Methamphetamine, commonly known as meth, is a powerful and highly addictive central nervous system (CNS) stimulant drug. It comes in the form of a crystalline white powder that is odorless, bitter-tasting, and dissolvable in water or alcohol. Meth can be taken orally, smoked, snorted, or injected. It rapidly crosses the blood-brain barrier, resulting in a quick onset of effects.
Methamphetamine has a number of common names. According to Medline Plus, it is also known as Crank or Speed and is also referred to a number of street names, including Beanies, Chicken Feed, Crystal Meth, Ice, Tina, Beanies, Crank, Crypto, Mexican crack, Redneck cocaine, Tick Tick, Tock, Cinnamon, and Chalk.
Meth is made in illegal labs by chemically altering over-the-counter drugs. Its use can have a variety of short- and long-term physical and psychological health consequences.
Methamphetamine is highly addictive due to its pharmacological effects on the brain and its ability to rapidly produce intense euphoria and increased energy levels that can last 6–8 hours. Unfortunately, after this high energy level wears off, the crash can lead to depression, anxiety, and paranoia. This up-and-down cycle causes changes in the brain that reinforce the addiction.
A few more reasons as to why meth is so addictive are as follows:
If you or a loved one is struggling with meth use, read on to find out more about some common signs of meth addiction as well as the long-term effects of meth use.
The signs and symptoms of methamphetamine addiction can vary depending on the individual and the severity of their addiction. Seek for medical detox as soon as you see these symptoms. Here are some common signs and symptoms associated with meth addiction:
As meth addiction takes hold, you may notice some physical changes in yourself or a loved one. Excessive weight loss and a lack of appetite are common, as meth suppresses hunger. Skin problems like acne, sores, and ulcers can appear. “Meth mouth,” characterized by rotting teeth and a dry mouth, is also frequently seen in long-term users. Insomnia and restlessness are typical, along with dilated pupils, a dry mouth, and body tremors or twitching.
The way someone acts and thinks is also impacted by meth addiction. Paranoia, agitation, and hallucinations are frequent consequences of long-term meth use. Addicts become preoccupied with getting and using meth, isolating themselves from friends and family.
Their motivation and interest in normal activities decline. Impaired memory, judgment, and decision-making abilities are widespread. Unpredictable mood swings, anger, and even violence can emerge or worsen.
Chronic meth use rewires the brain and causes psychological damage that may endure long after someone stops using. Memory problems, emotional disturbances, sleep issues, and psychosis are common psychological effects. Depression and suicidal thoughts are risks, especially during withdrawal. The inability to experience pleasure from natural rewards like food or sex can persist for months. Psychological treatment and medication may be required to manage these issues.
Prolonged meth use can harm the brain permanently. Studies show meth destroys dopamine receptors in the brain, impairing memory, motor skills, and emotional regulation. This damage is visible on brain scans and can last years after quitting. You may struggle with cognitive tasks, emotional outbursts, paranoia, and even psychosis.
Meth use speeds up your metabolism and suppresses your appetite, often leading to dangerous weight loss and malnutrition over time. You may look gaunt, pale, and unhealthy. Lack of nutrients can cause hair loss, tooth decay, and organ damage. Seeking immediate medical assistance is of utmost importance.
Chronic meth use can wreak havoc on your skin and physical appearance. You may develop sores, pimples, and scabs from obsessively picking at your skin due to delusional parasitosis—the false belief that insects are crawling under your skin. Your skin can become dry, pale, and aged in appearance. These skin conditions may clear up after quitting meth, but some damage can be permanent.
Meth use causes severe tooth decay and “meth mouth” from dry mouth and teeth grinding. Your teeth may become blackened, stained, and rotten. The only way to improve dental health is through dental work and quitting meth. Brushing, flossing, and mouthwash can only do so much—the real solution lies in ending your addiction.
The good news is that while meth causes a lot of harm, much of the damage can heal over time with the right treatment, such as medical detox. Your health and life depend on it.
The timeline of meth withdrawal can vary depending on several factors, including the severity of addiction, duration of use, and individual physiological differences. It is not the same for everyone, and some individuals might experience longer or shorter withdrawal periods. Seeking professional help and support during the withdrawal process can increase the chances of a successful recovery.
The initial withdrawal symptoms may begin within the first 24 hours after the last dose. These symptoms can include fatigue, increased appetite, anxiety, and agitation.
During this period, withdrawal symptoms often become more intense. Common symptoms include strong cravings, mood swings, depression, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and sleep disturbances (either insomnia or excessive sleep).
As the acute withdrawal phase starts to subside, many physical symptoms will begin to improve. However, psychological symptoms such as cravings, depression, and anxiety might still persist. During this period, some individuals might experience a phenomenon called “anhedonia,” which is a decreased ability to experience pleasure.
After the first month, most withdrawal symptoms will have significantly diminished, but some individuals may continue to experience mild symptoms or emotional difficulties. In some cases, individuals might still face cravings or experience a condition called “protracted withdrawal syndrome” or “post-acute withdrawal syndrome” (PAWS), which can last for several months.
Meth detox can be very helpful in overcoming such an addiction. The goal of meth detox is to eliminate the drug from the body, stabilize the individual, and prepare them for subsequent addiction treatment and recovery. Meth detox typically encompasses three distinct stages:
The first stage involves a thorough evaluation and assessment conducted by healthcare professionals. This includes gathering information about the individual’s substance use history, medical and mental health status, and any co-occurring conditions. The purpose is to determine the appropriate level of care and develop a personalized treatment plan.
The second stage focuses on stabilizing the individual during the detox process. It involves medical supervision to manage withdrawal symptoms and address any immediate health concerns. Healthcare professionals may administer medications to alleviate specific withdrawal symptoms, ensure proper nutrition and hydration, and provide emotional support. The goal is to create a safe and comfortable environment for the individual as their body adjusts to the absence of methamphetamine.
The third stage involves preparing the individual for further addiction treatment. Once the detoxification phase is complete and the individual is stabilized, they are typically encouraged to transition into a comprehensive addiction treatment program. This can involve addiction therapy such as counseling, behavioral therapy, support groups, and other approaches aimed at tackling the root causes of addiction, fostering coping mechanisms, and facilitating sustainable long-term recovery.
It’s important to note that the three stages of detox are not always strictly linear, and the duration of each stage can vary depending on individual circumstances. Some individuals may require longer periods of detoxification, while others may progress more quickly. The primary objective is to provide a safe and supportive environment throughout the process, ensuring that individuals receive the necessary care and support for successful detoxification and transition into addiction treatment.
While there are currently no FDA-approved medications specifically for managing methamphetamine (meth) withdrawal symptoms, several medications have been researched and used off-label to help alleviate specific symptoms during withdrawal. Some of these medications include:
There are several evidence-based behavioral interventions and therapies that have been found effective in treating methamphetamine addiction. Some of the most common approaches include:
A comprehensive treatment plan for meth addiction usually involves a combination of these therapies or medications, tailored to the individual’s needs and circumstances. It’s important to work closely with healthcare professionals and addiction specialists to determine the most appropriate treatment approach.
If you or someone you care about is facing challenges with meth addiction, there is hope and a road towards healing that can begin at the Path to Recovery Detox. At Path to Recovery Detox, we empathize with the difficulties associated with drug addiction and the journey to recovery. Our team of experienced and compassionate professionals is dedicated to supporting you or your loved one throughout the demanding journey of meth withdrawal. Contact us today!