Meth Addiction

How to Recognize and Treat Meth Addiction

Methamphetamine, often simply called “meth”, is one of the most dangerous drugs in America today. It’s highly addictive and can harm both the mind and body seriously—even the first time someone tries it. This drug doesn’t just affect adults; it’s increasingly being used by younger people too.

Figures from recent studies show just how widespread this problem is getting. In 2020, almost 1% of people over the age of 12 in the U.S. said they had used meth in the last year, based on findings from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Even among middle and high school students—8th, 10th, and 12th graders—0.2% reported using meth within the past year. And about 1.5 million people reported struggling with meth use, showing how deeply this issue affects our society.

Tragically, meth is one of the leading causes of drug-related deaths. About 24,000 people died from overdoses involving psychostimulants, mainly meth, showing the deadly risk of using this drug.

Understanding Methamphetamine 

Methamphetamine is a very strong drug that stimulates the central nervous system. People who use meth can feel extremely happy and full of energy, which is part of why it can be so addictive. This drug was first made from another drug called amphetamine, but meth is much stronger and its effects last much longer. These intense effects can greatly change how a person feels and behaves.

Meth comes in various forms—it can be a powder that ranges in color from white to yellowish, or it can look like shiny, bluish-white rocks, which is often called crystal meth. People might take it by swallowing, snorting, injecting it with a needle, or even smoking it. The ways it can be used make it easy for different kinds of users to access it according to their preference.

The Effects of Methamphetamine Abuse

Even when used in small quantities, methamphetamine can drastically increase physical activity and wakefulness and decrease appetite. The following are the short-term and long-term effects of using methamphetamine. 

Short-term Effects

The immediate effects of methamphetamine are often what draws users to the drug. These include:

  • Increased Alertness and Energy: Users often experience a burst of energy, making them hyperactive and capable of staying awake for long periods.
  • Euphoria: Methamphetamine can induce feelings of extreme well-being or euphoria, a high that many users chase.
  • Decreased Appetite: Meth commonly suppresses the appetite, leading to skipped meals and poor nutrition.
  • Rapid Heart Rate and Increased Blood Pressure: These cardiovascular effects can pose immediate dangers, particularly in those with underlying heart conditions.
  • Hyperthermia: The drug can cause body temperature to rise, sometimes leading to dangerous levels.
  • Dilated Pupils: A noticeable physical sign of acute meth use is dilated pupils.

Long-term Effects

The long-term effects of methamphetamine use are more severe and often irreversible, affecting physical health, mental health, and social functioning:

  • Addiction: Methamphetamine is highly addictive, and prolonged use can alter brain chemistry, which can lead to dependency and a range of withdrawal symptoms when not using the drug.
  • Weight Loss: Chronic use often leads to significant and unhealthy weight loss.
  • Dental Problems (“Meth Mouth”): Severe dental decay and tooth loss are common among long-term users due to neglect of hygiene and the drug’s corrosive effects.
  • Skin Sores: Users may develop sores and abscesses on the skin, often from scratching due to the sensation of bugs crawling beneath the skin, known as “meth mites.”
  • Psychological Issues: Long-term effects include anxiety, confusion, insomnia, mood disturbances, and psychotic features like paranoia, hallucinations, and delusions.
  • Violent Behavior: Methamphetamine can increase aggression, which might lead to violent acts.
  • Cognitive Impairment: Users may suffer from memory loss, decreased ability to think clearly, and problems with motor coordination.
  • Cardiovascular Damage: Long-term use can cause irreversible damage to the heart and blood vessels, increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke.
  • Neurological Damage: Methamphetamine can cause lasting damage to the brain, similar to what is seen in Alzheimer’s disease and epilepsy.

Recognizing the Signs of Methamphetamine Dependence

Methamphetamine causes a large increase in dopamine, a chemical in the brain that affects emotions, movements, and sensations of pleasure and pain. This rush of dopamine creates a strong feeling of happiness or a “high” that makes the drug highly addictive. The brain starts to associate meth use with this pleasurable high, reinforcing the desire to continue using the drug. Furthermore, because dopamine affects how we move and what motivates us, its excessive release by meth use is a common feature of addiction.

However, this flood of dopamine also harms the brain’s nerve cells. This damage can affect how well someone can think, feel, and move. It’s important to recognize the signs and symptoms of methamphetamine use early, so intervention and treatment can begin. 

The main indicators to look out for include:

  • Increased Heart Rate: Loved ones may observe signs such as the individual breathing rapidly or seeming overly jittery.
  • Elevated Body Temperature: You might notice the individual feeling unusually warm to the touch or sweating excessively without engaging in physical activities.
  • Flushed Skin: The person’s skin may appear unusually red or blotchy, noticeable even when they are at rest.
  • Itchiness: Observe frequent scratching, which may lead to visible sores and scabs across different parts of the body.
  • Dilated Pupils: The eyes may appear larger than normal with the irises less visible, which can be especially noticeable in well-lit environments.
  • Rapid Eye Movement: Eyes might move erratically or seem to flicker quickly, even during normal conversations.
  • Hyperactivity: Increased energy and alertness may be evident, with the individual rarely seeming to need sleep or unable to stay still.
  • Erratic and Uncontrollable Twitching: You may notice involuntary movements, particularly around the face and limbs, that seem out of the ordinary.
  • Weight Loss: Significant and unexplained weight loss could be visible, potentially accompanied by comments about decreased appetite.

Step-by-Step Guide to Helping Someone with Meth Addiction

Seeking Advice from a Professional

If someone you care about is struggling with meth addiction and is hesitant to seek help, speaking with a professional is a crucial first step. Confronting someone about their drug use isn’t easy, especially since individuals addicted to meth might react defensively or even aggressively. It’s challenging to find the right words that won’t make the person feel judged or attacked. Speaking to a professional can help you decide on how to approach the situation and guide your loved one towards recovery and a healthier life. Consulting with a professional can also make the process less overwhelming for everyone involved. 

The Importance of Detox

Detox is a critical stage in overcoming addiction, where the drug is safely removed from the body. This is part of recovery programs, but it should always be overseen by medical professionals. During detox, healthcare providers can monitor the patient’s health closely and manage withdrawal symptoms with medications, making the withdrawal more comfortable and tolerable for the patient. 

Counseling and Therapy

After detox, counseling and therapy play key roles in sustainable recovery. Therapy sessions help patients uncover the root causes of their addiction and develop strategies to cope with triggers that could lead to relapse. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is particularly effective in treating meth addiction because it helps modify harmful thoughts and behaviors. Other therapeutic approaches, like narrative therapy, can also be beneficial. They encourage patients to reshape their personal narratives in ways that support recovery.

Continuing Support After Rehab

Post-rehab support is crucial to maintaining sobriety. Joining support groups, such as Narcotics Anonymous or Crystal Meth Anonymous, provides community support and helps individuals navigate recovery through shared experiences. These groups often follow a 12-step program that promotes personal growth and healing. Your detox and recovery team can help you find the right after care program for you and your needs as you complete the first part of your recovery journey. 

Seeking Help: True Life Recovery’s Role in Your Journey

As you consider the path to recovery, remember that it’s never too late to seek help. The idea of overcoming an addiction to Meth can seem unmanageable, but know that there is hope, and a complete recovery is possible. While the initial days in rehab might feel overwhelming, they are your stepping stones towards a safer, healthier, and sober life.

Recovery is a process that requires patience and perseverance. At True Life Recovery, you’re not alone. Our team is dedicated to providing the support and guidance you need to overcome obstacles while you regain your life and move forward.

Do not wait another day to make the decision to reach out. There will never be a better time than right now. Together, we can work towards rebuilding your life and achieving lasting wellness. You have the strength to get better, and with the right help, you can.

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Stephen White - True Life Recovery

Thank you for reading our latest article. My name is Stephen White, Director of Business Development for True Life Recovery. If you or your loved one needs help with addiction recovery, please don’t hesitate to call me directly. I am passionate about what I do, and here to answer any questions, support you, and guide you on your journey towards recovery. Let’s take the first step to a brighter future together. Call me at 714-909-2337 now!

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