Factors such as previous addictions, mental health conditions, and geographic location can put users at heightened risk for becoming addicted to meth.
Signs of meth use may include trouble sleeping, loss of appetite and motivation, and mood swings that can lead to erratic and sometimes violent behavior.
There are no medications approved to treat methamphetamine addiction or the specific effects of the drug. However, there are a number of therapeutic options that have been proven to be effective in overcoming methamphetamine dependence.
Methamphetamine (meth) is a highly potent, addictive, and dangerous stimulant that can trigger dependency after just one use. By affecting the central nervous system and brain, meth leaves many users with lasting — and sometimes permanent — physical and mental scars. Fortunately, there are several treatment options, and recovery is possible.
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While anyone can quickly develop a dependence on methamphetamine, there are factors that make some people more likely than others to experience problems. People with a history of substance use disorders, whether involving alcohol or other drugs, may be more prone to developing a new addiction. And because meth can lead to psychosis and detrimental effects on the central nervous system and brain, users with a history of mental illness are at heightened risk for addiction.
Although national rates of methamphetamine use and addiction are declining each year, certain regions of the country have a greater prevalence of meth abuse, creating an environment that increases the risk of trying and becoming addicted to the drug. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, meth addiction is more common among people admitted for drug-related treatment on the West Coast, in the Southwest, and in many parts of the Midwest.
A physical dependence on methamphetamine can develop after just one use, and users can suffer from withdrawal symptoms even before the drug completely leaves their system. If you notice any of the following symptoms, you may be experiencing a dependency on meth:
Problems with meth can extend beyond addiction. When meth becomes ingrained into your daily life, it can interfere with:
If you’re concerned about your own meth use or use by a loved one, several treatment options can help you take control. Find local support to start your recovery.
Smoking (crystal meth) or injecting meth causes an immediate rush, which intensifies the potential for addiction and physical and mental health consequences. A rush lasts for only a few minutes, but it gives users feelings of pleasure.
A high follows the rush. For about four to 16 hours, depending on the drug’s purity and the amount consumed, users can become delusional, which can severely affect their behavior and mood.
Since the euphoric feelings of meth diminish before the drug leaves the body, users may try to maintain the high by taking more of the drug in a period known as bingeing. During this period, which can last for several days, many users stop eating and sleeping. As a tolerance builds, users may binge more frequently and for longer periods of time.
Tweaking refers to the point at which the drug can no longer provide a rush or a high. Users experience feelings of emptiness, paranoia, and incurable cravings, coupled with intense sensations of itchiness and the inability to sleep for extended periods of time. During this phase, users can enter a state of psychosis in which they begin to hallucinate and grow more disconnected from the world around them — potentially leading to hostile and dangerous behavior.
A crash is inevitable after a binge. The body shuts down after being exposed to so much of the drug. During a crash, users tend to sleep for multiple days.
After a crash, users can feel extremely exhausted, nauseated, and anxious, followed by experiencing severe depression. Since it can take months for meth to completely leave the body, users may begin to crave more of the drug to self-medicate against withdrawal symptoms.
Whether you are dealing with meth addiction yourself or are worried about someone else who may be using it, remember that methamphetamine treatment has been effective for many people.
It can be challenging to try to help someone who is using methamphetamine. Users may have become isolated or may demonstrate extreme changes in behavior that are difficult to handle.
If you are concerned about someone who is using meth, learn about treatment options and ways to encourage them to seek support.
The most effective treatments for meth addiction are behavioral therapies, such as cognitive-behavioral and contingency management interventions. These incorporate incentives that reward patients for engaging in treatment programs and remaining abstinent.
While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved any pharmacological solution to counteract the effects of methamphetamine, there are medications that help treat the depression as well as sleeping and eating disorders that many meth users experience. Researchers are actively pursuing more options for medication-assisted therapy.
Recovery is a lifelong process. Along with continued therapy throughout recovery, many people have found community-based support groups helpful as they adjust to life without using methamphetamine:
Crystal Meth Anonymous is a free resource for people recovering from problems with crystal meth or other drugs. CMA is a safe and open community that follows a 12-step program to support members on their journey to recovery.
The Meth Project offers information and resources for people whose lives have been affected by their relationship with a meth user. Working with the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, The Meth Project has a toll-free hotline to connect parents and loved ones with a licensed social worker. The hotline is answered Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET.