Meth Addiction and Treatment Options
What is Methamphetamine?
Methamphetamine is a nervous system stimulant, which means it increases the level of activity in the central nervous system. It is chemically and functionally similar to amphetamine, and it can be used clinically to treat a variety of disorders including ADHD and narcolepsy. Methamphetamine is synthesized from amphetamines, and it was originally intended to treat respiratory illness.
However, the compound is used illicitly to create a pleasurable high that provides energy and a sense of well-being. It is considered a Schedule II drug by the US DEA, which means it has limited medical use and has a high potential for abuse and dependence.
Street Names for MethMethamphetamine has a glass-like structure that may look similar to rocks that are heated up and injected or smoked. Many of its street names are derived from its characteristic physical qualities. It is commonly known as crystal meth or just crystal. It may also be referred to as ice, glass, shards, crank, speed, or chalk.
Why is Methamphetamine Addictive?
As a stimulant, meth gives users a rush of energy and well-being, sometimes enhancing sociability. Its effects may come on very quickly depending on how it is ingested, providing a sudden stimulating rush. When injected or smoked, the effects can be felt almost immediately though they are relatively brief. This leads to more meth use in an attempt to maintain or re-experience the euphoric rush.
In the nervous system, meth increases the level of dopamine in the brain. This neurotransmitter is associated with the sensation of pleasure, often creating a system of reinforcement whereby meth use is rewarded chemically, so it is continued. Its action in the brain makes it more powerful than amphetamines, which is part of the reason why it is especially addictive.
Short-Term Effects of Meth Addiction
Meth addiction and abuse can have several short-term effects on basic physiological functions. Though the rush of euphoria doesn’t last very long, the overall state of alertness and its associated side effects may persist for up to 12 hours after use. These include:
- Dilated pupils
- Suppressed appetite
- Excessive sweating
- Elevated blood pressure
- Increased temperature
- Nausea or vomiting
- Sleep disturbances
- Dry mouth
- Dry or itchy skin
- Abnormal or increased heart rate
- Compulsive behaviors or tics
- Odd, hostile, or erratic behavior
Long-Term Effects of Meth Addiction
Long-term effects of meth addiction can be damaging and irreversible. These dangerous effects may include:
- Tooth decay
- Organ failure
- Weight loss
- Memory loss
- Cardiovascular irregularities like arrhythmias and cardiac arrest
- Sores on skin from compulsive skin picking
- Nasal irritation or perforated septum due to habitual snorting
- Track marks due to habitual injecting
- Drug-induced psychosis
- Death Severe withdrawal symptoms when methamphetamine use is discontinued
Signs of Crystal Meth Addiction
As a stimulant, addiction to methamphetamines falls under the umbrella category of stimulant use disorder. A diagnosis of stimulant use disorder for meth requires the presence of two out of the following diagnostic symptoms over the course of a 12-month period. These symptoms include:
- Taking more of the drug than intended or for longer periods than intended
- Increased time spent trying to obtain, use, or recover from using meth
- A powerful and persistent craving for meth
- Trying to cut back and being unable to
- Neglect of social or professional responsibilities due to crystal meth use
- Inability to quit using meth despite its detrimental effects on physical or mental health
- Loss of interest in hobbies and interests outside of meth use
- Using meth even in situations where it is personally hazardous to do so like while driving
- Continued use despite interpersonal problems caused by meth use
- Tolerance, requiring higher doses of the drug to achieve the same effects
- Withdrawal symptoms when meth use is reduced or stopped
Methamphetamine Use Signs And Symptoms
In addition to diagnostic criteria for meth addiction, several behavioral issues may be helpful warning signs that someone is struggling with the drug. These include:
- Aggressive or erratic behavior
- Excessive energy that cannot be attributed to natural causes
- Rambling speech that is fast and may be incoherent or disorganized
- Isolation from friends and family
- Sudden significant weight loss that cannot be explained by other conditions
- Excessive scratching or skin-picking that may lead to skin sores
- Burns on lips or fingers
- Track marks on arms or other parts of the body from injecting
- Sudden changes in sleep habits
- Mood swings
- Irregular patterns of speech or movement
Methamphetamine Use Risks And Dangers
Prolonged meth use can have severe impacts on an individual’s health. Issues such as heart problems and organ failure may be common. Stimulants such as methamphetamines can put a major strain on the heart, which may struggle to rebound from continuous meth use. Kidney and liver damage are also common long-term dangers of meth use.
Due to the severe effects of meth on the brain, memory and learning problems may develop over time. The degenerative nature of the chemical may eventually lead to impaired cognitive abilities, memory loss, hallucinations and delusions, and loss of emotional control which may cause long-term anxiety or psychotic symptoms. These may persist for years after use and may resemble severe illnesses like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s.
In addition to direct risks and dangers associated with meth use, it can also have indirect effects. As with any drug that is commonly used intravenously, meth comes with added risks of contracting blood-borne diseases like HIV or Hepatitis if needles are shared. Paranoia is a common side effect of meth use, which may lead users to become violent or even homicidal.
Methamphetamine Overdose Signs And Symptoms
Meth is implicated in up to 15% of all overdose deaths in the US according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. As it can be life-threatening, meth overdose should be taken seriously. If you or someone you know is exhibiting symptoms of overdose, you should call for emergency medical care. Some signs and symptoms of methamphetamine overdose include:
- Intense anxiety or panic
- Rapid breathing
- Stomach cramps
- Increased heart rate
Methamphetamine Overdose Risks And DangersMeth overdose can be dangerous because of the stimulant effects of the drug on the body. If body temperature rises to a dangerous level, it can cause hyperthermia. This condition may lead to stroke, organ failure, or convulsions. If the body isn’t returned to a stable state, this can be life-threatening.
What Is Meth Withdrawal?Withdrawal occurs when a person stops taking meth and the body has to adjust to this sudden chemical change. Withdrawal typically occurs hand in hand with tolerance, wherein a person’s system has grown accustomed to having meth and cannot function without it. Depriving the brain of meth and the associated neurochemical effects leads to unpleasant and potentially distressing side effects.
Methamphetamine Withdrawal Signs And Symptoms
Meth withdrawal symptoms may include:
These symptoms make it difficult for habitual users to cut back, typically resuming drug use to avoid the distress caused by quitting.
Medical Detox for Meth AddictionSome individuals are at high risk for severe withdrawal either because of the length of time used or because they may have co-occurring substance abuse. In cases of severe addiction, medical detox is recommended, allowing individuals to recover safely in the comfort and safety of a rehabilitation center where withdrawal symptoms can be managed and alleviated. Medical detox follows an established plan of withdrawal that is then supervised by healthcare professionals to reduce the impact and ensure that a person is able to safely eliminate the drug from his or her system. Detox is typically the first step in a lengthier addiction treatment program.
Meth Addiction FAQs
Meth Addiction Treatment at Riverwalk RanchA Dallas-Fort Worth Metropolitan Area Addiction Treatment Center
At Riverwalk Ranch, we can treat meth addiction as part of our comprehensive addiction treatment services. Located in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, our professionals use only scientifically-supported treatments to help you safely and comfortably begin your journey toward recovery. Our facilities provide an encouraging and safe haven to detox, surrounded by medical professionals, addiction specialists, and other like-minded individuals all working toward a healthier addiction-free life.
If you or a loved one is suffering from meth addiction, don’t hesitate to contact our addiction treatment center today at (877) 863-3869. Timely intervention could mean the difference between life and death. Whether you call Texas home or you’re looking to begin your recovery journey in a new environment, Riverwalk Ranch can provide a therapeutic and supportive home for you. Everyone deserves a happy and healthy life free from addiction, and we are committed to helping you overcome meth addiction in order to get you there.