As highly addictive stimulants that affect the central nervous system, methamphetamines are no joke and the harm they cause is not only very real but can happen in what seems like an instant. So immensely potent that it’s possible for people to get hooked after just a single use.
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An Introduction to Meth Addiction
The differences in strength are one thing but what addiction to meth has in common with any other type of substance addiction is the ways in which it seeps into every part of your life or the life of a loved one. Addiction is all-consuming and it works to destroy the body, mind, spirit and personal relationships you hold dear. Forcing you to choose it over everything else until you reach a breaking point and get help or reach a point of tragedy.
And methamphetamines have caused more than their fair share of tragedy with overdose deaths rising sharply from 2009 to 2019, increasing by 10 times to over 16,500 lives lost.
Of course, death is the worst possible outcome for a meth user but the suffering and spiraling that precede it is devastating to witness and even more ghastly to experience. It’s not a small number of people either, per a 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), roughly 1.6 million Americans reported using meth in the last year and just under 775,000 had used it in the past month.
Sadly, the average age of a new meth user is 23.3 years old.
What’s the explanation behind the intensely addictive nature of this drug that the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) says “causes devastating health effects, and sometimes death, even on the first try” though?
It boils down to an explosion of dopamine being released in the brain which creates a state of euphoria that a user immediately latches onto and begins to crave.
More specifically, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “dopamine is involved in body movement, motivation, and reinforcement of rewarding behaviors. The drug’s ability to rapidly release high levels of dopamine in reward areas of the brain strongly reinforces drug-taking behavior, making the user want to repeat the experience”.
While methamphetamine can be found in a prescription drug for ADHD and weight loss (Desoxyn), the vast majority of people who are addicted use the illegal form, like crystal meth.
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What Are the Signs of Meth Addiction?
As already discussed, nicotine is seriously addictive.
What happens in the brain when you take it is best explained by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA); “a transient surge of endorphins in the reward circuits of the brain causes a slight, brief euphoria when nicotine is administered. This surge is much briefer than the “high” associated with other drugs. However, like other drugs of abuse, nicotine increases levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine in these reward circuits which reinforces the behavior of taking the drug”.
To put it more simply, the brain releases those “feel good” chemicals every time you ingest nicotine and as your body gets used to a certain amount of them, you need to take more and more to get that same feeling.
That, in turns, leads to smoking more and more and more each day, as the NIDA adds, “When cigarette smoke enters the lungs, nicotine is absorbed rapidly in the blood and delivered quickly to the brain, so that nicotine levels peak within 10 seconds of inhalation. But the acute effects of nicotine also dissipate quickly, along with the associated feelings of reward; this rapid cycle causes the smoker to continue dosing to maintain the drug’s pleasurable effects and prevent withdrawal symptoms”.
This leads to the signs of nicotine addiction:
- Plainly cannot stop smoking despite serious attempts to quit
- Uncontrollable cravings
- Smoking even though clear health problems are emerging
- Forgoing or skipping activities if you can’t smoke, like not going to a smoke-free event
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not smoking
As far as withdrawal goes, it may not be as severe as hard drugs but they certainly do cause enough discomfort to ensure a person keeps re-upping their nicotine and the symptoms are:
- Irritability and frustration
- Increased hunger
- Difficulty concentrating
- Depressed mood
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Part of the reason meth is hard and problematic to quit is that the effects of withdrawal are so discomforting and intense that a person will resort to using rather than going through it.
In layman’s terms, the body has gotten used to meth and developed a need for it in order to function. You’re very much dependent on the drug and removing is the beginning of the process of readjusting physically and mentally. For meth that takes about a month.
The initial symptoms of withdrawal will be the aforementioned crash phase where feelings of anxiousness, irritability, loss of energy, depression as well as nausea, sweating and cramping are most prominent for the first 48 hours or so.
That transitions to a period of about a week where physical symptoms like shaking and muscle aches may occur, fatigue is still present and life is dominated by depression, anxiety and strong cravings.
As that pushes out to a 2nd and 3rd week, the physical symptoms begin to dissipate but the exhaustion and depression remain.
At around the 1-month mark, the physical side of withdrawal has largely gone away but the mental symptoms can linger for many months. Such is the power of meth.
The longer someone has been using meth, the worse the symptoms of withdrawal will be, unfortunately. Depending on the severity of the meth addiction, a person may develop post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) which is when the psychological and mood-related symptoms of withdrawal last for months and even stretch out to a year or more in some cases.
Given how large the hurdle is for meth withdrawal, detoxing under the care and guidance of professionals, at a specialized detox facility, gives you the best shot at clearing it and getting on the road to recovery.
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What Are the Signs of Meth Addiction?
As far as the signs of addiction go, it’s worth noting that meth is taken in a myriad of ways; swallowed, snorted, injected or smoked with each method having a different effect. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) explains that those who smoke or inject it report a brief, intense sensation or rush while those who take it by oral ingestion or snorting, feel a longer-lasting high instead of a rush, which reportedly can continue for as long as half a day.
Therefore, how one takes meth will, in a small way, shape the manner in which addiction appears. That said, in general, meth addiction symptoms are similar across the board and show themselves both physically and behaviorally.
- Dilated pupils
- Skin sores and acne
- Scratching skin
- Reduced appetite and weight loss
- Agitation and irritability
- Mood swings
- Inconsistent and unpredictable sleep patterns
- Burn residue or actual burns on the lips and/or fingers
- Rotting teeth, more commonly known as meth mouth
One More sign someone is using meth is called “tweaking” which is a period that can last 3 to 15 days and is characterized by anxiety and insomnia. Tweaking can cause psychological side effects, such as paranoia, irritability and confusion due to the desperation to use again. Tweaking from meth can also cause people to experience hallucinations and become prone to violent behavior.
Crashing is another sign to take note of and it describes the period when the body is utterly and completely deprived of dopamine due to the meth use that depleted it. It appears as exhaustion in the extreme, excess sleep, cravings for meth and depression and lasts from 1 to 3 days.
If a person stays hooked and using meth for the long-term, even more signs of bodily and mental deterioration will creep in. If the chief means by which you’re taking meth is by injection, the risk of contracting diseases like HIV and hepatitis B and C dramatically increase and the progression of those diseases will likely be worsened by meth use.
Additionally, a person can experience respiratory issues, high blood pressure, heart attacks, kidney failure, lung damage, infections, reproductive issues including birth defects, liver failure.
Cognitive issues related to thinking, understanding, learning and remembering will worsen due to the “rewiring” of how the brain works and can show up as memory loss, difficulty thinking, paranoia, psychosis, delusions and inability to feel pleasure. NIDA points out that “continued methamphetamine use causes changes in the brain’s dopamine system that are associated with reduced coordination and impaired verbal learning. In studies of people who used methamphetamine over the long term, severe changes also affected areas of the brain involved with emotion and memory”.
Thrive Treatment's Meth Rehab in Los Angeles Can Help
After a thorough, proper and supervised detox, the next step is treatment. Undoing and disentangling the reasons and causes of addiction goes a long way in cleaning the slate and allowing you to build your new, sober life on solid ground. Meth rehab centers in Los Angeles like ours are purpose-built with you in mind, our treatment programs tailored to unlocking exactly what lies at the heart of your addiction.
We focus on the mind and through integrating relational and behavioral therapies, one-on-one and group counseling sessions and more, we help rejuvenate your emotional health and work with you to create enduring sobriety and recovery that lasts.
You deserve to live a life free from the ceaseless pull of meth and at Thrive Treatment we can guide you through every step of the way. Reach out to us to learn more about our meth treatment in Los Angeles.