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methamphetamine abuse and addiction

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Methamphetamine, more commonly known as meth, is a powerful and highly-addictive stimulant that belongs to a larger group of drugs known as amphetamines. Amphetamines and other stimulants speed up signals between the brain and body, resulting in increased alertness and other psychoactive effects. Some amphetamines are legal for medical use.

Methamphetamine itself does have rare legal applications—usually as a treatment for ADHD or obesity. In reality, it is almost never prescribed because of its high potential for abuse.

Dependence on meth can make it incredibly hard to stop using without help, and cravings can take over a person’s life, making obtaining and using the drug their sole focus. A rehab program that addresses both the physical and psychological parts of this addiction is available here in Arizona at the Northern Arizona Center for Addiction.

what is methamphetamine?

Methamphetamine is produced both legally and illegally. The legal version is known as Desoxyn and is prescribed to patients with severe attention deficit disorder and diet-resistant obesity. The illegal form is a white, odorless powder that can be snorted, injected, or taken orally. The crystal meth form is a small, bluish-white crystal substance that can be smoked. Slang names for meth include glass, ice, crystal, and crank.

how methamphetamine affects the brain

Meth is among the most addictive stimulant drugs. Though the term “addiction” describes a chronic and nuanced type of disorder, people have reported feeling dependent on meth in as little as one use. It triggers a rush of dopamine that is far greater than natural levels produced by the brain and can create feelings of euphoria, alertness, and confidence.

An increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and dopamine are produced when meth is used and causes a “rush” where the strongest effects are felt and can last up to 30 minutes. After the initial rush has passed, a steady high can last from four to 12 hours, depending on how the drug was used. Other effects include elation, hyperactivity, talkativeness, displays of empathy, and heightened alertness. Because of these effects and the drug’s affordability, people can tend to binge on it during use. Many users will take it over a period of several days and stay high the entire time. However, the drug stops producing the same effects and the amount needed to get high is more and more.

signs of meth addiction

After repeated use, the brain’s reward system is rewired to crave meth and the behavior of drug abuse and binging is increased. Over time, dopamine receptors in the brain can be destroyed by meth, and users can become incapable of experiencing pleasure without the drug.

The signs and symptoms of a meth addiction are both physical and psychological:

  • Weight loss
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Dehydration
  • Elevated body temp
  • Skin abscesses
  • Osteoporosis
  • Decreased libido
  • Severe paranoia
  • Social isolation
  • Hallucinations
  • Aggressive behavior/mood swings

Meth is a stimulant, and someone who is addicted may also exhibit risky and impulsive behaviors. Addicts may also be able to go for extended periods of time without sleep or eating, adding to paranoia and psychosis.

physical risks of meth use

Meth raises blood pressure and heart rate, often to harmful levels. Because users need more and more to attain that first-high feeling, taking large amounts can lead to overheating, seizures, loss of consciousness, or coma. If any of these occur and a person does not seek medical treatment, an overdose can be life-threatening.

Long-term use of methamphetamine can build up such a tolerance that the effects may no longer be felt at all. At this point, withdrawal becomes overwhelming and psychosis occurs. The body will become convinced that unreal things are happening to it. Meth users commonly describe the feeling of bugs crawling under the skin. They may also see and hear things that aren’t there. Psychotic symptoms and other negative psychological effects can still occur even after someone has not used meth for weeks or months.

Other long-term side effects can include:

  • Aggression
  • Being easily distracted
  • Impairment to motor skills
  • Loss of memory
  • Severe tooth decay/other oral issues
  • Mood changes
  • Violent behavior

withdrawal symptoms

Because meth produces such intense highs, its withdrawal symptoms include more severe and prolonged depression than even cocaine withdrawal. The depression can lead to self-harming thoughts and actions. Withdrawal can also cause cravings that are so strong that a user can become irritable or even violent.

Other withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Increased appetite
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Fatigue
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Paranoia
  • Psychosis

treatment and recovery

Meth is insidious in that once a person experiences the effects, the brain wants that high feeling over and over again. A person who has just begun using may be able to function normally for a time and will think they are benefitting from the increased energy and hyperactivity. Once the addiction progresses, if someone tries to stop without help, the intensity of withdrawal can drive a person back into drug use, at the expense of everything else in their life. They may also experience severe depression, anxiety, paranoia, and psychosis.

Most people need help in their recovery process. Our inpatient recovery process at our rehab facility focuses on a holistic approach to treat addiction. A medical detox may be required if meth was used along with alcohol, benzodiazepines, or opiates.

After this step, patients will need personalized behavioral treatment along with regular support group meetings. During treatment, the underlying problems that may have contributed to addiction will be addressed and appropriate tools will be taught to deal with cravings. Cognitive behavioral therapy will help the patients figure out what triggers their behaviors and learn how to cope with cravings and emotional distress in a healthy, constructive way.

Though the psychological effects of methamphetamine abuse can last longer than those of other drugs, quality treatment and support can help recovering meth addicts regain healthy and balanced lives. If you or someone you know needs help quitting meth, contact our treatment center. We understand addiction, and we assist our patients through compassionate, evidence-based treatment. Our programs help people get free from substance abuse and set the foundation for a life free from addiction.

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Our treatment philosphy.

At Northern Arizona Center for Addiction, we believe that healing of the body, mind and spirit are all necessary to overcome substance abuse. We offer a wide range of rehab options in order to facilitate your personal recovery. Our clients can go through drug and alcohol rehabilitation in a safe, comfortable environment, with holistic plans customized to their needs.

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