The US Department of Justice claimed that in 2017, just under a million people in America, over the age of twelve, are currently using methamphetamines. In the same year, over 150,000 people seeking addiction treatment. When you consider the potent and deadly nature of meth—which is a stigma we’re sure you’re aware of—those numbers are staggering. The fact is this: meth addiction manifests rapidly, often crippling the user in a span of months. Beating the addiction, while it’s a lifesaving endeavor, is no easy task. Thankfully, with our current understanding of methamphetamines, addiction specialists have tools, strategies, and meth rehab geared for this specific addiction. Today, it’s never been more likely that you or someone you love can overcome their meth addiction. Read on to learn everything you need to know regarding the war against meth addiction and the signs to look out for.
Methamphetamine is a drug manufactured illegally, usually using an amphetamine base with additional additives to increase its potency. It’s a stimulant by nature, meaning it works to kick the CNS (central nervous system) into hyperdrive and forces the brain to overproduce neurotransmitters. For those of you that are unaware, neurotransmitters are the chemical messengers in our brain responsible for governing organ systems, mood, emotions, sleep, and more. The neurotransmitter that meth exploits most is dopamine, the “feel good” chemical we release when things give us pleasure. You eat chocolate, have sex, watch a movie you love, and your brain responds by producing dopamine, effectively telling you that this experience is “rewarding.” Certain studies have pointed to meth stimulating this neurotransmitter by 1000%, which says everything about its potency. When users ingest methamphetamine by snorting, smoking, or injecting it, they experience titanic waves of euphoria, increased alertness, hyper sensitivity, and a rush of energy. Let it be known that meth is one of the strongest drugs available on the streets and, once this “rush” is experienced, often that’s all it takes for users to use again. Eventually the cycle gives birth to drug addiction.
The Dangers of Meth Addiction
Meth is one of the most infamous—not to mention stigmatized—types of addictions currently plaguing our society. This is often driven forward by what it does to the body, specifically the oral cavity. As someone continues to use meth, which they are likely to do if an addiction forms, they may experience any of these symptoms and side effects of meth abuse at some point in their use timeline.
- Gum Disease | Dental Deterioration: a study conducted in 2015, at UCLA, showcased the relationship between meth use and gum disease. Of the some 500~ subjects, over 90% of them had some sort of cavity, while over half of them had tooth decay. Only a bit over 20% had retained all of their natural teeth, which is well below the standard for the general population. There’s a reason why meth addicts, when you see them on the street, have rotten teeth.
- Overdose: in 2015, over 5000 people died of an isolated meth overdose. That’s not even considering the amount of overdose that occurred with meth and other substances. Often, this comes in the form of cardiac arrest, as the CNS is overstimulated, an irregular heartbeat surges, and blood pressure is through the roof.
- Stroke: because meth can interrupt blood flow to the brain, a stroke is not an uncommon occurrence for long-term meth users. When the brain cannot receive the proper supply of blood, this often causes a stroke.
- Hyperthermia: not to be confused with hypothermia, hyperthermia occurs when the body experiences a massive influx in temperature, rapidly and violently overheating. When this occurs, organ systems begin to fail, causing complications and, at times, death.
- Psychosis: being that meth has such an influence on the brain’s chemistry—particularly the overstimulation of dopamine—meth users can develop psychosis. From hallucinations, delusion, paranoia, to activating underlying mental disorders, psychosis and chemistry shifts are one of the main concerns for a user that’s addicted to meth.
- Broken Relationships | Careers: the most glaring and dangerous aspects to meth addiction are what it can do to the body and brain. But, as the addiction strengthens and the user chooses methamphetamine over everything else, their relationships crumble, careers are destroyed, and they can forgo their lives in replacement for meth use.
Treating Meth Addiction
Currently, there does not exist a standardized treatment for meth addiction, nor is there a ubiquitously accepted medication to aid the process. Each rehab center is going to have a slightly different approach and—as rehab strategies continuously evolve—these programs are usually tailored specifically to the individual. With that being said, there is a type of therapy commonly agreed to be the most effective. Before we delve into the “Matrix Model,” the factors that can affect the strategy selected are:
- Length of use
The Matrix Model
According to NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse), the flagship treatment for meth addiction is the Matrix Model, an intensive outpatient program that lasts for four months, credited with tens of thousands of full-recoveries over the last ten years. Typically, this takes the form of an outpatient program that lasts anywhere from 30 to 90 days, but remains intensive for the 4-month duration. In which case, if you’re looking to overcome your meth addiction, this could very well be the key. To that end, below you can find what to usually expect from a rehab offering a Matrix Model treatment:
- Evaluation: the user will be evaluated by specialists who, after the assessment is completed, will categorize the severity of their addiction. This is the first platform that influences choice; how long the patient should be in inpatient, what’s the estimated severity of meth withdrawal symptoms, what type of treatment form will yield the highest efficacy, etc.
- Detox: while there’s no FDA-approved medicine that assists patients through meth-specific detox, a rehab facility will provide 24/7 medical support for the patient. They will work to ease the withdrawal symptoms, stabilize the patient, and ensure that no health complications arise. Usually, the most dangerous facet to meth detox is the dangers it poses on the psyche. This is noted, accounted, and prepared for.
- Therapy: this is the heart of the Matrix Model, as the type of therapy which occurs addresses the multiple layers of meth addiction. Typically carried out in group therapy, the program works to help the user understand why the addiction first started, how to manage anxiety and cravings to negate relapse, identify any underlying mental disorders that could have contributed to the problem, identify triggers that should be avoided at all costs, and what do in the case that a relapse occurs (this is, by all means, an extremely important tool to develop). Depending on the length of the program, the brunt of this section of treatment often occurs in the first two months
- Aftercare: once the patient is released from the 4-month program, there is usually a 9-month aftercare strategy they must adhere to. This takes the form of engaging in support groups, continuously participating in group therapy, and having one-on-one sessions with trained therapists. These one-on-one sessions allow the patient to unpack what life is like after treatment, the struggles they’re facing, and ultimately works to “patch” any holes that might’ve been left after treatment.
While there are a variety of treatments available for meth addiction, a study done on over 900 participants that enrolled in the Matrix Model showed a success rate of over 50% (only if they followed through with the 9 months of aftercare). These numbers are tremendous, as these sorts of results do not typically occur when fighting an addiction.
While we stated that there isn’t a form of medication used ubiquitously for meth addiction, a study conducted by UCLA researchers found promise with Naltrexone, a drug used to treat alcoholism. A small group of participants were hospitalized, given either Naltrexone or Placebo, and, a week later, were given intravenous doses of meth. The scientists discovered that, upon questioning their resolve toward meth use (after it was given to them once more), Naltrexone significantly halted the usually violent cravings that arrive after a cessation of meth use. By blocking opioid receptors in the brain, it inhibits the “high” that meth users chase, meaning they receive less of a reward from meth usage when they’re on Naltrexone. This is extremely promising. And why is that, exactly?
If you’re here because you’re making the decision to start down the road to recovery and overcome your meth addiction, then it’s important you know what to expect. More so, what often motivates relapse. With various drugs, withdrawal can be such an emotionally and physically taxing process that, feeling the brunt of the symptoms, users panic and sprint to their vice in hopes of remedying the situation. Believe it or not, meth withdrawal is notably easier than heroin, alcohol, and other addictive substances. Like all stimulants, it has a stronger influence on the psyche than it does on the body. This means its predominantly emotional and, if the brain was born healthy, is easier to overcome. The kicker to meth abstinence is the cravings that can last for weeks, months, and even years. Scientists believe this to be the way in which meth affects the brain’s mechanics, notable by the fact that dopamine neurons can remain damaged years after meth abstinence. This phenomenon is not typical with most substances, as the brain can generally create balance and restore its original functionality. This, of course, is another measurement of meth’s potency. Being that the cravings last for longer than other substances, having a medication—like Naltrexone—could potentially treat the most difficult aspect to meth abstinence. This would likely increase the results from all forms of meth addiction treatment.
Quitting Meth on Your Own
We commend a strong will and fully support your decision to abstain from methamphetamines. Despite, quitting meth “cold turkey” on your own can have serious health complications that require medical supervision. Unfortunately, meth addiction is a type of dependency that’s all-encompassing, and a cessation will cause severe withdrawals:
- Depression: the “come down” from meth is one of the most common symptoms experienced by addicts that cease from using. In this state, the brain does not have the proper amount of dopamine to regulate healthy emotions. The depression can give way to suicidal thoughts, or push the individual to use in hopes of retaining some amount of happiness
- Dehydration: being that meth can induce hyperthermia, the body is often dehydrated during withdrawal, which can lead to organ failure amongst other complications. If a user decides to quit on their own, this can be a severe health risk
- Insomnia: almost all meth users that cease substance use experience some form of interrupted sleep, with the extreme being insomnia. Lack of sleep can then further stress the brain, causing emotional turmoil. In a time (detox) where the body desperately needs rest, the inability to sleep can cause a host of problems
By understanding the withdrawal symptoms that come about during meth detox, it’s imperative that the process takes place under medical supervision. Be it a rehab, hospital, or a doctor, a patient’s vitals need to be monitored and their mental state nurtured. At the very least, the aim here is to create a comfortable enough detox process that does not send the patient reeling towards reuse of methamphetamine. While it is highly unlikely that any of the meth withdrawal symptoms will kill an individual, it is more than likely that the person will be unable to handle detox on their own and eventually relapse. Medically supervised detox mitigates this risk.
Overcoming a meth addiction is no easy task, but with the tools currently at our disposal, the vast wealth of programs available, and a strong willpower, it is absolutely beatable. If you’re considering embarking on this journey, then know you’re already on it. Now it’s time to reach out to a rehab center like Apex Recovery, speak with an addiction specialist and take your first step on the road to meth addiction recovery. Meth addiction is a merciless disease, one that should be treated as soon as possible. Reclaim your life by treating your addiction and making way for happiness, good health, and the beautiful future which awaits you. Sources:
- US National Library of Medicine. Study of Medical Treatment for Methamphetamine Addiction (BUP PGx). February, 2014. https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT00833443
- UCLA Health. Browse U Magazine. Potentially Effective Treatment for Meth Addiction. April, 2015. https://www.uclahealth.org/u-magazine/potentially-effective-treatment-for-meth-addiction
- What is Meth Made From? https://www.drugfreeworld.org/drugfacts/crystalmeth/what-is-meth-made-from.html