Methamphetamine Addiction Treatment
Methamphetamine is one of the most powerful and addictive substances available, and its use has become an epidemic in recent years. While it’s often been associated with impoverished rural communities, the truth is that methamphetamine has spread to every corner of the U.S., and meth can now be found in urban, rural, poverty-stricken, and affluent neighborhoods alike. The National Institute on Drug Abuse found that, in 2021, more than 1.6 million people had suffered from methamphetamine use disorder within the last year. Due to the ease of making it in home labs, it’s also one of the cheapest illegal drugs on the market, and its contamination with substances like acetate and mercury can render a single dose deadly Genesis House is dedicated to helping patients overcome meth addiction as well as the trauma and mental health conditions that can lead to its abuse. We’re here with you every step of the way, from the first night of detox to lasting wellness and sobriety.
What Methamphetamine Does to the Body
The effects of meth use can be overwhelming and euphoric at first, but a darker side quickly reveals itself as the addiction takes hold. Methamphetamine works by sabotaging the brain’s natural chemistry: instead of feeling small, normal bursts of satisfaction here and there as you go about the day, meth’s high forces your brain to release all of its reserves of dopamine and norepinephrine at once. Dopamine regulates your sense of pleasure and accomplishment while norepinephrine triggers the fight-or-flight response: together, they can create a giddy rush of energy. But it comes at the expense of your everyday life. Once the brain is depleted of those neurotransmitters, its ability to process emotions is damaged, and a user starts craving more of the drug to stave off the deeper and deeper depression that results afterward. At first, more of the drug’s needed just to feel the same high as before, but as the brain gradually stops producing dopamine, meth’s needed just to feel any emotion. This can make it almost impossible to stop using methamphetamine without medical treatment.
Some of the most famous and disturbing symptoms of meth use are “meth mouth,” or rotting teeth and mouth ulcers, and skin infections and open sores on the face. Such symptoms don’t come from methamphetamine itself but from its changes to the brain. People suffering from meth addiction typically lose interest in their oral hygiene, bathing, and a healthy diet since the brain can no longer feel any sense of reward from them, and so small cuts and sores that would have otherwise healed on their own start to fester. These effects can, however, be reversed with medical treatment and a successful recovery from meth addiction.
Dual Diagnosis: Treating the Root of the Problem
Addiction is an illness with its own treatment strategies, but it also touches on and emerges from every facet of a person’s life. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health has found that almost half of all people suffering from addiction are also struggling with a co-occurring mental condition. In many cases, drug addiction begins as a way of trying to self-medicate the symptoms of a disorder that’s gone untreated. For instance, an individual with clinical depression might turn to substance abuse as a coping mechanism while someone with ADHD may start relying on stimulants to help them focus on everyday tasks. In the long run, such self-medication strategies always do more harm than good: the addiction and mental illness can ensnare the person in a vicious circle that’s only broken by treating them both.
Here are just some of the mental health conditions that can fuel a substance use disorder:
- Mood Disorders
People suffering from a mood disorder such as depression or bipolar disorder are particularly vulnerable to trying to self-medicate with addictive substances like methamphetamine in an effort to regulate their emotions.
- Anxiety Disorders
Such mental health conditions as social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can lead individuals to develop a substance disorder as a way to cope with the underlying illness.
- Other Disorders
Such far-ranging conditions as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, borderline personality disorder, and schizophrenia can have powerful effects that sometimes drive patients to drug addiction while trying to find relief from the symptoms.
How Addiction Can Change the Brain
In other cases, the addiction itself can give rise to a mental illness that needs treatment alongside the substance use disorder. Long-term meth abuse, for example, can lead to psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations and persistent delusions. Some of the correlations between addictive substances and the mental illnesses they can spark include:
- Meth Addiction and Psychosis
- Prescription Drug Addiction and Anxiety
- Alcoholism and Depression
- Marijuana Addiction and Schizophrenia
- Benzodiazepines and Anxiety
- Alcoholism and Attention-Deficit Hyperactive Disorder
Dual diagnosis therapy works to overcome both sides of the addiction, utilizing evidence-based treatments such as cognitive-behavioral therapy and medication-assisted treatments to ensure that both the physical cravings and the psychological forces that might have led to substance use are properly treated, as well as the mental health impact that a substance disorder can leave behind. By treating the whole person rather than either side of the disorder alone, dual diagnosis treatments help clients recognize and avoid the triggers and emotional stressors that can lead to a relapse and enjoy a healthier, happier sober life.
To learn more about co-occurring disorders and their treatment, check out this helpful guide from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
Recovering from Meth: One Step at a Time
The first step of any addiction recovery is seeking treatment, and Genesis House is here to guide you from start to finish through the inpatient rehab process, giving you the tools, treatment options, and healthy coping strategies to maintain lifelong sobriety.
Medically Supervised Detox: Taking the First Step
The symptoms of methamphetamine withdrawal can be severe, and even dangerous without medical supervision. Medically supervised detox is the first step of rehab, a period lasting several days in which the body metabolizes and rids itself of the remaining meth and the brain begins to recover from the worst of the withdrawal effects. Treatment can begin with a focus on long-term recovery and sobriety after these symptoms subside, but the time it takes for a recovering individual to fully overcome meth withdrawal can be much longer:
- 1-2 Hours
This is when the worst of the physical symptoms appear, which can include exhaustion and impaired cognitive function. Depression is another common symptom during this period, and paranoia, anxiety, and hallucinations can also occur.
- 3-5 Days
At this point, the physical withdrawal symptoms generally subside, only to be replaced by addictive cravings. This is the withdrawal phase when a patient’s most vulnerable to relapse since the very same energy that they gain after the physical withdrawal ends is what enables them to resume using meth to relieve the cravings. Overcoming this phase is the goal of Genesis House’s medically supervised detox program.
- 2-4 Weeks
At this point, long-term rehab treatment has begun and the cravings have lessened, but psychiatric problems may begin to appear, either as a result of meth use or as an underlying mental health disorder. This is when psychiatric care and dual diagnosis treatment are vital to ending the vicious circle of addiction and mental illness.
- 1-2 Months
Post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) can occur during this period, especially after a severe or long-term meth addiction. These symptoms often include intense anxiety, mood swings, exhaustion, insomnia, and renewed meth cravings.
This timeline shows the importance of following the initial detox with a full 30-90-day rehab program. Even when the initial symptoms of withdrawal end, the road to genuine recovery can be precarious without medical care and long-term treatment.
Doing the Work: Inpatient Treatment and Therapy
Once the initial detox is complete, the focus of the treatment can shift to helping patients stop using methamphetamine while treating the underlying conditions that might accompany it and building healthy coping mechanisms for long-term sobriety. Genesis House offers a variety of evidence-based treatment programs along with holistic therapy options and luxurious amenities to make each client’s recovery journey as comfortable as possible so they can better focus on healing. Inpatient rehabilitation can last between 30 and 90 days depending on the individual’s needs, and can be followed by outpatient treatment, which allows recovering patients to continue their daily treatment program from home.
Addiction Aftercare: Continuing the Journey
Addiction is a chronic condition, one that can be managed to minimize cravings and allow people who have recovered from substance abuse to live healthy, sober lives. A robust aftercare program is key to managing the addiction, and Genesis House’s aftercare program includes 12-step programs such as Narcotics Anonymous to provide community support and a stable sobriety network as well as individual therapy, wellness resources such as alumni events and employment assistance, and online social groups for support wherever you go. Healing from meth addiction is an ongoing journey, and Genesis House offers clients the resources and support they need to maintain that journey long after rehab.
Finding Strength and Support at Genesis House
Genesis House has provided addiction treatment and support to clients in the South Florida area for over thirty years, and our experienced and caring team of medical professionals works with clients to craft an individualized treatment program that takes each person’s personal history and ongoing needs into account. Methamphetamine can be one of the most difficult substances to overcome, but recovery is possible with the proper treatment. If you or someone you care about needs help, contact us today. We’re here to help.
While the most famous symptoms of methamphetamine addiction are the physical changes that can come with personal neglect, they’re not the first signs. Meth changes the way the brain functions, which sometimes leads to drastic personality changes. These side effects can include violent aggression, obsessive behaviors, and a lack of interest in activities that the person used to enjoy. This can extend to the most basic pleasures in life, such as eating and spending time with friends and family. Other symptoms to watch out for include:
- Decreased appetite
- Insomnia and obsessive physical activity
- Increased sensitivity to noise
- Nervous tics such as scratching or picking at scabs
- Irritability, dizziness, or confusion
- Tremors or convulsions
- Chronic fatigue
- Mood swings or outbursts, including aggression and violence
If you need help talking to a family member about the dangers of methamphetamine, SAMHSA’s Tips for Teens fact sheet on meth can be a valuable resource.
While methamphetamine has a variety of physical effects, the primary mechanism for its “high” is the release of dopamine within the brain. Normally, this neurotransmitter is produced and stored within the brain and released to create a sense of satisfaction or pleasure, such as the relief of getting a good grade at school or a raise at work. Meth forces the brain to release all of its dopamine once, creating a blissful rush many times greater than would ever be ordinarily experienced. Once the high ends, though, the crash is equally low, and then there’s no dopamine left to process normal emotions. Nothing brings a sense of joy to a brain that’s in the grip of meth addiction except for meth itself, and as tolerance builds and the brain produces less dopamine, it becomes impossible to function without meth even though the drug’s causing neurological damage. Some of the changes meth brings become irreversible over time, which is why early intervention and treatment are critical to healing.
The most effective treatments for meth addiction, according to the National Institute of Health, are behavioral therapies. These evidence-based techniques include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Dialectical Behavior Therapy, and they work by teaching patients to recognize and question their hidden biases and self-defeating thought processes, and find new ways of thinking and interpreting the world around them. Such programs, combined with counseling, family therapy, and 12-step support groups, have had the best record to date when it comes to helping maintain sobriety and a healthy lifestyle. Although the acute withdrawal symptoms that come with meth detox can be medically treated, there is no medical solution to the cravings that follow. Only time and healing can weaken their addictive hold.