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Methamphetamine, also known as meth or crystal meth, is a Schedule II drug with powerful stimulant properties. Typically white, odorless, and found in crystalline form, methamphetamine is highly addictive and can lead to various complications to health and well-being.

Although methamphetamine drugs are available by prescription, they are most often produced in clandestine laboratories and distributed illegally. Due to the many dangers associated with the illegal manufacture of methamphetamine, which include the emissions of toxic fumes and the likelihood of fires and explosions, these illegal operations are a primary concern of law enforcement, the medical community, and average citizens alike.

The dangers of clandestine meth labs are the result of the toxic chemicals used to make the drug. What’s more, nearly all the ingredients found in illegally-produced methamphetamine can be purchased legally over the counter. For example, one of the primary ingredients of methamphetamine is the pseudoephedrine found in OTC cold and sinus medications.

Other common ingredients found in meth include the following:

  • Lighter fluid
  • Paint thinner
  • Battery acid
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Brake and engine cleaner
  • Red phosphorous
  • Iodine

Methamphetamine Addiction

Like cocaine and other stimulant drugs, meth is extremely addictive. Typically, methamphetamine drugs are either smoked, snorted, or injected intravenously. These methods provide the user with an instantaneous euphoria, or “high,” which is the result of increased production of dopamine in the brain. However, the euphoric effects of methamphetamine are short-lived, usually lasting only a few minutes at most. Once the initial high wears off, users experience intense cravings for methamphetamine, prompting continued use, and ultimately addiction.

Signs and Symptoms of Methamphetamine Addiction

The use of methamphetamine produces signs and symptoms like the following:

  • Irritability and agitation
  • Dilated pupils
  • Restlessness and anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Risky or erratic behaviors, such as sexual promiscuity, driving under the influence, etc.
  • Decreased appetite
  • Rapid breathing
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Social isolation and problems with personal relationships
  • Loss of interest
  • Difficulties at work or school

 

Over time, the side effects of meth intensify. For example, long-term meth addicts often suffer the following side effects:

  • Extreme paranoia
  • Pronounced confusion and, in some cases, hallucinations
  • Violent behaviors
  • Severe tooth decay
  • Sores on the skin
  • Burns on the mouth and fingers
  • Extreme weight loss

 

Complications of Meth Addiction

Addiction to methamphetamine is extremely harmful to virtually all areas of health. Plus, the highly-addictive nature of meth, combined with its toxic ingredients, cause users to experience complications at an alarming rate.

In addition to the long-term effects of meth use, abusing this drug may lead to serious health complications like the following:

  • Damage to the heart, lungs, liver, and other vital organs
  • Due to intravenous use and other risky behaviors, meth addicts are at a significantly increased risk of contracting HIV, hepatitis C, and other communicable diseases.
  • Psychological psychosis, which is the result of prolonged paranoia, insomnia, and other effects associated with the use of methamphetamine drugs
  • Increased risk of suicidal thoughts or actions
  • Severe malnutrition and dehydration

Treating Methamphetamine Addiction

Because of the severe effects and complications associated with meth use, seeking treatment is often a matter of life or death for the addict in question. And although recovery from methamphetamine addiction can be challenging, effective treatment is available.

Since meth affects users in different ways, treatment is usually personalized to suit each individual’s unique needs; however, the following basic approaches are often used in the treatment of methamphetamine addiction:

Detox is the first step in treating addiction to methamphetamine. This process is designed to rid the body of all traces of methamphetamine, which allows the user to move forward to the next phase of treatment. Detox can often be uncomfortable and is associated with the onset of withdrawal symptoms which, in many cases, can be quite severe.
Withdrawal from methamphetamine drugs can often produce the following effects:

  • Extreme cravings for methamphetamine
  • Sleep disturbances - Many individuals report fluctuating between severe insomnia and chronic fatigue and drowsiness.
  • Shaking and other involuntary movements
  • Fever, chills and profuse sweating
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Heart palpitations
  • Difficulties breathing

Due to these unpleasant effects, most treatment facilities aim to increase clients’ comfort during the detoxification process. Some detox methods include the use of medications, such as antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, and sleep aids to ease discomfort during this first stage of recovery. However, many facilities prefer a drug-free approach to detoxification, which may or may not include vitamin or nutrition regimens, and other all-natural detox methods.

Once the detoxification process is complete, treatment for meth addiction usually involves talk therapy. There are several different types of therapy that have proven effective in the treatment of meth addiction; most often, these include cognitive behavioral therapy and group counseling.
However, no matter the approach, common goals of therapy include the following:

  • Support - Both one-on-one counseling and group therapy provide significant support to the individual in recovery. Group sessions, especially, are an enormous source of support and are therefore, recommended in nearly all cases of meth addiction.
  • Education – During therapy sessions, clients are given the tools necessary to achieve and maintain sobriety. This often includes a better understanding of substance abuse, learning to identify triggers, and the formulation of coping strategies.
  • Addressing and treating underlying psychological issues that may have contributed to the client’s substance abuse. Since conditions, such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, often play a role in the onset of addiction, treating these underlying problems is essential to recovery.

Due to the severe health complications associated with addiction, addressing physical health can play a crucial role in recovery. When it comes to methamphetamine addiction, specifically, physical health is often a primary concern. For this reason, many treatment methods include physical health screenings, exercise, and other approaches to overall health and wellness.

Since studies show that meth addicts benefit from long-term treatment, this stage of recovery can last for an indefinite amount of time. In most cases, this type of care includes scheduled counseling sessions, group therapy meetings, and other types of continued support.

Although addiction to methamphetamine drugs can be frightening and overwhelming, help is available. With the proper care, meth addiction can be treated effectively and have lasting results.