Meth (Methamphetamine) Addiction & Abuse | Signs, Symptoms, Treatment

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A meth overdose is a medical emergency. If you or someone you know is experiencing overdose symptoms, immediately contact 911 or the Poison Help line (1-800-222-1222) for help.

Meth abuse is one of the most pressing issues facing the medical system today. Drug abuse and substance abuse can happen to just about anyone, and addiction to methamphetamines can be devastating. Furthermore, it is relatively easy to overdose on this substance, and information published by the National Institute on Drug Abuse indicates that more than 23,000 people died of an overdose involving methamphetamines and stimulants in 2020 alone.

Sadly, the rate of methamphetamine and stimulant abuse has been on the rise during the past few years, driven by a number of factors. Today, there are more drugs on the street than ever before, and that includes prescription drugs. In addition, a significant number of teenagers and young adults are turning to illicit stimulants, such as methamphetamine, to help them focus on their school work.

Even though awareness related to methamphetamine abuse has increased during the past few years, the problem has only continued to grow. Therefore, it is important to take a closer look at methamphetamines, why they are so dangerous, and what the treatment options are for someone who has developed an addiction to them.

An Overview of Methamphetamine: What Is Crystal Meth and How Does It Work?

Crystal methamphetamine is a synthetic psychostimulant that affects the Central Nervous System (CNS), with possible long-term consequences on the body and the functioning of the brain. In the United States, Methamphetamine was initially prescribed as a decongestant and weight loss aid, available in tablet and injectable forms. Due to misuse of these products, the FDA classified them as Schedule II controlled substances in 1970. Prescription Methamphetamine drugs are limited, with the sole option being Desoxyn to treat obesity and severe attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Nicknames for methamphetamine include crank, tweak, ice, glass, rock candy, poor man’s cocaine, crystal.

Stimulants encompass a large class of medications, including those used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, usually shortened to ADHD. Stimulant medications, such as Ritalin and Adderall, can also be used to treat narcolepsy. In contrast, “meth” itself is not a prescription medication, and it has no medicinal value. Unfortunately, meth has remained popular on the street because of the intense high that it causes.

How Do People Take Methamphetamine?

There are several ways that someone can ingest methamphetamine. Some of the most common methods include:

  • Smoking the powder or rocks
  • Swallowing a pill
  • Snorting meth into the nose
  • Dissolving the substance and injecting it into the veins

Methamphetamine works very quickly, but it also fades very quickly. As a result, it is not unusual for someone to take multiple hits in an effort to sustain the high. Unfortunately, this also dramatically increases the risk of someone overdosing, leading to a binge and crash pattern.

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What Are the Effects of Methamphetamine Abuse and Addiction?

There are a variety of impacts someone may feel when they ingest either methamphetamine or prescription stimulant medications. This substance acts to increase the amount of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is inextricably tied to the reward pattern of the brain itself. The brain releases large levels of dopamine to reward positive behavior, and methamphetamine can trigger this release.

When dopamine is released, it leads to a high, and it can reinforce this behavior. Then, people end up chasing the high that is caused by dopamine, and that is how they get addicted to stimulant medications and methamphetamine. They develop an intrinsic drive to repeat the experience, and it can lead to addiction.

Short-Term Impacts of Methamphetamine Abuse

There are a variety of impacts that someone may feel immediately after taking stimulant medications or methamphetamine. It is not unusual for the short-term effects to mimic prescription medications for ADHD or even cocaine.

Some of the top short-term effects of methamphetamine use include:

  • Dramatically increased wakefulness and a significantly reduced need for sleep
  • Sudden bursts of energy that can be translated into increased physical activity
  • Markedly decreased appetite, as people who take methamphetamine, may be able to go for days without eating
  • Significantly increased respiratory rate
  • A rapid heart rate that may even result in an irregular rhythm
  • Rising body temperature that could be misinterpreted as a fever
  • Markedly increased blood pressure

Some of these short-term effects can lead to negative side effects, and an overdose of methamphetamine could put someone in the hospital.

Long-Term Impacts of Methamphetamine Addiction

Even though the short-term effects of methamphetamine abuse can be serious, the long-term effects of meth abuse are far worse. For example, someone who injects methamphetamine on a regular basis could be at an increased risk of contracting infectious diseases. A few examples include HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C. Many infectious diseases are transmitted through infected body fluids or blood. It is not unusual for people who ingest meth to share needles, and it can lead to dangerous infections.

In addition, because the high associated with stimulant medications and methamphetamine abuse is so extreme, people are prone to making bad decisions and engaging in risky behavior that they would not otherwise participate in. For example, people abusing methamphetamine may spend all of their money, abuse other drugs at the same time, or engage in unprotected sex that could increase their risk of contracting an infection.

There are several other examples of long-term impacts that could stem from methamphetamine addiction. A few of the top examples include:

  • Extreme weight loss that could result in someone being underweight
  • Extreme dental problems that could result in teeth falling out and extensive periodontal disease
  • Extreme itching and scratching, to the point, that someone may open up sores all over their body, leading to an infection
  • The development of extreme anxiety that could result in paranoia, leading to an extreme distrust of other people
  • Marked problems falling asleep and staying asleep at night
  • Long-term, potentially permanent, changes in the structure and function of the brain
  • Confusion and memory loss
  • Emotional liability that could result in extremely violent behavior
  • The development of psychosis, marked by hallucinations, which are visions and noises that seem real but aren’t there

Many of these issues can be traced directly to the impact of methamphetamine on the dopamine system of the brain. It can lead to impaired verbal learning, reduced coordination, motor issues, and sensory disabilities. It can also lead to permanent changes in emotion and memory, which could result in cognitive problems that family members and friends will quickly notice.

It is possible for some of these changes to reverse themselves after someone has been off of methamphetamine for a long period of time, but the prognosis is always better when the treatment process starts sooner.

Treatment For Meth (Crytal Meth) Addiction

Like other substance abuse and drug addiction problems, the treatment of methamphetamine addiction can vary slightly from person to person, but it usually involves a comprehensive approach that includes a variety of treatment modalities. Some of the treatment steps include:

Medical Detox

Usually, the first step is a medical detox, which is an inpatient treatment. Overuse and abuse of methamphetamines can lead to dependence and tolerance, and the treatment process cannot begin until every trace of methamphetamine has been removed from the body.

If someone is addicted to methamphetamine, they may develop withdrawal symptoms as they go through the detox process. These symptoms can be devastating, which is why it is always better to go through the medical detox process and the presence of medical professionals at a meth addiction treatment center.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Once methamphetamine has been removed from the body, it is important to take steps to stay sober. One of the most important treatment options is cognitive behavioral therapy, which is frequently used to treat mental illnesses of all types.

The goal of this therapy is to address the thought patterns that originally led to someone abusing methamphetamine. Now, by working with a treatment professional, individuals will identify new ways to cope with stress, address the root cause of substance abuse and addiction, and learn how to deal with cravings.

That way, individuals can stop the impulsive response that led to methamphetamine abuse, and they can stay sober even after leaving the treatment center.

Group Therapy

It is not unusual for group outpatient therapy to play a role in the recovery process as well. While working with a treatment professional is beneficial, it may also be helpful to listen to the stories of other people who have been addicted to drugs and alcohol, including methamphetamine.

Then, it is possible for individuals to learn from one another and support each other on their journey toward long-term sobriety. Group therapy can play an important role in helping someone not only get sober but also stay sober when they are dealing with methamphetamine addiction.

Medical Management

It is not unusual for someone who is recovering from methamphetamine abuse and other types of drug use to rely on other prescription medications to help them manage their cravings and address their symptoms. For example, some medications can be used to help the withdrawal process, and others might be beneficial in helping people fall asleep and stay asleep at night.

Not everyone who is in recovery from methamphetamine addiction will require prescription medications, but they are a treatment option that could be beneficial in some situations. This is one of the biggest reasons why it is beneficial to partner with a professional treatment center that offers specialty psychiatry care.

Get Help Today for Meth Use Disorder

If you are looking for a recovery option for yourself or your loved one, contact Riverside Recovery of Tampa. We are proud to have become one of the most trusted addiction facilities in the state of Florida, and there are several reasons why individuals and families work with us on their recovery journey.

  • Experience: Our providers have an unparalleled level of experience working with all types of substance use disorders (SUDs), including methamphetamine addiction. We can use that experience to help you customize your behavioral health addiction treatment program as well.
  • Amenities: We also provide you with a variety of amenities to help you focus all of your attention on getting better. We want to remove all of your other stresses in an effort to help you focus on what is most important.
  • Compassion: We understand that everyone is coming from a different situation, and we are here to listen to your situation without judgment or reservation. We will provide you with the compassionate care you expect and deserve.

If you or someone you love is looking for help with methamphetamine addiction in Tampa, Florida, Riverside Recovery is here to help you. We stay on top of the latest mental health research in our field because we want to provide you with a comprehensive, individualized treatment plan to address your needs.

Contact us today to speak to a member of our admissions team, and let us help you start your road to recovery, and stay sober.