Meth is one of the most powerful stimulant drugs out there. When used, it releases a significantly larger amount of dopamine in the brain than alcohol or cocaine. Because of this, users quickly become addicted and can suffer permanent, life-threatening changes to the body and the brain.
There are approximately 1.7 million methamphetamine users in the United States per year. Though this number is probably skewed on the lower side as not every individual willingly reports their use, it is clear there is a very real problem.
Since 2019, there has been a steady increase in individuals who have died from a methamphetamine overdose. And in 2017, it was estimated that 964,000 people over the age of 12 had a meth use disorder. Studies have shown that there seems to be higher use among American Indians and White Americans.
Signs of Abuse
Meth is one of those drugs that causes more extreme physical changes, making it a little more noticeable in individuals who might be using it. Some of the signs of abuse can include:
- Rotting Teeth
- Intense Scratching
- Weight Loss
- Acne or Sores
Meth addiction consumes people rather quickly. A person may spend all of their time concerned about being able to get more meth, using the drug, and then experiencing the aftereffects of their use. They may stop caring about personal appearance and hygiene. It is not unusual for meth users to have strange sleeping and eating habits. They may stay awake for days at a time and rarely eat. Users may also struggle with money and may borrow or steal to maintain their addiction.
Once a person has reached the point of being addicted, it is likely that there will be some long-term health consequences. These will continue to worsen as the addiction continues, making it extremely critical for users to seek help immediately. Those health conditions are:
- Liver Damage
- Permanent Brain Damage
- Memory Loss
- Gum Disease
- Tooth Decay
- Organ Damage
- Heart Failure
Some of these conditions are reversible, some can be fixed, but unfortunately, the worst of these conditions cannot be changed. When meth is used, especially long term, it causes significant and permanent changes to the brain. This can affect a person’s ability to regulate mood and emotions, form new memories, and function normally on a day-to-day basis.
Recovery is Possible
The following stories are inspiring messages that show how a little hard work and determination in recovery can save lives.
The most common withdrawal symptoms include:
- Sleep Disturbances
- Severe Depression
- Anxiety or Paranoia
- Intense Cravings
Meth withdrawal is entirely psychological. Though there may not be physical side effects, the psychological torture is enough to send a lot of people towards relapsing simply to get rid of those symptoms. They do typically subside after the first week, and while there may be post-acute symptoms, they can be managed with medication and treatment.
In 2017, 15% of all overdoses involved meth. Typically, an overdose is going to be the result of taking too much after the body has detoxed and cannot handle that amount or because the drug was laced with a substance like fentanyl.
Signs of a meth overdose are:
- Chest Pain
- Difficulty Breathing
Meth Abuse Treatment
Medication is often a critical part of meth addiction treatment to help reduce cravings and other withdrawal symptoms. Reducing those symptoms can help keep a person from relapsing. SSRIs or non-addictive sleep aids may also be prescribed to help with the anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders that may be causing some difficulty during the withdrawal period. The most effective medications used to reduce methamphetamine cravings are:
When it comes to treating meth addiction, medications alone won’t be enough. Though they may help to reduce cravings, there are other components that need to be addressed or else relapse may occur. Clients will need to participate in some form of treatment program, whether inpatient or outpatient. Here, they will work with clinicians in a variety of settings to address any co-occurring or underlying conditions that may have led to the abuse in the first place.
National Meth Resources
- Crystal Meth Anonymous: This is the national site that can help individuals find meetings nearest to them. They provide information regarding community support for meth addicts.