Methamphetamine abuse has been on the rise in America, especially as it can be produced by homemade labs using common over-the-counter ingredients such as pseudoephedrine, an ingredient in some cold and allergy medications.  In 2008, the United States government estimated that roughly 13 million Americans abused methamphetamine and related stimulants.  Its widespread use and availability have prompted governmental regulations to limit methamphetamine production.  For example, over-the-counter medications containing pseudoephedrine must be purchased from the pharmacist, in limited supplies, and stores selling these drugs must maintain a record of their sale.  However, most methamphetamines come from Mexico, so abuse continues to plague American communities.  But help is available for people who struggle with meth abuse and addiction.  The meth recovery process is not easy, but with proper treatment and support, meth addiction can be overcome.  The experienced staff of a treatment facility can guide addicts through the stages of meth recovery until sobriety is achieved.

What is Meth?

Methamphetamine, or meth, is a stimulant drug, meaning that it speeds up all processes in the body.  Meth can be found as a pill, a bitter, white powder, or as crystal meth, which looks like glass fragments or bluish-white rocks.  People take meth by swallowing it, snorting it, smoking it, or dissolving it with water in order to inject it.  Once in the body, meth moves to the brain, where it causes a rush of dopamine.  Dopamine is a brain chemical that causes feelings of pleasure.  In normal situations, dopamine production is stimulated by health behaviors such as eating delicious food or spending time with friends–the good feelings that dopamine produces reinforce these behaviors.  When a person uses meth, the amount of dopamine that floods the brain creates a euphoric high that reinforces future meth abuse.

Effects of Meth Abuse

In the short-term, meth stimulate the body, causing side effects such as:

  • Increased wakefulness and activity
  • Decreased appetite
  • Rapid breathing
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased body temperature

Some people will continuously take meth every few hours in order to stay up for days on end, known as a “run.”

The long-term effects of meth abuse are disturbing and potentially life-threatening, including:

  • Meth mouth: extreme dental damage
  • Intense itching, causing sores from chronic scratching
  • Extreme weight loss
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Sleep loss
  • Violent behavior
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Emotional and cognitive problems
  • Increased risk of Parkinson’s disease
  • Increased risk of HIV, hepatitis, and other bloodborne pathogens
  • More rapid progression and more severe consequences of HIV infection

Stages of Meth Recovery

For those seeking to end their addiction to meth, professional treatment offers the best chance of full rehabilitation.  Experienced professionals can offer the support needed during the meth recovery process.  Entering an in-patient program removes the stresses of daily life and access to drugs, allowing the addict to focus on rehab without distractions or temptations.  People working toward sobriety will typically pass through the following four stages of meth recovery: Assessment and Planning, Detox, Therapy, and Aftercare.

Assessment and Planning

In this stage, the patient will meet with members of a treatment team to assess the addiction and plan a treatment approach.  The team will talk to the patient to understand the depth of the addiction, psychological factors underlying the addiction, and the patient’s motivation to change.  Understanding each patient’s history can help the team create a personalized treatment approach.

Detox

Detoxification is the most physically uncomfortable part of treatment, but it is absolutely essential for future sobriety.  Once the patient stops using meth, he or she will enter detox, allowing all traces of the drug to leave the body.  Unfortunately, this process will trigger the discomfort of withdrawal, which will begin within a few hours of the last use and can continue for days.  Symptoms of withdrawal include:

  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Severe depression
  • Psychosis
  • Intense drug cravings

Because of the severity of these symptoms, detox and withdrawal can be a very challenging time for the patient.  It will be very tempting to relapse into meth abuse in order to relieve the withdrawal symptoms.  For that reason, it is best to undergo detox under the supervision of a treatment program, where the patient can be supervised and supported to remain in treatment.  Holistic approaches can ease these symptoms through the use of infused water, vitamins, exercise, and sauna sessions.

Therapy

Therapy aims to understand why the individual turned to drug abuse in the first place and prepare the patient to return home while remaining sober.  A trained team will help the individual address the psychological issues underlying the addiction through a combination of individual, group, and family therapy.  Therapy can also help the addict understand what triggers his or her addiction, such as stress or anxiety,  and learn new, healthy ways of coping.  Cognitive-behavioral therapy, which helps the patient recognize, avoid, and cope with situations that are most likely to trigger drug use, has proven especially beneficial to meth addicts.

Aftercare

The last phase in the meth recovery timeline is aftercare.  Aftercare begins when an addict in recovery leaves inpatient rehab.  This is a critical time with a high rate of relapse as the patient returns to the “real world,” with all of its stressors and temptations.  It can be difficult to adjust to the rhythms of family life after months in a treatment center.  Old friends may offer temptations to relapse.  The support of aftercare improves the chances the individual will be able to maintain sobriety.  This may come in the form of drug tests in order to hold the individual accountable, groups such as Narcotics Anonymous to provide support from other addicts in recovery, and meeting with a counselor to provide individual support.  Creating and maintaining a strong sober network is critical in maintaining sobriety in the long-term, because recovery is a process with no end.

If you or someone you love struggles with meth addiction, help is available.  Call our toll-free number today to begin the meth recovery process.  We can find the treatment program that is right for you.