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Meth, also known as methamphetamine or crystal meth, is a potent illicit stimulant, but is meth addictive?
Any form of meth abuse causes the overproduction of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is associated with signaling pleasure in the brain. Methamphetamine triggers a sense of euphoria while at the same time boosting energy levels and self-confidence. The effects of meth are intense but fleeting, with mind and body experiencing a crash a few hours after use, meaning that meth is extremely addictive.
Discover what meth dependence means, how methamphetamine addiction develops, and how to engage with a meth detox and treatment program. While an addiction to meth can provoke long-term and potentially life-threatening complications, evidence-based treatment typically produces favorable outcomes.
What does it mean to be addicted to meth?
Data from NSDUH 2021 (National Survey on Drug Use and Health) indicate that 2.6 million U.S. over-12s reported using methamphetamine in 2021. Among those, over 1.5 million had a diagnosable meth addiction in the same year, illustrating the highly addictive profile of this Schedule II controlled substance.
Ingesting meth boosts dopamine release in the brain while at the same time preventing the reuptake of this chemical messenger. Dopamine plays an essential role in pleasure, reward, and motivation. If you continue to use meth, this can result in the build-up of dopamine in the brain and changes in brain structure and function. The brain struggles to experience joy in the absence of methamphetamine.
In addition to these pleasurable effects, chronic meth use causes tolerance to form, diminishing the effects of the stimulant and prompting many people to use more meth. Abusive patterns of meth use can cause physical dependence to develop. Meth addiction – stimulant use disorder – often follows.
The signs of a methamphetamine addict will vary from person to person and depending on the scope and severity of the meth addiction, as well as the route of administration – smoking or injecting meth are especially damaging.
These are the most common signs you may notice in meth addicts:
Like all Schedule II drugs, meth has the potential for abuse and addiction. A meth addict may be diagnosed with stimulant use disorder depending on the presentation of diagnostic criteria outlined in DSM-5-TR, the most current revision of APA’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
These are the DSM symptoms of meth addiction:
Meth addiction is diagnosed according the number of symptoms that present as mild (2 to 3), moderate (4 to 5), or severe (6 or more).
Taking meth triggers the release of large quantities of dopamine while stopping your system from reabsorbing the chemical. The rush of euphoria experienced is the result of the reward center of the brain – the nucleus accumbens – becoming flooded with dopamine. A strong desire to recreate this euphoric high propels the majority of meth abuse.
Continued abuse of methamphetamine causes dopamine to accumulate in the brain, noticeably altering brain function and structure. Chronic meth abuse may lead to the development of anhedonia – an inability to experience pleasure from everyday things.
Some animal studies suggest that abusing meth impairs functioning in regions of the brain that govern decision-making and the suppression of habitual and negative behaviors like substance abuse. Researchers believe this may explain why addiction to methamphetamine can be so demanding to treat.
Research shows that addiction to methamphetamine can develop at a faster rate than addiction to many other addictive substances of abuse.
Data from SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) show that 64% of those who reported using meth in 2021 developed a diagnosable meth addiction in the same year. The same data for 2021 indicate that of the 4.8 million U.S. adults who used cocaine – another highly addictive substance – just 1.4 million developed an addiction (29%). Heroin, by contrast, is even more addictive than meth with over 90% of those who used the semi-synthetic opioid developing opioid use disorder in the same year.
Don’t Let Meth Addiction Hold You Back
Meth dependence can be extremely dangerous, often leading to physical and mental health problems that include:
Research into addiction to methamphetamine is ongoing and there are currently no medications approved by the FDA for the treatment of meth addiction. That said, detox followed by ongoing behavioral therapies can help arrest abusive patterns of consumption and promote continued abstinence from meth.
Meth detox is the first stage of recovery and tackles the issue of physical dependence by purging all toxins from the system.
Although methamphetamine withdrawal can be demanding and unpleasant, a supervised medical detoxification will mitigate complications and reduce the chance of relapse in early recovery.
Meth withdrawal unfolds over two stages. The acute withdrawal stage begins during the first day of detox, reducing in intensity over the next 7 days. Subacute meth withdrawal involves symptoms that persist for an additional two weeks. PAWS (post-acute withdrawal syndrome) is associated with psychological withdrawal symptoms that linger for months after the last use of meth.
Studies show that acute withdrawal from methamphetamine typically lasts for between 7 and 10 days.
Meth addiction is a complex and challenging condition, but with the right treatment, recovery is possible. A typical meth addiction treatment plan often involves a combination of behavioral therapies and medication-assisted treatment supplemented with support from peer groups and loved ones. Here are the typical components of a meth addiction treatment plan:
The first step in treating meth addiction is to assess the severity of the addiction and evaluate your physical and mental health. This may involve a medical and psychiatric evaluation, drug testing, and an assessment of your social support network.
Meth detox involves safely managing withdrawal symptoms while the drug is removed from the body. Detoxification typically takes place in a supervised medical setting to ensure that the withdrawal process is as safe and comfortable as possible.
Meth addiction treatment often involves various behavioral therapies like CBT (cognitive-behavioral therapy), CM (contingency management), and MI (motivational interviewing). These therapies can help you to identify the underlying reasons for your addiction, develop coping skills, and prevent relapse.
number of Americans aged 12+ that tried meth in 2020.
number of people in the U.S. that died from meth in 2020.
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Some medications, such as bupropion and naltrexone, may be administered to manage withdrawal symptoms, reduce cravings, and prevent relapse. That said, there is currently no medication specifically approved by the FDA for treating meth addiction.
Peer support groups like NA (Narcotics Anonymous (NA) can be a valuable source of ongoing support and encouragement for those in recovery from meth addiction.
Aftercare is a vital component of meth addiction treatment. This may include ongoing support and therapy to prevent relapse and maintain long-term recovery.
Drug and alcohol detox should be accessible to everyone. At Gratitude Lodge,we work with most insurance plans to cover the costs of treatment.
Meth is a deadly and highly addictive substance, but we can help you initiate a sustained recovery from stimulant abuse at Gratitude Lodge in Southern California.
While there are no FDA-approved medications to reduce meth withdrawal symptoms and cravings, our supervised medical detox program will nevertheless streamline your meth withdrawal process and minimize the chance of complications or relapse.
After a week or so detoxing from meth, you can move directly into one of the following treatment programs at our pet-friendly treatment centers:
All Gratitude Lodge treatment programs for meth addiction combine science-backed and holistic therapies that include psychotherapy (talk therapy), counseling, and family therapy.
Are you ready to move from being meth addicted to thriving in your sobriety, we can help you from detox to discharge and beyond at Gratitude Lodge. Call 888-861-1658 for immediate assistance.
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