Meth Abuse and Treatment
What is Methamphetamine?
Methamphetamine, or “meth”, is a strong stimulant drug that reacts quickly in the body.1 Unfortunately, meth abuse and addiction seems to be increasing in the United States. In 2017, 964,000 Americans age 12 and older had a diagnosable methamphetamine use disorder, which was an increase from 684,000 people in 2016.2
In addition, 1.6 million Americans reported using methamphetamine within the past year as of 2017, and 774,000 admitted to abusing it within the last month. The average age at which a person begins abusing the substance is about 23 years old.2 The drug is not safe and can lead to a variety of consequences, including serious health problems. Everlast Recovery Centers has programs to help you recover from meth use.
Is Meth Addictive?
Experts know that methamphetamine is highly addictive, due to the effects that the drug has on the brain. Meth rapidly increases levels of the brain chemical called dopamine. Dopamine creates a rush of pleasure, which increases the urge to use the drug repeatedly. After the drug is abused over and over, dependence and addiction can develop. Adding to meth’s addictive qualities is the fact that it creates a powerful but short-lasting high. This leads to increased cravings.2
The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) labels methamphetamine as a Schedule II controlled substance, which means that it is illegal and can cause significant psychological and physical addiction.3 Other drugs in the same category as methamphetamine include PCP (Phencyclidine) and cocaine, prescription opiates like oxycodone, and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) medications like Ritalin and Adderall.4
Is Meth Safe?
Methamphetamine is an unsafe drug, despite the fact that it is in the same category as some prescription medications. In fact, the DEA considers drugs under the Schedule II category to be dangerous, because of the high potential for abuse.4 The DEA recognizes that meth abuse and addiction is highly problematic and continues to place methamphetamine in this dangerous category.
With the government classifying methamphetamine as an unsafe, illegal drug, street names have been developed. These street names include the following:3
How is Meth Used?
There are also a variety of ways that the drug is used, including being smoked in a glass pipe, snorted in powder form, or combined with liquid to convert it to an injectable form. In some cases, pills are ingested.1
Danger From Second-Hand Smoke
An unfortunate reality of smoking meth is that it can cause others to inhale the drug. In fact, there is evidence that second-hand exposure to smoke from the drug can cause innocent bystanders to test positive for the drug, even if they have not directly used it.1 This obviously creates risks for children or others living in a home where methamphetamine is abused.
Dangers From Injection
Injecting the drug with a needle can be especially harmful to the body. A study in a 2007 edition of the American Journal on Addictions found that those who injected methamphetamine struggled more in rehab, were less likely to complete treatment, and were more likely to relapse within a year after completing treatment when compared with smoking or snorting the drug.5
In the same study, those who injected meth also had more brain damage and more health problems when compared to others. While all forms of use are dangerous, it appears that injecting and smoking are both especially risky, given the harm to both self and others. That being said, recovery is possible no matter the substance or method of use.
Effects of Meth
As indicated in the research, it can be difficult to recovery from methamphetamine use disorder; there are also short-term consequences associated with abuse. Among these are loss of appetite, high blood pressure, elevated body temperature, increased rate of breathing, fast or abnormal heartbeat, hyperactivity, and difficulty falling asleep.1
Short-term side effects of methamphetamine can worsen over time and create long-term consequences. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), there are numerous lasting side effects linked to methamphetamine abuse:1
Elevated risk of HIV, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C
Severe weight loss from appetite reduction
Confusion and problems with memory
Brain damage, which causes problems with coordination, learning, and emotion, and may increase the future risk of Parkinson’s disease
Ongoing sleep problems
Itchy skin, which leads to open wounds from scratching
Psychotic tendencies, such as paranoia and hallucinations
Can You Overdose On Methamphetamine?
In addition to the serious long-term consequences mentioned above, meth abuse and addiction can lead to overdose. Consequences of overdose include stroke, heart attack, and organ failure. Overdose typically requires treatment in a hospital emergency room.1
Unfortunately, overdose is not uncommon. NIDA reports that research shows that in 2017, methamphetamine was responsible for 15% of drug overdose deaths in the United States. Of this 15%, half also included opiates like Fentanyl.1 Drug dealers may mix Fentanyl with meth, unknowingly to the purchaser, which increases the risk of overdose death.
Stopping Meth Use
Methamphetamine is an addictive drug, so it can be difficult to stop alone. An addiction professional should be consulted if and of the symptoms are prevalent:
Having difficulty controlling drug use
Spending a significant amount of time trying to get and use meth
Giving up other activities due to meth abuse
Stealing to get money for meth
Continuing to use despite health problems
An addiction professional will offer treatment options. With an effective treatment program, you can build a new life without meth.
It is important to be aware that when treatment is started, withdrawal symptoms may occur. These can include strong cravings for the drug, anxiety and depression, fatigue, and a state of psychosis.1
Treatment for Meth
For those struggling with meth abuse and addiction, treatment is available to help achieve a drug-free lifestyle. Depending on individual needs and the severity of the addiction, treatment may occur either on an inpatient or outpatient basis, and will typically involve both individual and group counseling.
Much of the treatment for meth addiction involves behavioral methods, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, which teaches people to manage stressors that may trigger relapse. Another behavioral therapy that may be effective is contingency management, in which people receive rewards to motivate sobriety.
Meth may be a dangerous drug, but with treatment, there is hope for a new future. If you’re struggling with methamphetamine abuse and addiction, reach out to a professional today to begin a journey to recovery.