Crystal Meth Addiction
Crystal meth is a highly addictive substance that powerfully affects the central nervous system. It is an illegal drug and classified as a Schedule II drug. This drug, as the name implies, is in the form of a crystal that is usually semi-transparent white or blue in color. It is heated and then smoked, often using a glass pipe, although other means can be used. It is preferred because it offers the fastest way to get the substance into the bloodstream and into the brain, which makes it the most dangerous kind of methamphetamine.
What Is Crystal Meth Addiction?
Crystal meth provides feelings of pleasure, reward and euphoria by causing an increase in the amounts of serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine in the brain. At the same time, it activates the central nervous and the cardiovascular systems. What makes the user crave for more is that the brain is left with low levels of dopamine afterwards so that user has to use the drug again to boost the dopamine levels.
Users will become far more physically active; experience an increase in blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature; have dilated pupils; sweat a lot; lose appetite; suffer from insomnia; and potentially become irritable and paranoid. They may experience tremors and feel nauseous. They may also engage in repetitive behaviors, clench their jaws uncontrollably, and experience headaches.
Not long after starting to use, they will develop the dreaded “meth mouth”, caused by tooth decay due to dehydration, malnutrition, and jaw clenching. They will lose extreme amounts of weight, and they will start to pick at their own skin, which happens because they often feel as if bugs are crawling under their skin. Too often, users suffer a stroke or cardiac arrest, and these may even lead to death.
Those who do not overdose or otherwise die are likely to experience significant long-term health problems, including:
- Eye damage and visual impairment
- Microvascular hemorrhage
- Markedly disrupted sleeping patterns
- Reproductive health problems
- Mood disorders
- Dental health problems
- Impaired sexual performance and motivation
Statistics on Crystal Meth Addiction
The statistics on crystal meth addiction are worrisome. One significant study on statistics was the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), as commissioned by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
“NSDUH asks respondents aged 12 or older about their past year use of alcohol, tobacco, and several illicit drugs: marijuana, cocaine (including crack), heroin, hallucinogens, inhalants, and methamphetamine. Except for data that are collected on the use of alcohol in combination with the misuse of prescription drugs in the past month – 1.7 million people used methamphetamine.”
Besides showing that over 1.7 million people over the age of 12 have reported to have used meth in 2015, of which 900,000 had reported having used the drug in the past 30 days, the survey also showed that men were twice as likely to use meth than women.
Other reports have also been released to further examine the extent of the problem, including:
- The Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) Report, showing that 13% of all emergency room visits relating to drugs involved meth in 2011.
- The Monitoring the Future Study, which showed that between 2012 and 2015, there had been a decline in the number of young people who use meth.
Crystal Meth Withdrawal Symptoms
People addicted to crystal meth will go through withdrawal when they stop using it. What makes the process of deciding to become sober very difficult is that the withdrawal symptoms can be so severe that users would rather keep on using the drug than suffer from those symptoms. In fact, one report titled, <a href=”https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=mcketin+mates” rel=”no follow”>Evaluating the Impact of Community-Based Treatment Options on Methamphetamine Use: Findings from the Methamphetamine Treatment Evaluation Study (MATES)</a>, indicates that relapse rates for crystal meth addiction are as high as 86% during the first year, which rises further to 94% during the first 3 years.
“The greatest impact was for abstinence: for every 100 residential rehabilitation clients there was a gain of 33 being continuously abstinent at 3 months, with this falling to 14 at 1 year and 6 at 3 years.”
Being prepared for the symptoms of meth withdrawal and having the proper (medical) support available to help manage them, are both of key importance to the success of any detox process. Detox is necessary before treatment can begin, not in the least because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration currently does not approve any medication for the treatment of meth addiction.
The most common associated symptoms with meth withdrawal include:
- Increased appetite
- Incoherent speech
- Loss of motivation
- Itchy, red eyes
- Suicidal thoughts, although rare
There is an accepted timeline for meth withdrawal, although there would be variations depending on the individual involved. The average timeline is:
- Withdrawal starts around 24 hours after the latest use of the drug, staying very intense for around three days, during which time users will feel depressed and highly fatigued.
- Around day four, users will start to experience more complex symptoms. These include incredibly strong cravings and severe mood swings. Users find it very difficult to stay motivated or to concentrate on anything for longer than a few minutes. Heavy users may also experience extreme anxiety, hallucinations, and paranoia. This usually lasts until around day 10.
- Around day 11, most people stop being fatigued but they start to suffer from insomnia. They continue to experience cravings and to feel depressed. This usually lasts until around the one month mark.
- After one month, most people start to feel better. Depression usually remains but cravings become less intense and less regular.
In some cases, users will also experience post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). This can happen at any point after they have gone through detox and recovery and this can lead to chronic depression, lack of motivation, loss of libido, and returned cravings. PAWS does not happen to everybody, but it is very important to be aware that it can.
How to Get Help
There are a number of treatment options available for meth addiction and it is important that those are geared towards the specific needs of the patient. All treatment has to start with detox, preferably under the supervision of trained medical staff. This will help avoid the situation where the withdrawal symptoms are so severe that the patient goes back to using the drug.
At this point in time, there is no one single model that is accepted as the best form of treatment for meth addiction. This is partly due to the fact that users feel no pleasure in anything and are highly likely to relapse due to the long period of time in which they feel depressed and continue to experience cravings. Additionally, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not yet approved any medication to support meth recovery, although research is ongoing.
That being said, some forms of treatment have been shown to be somewhat effective, including:
- Contingency management (CM), whereby rewards and incentives are used for abstinence, therapy participation, and drug tests
- Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), whereby therapists help users to identify their triggers and teach them new methods of responding other than using the drug
- The Matrix Model, which is a combination of CM and CBT, as well as 12-step programs and prevention education, delivered over an intensive 16-week period.
According to SAMHSA:
“There are various treatment options for methamphetamine users. These include inpatient hospitalization for severe cases of long-term methamphetamine dependence, and outpatient treatment with behavioral therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy, contingency management, and the Matrix Model.”
If you, or someone you care about, is currently battling a crystal meth dependency or addiction, be assured that help is out there. You can call any of the telephone numbers on this website and these will be answered by people who are knowledgeable in the treatment methods and who really care. Call Now 877-794-9934
Learn more about treatment options in our special report Crystal Meth Treatment.