In the last couple of decades, we’ve seen the effects of methamphetamine addiction ravage cities all across the United States. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), approximately 1.6 million people reported using methamphetamine within the past year, and 774,000 people reported using it within the last month.
With methamphetamine use at such staggering numbers, it’s important to understand what the drug is and how it affects its users. Getting to the root of addiction is the first step toward addressing the problem.
Methamphetamine, commonly known as meth, remains one of the most aggressive and damaging addictive drugs sold on the streets today. The drug’s ability to rapidly release high levels of dopamine in the reward areas of the brain strongly reinforces drug-taking behavior, making the user want to repeat the experience.
Meth can be sold and consumed in a number of different forms. In powdered form, it can be consumed in capsules or dissolved in water and injected intravenously. Another form, known as “crystal” meth, will resemble pale blue shards of glass and is typically smoked out of a glass pipe.
First Time Use
The first time a person uses methamphetamine, they will most likely not experience any of the negative effects associated with meth addiction. This user will feel very active and intensely euphoric and talkative for 6 to 12 hours. The reasons behind these feelings are far more sinister as the meth begins to hijack the brain’s natural reward systems.
When you do something that inspires joy or satisfaction, it is marked by a chemical response in the brain. The chemical dopamine is responsible for feelings of reward, motivation, memory, attention, and even the regulation of body movements. Dopamine plays a very important role in the natural ebb and flow of your brain chemistry and low levels of dopamine may cause negative effects on a person’s mood, motivation, and memory.
Methamphetamine hijacks the brain’s natural reward system by forcing it to create dopamine at a highly unnatural rate. Like many other stimulant drugs, meth forces the release of the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and dopamine, leading to a number of extremely intense euphoric effects, increases in energy, and feelings of invulnerability.
This onslaught of dopamine is so intense that no natural experience can compare to the first time a person uses meth. This leads to a phenomenon known as “chasing the dragon” in which a user may continue to use, more regularly and in higher doses, in an attempt to capture the high of that first time. In reality, what is occurring is the strengthening of meth addiction in the wiring of the brain.
Signs and Symptoms of Meth Addiction
Meth is an incredibly powerful drug with profound effects on the brain and body. Because of this, it is no surprise that there are some telltale signs of meth addiction to look out for. Symptoms of meth addiction can range from minor to life-threatening but it is important to be aware of them.
One of the first symptoms of meth addiction can be the sudden loss of interest in areas of life that were once a priority. Career goals, relationships, sports, and hobbies may all become second priority to obtaining and using meth. It is very common for many people to attempt to hide their meth use but as they get deeper into addiction, the warning signs become impossible to hide.
Some of these warning signs and symptoms of methamphetamine addiction may include:
As meth wreaks havoc on the brain, it shuts down parts of the brain responsible for telling you when you’re hungry. A person deep in the throes of meth addiction may go without eating for multiple days on end. Over time, this leads to the person taking on a gaunt, pale, and frail appearance.
We know that methamphetamine is in a drug classification known as stimulants. Meth assaults the brain with stimulation, virtually destroying the user’s ability to sleep. A person on a meth bender may go multiple days without sleeping, leading to hallucinations and eventual psychosis. After such a bender, a person may ultimately “crash,” sleeping for days on end while the body attempts to recover.
Dehydration & “Meth Mouth”
Another way that meth assaults the body is by dehydrating its cells. Along with this, a meth user may simply not think about consuming water due to the intense array of other stimulation happening in the brain. This neglect is also what leads to rotting teeth or what’s commonly known as “meth mouth.” Meth leads to a lack of saliva and a dry mouth is what causes a whole host of oral issues including gingivitis and tooth decay.
Elevated Body Temperature
Elevated body temperature can occur in meth users due to intense stimulation in the brain and body. This goes hand in hand with dehydration mentioned above, as much of the body’s moisture is lost through sweat. Along with other complications, this can lead to environmental risks such as hypothermia.
Skin Abscesses and Infection
As is the case with any intravenous (IV) drug user, meth used in this way can lead to skin abscesses and infection. When an IV drug user misses their vein and injects directly into the skin, this kills the surrounding skin tissue, leading to an abscess. If you pair this with a typical meth user’s neglect of hygiene it can lead to serious infection very easily.
Other symptoms of meth addiction may include weakening of bones and teeth, extreme aggression, and intense mood swings.
Meth Detox and the Recovery Process
Because of the powerful stranglehold of addiction that methamphetamine can have on its users, the treatment of meth addiction must be compassionate and comprehensive. Here at Serenity Lane, we’ve created a continuum of care that consists of detoxification, counseling, and various therapeutic modalities. Our compassionate medical clinicians will be with you every step of the way.
While recreational and occasional users can experience a “crash” that lasts a few days when meth leaves their system, people who are deep in the throes of addiction can experience symptoms that can last several weeks. Acute meth withdrawal may cause a person to experience depressive and psychotic symptoms for up to a week, while meth cravings may persist for up to five weeks.
By the time a user recognizes that they are addicted to meth, it is often too late for them to kick the habit on their own.
Serenity Lane’s detox program is here to treat meth withdrawal symptoms and help you as the drug leaves your body. Our compassionate clinicians provide around-the-clock emotional and medical support. Our healthcare professionals will also monitor your vitals and individualize your treatment and care as your withdrawal symptoms begin to subside. We’re here to make the process of meth detoxification as painless as possible.
Once you are physically and psychologically stable, the psychological part of your recovery treatment can begin. Here at Serenity Lane, we offer a full continuum of care that aims to teach you how to attain and maintain long-term sobriety.
Your next step toward recovery is our Residential Treatment Program.
Residential inpatient treatment at Serenity Lane provides stabilization and crisis intervention as well as the around-the-clock medically-supervised detox program outlined above. After you complete the detox phase of treatment, our nursing staff, physicians, psychiatrists, and assigned counselors will work together to develop a treatment plan that’s individualized to address your specific needs.
Counseling and individual therapy sessions aim to get to the root of the complex issues behind your addiction to methamphetamines. Our Residential Treatment program is typically 28 days long. The program provides intensive group therapy, individual counseling, and education about issues surrounding addiction in general.
Group therapy is also a major component of Serenity Lane’s Residential Treatment program. On weekdays, the group will meet each morning and afternoon to explore problems, feelings, changes, and conflicts that come up in the treatment process. Patients will be oriented to the group and assigned a “buddy”. This is someone who is further along in treatment and can help explain rules and ease the transition into the group environment.
After our 28-day Residential Treatment program, we also offer continued inpatient support through our Extended Residential program. Our Extended Residential program is a long-term treatment program that focuses on a therapeutic community for the healing and support of recovering addicts who are prone to relapse or patients who are required to undergo a specified duration of treatment (for example: safety occupations, healthcare professionals).
Day Treatment or Partial Hospitalization
Serenity Lane’s new Day Treatment Program, also known as partial hospitalization, is the next level of substance use disorder care after Inpatient Residential Treatment. Day Treatment is a great option for individuals looking for a comprehensive treatment program that allows them to balance the demands of personal and professional life. In this program, patients will attend recovery counseling and programming during the addiction treatment programs in the day but be allowed to go home at night.
We know that the decision to seek treatment for meth addiction can be intimidating.
Meth Addiction FAQs
- How long does meth stay in your system?
Unlike cocaine and other stimulants, meth can stay in your body for a period of multiple days. It’s been determined that meth has a half life of 10-12 hours. A drug’s half life is the amount of time it takes the body to metabolize half of the substance, assuming that no more is ingested. It can be detected in a blood test 1 to 2 days after use, and it can be detected in a urine test for up to three days.
- How long does meth last?
Methamphetamine (or meth) can have effects that last anywhere from 8 to 24 hours depending on the method of ingestion (IV, smoking, etc.), time of day it is ingested, and the amount that is ingested.
- What is meth made of?
Meth is a completely synthetic chemical (as opposed to a stimulant like cocaine which comes from a plant). Over-the-counter pills used for the common cold make up the basis of meth. The meth “cook” then extracts certain chemicals from the pills and combines the substance with chemicals such as drain cleaner, lantern fuel, battery acid, and antifreeze in order to increase its strength.
At Serenity Lane, we know how tough the road to recovery can be. That’s why we individualize each treatment program to help you obtain and maintain a life free of methamphetamines.
Call us today at 541-262-1422 to speak to one of our licensed and compassionate healthcare professionals.