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Meth Addiction, Abuse, and Treatment

Methamphetamine is another drug that has surpassed its intended purpose, but not in a good way.  Today, more than 1.6 million people use meth for recreational purposes and meth addiction and overdoses have increased.  For instance, in 2020, more than 16,500 fatal overdoses involved meth and other stimulants.

As a stimulant, meth was once prescribed to help people manage depression, lethargy, and obesity.  The brand names were Desoxyn or Methedrine.  Doctors prescribed the drugs to give their patients a sense of increased energy and alertness.  This specific attribute of the drug was popular among truck drivers because it helped them stay awake while driving.  

Through the years, methamphetamine abuse expanded to include housewives, college students, business executives, and anyone else who wanted a little extra boost.  Today, limited doses of methamphetamine are used to treat ADHD.  However, it is rarely prescribed.

Among the many addictive drugs in the US today, meth addiction and abuse cause more violent crime than any other.  Studies show that meth users are more likely to have committed violence in the past 12 months.  The highly addictive nature of meth will cause a person to do almost anything to obtain more of the drug.  They will commit theft, burglary, prostitution, bribery, or any method that will allow them to fund their addiction.

What is Methamphetamine and How Is It Produced?

Methamphetamine is a Schedule II controlled substance, according to the DEA. This means that the drug is illegal for recreational purposes and has a high potential for misuse.  In the early 20th century, meth was developed from its parent drug, amphetamine.  It is a stimulant that works by increasing activity in the central nervous system, giving the user a sense of well-being.

Street names for methamphetamine include meth, crank, speed, crystal, ice, and tweak among others. 

Meth is an odorless powder that can be dissolved in water for injection.  In crystal form, it can be smoked.  Pill forms are used for oral ingestion.

Criminal organizations in Mexico produce the majority of illegal meth.   Manufacturing meth involves using over-the-counter cold and allergy drugs that contain pseudoephedrine. For this reason, Congress passed the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act in 2005.  This act requires pharmacies to limit the number of pseudoephedrine products a person purchases per day.

Illicit production of meth is a problem in the US as well.  Surprisingly, the first illegal meth lab was discovered in the US more than 40 years ago.  Since then, clandestine meth labs may be found anywhere.  For instance, they can be set up in garages, alleys, abandoned buildings, or basements to name a few.  The labs are environmental hazards due to the toxic chemicals used.  Some of the chemicals include anhydrous ammonia, acetone, lithium, and red phosphorus.

What Are the Effects of Meth Abuse and Addiction?

Describing meth as an addictive, deadly substance won’t truly help people comprehend the devastation this drug causes in a person’s life. The reasons for meth abuse and addiction are complex.  No one consciously decides to become a meth addict.  Their decision to experiment with the drug starts a process that, in some cases, causes addiction with only one use.

The physical and psychological effects of meth use vary with each person, but the most common effects are:

  • Feelings of pleasure
  • Increased physical activity
  • Sociability, talkativeness
  • Alertness, wakefulness
  • Lowered inhibitions
  • Confusion, delusions, hallucinations
  • Agitation, bizarre behavior
  • Decreased appetite, weight loss

Repeated meth abuse can result in a “blunting” of emotions.  This means the individual becomes less aware of their feelings.  This is the desired effect for people who want to escape painful emotions or difficult situations in their lives.  In time, this effect leads the user to need more of the drug just to feel normal.

Health Consequences of Meth Addiction

While meth users are busy enjoying the physical effects of the drug, their bodies are suffering health issues.  Some of the health problems can be permanent.  The short and long term physical and mental health problems caused by meth abuse can include the following:

  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Increased heart rhythm.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Heavy sweating, hyperthermia.
  • Sensations of extreme heat or cold.
  • “Meth sores” that cause infection and scarring.
  • “Meth mouth” or the decaying of the teeth and gums.
  • Sexual dysfunction and loss of libido.
  • Poor motor skills and repetitive motor activity.
  • Impaired memory and decision-making. 

Meth addiction also increases the risk of infectious disease.  In fact, the risk is high for meth users whether they inject the drug or not.  This side effect can be due to meth-induced poor judgment or lowered inhibitions.  These issues can lead to unprotected sex and other risky behaviors.

What Can We Do to Prevent Meth Abuse?

An increasing number of community-based and government-sponsored prevention campaigns now focus on meth prevention. The goal of these programs is to help people make healthier choices and provide the education and support needed.  

Also, law enforcement agencies focus more on the violent offenders who supply meth. Plus, supplying sterile syringes will reduce the spread of infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDs, STDs, or hepatitis B or C.  

After-school programs will keep young kids off the streets and away from drug-related activities.  Kids who attend these programs are less likely to develop substance use problems.  They are more likely to remain in school and less likely to engage in crime or other dangerous behavior.  Also, increased educational and employment opportunities for adults will reduce drug abuse, improve lives, and promote economic growth in the community.  

What is the Right Treatment Program for Meth Addiction?

Overcoming methamphetamine addiction presents challenges that call for a unique treatment regimen.  Treatment should focus on the specific needs of these individuals.  Each year, ten million Americans need substance abuse treatment but do not receive it.  Therefore, expanding access to affordable, effective treatment will be a positive step toward reducing meth abuse. 

As with any drug addiction, meth addiction has no easy cure.  The process of going from drug abuse to drug-free requires commitment, determination, and professional intervention.  Meth is a potent substance that produces intense withdrawal symptoms when withheld.  The symptoms force the individual to seek more of the drug to avoid the discomfort or pain of withdrawal.  So, it’s not likely a person can quit meth abuse without professional treatment.  

Overcome Meth Addiction with Help from Cycles of Change Recovery

A professional treatment program should offer medically supervised detox that focuses on the specific complexities of each addiction, including meth addiction.  At Cycles of Change Recovery, our skilled staff ensures the comfort and safety of our patients during their withdrawal process.  After detox, clients progress through a rehabilitation program to gain the skills needed for lasting sobriety.

While in our facility, clients benefit from individualized programs that offer a variety of options best suited to their needs.  Our clients take part in classes and activities such as:

  • Counseling
  • Progress evaluations
  • Addiction education
  • Relapse prevention resources
  • Family involvement
  • Building relationships
  • Improving essential life skills
  • Nutritional guidance and education
  • Aftercare programs

Our goal is to help individuals regain the self-esteem and confidence they need to maintain a substance-free lifestyle.  As they go forward after treatment, these vital tools will help them stay on track and enjoy their life to the fullest.  

Learn more about our accredited programs, our staff, and our Palmdale, CA  facility.  Then make the call that will change your life for the better.  We’re here to help you succeed in rescuing your life from the destructive force of meth addiction.

Sources:

  • drugabuse.gov – What is the Scope of Methamphetamine Misuse in the United States?
  • nytimes.com – In Shadow of Pandemic, US Drug Overdose Deaths Resurge to Record