the better their chances of making a full recovery.
In this article, we’ll review the main signals of meth addiction. Then, we’ll describe main treatments and what you can expect if you seek help. Finally, we invite your questions at the end. In fact, we love to hear from our readers! We try to respond to all reader comments with a personal reply!
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What is Methamphetamine Addiction?
Addiction is a chronic and relapsing disease of the brain. It can generally be defined as the obsession to continuously use a drug like meth despite negative consequences and potential harm to:
- Financial Stability
…and all other aspects of life.
When a person is addicted to meth, getting more of the drug is their highest priority. Nothing else matters. Obtaining and using meth becomes the center of life. The consequences of such a strong bond with the drug usually consist of a downward spiral. Meth addiction is at the root of broken relationships, job loss, legal problems, severe physical and mental health problems, and even death.
How Meth Gets You ‘Hooked’
Meth acts on the brain by stimulating the release of a large amount of the feel-good chemical “dopamine”. Dopamine produces a prolonged pleasurable experience. In fact, meth can make you feel high for 10-12 hours.
Although meth use is initially pleasurable, repeated and prolonged use depletes the stores of dopamine in the brain. In this way, meth changes the function and structure of the brain. Research has shown that at least 50% of the brain’s cells that produce dopamine can be damaged from long-term use of even low doses of meth.
As these changes take place, the brain loses its ability to produce dopamine and you lose the ability to experience pleasure. The only source of joy and pleasure a person can feel is produced by taking meth again and again.
Addiction To Methamphetamine: What’s It Like?
Meth is a popular recreational drug in rural areas and in the gay community. It improves the perception of sensation and greatly increases endurance during sex. However, it also leads to engagement in risky behaviors.
Here’s how one young woman describes addiction to meth:
“Trying to quit is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.
I have to face my emotions, and my memories of the abuse grows clearer every day. Every time I relapse, I put the man I love more than anything through hell. I disappear and ignore his phone calls, I make choices that completely jeopardize our relationship and everything he has been helping me to become. Yet I still do it. And I hate myself for that.
If I don’t win this battle, I will lose everything I care about. I’m fighting for the strength I need, but the hold meth has on me wins out occasionally.
I know that I have to be stronger, I’m just not sure how…”
Here’s another story of one man and how his relationship with methamphetamine affected the risks he was willing to take:
“To get away from immense stress, I picked up meth and got addicted fast. I love the energy and self-confidence it brings, and helped me lost weight (finally). I longed these benefits so long in my life, but in exchange, I contracted HIV – and it made me only recall the things I heard as a child. I used more meth to tolerate and lost my awesome job, and withdrew from my family and friends.
By luck, I was admitted to a treatment facility and where I found the true meaning of being spiritual. I found that God is loving and non-judgmental, and He takes care of me each and everyday. I have been clean for 18 months and I take my medicines for HIV consistently.“
Signs of Meth Addiction
Some of the most common symptoms of addiction include the following:
- A fast progression from recreational use to addiction.
- Inability to perform responsibilities (losing a job, doing badly in school).
- Losing control over methamphetamine use.
- Using more meth and more often.
- Using meth to achieve a ‘high’.
- Using meth for weight loss.
- Using meth for improved self-confidence.
- Withdrawing from important relationships with friends and family.
In addition to these, a person addicted to meth may also display some of these signs:
- Display of aggressive behavior, with potential for violence.
- Gaunt appearance, poor hygiene, and bad teeth.
- Greatly inflated sense of self-confidence.
- Marked nervousness, anxiety, and incessant talking.
- Rapid changes in mood.
- Scars and wounds on the face and skin.
How is Meth Addiction Diagnosed?
Your doctor can easily diagnose methamphetamine addiction after a physical examination and assessment of psychological characteristics. Addiction is usually diagnosed according to the number of met criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders for substance use disorders. Some of the clinical criteria used during diagnosis include:
- Taking more meth over a period of time longer than you intended.
- Wanting to cut down or quit meth use, but not succeeding.
- Spending a great deal of time obtaining, using, or recovering from the effects of meth.
- Feeling intense urges for meth use.
- Failing to meet obligations and responsibilities because of meth use.
- Using meth, in spite of the problems it is causing in your life.
- Giving up important social, occupational or recreational activities due to meth use.
- Taking methamphetamine in situations that may be unsafe.
- Using meth even though you know it’s causing you physical or psychological harm.
- Developing tolerance to meth – the drug has less and less effect on you and you need more of it to get the same effect.
- Experiencing physical or psychological withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking meth (meth dependence).
- Continuing to take meth in order to avoid withdrawal symptoms.
If you find two (2) or more of these behaviors to be true for you or a loved one, it’s best to seek professional help. You can start by discussing drug use with your primary doctor, or ask for a referral to a specialist in drug addiction, a licensed drug counselor, or a psychiatrist or psychologist.
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Meth addiction is a medical condition.
It can be treated medically…and with success!
Treatment Of Addiction To Meth
Due to high relapse rates, treatment for methamphetamine addiction is a complex and highly individualized process for each person. When you enter a drug treatment facility, staff will carefully map out treatment plans according to your individuals needs and goals in treatment. But, generally, treatment evolves through the following stages:
- Assessment. Before any treatment begins, medical professionals need to understand the exact nature of your condition. You can expect a physical exam, drug testing, and interviews during this phase to last anywhere from 1-3 hours. Then, reputable treatment centers will individualize a treatment program just for you, based on the results.
- Detox.During medical detoxification from methamphetamine, a team of doctors and nurses can offer you a combination of pharmacological and psychological support. Medicines are prescribed as needed to address acute withdrawal symptoms and issues requiring immediate medical help.
- Therapy and counseling.Therapy begins as soon as meth withdrawalsymptoms subside and health issues caused by drug use are resolved or managed. This involves a lot of talk therapy. Individual talks and group discussions help you discover your goals and motivations for achieving sobriety, and to share experiences related to meth use. The best way to receive this type of care is by entering an inpatient rehab for 30-60-90 day stay, and following it with an outpatient rehab program for as long as needed.
- Continued care.For many chronic users, recovering from a meth addiction takes a long time. This is why addiction treatment programs draft an aftercare plan to follow after initial treatment is over. Aftercare helps you continue your recovery at home or at a sober living facility, but augments it with regular visits to a therapist. You’ll continue to visit the treatment center, local support groups, a counselor, or a licensed psychotherapist as you start life again. Recovering from methamphetamine is an ongoing process because a person may still experience thoughts of drug use even after years of sobriety.
Meth Addiction Relapse Prevention
Relapse is a part of the addiction and recovery cycle. Although it can happen to anyone, you should plan for prevention in the earlier stages of treatment.
To reduce the likelihood of relapse, one of the most commonly used treatment methods is cognitive behavioral therapy. This type of therapy helps you determine behaviors, scenarios and other things that trigger you to use. Once you identify possible triggers, your therapist will work to teach you skills that modify your behavior to avoid using meth.
For example, you may be advised to avoid places or people where meth is accessible, get rid of drug paraphernalia, or limit the amount of money you have available during weekends, paydays, or when you are likely to buy drugs. If you have cravings, you will be taught to contemplate the negative consequences of drug use, perform other enjoyable and alternative activities as a distraction, or simply share your experience with others.
If you do relapse to meth, your treatment providers will review your situation as well as your current treatment plan and make the necessary changes. Your relapse may be caused by a new or undiscovered trigger, or you may benefit from more educational and behavioral interventions.
Got Any Questions?
Meth addiction is a difficult and complicated condition…but recovery is possible! And you are not alone. If you struggle with meth or have a loved one affected by meth addiction, you can contact us and we’ll do our best to help.
Have a personal experience with meth use and you’d like to share it? Feel free to post in the comments section at the end. If you have any questions regarding meth addiction and its treatment you can also post them below. We try to provide a personal and prompt answer to all legitimate inquiries.
Reference Sources: NIDA: What is methamphetamine?
NIDA: Methamphetamine: Letter from the Director
NIDA: Methamphetamine Alters Brain Structures, Impairs Mental Flexibility
SAMHSA: Tips for Teens: The Truth about Methamphetamine
Some Chick’s Blog About Meth: http://somechicksblog.com/personal-stories/quitting-meth-struggle