Meth Addiction: Understanding the Dangers of This Drug and Available Treatment Options
Written By: Nicole Colwell | Edited By: Editorial Team | Last Updated: March 19, 2021
Springboard Recovery provides effective treatment for substance use & mental health disorders.
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The right meth addiction treatment can change everything for someone with this addiction. It is a process to recover, but with the right support, it can be done. All that is necessary is for the addict to be willing to go through the process of recovery.
It can take a lot for a person to get to the point where they admit they have a problem with meth. But it can help to know more about the risks involved with abusing it. We want to take this opportunity to discuss methamphetamine, its dangers and why going to detox and rehab is the best solution for recovering.
What is Meth?
Methamphetamine – which is often shorted to meth or crystal meth – is a powerful stimulant drug. It has a direct impact on the central nervous system. It has the appearance of pieces of glass or shiny rocks with a blue-white hue. It is very similar to amphetamine, which is a prescription drug that is used to treat ADHD as well as a few other conditions.
Meth can be abused in many different ways. It can be:
- Snorted through the nose.
- Swallowed in pill form.
- Injecting a solution of meth powder mixed with water or alcohol.
This is an addiction that can progress quickly once it forms. The meth high tends to start and stop quickly. This can lead people to take consistent doses in a type of “binge and crash” pattern. Serious addicts will often binge on this drug for days, giving up food and sleep in order to do so.
When addicts and drug dealers refer to meth, they usually call it by one of the drug’s many street names. According to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, this drug is known on the streets as:
- Bikers Coffee
- Stove Top
In 1887, amphetamine was first made in Germany. It was not until 1919 that methamphetamine was developed in Japan. Because the powder was water-soluble, the new drug was able to be injected.
Meth was widely used by both sides during World War II to keep the soldiers awake. The Japanese would give higher doses to their Kamikaze pilots before they went on suicide missions. Once the war was over, extra methamphetamine doses became available to the public in Japan. Abuse by injection reached epidemic proportions during that period of time.
In the 1950s in the United States, meth was able to be prescribed to people as a diet aid and as a treatment for depression. College students, truck drivers and even athletes would use it as a stimulant to help their performance at that time too. By the 1960s, methamphetamine was even more readily available and abuse worsened.
Meth was not made illegal for most uses in the United States until the 1970s. Once it was illegal, motorcycle gangs took over most of the drug’s production and distribution. Today, there are frequently stories in the news about meth labs. They can be found in virtually every city across the United States.
Methamphetamine remains illegal in the United States for recreational use. Of course, that has not stopped people from abusing it, and it is still considered a common drug of abuse. But this drug does have some medical uses, which is why it is a Schedule II substance according to the DEA.
There are some doctors who will use meth as a part of a treatment program for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. It can be prescribed for both children and adults for only a limited period of time. When it is used in combination with a reduced-calorie diet and exercise, it can help with weight loss. When it is prescribed this way, it is taken in the form of a tablet by mouth.
Even when it is being used medically, meth should never be prescribed for a long time, even in lower doses. People tend to form a tolerance to it very quickly, which is one of the first signs of addiction. Many medical professionals prefer to use some of the newer, safer treatment options to treat ADHD, weight gain and other issues.
The Side Effects of Meth
People who abuse methamphetamine are doing so because of the drug’s euphoric high. They like the way the drug makes them feel, and many of the effects are quite pleasurable. People can experience the following side effects of meth even after just one use:
- A decrease in their appetite.
- More energy and reduced fatigue.
- A feeling of having more self-control and in power.
- A sense of well-being.
- An increased ability to pay attention.
- An increase in body temperature.
- A higher blood pressure than normal.
- Faster breathing.
- An irregular or faster heart rate than normal.
Meth is an incredibly powerful drug that has a profound effect on the user’s physical body. Also, because it is so potent, it may not take very long for its physical effects to become evident.
Some of the physical effects of meth include:
- Severe dental issues
- Skin problems
- Weight loss
- Heart damage
- Structural changes in the brain that may be irreversible
When people abuse methamphetamine, the high they experience is really the result of excess dopamine being released into the brain. Dopamine is a very important part of our brain’s reward system. The feeling is so good that it reinforces an internal “need” for the drug, and people will try to repeat their experiences.
But abusing meth can have a negative impact on a person’s brain, and some of the effects may be permanent. For example, methamphetamine has been known to:
- Lead to the development of mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.
- Negatively impact emotions, making them difficult to manage.
- Cause serious memory deficits to occur.
- Lead to motor and cognitive impairments.
- Cause learning difficulties and make it hard to accurately process information.
Abusing Meth: The Short and Long-Term Effects
The effects of methamphetamine can vary based on how long a person has been using this drug. People who use it for a long period of time are likely to suffer greater consequences than those who only use it for a short time. But because of its potency, even the short-term effects can be dangerous.
The short-term effects of meth include:
- Increased wakefulness
- Increased physical activity
- Decreased appetite
- Rapid heart rate
- Increased blood pressure
- Irregular heart rate
- Convulsions (in the event of an overdose)
- A rush of euphoria
The long-term effects of meth are much more serious, and they include:
- The risk of getting addicted.
- Problems experiencing pleasure without the drug.
- Withdrawal symptoms when the user stops taking the drug.
- Symptoms of anxiety.
- Bouts of confusion.
- Mood swings.
- Violent behavior.
- Both auditory and visual hallucinations.
- Impaired verbal learning abilities.
- Significant memory impairment.
- Weight loss.
- Severe dental issues.
Meth mouth is a condition that is caused by repeatedly using methamphetamine. This is a drug that can ruin a person’s teeth, and their condition is a clear indication that a person is addicted. People who have abused meth for a long time often fail to take good care of their teeth. They may consume sugary drinks like soda, which only contributes to the problem.
Some of the effects that meth can have on the mouth include:
- Bad breath
- Severe tooth decay
- Stained teeth that are brown or even black in color
- The onset of gum disease
- Dry mouth
- Pain in the jaw muscles or joints
- Loosened teeth
In some people, these effects become so severe that the problem cannot be treated. Instead, the teeth need to be completely removed. In one study that was conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse that included 500 regular meth users:
- 96% of them had cavities.
- 58% of them had untreated tooth decay.
- Only 23% of them were able to keep all of their natural teeth.
The more meth a person used, the worse the condition of their teeth was.
How do People Get Addicted to Meth?
People get addicted to meth after repeated use. But because this is such a powerful stimulant, some experts believe that addictions can happen very quickly; even as soon as after the first use.
Dopamine plays a key role in meth addiction. Over time, people get so used to using and experiencing that euphoric rush because of excess dopamine levels, their brains cannot make it without the drug. This chemical is what causes people to feel happy and content, and without it, they do not feel like themselves at all.
The need for that dopamine rush is what drives people toward meth addiction. Once they are addicted, getting treatment is typically what is needed in order for them to recover.
What are Some Signs of Methamphetamine Addiction?
There are a few signs people can look for to help them determine if someone they love is using meth. They include noticing:
- Bouts of hyperactivity.
- Loss of appetite.
- Less of a need for sleep.
- Sores on their skin from scratching it.
- Burns on the lips or fingers because of a hot meth pipe.
- Sudden mood swings.
- Angry or violent behaviors.
- Talk of suicide.
Some of the signs of addiction include:
- Being unable to stop using meth, even if a person wants to.
- Continuing to use the drug even if they are experiencing significant health problems.
- Using the drug as a way to cope with stress or other issues.
- Becoming obsessed with methamphetamine.
- Taking risks in order to obtain more of the drug or to use it.
- Denying that a problem exists.
The Scope of Meth Addiction in the United States: Facts and Statistics
The National Institute on Drug Abuse indicates that:
- In 2017, about 1.6 million people stated that they had used meth within the last year.
- 774,000 people stated that they had used it within the last month.
- In 2016, the average age of new meth users was 23.3 years old.
- In 2017, about 964,000 people aged 12 and older had a methamphetamine use disorder.
- The previous year, that number was only 684,000.
- About 0.5% of students report having used meth within the last year in 2017.
Recovering from Meth Addiction
Effectively recovering from meth addiction means getting treatment for both the physical and psychological sides of the problem. It is important for people who are addicted to this drug to go through detox and rehab for recovery.
Meth withdrawal is extremely difficult to go through; especially without treatment. Symptoms can include:
- Painful headaches.
- Muscle pain and spasms.
- Changes in appetite.
- Symptoms of anxiety.
- Insomnia and other sleep difficulties.
- Intense cravings for the drug.
Drug Rehabilitation for Meth Addiction Recovery
People who are addicted to meth also should consider going to drug rehab once they have gone through the detoxification process. This is where they will encounter various types of therapy, including individual and group sessions.
It is important to not only treat the addiction itself, but the underlying cause must also be identified and treated as well. People abuse meth for many reasons, including stress or out of boredom or curiosity. But about 50% of people who use it are doing so because they are attempting to self-medicate the effects of a co-occurring disorder.
Co-occurring disorders are common among people with drug addictions. Receiving this diagnosis indicates the presence of a mental health issue that has contributed to the person’s substance abuse in some way. There are many mental health conditions that people can try to medicate with methamphetamine, and they include:
Dual diagnosis treatment can help people who are suffering because of co-occurring disorders. This is a method of addressing both the mental health issue and the substance abuse problem at the same time. This approach offers an effective solution because it removes the person’s reason for using the drug.
SpringBoard Recovery Offers Treatment for Meth Addiction
At SpringBoard Recovery, we know how serious the need for meth addiction recovery help is. There are so many people who are suffering needlessly because of this drug. Many of them do not know where to turn to get the help they need to stop.
We offer a high-quality outpatient drug treatment program. When clients come to us for assistance, we first provide them with a detox referral so they can get help with their withdrawal symptoms. Afterward, they are ready to start rehab.
Our intensive outpatient program provides them with a lot of support, and this is the level most people begin at. The program runs for several weeks and clients come to appointments 3-5 times per week during the evening hours. This is a convenient way to get intensive treatment on a more flexible schedule.
We also work with people who live out of state. Our sober living home offers them a place to stay while they participate in our program. There are local people who choose to live in our sober living home as well simply because continuing to stay at home would not be helpful for their recovery.
Learn More About Methamphetamine Addiction and Recovery
Sometimes people with meth addictions feel as though they are stuck. They do not see a way out and they may not even believe that professional treatment will work or help them in any way. We know through experience and research that this is not the case at all. Help is available for people who are addicted to this drug, and many people have been successful.
Have you needed to get help for meth addiction? Maybe you were not sure what to expect during recovery, or perhaps you did not know where to get the help you need. Going through detox and rehab can be so beneficial and they could be the change you need to finally beat this substance abuse problem.
We are here to provide assistance to anyone who is struggling with meth addiction. Do you have questions that need to be answered, or would you like to know more about our methamphetamine treatment program? Please contact us today.