Crystal meth is a popular drug because it can be made almost anywhere. For a while, the public did not pay much attention to the problems crystal meth can cause because the opioid crisis was always prominent on the news.
A June 2018 Houston Chronicle report discussed an increase in meth use in Texas. According to the article, about 1 million Americans use meth, and more than two-thirds of meth users today struggle with addiction.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) says that meth is a threat to the country and that much of the meth sold in 2018 was produced in Mexico for consumption in the United States. Fewer meth labs are being found across the U.S., but people who make the drug h are finding novel ways to sell it.
Meth pills were found in South Carolina, for example. Even more troubling, the DEA warns that meth users are likely to come into contact with fentanyl as drug dealers add the potent substance to other drugs so that they can make more money from selling smaller amounts.
Despite the major problems caused by the misuse of meth, there aren’t specialized treatments for meth detox and addiction. Traditional approaches are generally used, such as general medical detox and cognitive therapy, per the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
Psychology Today says crystal meth affects the way the brain releases dopamine into the body. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that makes people feel good and consistently makes the brain feel like it is being rewarded.
Using meth for a long time causes the brain to tax itself from producing too much dopamine. As such, the number of dopamine receptors in the brain goes down. Even after abstaining from meth for a while, recovery takes longer than with other drugs because some hormonal imbalances take as long as two years to return to normal.
Statistics collected by the NIDA in 2013 showed that there were about 1 million meth users in 2012. This is twice as many as there were in 2006, when 731,000 people reported having tried meth within the past month.
Withdrawal refers to natural reactions in the body after one has stopped taking a drug. The process can be uncomfortable, and people can expect uncomfortable symptoms.
Individual withdrawal timelines vary, but on average, people can expect the following:
The first 24 hours are considered the first phase of withdrawal. Psychosis could be experienced during this phase, which could last up to two weeks. It is also normal to feel depressed, crave carbohydrate-laden meals and meth, and feel anxiety. Psychology Today says vomiting and sweating are common. Anhedonia, the inability to experience pleasure, is common among recovering meth users, and it is the biggest reason for relapse.
The second phase could last anywhere from two to three weeks. Symptoms are diminished, but depression, anxiety, and cravings for the drug could continue.
Post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) affects some people, especially those who used meth in large amounts or for a long time. This phase lasts weeks or even months in some people.
Common symptoms of withdrawal, which could occur at any phase depending on the person’s meth intake, include:
Quitting meth often results in anxiety.
Meth use makes people feel more hyperactive. Binges often result in hours or days of excess physical activity. When one quits using the drug, feelings of tiredness are common as the body wants to rest.
Crystal meth suppresses the appetite, and many stop eating properly as a result. Eating less and eating unhealthy foods will cause sudden cravings for carbohydrates or sugary foods when quitting because a person’s body wants to make up for the long periods the user went without eating. Paying attention to food intake and eating balanced meals are important during withdrawal and detox.
Meth has psychological effects because of the way it affects the brain. Some common symptoms include delusions (false ideas a person believes are true) and auditory or visual hallucinations (hearing or seeing things that are not there).
Meth floods the brain with dopamine, a hormone that causes a person to feel pleasure. It is common for people to feel depressed, as they are not taking meth to flood their brains with this hormone.
In most people, symptoms go away after a week, but they may last two weeks or longer. If they do, it is best to consult with a doctor who can provide additional help in combating these negative feelings.
Talking to a doctor is the best way to detox from crystal meth. Detox aims to help remove meth from the body safely. It will involve:
Medically supervised detox prepares a person for further treatment.
With all of the discomforts of withdrawal, some people may be afraid to quit meth. With support from professionals, meth detox doesn’t have to be uncomfortable. Though some people may choose to quit on their own, detox has better chances of success when done in a professional setting.
Look for these things in a treatment center:
They will assist with monitoring patient health during recovery and perform drug tests.
Professionals will look for underlying mental health issues, such as anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, or depression. Co-occurring mental health issues must also be addressed in addiction treatment.
This may include cognitive behavioral therapy or contingency management. These forms of therapy help an individual gain new skills so they can live free of meth, assist them if they relapse, and repair relationships that have been damaged because of meth use.
Each person is different, and treatment facilities should always customize a person’s recovery plan according to their circumstances.
Some studies show that these methods have future promise:
A 2011 study published on Drug and Alcohol Dependence shows that modafinil, a drug approved to treat narcolepsy in 1998, could reduce the discomfort of withdrawal.
A UCLA study from 2015 shows naltrexone, a medication that has shown promise in treating alcohol addiction, could also help those who want to quit using meth.
ABC News reports that those who took part in the Matrix Model program, a program designed to treat stimulant addiction, had higher success rates than people who went through traditional rehab.
While detox is essential to recovery, comprehensive therapy must follow it. With the right help and support network, quitting meth is possible.
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