October 25, 2023

Meth Addiction: Signs, Effects, & Treatment

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Meth is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance by the DEA (United States Drug Enforcement Administration), and is associated with a substantial risk of abuse and the development of severe physical dependency and addiction. Today, you will learn:

  • Is meth addictive?
  • Why is meth so addictive?
  • What is meth abuse disorder?
  • How to connect with meth addiction treatment in California.

How Addictive is Meth?

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Methamphetamine, also known as meth or crystal meth, is highly addictive. The substance affects the CNS (central nervous system), leading to a powerful and often irresistible craving for the drug. Crystal meth addiction is one of the most damaging of all drug addictions.

Withdrawal from methamphetamine can be particularly challenging and includes symptoms like anxiety, severe depression, psychosis, fatigue, and intense drug cravings.

The emotional lows and severe drug cravings associated with meth use make relapse highly likely, so stay vigilant and seek addiction treatment if required. Individuals recovering from meth addiction may need ongoing support to form healthy habits, develop new brain connections, and learn relapse prevention strategies

Signs of Meth Addiction

DSM-5-TR (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition, Text Revision), outlines specific criteria for diagnosing meth addiction (stimulant use disorder) based on the presence of at least two meth addiction symptoms within a 12-month period. The severity of the disorder is classified as mild, moderate, or severe based on the number of criteria met. These are the DSM symptoms of methamphetamine addiction:

  1. Taking meth in larger amounts or for longer than planned.
  2. Trying and failing to discontinue use of methamphetamine.
  3. Spending lots of time obtaining and using meth or recovering from its after-effects.
  4. Cravings for methamphetamine.
  5. Recurrent use of meth even though it’s triggering a neglect of personal and professional obligations.
  6. Ongoing stimulant use even though it’s causing or worsening social and interpersonal problems.
  7. Giving up or reducing activities because of meth use.
  8. Habitual use of stimulants in dangerous situations.
  9. Using methamphetamine even though it is causing or inflaming a physical or psychological condition.
  10. Tolerance, meaning that more meth is required to deliver the initial effects.
  11. Withdrawal symptoms presenting upon discontinuation.

The severity of addiction to meth is classified as follows:

  • Mild: Two or three symptoms.
  • Moderate: Four or five symptoms.
  • Severe: Six or more symptoms.

These criteria allow healthcare professionals to diagnose and assess the severity of stimulant use disorder, enabling appropriate treatment and intervention for those who are addicted to meth.

image of man representing meth addiction symptoms

Effects of Meth Addiction

Methamphetamine, commonly known as meth, is a highly addictive stimulant that has both short-term and long-term effects on those who misuse it. These effects can have severe physical, psychological, and social consequences for meth addicts.

Short-Term Effects of Meth

  • Increased alertness: Methamphetamine is a potent stimulant that can increase wakefulness and alertness, leading to a sense of heightened energy.
  • Elevated heart rate and blood pressure: Meth use can cause a rapid heart rate, irregular heartbeat, and increased blood pressure, putting stress on the cardiovascular system.
  • Decreased appetite: Many people experience reduced appetite when using meth, leading to potential weight loss.
  • Insomnia: The stimulating effects of meth can interfere with normal sleep patterns, triggering insomnia and sleep disturbances.
  • Anxiety and paranoia: Methamphetamine use can result in feelings of anxiety and paranoia, contributing to psychological distress.
  • Aggression and violence: Some people may become aggressive and exhibit violent behavior under the influence of meth.
  • Psychotic symptoms: Short-term use may lead to psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia.

Long-Term Effects of Meth

A meth addict is likely to experience many long-term complications to physical and mental health.

  • Dependence and addiction: Long-term methamphetamine use often leads to dependence and addiction, a chronic condition driven by compulsive drug seeking and use.
  • Cognitive impairment: Prolonged meth use can impair cognitive function, affecting memory, attention, and decision-making.
  • Psychiatric disorders: Individuals may develop psychiatric disorders such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder as a result of methamphetamine misuse.
  • Dental issues: Meth use can lead to chronic dental problems, often described as meth mouth, an informal term for meth addict teeth, gum disease, and tooth loss.
  • Skin sores: People who are meth addicted may develop skin sores due to the hallucination-driven picking and scratching common with meth use.
  • Cardiovascular problems: Chronic meth use can contribute to cardiovascular issues, including stroke and heart attack.
  • Psychosis: Long-term methamphetamine abuse may result in persistent psychotic symptoms, further impacting mental health.

What can you do if you or a loved one needs help for meth addiction, then?

Treatment for Meth Addiction

Methamphetamine addiction is a chronic and complex condition, but there are effective treatments available to help individuals overcome it.

Behavioral therapy is considered a first-line treatment for meth addiction. Common examples used to treat stimulant use disorders are CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and CM (contingency management). CBT helps individuals identify and change harmful behaviors, manage cravings, and develop coping skills. CM provides incentives for positive behaviors and abstinence from meth use.

While there are no FDA-approved medications specifically for meth addiction, some research trials have explored the use of medications like naltrexone and bupropion to reduce cravings and support recovery. MAT may be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Meth addiction treatment can be delivered through inpatient (residential) or outpatient programs. Inpatient treatment provides a structured environment with 24/7 support, while outpatient programs offer more flexibility for those with less severe addictions.

One-on-one counseling and therapy sessions with trained professionals can help address underlying issues contributing to addiction and provide emotional support. Involving family members in the recovery process can be beneficial. Family therapy and education can help loved ones better understand addiction and provide more targeted support. Many people benefit from holistic therapies such as yoga, meditation, and art therapy, which can promote overall well-being and stress reduction.

Support groups like NA (Narcotics Anonymous) or SMART Recovery can be invaluable for those in addiction recovery. They provide a sense of community, peer support, and a platform to share experiences.

After completing formal treatment, people often benefit from ongoing aftercare and relapse prevention programs to maintain their sobriety. The most effective approach may vary from person to person, though, and a personalized treatment plan is often the most successful. Seeking help from healthcare professionals and addiction specialists is crucial for individuals struggling with meth addiction.

An image of a woman using addiction hotline's to find treatment for meth addiction

Call Our Addiction Hotline Now to Get Help with Meth Addiction

While meth addiction may be highly aggravating, all stimulant use disorders respond favorably to evidence-based treatment. Call our 24 hour addiction hotline for immediate assistance and guidance finding treatment for meth addiction in California.

Remember that all addictions are progressive conditions. This means that the sooner you engage with treatment, the more straightforward your recovery should be. Call 855-701-0479 today and get help right away.

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