While meth is notorious for its powerfully addictive nature, today there are various forms of treatments proven to be successful in overcoming methamphetamine addiction. The types of treatments are many and the medication used, although there isn’t a flagship drug accepted as a meth addiction aid, can help to soothe the healing process. If you or someone you know is addicted to meth, then it’s likely you’re here to understand the signs to look out for and different forms of methamphetamine treatment. Read on to learn about how meth addiction is currently treated, what to expect during treatment, and what to do if you’ve decided on a certain strategy.
Whenever it comes to treating an addiction, the drug in question must be fully understood. For instance, a heroin addict will not be treated with the same strategy as a cocaine addict and vice versa. Being that methamphetamine is a stimulant, and one of the most potent, the structure of treatment is going to be specific to the substance. In which case, what exactly does that mean?
How Methamphetamine Addiction is Treated
Methamphetamine, once ingested, stimulates the CNS (Central Nervous System) and causes an influx in dopamine production, which is our brains “feel good” chemical. This neurotransmitter (dopamine) is directly linked to our reward system, meaning it produces feelings we commonly know as pleasure. Once this neurotransmitter is stimulated, the user experiences the euphoric high brought about by meth use, as well as its stimulating effects. Aside from the increase in dopamine, meth effectively puts the body into hyperdrive; heartbeat elevates, thoughts race, blood pressure rises, and energy comes in powerful waves. These effects carry with them certain health risks like hyperthermia, cardiac arrest, and seizures. Being that meth has a massive influence on the brain, the withdrawals that ensue after abstinence are predominantly psychological.
What Does This Mean in Therapy?
This means that, while also working to provide a healthy and complication-free detox, treatments are designed to nurture a user’s emotional and mental well-being. The truth is that any form of addiction, once removed, will have a profound effect on the psyche. It’s just that in the case of meth, that’s amplified. In which case, the primary goal of methamphetamine addiction therapy is to provide the user with necessary tools they can use to work through the psychological symptoms of withdrawal, namely cravings and depression.
Cravings & Depression
It should be no surprise to you that meth is incredibly taxing on the brain. It’s been stigmatized as the “crazy” or “insane” high that drives users mad, yelling and thrashing about on the streets or staying awake for days. Unfortunately, two of the primary symptoms of meth abstinence are cravings and depression, spurred by the “come down.” The “come down” occurs immediately after cessation, which almost every meth user experiences, where their brain is depleted of the usual chemicals it relies upon to regulate healthy moods. This gives way for depression, which can be a devastating side effect of meth abuse during detox. Treatment plans usually focus on aiding the user through this low for two reasons:
- It’s a common occurrence that meth users return to usage during the “come down,” being that the depression is simply too much for them to bear
- Being that the brain is literally depleted of the “happy” chemical we need to regulate the emotion, the low can be strong enough to induce suicidal thoughts, erratic behavior, and a broken thought process
The other primary psychological focus is mitigating cravings, or developing tools that allow the individual to deal with them. Why? Because meth is notable for its addictive properties, which create powerful cravings that some experts say trumps all other substances. These cravings can last for weeks, months, to years (in rarer cases). The idea is to:
- Stabilize the patient during the initial onset of these cravings, which are usually the strongest
- Establish a strategy to cope with ongoing cravings in hopes of never giving way to relapse
How Is Meth Addiction Commonly Treated?
The most common form of meth addiction treatment is the Matrix Model, which was developed in the 1980s as a response to an influx in cocaine and crack addiction in Southern California. Being that meth comes from the same family (stimulants), eventually the Matrix Model was rolled over and used for all forms “uppers.” The Matrix Institute describes the treatment as: “The Matrix Model is a multi-element package of therapeutic strategies that complement each other and combine to produce an integrated outpatient treatment experience. It is a set of evidence-based practices delivered in a clinically coordinated manner as a “program.” The research reports which have described the compilation of clinical experience with the model, plus the results of a multi-site trial have all provided information on the application of the entire package of techniques. However, many of the treatment strategies within the Model are derived from clinical research literature, including cognitive behavioral therapy, research on relapse prevention, motivational interviewing strategies, psycho-educational information and 12-Step program involvement.” Other studies have shown that, if the Matrix Model is followed from start to finish (a process that usually involves 13 months of treatment, although the first four are the most intensive), it yields a 60% success rate for meth addict. This efficacy is astounding when compared to other forms of treatment, especially when we take into consideration other types of addiction.
More on The Matrix Model
The Matrix Model follows a specific form (although it’s important to note that the evolution of rehab has shifted to an individual-focused agenda). This means that, while the Matrix Model will be used as a foundation, the clinic will evaluate the patient and tailor certain facets of the program to them.
- The Matrix Model is typically an intensive outpatient (meaning the patient does not live in the facility) program that spans for four months
- After the four months are finished, another 9 months of aftercare need to be completed. Studies have found that if the aftercare is skipped, the chances of relapse increase dramatically
What to Expect from the Matrix Model?
It’s important to reiterate that the treatment plan model will often be dictated by the individual. Factors that can influence the treatment recommended or selected are age, health, and length of use. Someone that’s been addicted to meth for a span of months will need a different treatment than someone who is going on five years. With that being said, there’s a general timeline which is followed:
The individual will meet with an addiction specialist or doctor and they’ll carry out an evaluation. This can be anything from testing the individual’s vitals to asking questions to better understand their current struggles with meth addiction, how long they’ve used, and what sort of health complications they’re currently experiencing. This initial assessment is then used as a focal point that will be referred to as they progress. It will also help solidify the type of treatment that should be utilized.
The Matrix Model is an outpatient treatment, meaning the patient rarely lives in-house at the facility. With that being said, usually detox occurs under medical supervision and does require the patient to check-in and stay until it’s finished. During detox, medical professionals will help to mitigate meth withdrawal symptoms, support the patient’s fragile psyche, and inhibit any chance of health complications. Being that meth detox is rarely deadly—as compared to heroin or alcohol—usually this is about preventing psychosis and providing an outlet for the patient to talk through their emotional distress.
The secret weapon of the Matrix Model, therapy works to help the patient through the psychological trauma of meth use. It works to identify why the individual began using in the first place, if there’s a co-occurring mental illness, what triggers to avoid, if their current environment is one that poses the possibility for relapse, and ultimately works to build the tools they will use to remain sober in the future. This is usually done through group therapy with additional isolated one-on-one sessions every week. The principles adhered to during therapy usually involve the following:
- A positive and collaborative relationship is established with the client
- Structure and expectations are set
- Introducing and then applying CBT (cognitive-behavioral concepts)
- Positive reinforcement for appropriate behavior change
- Bringing in the family to educate them on expectations, structure, and how to help during the course of addiction recovery
- Introducing and helping utilize self-help
- Keeping a keen eye on drug use through urinalyses
Once the 4 months of outpatient treatment is completed, the individual will then have to embark on the 9 months of aftercare. This usually means remaining involved in multiple support groups, engaging in 12-step recovery programs (perhaps even becoming a sponsor), and continued check-ins at the clinic. The primary goal for aftercare is relapse prevention, but it’s also to solidify the material they’ve learned in so that it becomes a lifestyle. Without integrating aftercare, the risk for relapse increases, despite the efficacy of the Matrix Model.
If you’re still curious as to how these treatments are structured, then a basic routine (taken from the Matrix Institute) can be viewed below.
- Early Recovery Skills (weeks 1-4)
- Relapse Prevention (weeks 1-16)
- Family/Education (weeks 1-12)
- Social Support (weeks 13-16, continues past 16)
- Early Recovery Skills (weeks 1-4)
- Relapse Prevention (weeks 1-16)
This means that the individual would have to go to the clinic three days per week and that the lessons would change over time. Additionally, the patient could expect:
- A weekly urine/breath test
- Individual counseling
- Relapse analysis
- Integration into peer networks of other sufferers
In which case, once detox is completed, the patient will be able live at home, go about their everyday lives, but commit to the program for three days out of the week.
Are There Medications Used for Meth Addiction Treatment?
If you’re currently researching treatment options, you may be wondering if a doctor or addiction specialist will recommend medication. While there is no FDA-approved flagship medication used to treat methamphetamine addiction, there are two drugs that have been studied within the application. Both have yielded decent results and are targeted at reducing cravings.
- Naltrexone: a UCLA study on Naltrexone—originally a medication used for alcoholics—found that over 60% of their participants reported a noticeable decline in meth cravings. It’s an opioid receptor antagonist, meaning it works to block opioid receptors in the brain. If this is jargon, then basically it intercepts the meth “chemicals,” weakening their effect on dopamine production. This then lessens cravings being that the methamphetamines aren’t working at their full capacity.
- Bupropion: bupropion is an FDA-approved medicine that’s used to treat depression and help smoking cessation. With cigarettes, it works to dissociate the “high” users feel when they have a smoke, thus lessening the appeal of tobacco. Some clinical studies have proven that it can have the same effect on meth users, lessening the appeal of the drug until it’s no longer wanted. An important note: this medication is known to work solely on light or short-term meth users, not seasoned ones.
As goes with most addictions, there is no “miracle pill” that can reverse the disease and immediately enforce abstinence. As more and more research goes into meth addiction treatment, we’re hopeful that a medication will arise which can greatly benefit the recovery process.
No matter what you know about meth addiction treatment, it’s always going to be an imperative that you see a specialist. Quitting “cold turkey” at home is never recommended, and a treatment center can help mitigate withdrawal symptoms during detox. Additionally, they’ll be able to evaluate the individual at hand and tailor a program specifically for them. Meth addiction can be overcome. Today, that sentence reads truer than ever. If you’re looking to break the chains and open the gates to a happier, healthier life, then reach out to Apex Recovery. At the very least, they’ll be able to provide valuable insight and point you in the right direction. Sources:
- Psychiatry & Behavioral Health Learning Network. Memory Research Offers Promise for a Meth Addiction Treatment. October, 2018. https://www.psychcongress.com/article/memory-research-offers-promise-meth-addiction-treatment
- US National Library of Medicine. Study of Pomaglumetad and Methamphetamine (POMA-MA-Ph1). April, 2017. https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT03106571
- The Matrix Institute. The Matrix Model of Intensive Outpatient for Treatment. A guideline developed for the Behavioral Health Recovery Management project. https://www.matrixinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Matrix_Model-Description-and-Outcomes-Research.pdf