Programs offering this include residential and outpatient facilities. Addicted.org agrees that CBT is an excellent option when combined with other approaches. One of our addictions counselors will help you find meth rehabs and detox that meet your rehabilitation and recovery needs.
According to SAMHSA, over 90% of the drug and alcohol rehab centers across the nation provide cognitive behavioral therapy. Contact our experts for more information or consult our extensive directory listing of programs throughout the country.
TIPS: If you feel you're going to use
- Call your sponsor or a friend who doesn’t use it and understands your situation.
- Extrovert your attention. Walking and spending time outside can be very therapeutic.
- Find a hobby or activity to take your mind off of using. (i.e., art, music, cooking, gardening)
- Find a purpose in your life and pursue it. (i.e., school, career, volunteering)
- Recognize the people in your environment who affect you emotionally. They could be one of the reasons for your emotional problems.
- Make sure to eat healthy foods. A deficiency in vitamins and minerals can create a drop in mental and physical energy.
TIPS: If you want to help someone
- Don’t enable the addict. This includes not giving him any money, not paying their rent, etc.
- Encourage the person to seek help. This can be done by finding a treatment or a form of support.
- Be aware of signs of overdose. If you see one of your friends blacking out, or showing other severe side effects, get help immediately.
- Support the person while they look for rehab since the process can be overwhelming.
- Don’t wait for rock bottom; it may be too late.
What is Meth?
Meth is a central nervous system stimulant drug that is highly addictive. The term “meth” is derived from the complete name of the drug methamphetamine. It is chemically related to a class of amphetamines, including drugs like Ritalin and Adderall, but is much more powerful.
These drugs all belong to a broader grouping of drugs known as stimulants. A stimulant is any drug that increases the activity of the body’s systems. Other examples of stimulants include cocaine, crack, and caffeine. These drugs all produce similar effects of increased heart rate, alertness, respirations, and many other physical and mental functions.
The History of Meth
It is impossible to address the history of meth without first delving into the world of amphetamines. Amphetamine was first synthesized in 1887 in Germany by a Roman chemist. Methamphetamine was next discovered in 1893, but neither substance was used medically until the mid-1900s. The first pharmacological preparation of amphetamine was an inhaler used to treat congestion, known as Benzedrine. By 1943, methamphetamine and amphetamine were used to treat various conditions, including depression, obesity, alcoholism, and narcolepsy. Eventually, amphetamines would be used to treat various perceived mental issues, including some that would later be named conditions like “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder”, or ADHD.
During WWII, both drugs were misused by Allied and Axis forces for their stimulant properties. They created soldiers that didn’t need much sleep or food and had plenty of energy to fight, a perceived advantage initially. But as addiction and dependence became known risk factors, governmental restrictions ensued, culminating in the drug being listed as Schedule II on the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1971.
But unfortunately, as is the case with prohibition throughout history, demand for the drug led to illegal manufacturing. This was especially true for methamphetamine produced and consumed heavily in the 1980s.
Illegal manufacturing usually occurs in small, clandestine laboratories but can also occur on a smaller scale, like personal uses, which became popular in the 1990s. But as demand for the drug grew, larger-scale “super-labs” began to pop up in the Southwestern portion of the United States and Mexico. These supplied the vast amounts of the drug, which contributed to the national drug epidemic, beginning in the early 2000s and still raging today.
What does Meth Look Like?
Meth can take on a variety of colors and consistencies. The most notorious form, Crystal Meth, is called such because the purity level causes it to appear crystalline and transparent. But meth can also commonly have a bluish tint and can be in powder or liquid form. Some black-market preparations are pressed into pills or tablets instead. This can make the drug appear more innocuous to a first-time user.
Meth is usually sold in small, clear plastic baggies. These can either be zip-close bags or tied up and melted corners that have been torn off of larger bags. Sometimes the drug is placed in a vial or similar plastic container, mainly crystal meth, because it may dissolve or melt quickly.
Effects of Meth
The most immediate and noticeable effect of consuming meth is a “rush” described as intensely euphoric and energizing. The sensation can be pleasurable, particularly for those addicted to it. Other mental effects include mood elevation, alertness, reaction time, and decreased appetite. Neurologically, meth causes these sensations by triggering the neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine released in the brain. The exact mechanism of how this occurs is not yet understood by science.
Physiologically, meth can cause many things to occur in the measurable body. Immediately, virtually every system begins to function more rapidly. This includes involuntary systems such as the heart, digestion, breathing, etc. This increased activity raises body temperature, triggering a cascade of other systems designed to maintain homeostasis.
Pupil dilation is standard, along with sweating, tremors, muscle spasms, and stimulation of the bowels. With long-term use, meth affects the individual, often transforming people into someone unrecognizable. This ghastly phenomenon is so common that posters and internet websites have become dedicated to sharing disturbing photos that compare before and after images of individuals ravaged by meth addiction. This scare tactic was more popular in the early 2000s but has fallen out of favor as stigma-free groups raise awareness about the insensitivities surrounding such displays.
Meth users are also known as “tweakers,” a derogatory term that has been used for decades. It likely originated because users tend to “tweak” things repetitively or make minor and constant adjustments to their environment. These compulsive, nervous habits and twitches are brought on by the drug and are an aspect of its stimulant effects.
People who consume meth regularly often do not sleep for days. They may quickly become delusional and experience hallucinations. These episodes often follow a subtext of paranoia, leading the person to believe they are being followed or conspired against. Psychosis may stem from such episodes, which can easily turn violent and dangerous.
Another strange aspect of meth addiction is the tendency to cause users to “pick” at themselves. Many people on meth will become fixated on their skin and proceed to dig and pick and cause many open sores that can quickly become infected. Episodes like this can become chronic with continued heavy drug use and may involve hallucinatory perceptions that something foreign is on or under the skin. Many long-term meth users have lifelong scars on their bodies and faces from picking at themselves repetitively until they bleed.
Because meth is such a potent stimulant, those addicted to it rarely eat food. Stimulants severely curb appetite, so the person begins to waste away and experience malnutrition. They also stop taking care of themselves in other ways, such as sleeping and basic personal hygiene. Visibly, they may appear emaciated with sunken, dark eyes, bad or missing teeth, and open sores. It is very noticeable when a person has been using meth heavily for years. The drug destroys the body’s systems.
Long-term effects include:
- psychosis, including paranoia, hallucinations, repetitive motor activity
- changes in brain structure and function
- deficits in thinking and motor skills
- increased distractibility
- memory loss
- aggressive or violent behavior
- mood disturbances
- severe dental problems
- weight loss
Overdose from meth used to be a relatively uncommon experience. Not just because meth use was less widespread, but mainly because the drug was less powerful. The meth of today is more abundant and, unfortunately, much more potent.
When meth saw its first “peak” in popularity across America in the late 1990s and early 2000s, much of the available substance was derived from pseudoephedrine, an ingredient commonly found in cold medicines as a decongestant.
Once extracted from pseudoephedrine, the compound ephedrine can be changed into meth through a relatively simple process. Many people were making meth this way at home or in small-scale rudimentary “labs.”
The product was relatively low in quality and purity, resulting in more significant side effects but fewer overdoses.
But the restriction of medicines containing pseudoephedrine, initiated to curb meth production, was only temporarily effective. Ultimately this only served to drive production of the now popular drug south of the border, where drug cartels now produce most of our country’s meth. And their drug production is not only on a larger scale but is much more precise. They utilize other chemicals like propanol to skirt authorities’ attempts to restrict pseudoephedrine and produce a massive amount of a dangerously pure product. It can also flow along the cartel’s existing drug trafficking lines, which have been used to bring other drugs into major cities across the US in great quantity for decades.
The scariest part?
This stuff is now cheaper than it ever was. It is also much more likely to be laced or has other substances added to it, like the deadly and inexpensive drug Fentanyl.
This recipe for disaster has led to a second meth epidemic, which many argue is going unnoticed thanks to the country’s simultaneous opioid epidemic. And while meth overdoses are rising across the country, opioid overdose death rates are declining. Yet, Americans still seem to fixate on the problem of opioids and leave those who struggle with meth addiction largely ignored.
Meth overdose can be quite deadly. The drug mainly kills by causing major cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and multiple system failures due to its extreme stimulant properties and ability to elevate heart rate and blood pressure. It can also cause the person to overheat and die. Meth overdose may also cause a stroke or liver failure.
Addiction is perhaps the most noticeable consequence of chronic stimulant abuse, and meth is particularly effective at creating crippling addiction in users. The National Institute on Drug Abuse defines addiction as a chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking, continued use despite harmful consequences, and long-lasting brain changes. It is considered both a complex brain disorder and a mental illness. Addiction is the most severe form of a full spectrum of substance use disorders and is a medical illness caused by repeated misuse of a substance or substances.
Meth addiction can occur much more quickly than one might think. For many, it begins with dependence on prescription and even over-the-counter medications.
Prescription amphetamines are chemically very similar to methamphetamine. People prescribed drugs like Ritalin, Vyvanse, Adderall, and many others may discover that they do not feel well without the medication. They must either live under the influence of stimulants or get off them at some point. But for many, this is easier said than done, and they may discover that they are misusing them and cannot stop. This can lead to seeking healthier versions of the drug in illegal meth, especially if their prescription is discontinued against their will.
The above is an example of the cycle of addiction, which first begins with a problem. The person struggles with something mental or physical, and the drug initially solves that problem in their life. But as they enjoy the escape that the drug offers more and more, reality becomes harsher and more painful each time they come down. The person begins to use more and more drugs to escape the feelings of guilt and shame associated with drug use, and eventually, they are completely addicted. Another example is a person who begins taking over-the-counter diet pills to lose weight.
They’re unhappy with their appearance, so take a legal stimulant as a solution. The drug works, and they even get a boost of energy and euphoria. Perhaps they even discover that they are now getting more work done and feeling less sluggish. As their body becomes used to the effects of the drug, it stops working. They decide to take two next time, and it works well.
The person knows they aren’t doing the right thing, but they justify this by explaining to themselves and those around them (if they get caught) that it’s helping them be healthier, etc. These justifications remove guilt but make the activity more right in their own eyes. Now, making the jump to illegal meth is not such a stretch when they are already misusing OTC medications and are okay with it.
When a drug like a meth becomes more available, stronger, and cheaper, it’s a perfect storm. It is even worse when the nation’s attention and drug enforcement efforts are entirely aimed elsewhere. This combination has allowed meth to return with a vengeance. From 2008 to 2015, amphetamine-related hospitalizations jumped by almost 250%. Statistics related to overdose deaths from psychostimulants like meth had been trending downward previously, but these jumped more than 250% during that same time range. This makes apparent how serious the problem is.
In 2017, approximately 1.6 million people reported using meth in the past year. Sadly, this likely falls far short of the actual number since this statistic relies on a few shaky factors. The first is the implication that all persons interviewed reported honestly. Stigma is a common and well-documented aspect of addiction that frequently prevents people from admitting drug use out of shame and guilt. The next factor which makes this an underestimation is that everyone in the United States was not individually polled. This would be impossible, so the only way to estimate such a number would be to take a sample survey.
It would also require polling people from different locations and demographics to not be influenced by regional bias or other factors. This figure would then be multiplied to represent the US population based on the most recent census or estimates. Any errors, omissions, or mistakes also get multiplied, leading to gross inaccuracies. Because of the above, we can safely assume that the meth problem in America was much worse in 2017 than represented and is even worse now.
How to help a loved one addicted to methamphetamine
If someone you know is addicted to Meth, there are some do’s and don’ts that will help you give them the most support. But first, let’s dispel some of the myths that exist when it comes to meth addiction.
It’s not uncommon to hear that meth addiction is “untreatable.” This is entirely false. People recover from meth addiction every day, and this does not necessarily mean they will relapse multiple times along the way. While everyone’s path is different, many people get their lives back and move on from meth addiction.
Another myth is that after recovering from meth addiction, life will never feel the same. Stories like these only scare people and, instead of discouraging meth use in the first place, cause current users to lose hope and surrender to addiction. There is a definite period of “anhedonia” after the person stops using, which is explainable by withdrawal. Anhedonia is characterized by a loss of pleasure and enjoyment of daily life. But as the person’s neurochemistry readjusts, they will begin to experience a normal range of emotions and feelings again. The amount of time this takes is individual and depends upon many factors, including the length and severity of the addiction. But the person mustn’t give up on recovery and relapse because they believe a myth and think there’s no hope.
If you suspect your loved one is addicted to Meth, the first thing to do is confront them. This does not mean that you should be confrontational necessarily. But the issue must be addressed. Instead, try to be patient, understanding, and approachable. If they hide it from you, it’s because they already know you don’t approve. Getting angry will do nothing to further trust or communication.
Instead of asking them and giving them the opportunity to lie, try letting them know what you’ve noticed, what your concern is, and what you want to help. They may still lie and deny using Meth and may even become angry. This is quite normal and is a vital sign that your suspicions are correct. Do not react to their anger. Stay calm and listen. They may become critical of you and lash out, but this is all part of the process. They will probably try to escape the talk and leave if they continue to lie. You are bringing the issue to the forefront and letting them know that you know.
Ideally, they will eventually open up to you and ask for help. But their life is at stake, so if they continue to lie and use Meth, you must intervene. Intervention can be a complex process, but there are many options for professional assistance and education should it come to that. You can always call us at the number on this page for assistance in locating intervention and meth rehab services for meth addiction.
Methamphetamine addiction is one of the most challenging forms of stimulant addiction. What makes things even worse is stimulant addiction is one of the least understood and most challenging forms of addiction.
The relapse rates are incredibly high, and there has been little research done in this area relative to other forms of substance abuse like alcoholism and opioid use disorder. Consequently, little has been discovered regarding treatment and drug intervention strategies specific to stimulant addiction. Because of this, those who struggle with meth addiction are usually lumped into the generality of “substance use disorder” and referred to the industry standard prevailing treatment model. For years this has been 12 Step based inpatient treatment program, where no specific medical interventions are utilized. Unlike opioid addiction and alcoholism, there are no approved pharmacological treatments for methamphetamine addiction.
Due to protracted mental and physiological problems caused by the drug’s impact on neural pathways, those recovering from meth addiction can be among the most treatment-resistant populations. Often, psychiatric medications are utilized for initial periods to “stabilize” the person mentally. Benzodiazepine tranquilizers may also be used to mitigate aggressive or combative behavior; however, this cannot be recommended as therapeutic or as an aid in the rehabilitation process. It is simply a common way to address symptoms.
The consensus seems to be that with meth addiction, the longer the person can maintain abstinence from the drug, the better their chances are. Time allows the person’s brain, body, and nervous system to heal from the damage caused by meth. Much of the known damage caused by long-term meth use has been observed to heal and reverse with enough time. Estimates vary, with some sources indicating a significant neural recovery from 6 months to two years.
Long-term treatment programs with a retention of at least 90 days and minimal pharmacological interventions are likely to give a person the best possible chance of complete recovery from meth addiction. Follow-up treatment services such as support group meetings and anything which keeps a person involved in recovery are highly recommended. This includes outpatient drug rehab after one has completed an inpatient stay, regardless of length.
Key Word List for Meth
|Methamphetamine||The full name of the shortened term, “meth.” See full description in the first section, “What is Meth.”|
|Amphetamine||A class of stimulant drugs that speeds up the central nervous system and can cause addiction if overused.|
|Stimulant||Any drug which speeds up the activity of the central nervous system. Examples include meth, cocaine, caffeine, and amphetamines.|
|Central Nervous System||The complex system of nerve tissues controls the activities of the body. In humans, it comprises the brain and the spinal cord.|
|Speed||A slang term used primarily for meth, but also may refer to amphetamine drugs in some circles.|
|Crank||A term that was initially slang for meth but has become synonymous with an impure product, usually in powder form, and which may come in various colors.|
|Crystal||A term for a very pure form of meth, which appears translucent or transparent and crystalline in texture. This appearance is usually indicative of potency and perceived quality.|
|Glass||Another slang term for crystal.|
|Tweak||A term that has a variety of uses in relation to meth. It can be used as a slang name for the drug. It can also be used as a verb to describe that act of “tweaking” or being extremely high on meth and behaving in a psychotic, erratic, or repetitive manner. A “tweaker” is also someone who uses meth regularly.|
|Meth Mouth||A condition that occurs when someone uses meth frequently and chronically. Poor hygiene and the corrosive nature of the drug decay the teeth rapidly, and its stimulant properties cause muscle tension in the jaw and repetitive grinding. This damage is worsened by poor nutrition and dry mouth and the meth user’s tendency to consume sugary foods if they eat at all. The result is an extreme and rapid level of decay, which is unique to meth addiction.|