Methamphetamine Guide: Symptoms, Detoxification and Treatment

Methamphetamine is referred to as meth or crystal meth. Meth is a mood-enhancing, stimulant mainly known for its recreational use. Meth is a powerful substance that can cause addiction after just one use. Individuals addicted to meth experience an intense euphoric high when using – and no high is like the first one. Individuals spend the rest of their time trying to get back to the same feeling as the first high.

https://youtu.be/HUngLgGRJpo ( this video is the depiction of chasing the original high. It is an animation and is “heavy” in emotion. Great for illustrating the addiction cycle.)

This drug is produced in various forms: powder, pills, and crystal form. The powder is odorless and can be snorted or dissolved into liquid. In the crystal form it is the same drug as meth, but distilled and therefore the most potent (meaning it has the highest highs and the lowest lows). Crystal meth takes form as bluish-white coarse crystals which are typically smoked.

The chemical structure of methamphetamine is similar to amphetamine which is a drug regularly used to treat attention-deficit disorder (ADHD), obesity and narcolepsy. Methamphetamines are more potent than amphetamines and are highly addictive. Methamphetamines are very rarely prescribed for any kind of medical treatment.

Abuse Signs and Symptoms

Methamphetamines increase the amount of dopamine in the brain that directly affects the central nervous system (controls most functions of the brain and spinal cord). Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is the basis of one’s pleasure center in the brain. The body is rewarded with this naturally occurring chemical for important behaviors such as survival, sex, and feeding when hungry. However, on meth, the pleasure center of the brain is being rewired each time someone uses it. The brain is then depending on the drug to maintain the altered chemical state; because of this, the individual has extreme cravings.

Meth is most commonly produced illegally from pseudoephedrine, an ingredient found in cold and flu medication. Meth is often cut with other substances to sell less of the same drug at the same price. These additional substances are extremely dangerous and increase the risk of overdose.

Effects of a low dose (short-term effects) methamphetamine

  • Stimulates the brain resulting in elevation of mood and alertness
  • Breathing and heart rates increase resulting in a fatigued individual’s energy increasing
  • Reduces appetite and promotes weight loss
  • Libido increased – sex drive

These are seemingly positive effects, which lead individuals to addiction and potential overdose.

Effects of high dose (long-term effects)

  • Extreme weight loss
  • Dental Damage (Meth mouth: grinding teeth)
  • Hyperactivity causing
  • Anxiety
  • Sleeping disorder
  • Violent Behaviors

Effects of overdose (the extreme)

  • Psychosis
  • Heart attacks
  • Seizures
  • Strokes
  • Organ failure (kidneys)
  • Death

The most common symptoms of meth abuse include:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Anxiety
  • Teeth grinding
  • Paranoia
  • Psychosis
  • Hallucinations
  • Meth sores
  • Meth mouth
  • Kidney failure
  • Bacterial infections
  • Malnutrition
  • Overdose
  • Death

Withdrawal and Detox

Currently, there are no FDA-approved medically assisted treatments for meth addicts. Clients recovering from meth use will typically crash (sleep) for 2-3 days. This is to be expected due to the nature of the drug. Meth reduces one’s appetite and keeps you alert. Some clients who have been long term addicts may have not slept or eaten well in months, or in some cases, years.
There are three main stages of detox for meth:

12-24 hours following use. These symptoms generally last 24-48 hours.

  • Intense fatigue
  • Mood swings
  • Lack of appetite
  • Unhealthy sleeping patterns

2-3 days after use.

  • Intensified symptoms
  • Agitation
  • Unable to feel pleasure
  • Irritability
  • Violence/acting out

2+ Weeks

  • Physical symptoms fade
  • Psychological symptoms stabilize

 

Treatment and Rehab

The final phase in detox is complex. Some Meth addicts took the drug to alleviate psychological symptoms such as anxiety, depression, etc. These symptoms will be exacerbated once meth is out of an individual’s system. This is where it is vital to be in group and individual therapy to begin to do an inventory of oneself and begin to find coping mechanisms to start healing from the trauma of addiction. Our team of doctors and nurses are highly trained and will provide space for the client’s body to recover before the client starts to address any psychological reflection or recovery.

Aftercare

Developing a community is an integral component of addiction treatment. Once you or your loved one is discharged to a less intensive level of care, you/they will continue to need help. The journey from addiction to sobriety and wellness has begun, and Defining Wellness Centers provides support so that our clients can continue to heal. Ongoing processing is vital to long-term sobriety.

References

Methamphetamine Drug Facts . (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oI7IfB13DT8