Crystal Meth Treatment – Different Levels of Care

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), some 1.2 million people used methamphetamine, or meth, in 2012. This means that it is a very significant problem but, nevertheless, help is available. Again, NIDA has reported on this.

“The most effective treatments for methamphetamine addiction at this point are behavioral therapies. Although medications have proven effective in treating some substance use disorders, there are currently no medications that counteract the specific effects of methamphetamine or that prolong abstinence from and reduce the abuse of methamphetamine by an individual addicted to the drug.”

How to Encourage Treatment

It is usually the people around an addicted loved one who want that person to get the help that he or she needs. In the past, drug users were simply confronted with their behavior and were told to go into treatment “or else”. However, it has been observed that this leads to poor outcomes and that providing the user with support and love is far more effective. This is why most professionals now believe in the CRAFT (Community Reinforcement and Family Training) model.

“Increase family compliance with an intervention for persons with substance abuse in order to increase the rate of engagement of those addicted individuals in treatment The specific procedures involved in CRAFT include motivation building, functional analysis, contingency management training, communication skills training, treatment entry training, immediate treatment entry, life enrichment, and safety training.”

Research has shown that CRAFT successfully encourages people to seek treatment in 70% of cases. Its main tips are:

  • To provide activities away from substance abuse
  • To have a positive attitude in interpersonal exchanges
  • To reward non-drug-using behaviors
  • To not interfere with natural negative consequences, such as the user spending less time with loved ones

It should be noted that if you plan to approach users about their meth addiction, you should never do so when they are under the influence. Talk to them when they are sober and tell them how you feel and how hard it has been to watch them deteriorate. Use “I” statements and don’t say anything judgmental. The most important thing is that you show that you care for your addicted loved one.


Treatment Options for Crystal Meth

Crystal meth treatment starts with a period of detox, during which time the addicted person is supported in becoming “clean”.  After detox, some of the treatment options for substance abuse are:

  • Residential care
  • Partial hospitalization
  • Intensive outpatient care
  • Outpatient care
  • 12-step programs and support groups

Some of the key elements of recovery are:


Users must learn about the nature of drug addiction, including the triggers so that they are able to recognize them and avoid them in the future. Education about drugs is one of the most important elements of recovery.

woman free from crystal meth addiction

There is hope for crystal meth addiction


Different forms of therapy can be provided. They include:

  • Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), whereby addicted people learn to recognize their own behaviors and how to change them
  • Contingency management (CM), whereby users are rewarded for staying sober and taking part in treatment
  • Family therapy, whereby the family can learn to heal and support each other again

12-Step Programs

There are various 12-step programs available, with the best-known being Narcotics Anonymous (NA). These groups are based on fellowship, encouraging people to share information with others in the same situation. They are run by members rather than professionals.

Drug Testing

This is generally provided together with other forms of treatment and used particularly in CM therapy, or other behavior-reward forms of treatment.


Whether users choose to go to inpatient or outpatient rehab becomes important only after they have gone through a period of detox. The relapse rates for meth addiction are incredibly high, particularly among those who go through detox unsupported. This is why it is so important for patients to find a medical center to help them during this difficult period.

Detox is both psychological/emotional and physical. Severe anhedonia, or the inability to feel pleasure, is the key feature of withdrawal. This is because meth floods the brain with dopamine with the result that without the drug, the level of dopamine would be very low.

Residential or Inpatient Treatment

Residential treatment is recommended for people who suffer from a severe meth addiction. These treatment centers provide a safe and secure environment in which addicted people can focus solely on their recovery. It does mean living away from home, however, which can be difficult for some. For those who cannot function properly without using drugs, these inpatient facilities are the best option.

Partial Hospitalization

Partial hospitalization is a form of treatment that is only offered to those who also suffer from a mental illness and are hence diagnosed with a co-occurring disorder. Patients continue to live in their home environment, while attending treatment every day for a five to seven-day period. It is similar to intensive outpatient treatment, but is usually more comprehensive and focused on a specific issue such as anger management or parallel process addiction.

Intensive Outpatient

Intensive outpatient treatment is offered to those who do not require detox, but do require more intensive therapeutic intervention than they would receive through regular outpatient services. In terms of meth addiction, intensive outpatient treatment is usually offered to those who suffer from PAWS. This is also provided to those who have already gone through detox and are in the aftercare stages of their care, but encounter a dangerous relapse situation several months down the line.


Outpatient treatment is delivered to those who have a minor to mild addiction and need to stay at home due to other responsibilities. This treatment sometimes takes place seven days a week, often for eight hours per day. Depending on the level of addiction and the progress made, the length of time can be reduced.

A Timeline of Treatment

Meth treatment usually follows a specific pattern:

  1. Taking the addiction history of the patient
  2. Going through detox
  3. Psychological therapy to help understand the root cause of the problem
  4. Provision of therapy and treatment for any associated conditions
  5. Aftercare

Withdrawal symptoms

Common withdrawal symptoms experienced during detox include:

  • Feeling “out of sync”
  • Having no energy
  • Not having motivation
  • Loss of libido
  • Depression
  • Itchy, red eyes
  • Insomnia
  • Hunger
  • Paranoia
  • Extreme craving for meth
  • Suicidal tendencies

Several factors can influence how an individual will experience withdrawal, including:

  • The user’s personality
  • The methods used in taking meth
  • The length of time the drug was taken
  • The dosage of the drug
  • How the user stopped using the drug

Most people go through detox within a 21-day period, peaking at around day two to five, and resolving from day 14 onwards.

With some drugs, medication can be used to help people go through detox. Unfortunately, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not yet approved any medication for this purpose. That said, some rehab centers will provide patients with:

  • Dexamphetamine, which is similar to methadone’s effects on heroin users
  • Naloxone, which helps to reduce cravings
  • Chantix (varenicline), which helps to reduce cravings
  • Wellbutrin (bupropion), which is an antidepressant
  • Modafinil, which increases concentration and wakefulness

Of particular interest at present is Naltrexone, which the University of California Los Angeles is currently studying as a medication to help in the treatment of meth addiction.

“The first study in the United States of Naltrexone’s effect on methamphetamine users has found that this medication, approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of alcoholism, is potentially a very promising treatment for methamphetamine addiction, researchers report.”

Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS)

Unfortunately, crystal meth detox can have long-term effects, including PAWS. Not every patientwill experience it, but it is quite common. Symptoms of PAWS include:

  • Chronic and recurring depression
  • Periods of anxiety and restlessness
  • Motivation problems
  • Periods of major dissatisfaction with life
  • Meth cravings

After detox, people will be educated about the possibility of PAWS and what they should do if they experience it.

Staying Sober

It is vital for recovering meth addicts to receive extensive aftercare once they have completed their treatment. This can include moving into a sober living facility, continuing with outpatient rehab, receiving independent counseling and therapy, attending support groups and 12-step meetings, and more.

If you need more information our hotline is answered by people who understand addiction and can provide guidance.  Our phones are answered 24/7.  The call is free. 877-794-9934