Although the drug is pervasive throughout American culture, many people still do not understand exactly what meth is. Sure, we may have watched Breaking Bad, but many of us have little familiarity with the drug. This is, in part, due to the fact that crystal meth addiction occurs much more in certain regions of the country than others. Those of us where the drug is less common might not realize what the symptoms of meth abuse look like when we see them.
What does meth addiction look like? How does it start? What makes the drug so addictive and what are the side effects? In this article, we’ll answer all of those questions and outline some additional information you may want to know
When talking about meth, the person speaking is usually referring to “crystal meth”, an illegal version of the drug commonly found on the street.
By mixing either ephedrine or pseudoephedrine (commonly found in cold medicine) with chemicals that increase the stimulating effects of the drug, meth manufacturers can produce a recreational drug that is both highly potent and highly addictive.
Methamphetamine has the effect of supplying the brain with an increased amount of dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical that we all have in our brains and is responsible the joy and happiness we feel when something good happens. However, our brain is accustomed to regulating the amount of dopamine we receive. Ice, on the other hand, allows a large amount of dopamine into the brain at one period, which enables the user to experience a rush of euphoria that can last for several hours.
However, the product Desoxyn used to treat obesity, ADHD and narcolepsy contains the chemical. Doctors and the FDA have recognized over time that the drug carries a high potential for misuse and abuse. Because of this, it has become increasingly regulated and prescribed much less.
There are no protocols for crystal production, which means that every manufacturer can potentially use a different process to make the drug. However, there are certain items that are commonly used to make crystal meth. Much of the reason that meth addiction is such a widespread issue is that most of its ingredients can be purchased at any hardware store or pharmacy.
Ephedrine or pseudoephedrine: Commonly found in diet pills and cold medications. It is intended to act as a sinus reliever but also has a slight stimulant quality. When making crystal meth, its producers attempt to increase the potency of the drug by extracting the stimulant aspect of the chemical.
Meth producers create the drug by “cooking” the ingredients listed above. The ephedrine or pseudoephedrine is extracted from pharmaceutical cold medications through a process of heating it up (hence all of the fire-starting ingredients). The manufacturer creates a chemical reaction using a combination of water with either red phosphorus or ammonia and lithium. As the ephedrine reacts with these materials, methamphetamine is generated.
Once the meth has been created, the manufacturer will add solvents (the cleaning materials), which enables them to filter out the byproducts of the process. They’ll cook the liquid down, adding acidic materials as the batch boils to form crystals that can be sold on the street. Methamphetamine crystals can range in color from clear or yellowish-clear to blue. These crystals can be snorted, eaten, smoked or re-cooked and injected.
While most meth is produced in “labs” using the process outlined above, it has become increasingly more common for addicts to create their own with the “shake-and-bake” method. “Shake-and-bake” meth enables users to generate their own batches of the drug by mixing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine with other chemicals in a water bottle. This form of meth production enables the user to obtain their fix without having to build a meth lab or purchase it from a dealer.
It is important to note that the reason ephedrine and pseudoephedrine are used to create a new drug is that they contain a molecule called d-methamphetamine. This is, obviously, crystal gets its name. However, the chemical should not be confused with its counterpart, l-methamphetamine, which is a non-psychoactive molecule that is often found in other over-the-counter nasal decongestants.
Products such as Vick’s Vapor Rub, for example, carry the l-meth molecule but aren’t used in the production of illicit substances such as ice. Those that carry the d-meth molecule are more heavily regulated by state and local governments due to the fact that those are the ones used to create illegal forms of meth.
Over the course of time during which crystal meth and other illicit forms of the drug have risen in popularity, the government has intervened in an attempt to regulate the amount of d-meth that circulates on the street. As a result, medications containing ephedrine and pseudoephedrine are no longer as easily attainable as they once were. Whereas drugs like Sudafed (a product highly sought after by meth addicts and manufacturers) could once be purchased over the counter, they now require a valid prescription in order for an individual to purchase them.
Additionally, many drugs containing ephedrine and pseudoephedrine have been taken off of the market or re-engineered so as to no longer contain the chemical in its formula. Those drugs that do still contain a fair amount of the chemical are unable to be purchased in large quantities.
There are a number of key indicators that appear when someone “on ice”. The symptoms of meth abuse can include:
Oftentimes, meth addicts will show signs of poor dental hygiene such as discoloration and rotting of the teeth. “Meth mouth” occurs in addicts due to the fact that the drug dries out the salivary glands. Our salivary glands are important to dental hygiene, as they flush out the acids their mouth produces to break down food. In the absence of saliva, therefore, the acid starts to eat away at the enamel of the teeth themselves.
Additionally, “meth mouth” is caused by teeth-grinding, a habit that many addicts pick up while using the drug. As the amount of dopamine in the body is increased, the user will find sensations such as the feeling of grinding the teeth together to be pleasurable.
It is a common stereotype of “tweakers”, or meth heads, that they constantly pick at their skin. Meth users find themselves compulsively scratching and pinching themselves due to the fact that the drug generates constant feelings of itchiness on the body. In the attempt to satisfy the itch, those who use the drug may scratch themselves to the point that they start to develop wounds.
Because meth suppresses the immune system, these wounds don’t heal as quickly as they would on a non-user’s body. As a result, meth addicts tend to accumulate acne, scratches, and scabs on the surface of their skin.
When using crystal meth, the addict’s body weight can drop to an unhealthy level. This is because the drug simultaneously speeds up the user’s metabolism and inhibits the part of the brain that notifies us when we’re hungry. A meth user, therefore, will find that they don’t eat very often and burn off their caloric intake very quickly.
While it could sound like weight loss is a positive aspect of meth use, this isn’t the case. In the process of burning off calories, the user’s body is also flushing out valuable nutrients that the muscles and organs need to sustain themselves. A meth addiction can lead to a variety of long-term negative effects on the user’s muscle tissue, vital organs and immune system for this reason.
Paranoia is one of the psychological symptoms of meth addiction. Along with obsessive behavior, hyperactivity and psychosis, the drug can cause people to see, hear or believe things that aren’t grounded in reality. This stems from the fact that the increase of dopamine sent to the brain increases mental alertness to an unhealthy level.
As the user becomes more aware of everything around them, they may start to fabricate imaginary connections between things. Because using meth is illegal, the user may become increasingly aware of police and can start to believe that they are being tracked or followed. It is not uncommon for methamphetamine addicts to become suspicious of everyone around them, including their friends and family.
The high that meth users feel after consuming the drug can last for several hours, depending on the amount and purity of their dose and method they’ve used to take the drug. Many users choose to inject the drug, for example, as this gets the user high in the shortest period of time because it puts the drug directly into the bloodstream. However, some people choose to smoke, snort or take meth orally when they want their high to occur over a longer period of time.
“Flashing”: The initial rush of dopamine and serotonin felt by a meth user after consuming the drug is described by addicts as the “flash”. This period can last up to five or six minutes, depending on the user’s tolerance. During this stage, individuals will feel intensely euphoric, sexually around, hyperactive, and may find themselves thinking in a rapid manner.
“Shouldering”: After the initial five-minute rush, the user’s high will start to diminish. They will still feel euphoric for up to an hour afterward but in a less intense manner. During this time, heavy users and addicts often choose to take more of the drug in order to get back to the euphoric feeling they felt after they’d taken their first dose.
“Tweaking”: The term “tweaking” gets its name from the scattered thoughts and compulsive jittery behavior that those in the grips of meth addiction display. Even those who use methamphetamine for the first time will feel the symptoms of tweaking (strong cravings, agitation, paranoia, anxiety and possibly hallucinations) as they come down off of the drug’s effects. Initially, this stage can last anywhere from five hours to a full day, but that time period increases as the user accumulates more of the drug in their system.
“Crashing”: If an addict ceases to use the drug after several doses, they will continue to crave meth while becoming increasingly tired at the same time. They may be unable to keep themselves awake. The crashing period will last longer for those who are coming down from periods of consuming high amounts of crystal.
“Normalizing”: It can take several days after using meth to start to feel normal again. While many people will start to feel diminished effects during the first week, habitual users of methamphetamine can feel intense cravings for longer than seven days after the last time they used the drug.
The effectiveness of meth in getting its user high stems from the fact that it has a relatively long “half-life”. In short, “half-life” refers to the amount of time that it takes for the body to flush out 50% of the drug. While cocaine’s half-life is one hour (meaning that half of the amount of coke taken by the user will be out of their system within sixty minutes or less), methamphetamine has a half-life longer than twelve hours.
Meth’s long half-life is the reason why a user will experience symptoms of the drug for several days after taking it. Once they consume the chemical and it has started to take effect in the body, the reaction will take place over nearly half a day. Not until twelve hours after the initial dose will the user’s body have excreted a substantial portion of their dose. Depending on the amount they took, therefore, a user can experience the side effects of meth for quite a while
The half-life of meth also increases when the drug is smoked or snorted. Because these methods don’t place the drug directly in the bloodstream like injections do, the drug will be present in the body as soon as its consumed but take longer to break down, show effects and be flushed out.
In addition to getting high and feeling euphoric, a meth user will experience a number of other side effects in the immediate aftermath of taking the drug. These side effects will often include:
Over time, methamphetamine abuse and addiction can have severely negative consequences on the body and brain of the addict. Some of the long-term side effects of crystal meth include:
There is a chance that a user can overdose on meth. Particularly when a chronic user is increasing their intake over a long period of time, the risk of an overdose increases as the quantity of meth consumed can become greater than the amount that the body can handle. When a user takes too much methamphetamine at one time, they can experience a number of adverse reactions to the drug. Symptoms and risks of a meth overdose include:
Although not all meth overdoses are fatal, they can result in death if not treated quickly enough. The chance of death from overdoses increases when the drug is used in combination with other toxic substances such as alcohol and marijuana.
Methamphetamine addiction greatly increases the risk of contracting HIV as well as various strains of hepatitis. This is, in part, due to the fact that the drug is often injected. A user who injects ice and shares needles with someone who currently carries HIV or hepatitis puts themselves at risk of getting the disease.
At the same time, however, those who snort, smoke or ingest meth orally are also more likely to contract these diseases. The takes a severe toll on its user’s immune system, opening their body up to the potential of contracting a number of illnesses. While the research on why meth users contract HIV more often is unclear, researchers believe that the risky sexual behavior drug users show could be one possible explanation.
In order to comprehend why methamphetamine is such an addictive drug, it helps to first understand how meth affects the human brain. Essentially, a user who consumes crystal meth or another form of the chemical hacks into their brain’s “reward system”. The reward system is a network of parts of our brain that communicate to one another when we feel pleasure, happiness or reward. Our brain takes note of that feeling in order to remind us when we should repeat the activity that made us happy.
We feel happy when our body sends dopamine and serotonin to the neurotransmitters in our brains. These are the chemicals responsible for allowing us to feel positive emotions. Normally, our brains regulate the amount of serotonin and dopamine that are allowed in to make sure that we don’t stop seeking happiness. If we were content all of the time, we wouldn’t seek out food, exercise, partnership or any of the things that keep us alive. Thus, the reward system is a mechanism that the human body uses to keep us constantly working toward survival.
The two drugs both block dopamine and serotonin from leaving the brain for a certain amount of time. By simply taking one dose of cocaine, a user can feel euphoric for several minutes. Where meth and coke differ, however, is that methamphetamine-based drugs also increase the amount of dopamine that is sent to the brain. Therefore, the user will feel euphoric for a sustained period of time due to the fact that their brain is being flooded with chemicals that the body associates with reward and the neurotransmitters are essentially locking the door behind them for a given period.
Of course, the happiness that a meth user feels while on the drug is not sustainable. After a few hours, dopamine and serotonin trickle out of the brain and the user find themselves craving more. At this point, they have exposed their brain to a reward that can’t be matched by the other things that would normally provide one. Hence, methamphetamine can be extremely addictive from the earliest doses.
In the United States, methamphetamine is currently classified as a Schedule II drug under the Controlled Substances Act. Essentially, this means that, while the drug has medicinal uses and is (in very rare cases, these days) prescribed by doctors, it is highly addictive and potentially dangerous.
In their 2016 publication of the National Vital Statistics Report, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published that:
In addition, the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), an organization that researches the relationship between drug-related occurrences and emergency room visits in the United States reported:
In 2011, meth was one of the top four drug-related causes of trips to the emergency room.
Although meth is not the most popular drug among young people, it is still somewhat of a problem. A study by Monitoring the Future (MTF) in 2016 focused on methamphetamine use among teenagers and young adolescent. The study reported that around 1% of children in 8th, 10th and 12th grade has used a form of meth during the previous twelve months. This number represented a small but not significant decrease in the time since the previous survey.
The decrease in meth use among young adults could possibly be attributed to the decrease in prescribed versions of the drug, the difficulty in obtaining it (for teenagers), its regional bias or the growing prevalence of other illicit substances.
Although meth addiction does occur in coastal states and metropolitan areas, the problem is most prevalent in the rural communities of midwestern towns. A study conducted by the El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC) and National Security System (NSS) in 2013 focused on meth lab “incidents” (fires, explosions, and seizures/arrests). It reported that the majority of meth-related incidents occurred in the midwestern states of Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee and Kentucky (around 8,000 total). The total amount of methamphetamine incidents that took place in these states outweighed the total combined number of incidents that had taken place in all 43 other states by several thousand.
While the southeastern states rank slightly high in the number of meth-related incidents that occurred within them that year, Mississippi reported only five. Researchers attributed this to the fact that meth’s main ingredient, pseudoephedrine became a prescription-only drug in the state. The same legislation took place in Oregon, as well, reducing the amount of meth-related incidents that occurred there by three times in only a year. By making pseudoephedrine more difficult to obtain, meth manufactures were less likely to be able to produce the drug.
Meth can be produced almost anywhere. The process does not take any intense training and can be performed with relatively little equipment. As it has been pointed out above, the ingredients are readily available and can be easily gathered or purchased at most hardware stores and pharmacies.
However, methamphetamine production is also a dangerous process that can result in fires or explosions. It also poses a serious threat to the community by supplying them with a source for the drug. Additionally, some of the chemicals involved in meth production are highly toxic and can present a health risk to the people who live in the area. For that reason, it is common for state and local governments to educate their citizens on the signs of a meth lab. Doing so helps them to cut down on the amount of meth-related incidents that occur in the area and attempt to protect the residents of the neighborhood that the meth lab operates in.
While the final, crystallized version of meth has very little smell, the production process can be quite stinky. The smokey byproducts of cooking meth will have a pungent, sour smell to them. This scent can often be detected from several hundred yards away, depending on the amount of methamphetamine that’s being produced.
No drug manufacturer wants to get caught. However, those who produce meth, whether they use it themselves or not, tend to become extremely paranoid about their production. It is common for meth manufacturers to block out their windows using foil, colored plastic or another material in the attempt to hide what they’re doing and prevent smells from leaking out into the surrounding neighborhood.
Not everyone who makes crystal meth wants to make it in their house. While it is a normal occurrence for police to find meth labs in basements or even entire homes, some manufacturers will construct specific structures to produce the drug inside of. These structures may look like sheds or trailers and may be built with special vents in an attempt to avoid being contained with all of those toxic chemicals.
Making meth is a highly toxic process. Its byproducts are capable of reacting with the wood and paint on a house as well as the concrete used in the driveway or nearby street. When the gas produced in the process of making methamphetamine touches these structures, it can turn them a reddish-yellow (like rust) color over time.
Obviously, not every messy neighbor is running a meth lab. However, meth-making facilities do tend to show these symptoms. Additionally, they may accumulate some unusual objects around their property. If you see these things showing up in large quantities around on your neighbor’s house (along with the other signs outlined above) you may want to contact authorities to look into the matter:
Meth, in all of its forms, is classified as a Schedule II drug within the guidelines of the Controlled Substances Act. As it has been pointed out earlier, the substance belongs to this category due to the fact that it has some medical uses but is also highly addictive and carries a high risk of abuse.
As a result, the possession of crystal meth and other illicit versions of the drug carries a sentence in all fifty states of the U.S. If caught in possession of methamphetamine, the prosecution team will attempt to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the alleged perpetrator was not only carrying meth but was fully aware that they knew what the substance was.
If proven to have had full comprehension of their actions, the perpetrator will be sentenced under both federal and state laws. Each state holds its own penalties for possession of meth.
If found to have meth on their person or property and charged with possession, the defendant will be sentenced to a certain amount of jail time. The exact sentence will depend on what state they’re arrested and the amount of methamphetamine they are caught with.
The perpetrator is caught in possession of 300 grams of meth or more. They will be sentenced by the federal government to a mandatory maximum quantity of eleven years and will be forced to pay a strict fine of $20,000. They will also be categorized as a major drug offender, a title that can carry severe consequences in their personal and professional life.
Individuals who are caught in possession of a quantity ranging from 150 to 300 grams will still be charged with a first-degree felony but may have an easier time getting their prison sentence reduced. There is a three-year minimum prison sentence for those who are caught with a quantity of meth that falls within this range.
Those who are caught with an amount of meth totaling between 15 and 150 grams are charged with a second-degree felony. They will be sentenced to pay a fine of up to $15,000 and will be given a prison sentence of anywhere between two and eight years.
People found to be in possession of three to fifteen grams of meth are charged with a third-degree prison sentence and can spend up to three years in prison. The minimum prison sentence for third-degree felons is nine months. Additionally, the perpetrator will be forced to pay a fine of up to $10,000.
If charged with the possession of fewer than three grams, the defendant will be charged with a fifth-degree prison sentence. They can be penalized with up to one year of jail time and will be required to pay a $2,500 fine.
Along with the completion of a prison sentence and paying a fine, those who are convicted of the crime will have their driver’s licensed suspended for as many as five years. They may also find any professional (legal, medical, etc) licenses revoked or suspended for a time determined by the authorities responsible for certification in the given industry.
When it comes to prescription methamphetamine drugs such as Desoxyn, possession is illegal insofar as the defendant does not have a valid prescription from a doctor. If they are unable to show proof of having been prescribed Desoxyn, they’ll be charged with possession of methamphetamine just as someone who was caught with crystal meth would be.
As with most drugs, the penalty for possessing meth with the intent to sell or distribute it is much higher than simply using or carrying the drug. Even if a user does not actually have the intent to sell it to anybody, the prosecution team will often try to prove that the perpetrator did, in fact, intend to distribute it. In this case, the may look for evidence of sales such as large amounts of cash, large quantities of meth or any packaging materials (plastic baggies, Saran Wrap, etc) that could suggest the individual was distributing it in some capacity. They may also seek out individuals or witnesses that will back up their claims that the individual was selling or planned to sell the methamphetamine they were caught with.
Under the Controlled Substances Act, those who are arrested and charged with possession, manufacture, sale or intent to distribute drugs within a school zone can have their prison sentence doubled. This means that, while a meth dealer caught selling outside of a school zone can face several years in prison, those who are found to be selling within a certain distance of a school can find themselves serving twice the amount of time in jail.
When it comes to sentencing guidelines for methamphetamine distribution, each state has a different definition of “school zone”. The majority of states deem that a school zone is any location within 1,000 feet of a public school, private school or any other institution where people under the age of 18 tend to gather (such as swimming pools and community youth centers). Other states determine that the perimeter of a school zone can extend to far more than 1,000 feet.
Additionally, those who are caught selling meth within a certain distance of a college may find themselves facing additional prosecution from the institution itself. Many colleges maintain their own policies about the sale of drugs on their property and do not hesitate to press charges on perpetrators who are caught doing so.
Manufacturing methamphetamine is a punishable offense in all fifty states of the U.S. However, the offense carries a different prison sentence in many states.
The crime is punishable on the federal level for at least one year, depending on the amount of crystal meth that the perpetrator is caught with. This sentence will be tacked on to the state’s sentence, which can range from as little as a few years to as many as 99 years.
Those who are caught making meth in these states can find themselves spending a hefty length of time in prison. They will also be required to pay a fine as large as $25,000 if the judge decides that it is a suitable punishment for the crime.
Ephedrine and pseudoephedrine are classified as “precursors” by the federal government. Because they are ingredients in crystal meth, they can be used in court to prove that the individual in possession had the intent to manufacture illegal substances.
It is difficult, but possible, for attorneys to prosecute an individual simply for having crystal meth ingredients in their possession. Such a case is tough, obviously, because the components of a meth lab are items that many non-users have in their houses on a day-to-day basis. Items like cold medication, batteries, propane tanks, cleaning solutions and glass containers are not enough to prosecute someone with the intent to manufacture methamphetamine. The defendant will need to prove that these materials were not collected with the intention to make any illegal drugs.
If an individual is found to have physical evidence of the drug on their body or property, however, and the prosecution team can also provide evidence of methamphetamine production, the perpetrator can find themselves facing a felony and some serious jail time. In many instances, the prosecution team will be required to show proof of having found a physical, finished product manufactured using the material evidence. In other cases, however, the prosecution team will only need to prove that they have evidence of a conspiracy to manufacture the drug with those materials.
As the U.S government has worked to limit the amount of methamphetamine use and production that happens in the States, the charges for possession have increased. In 2005, the passed a piece of legislation entitled the Methamphetamine Epidemic Act in an attempt to reduce the number of meth-related deaths that occur each year. In addition to increasing jail sentences for crimes related to crystal meth and other forms of the drug, the Act also worked to intervene on prescription drugs such as Desoxyn.
As a result of the Methamphetamine Epidemic Act’s success, many states implemented similar pieces of legislation. Therefore, many states carry higher prison sentences for the crime of meth possession than they did before 2005.
As the “shake and bake” method has grown steadily more popular as a method for producing ice, courts have started to take note. While there aren’t any government regulations that definitely outline the penalties for making your own meth in a plastic bottle, many users of shake and bake have been charged with manufacturing the drug. Because the method still technically involves the production of methamphetamine, those who mix up their own cocktail can face similar charges to someone who owns and operates a meth lab.
Of course, the shake and bake method is capable of producing very few crystals at once. Therefore, a perpetrator charged with manufacturing in this scenario is unlikely to amass a large enough quantity to receive a first-degree felony. However, there have been cases in which shake and bake was the primary technique of a large operation and its operators when caught, were sentenced to as many as twenty years for manufacturing methamphetamine.
Whether they are arrested, overdose or simply choose to stop using, methamphetamine addicts will need to go through the detox process to flush the drug out of their body. Detoxification is the process through which the body expels a drug and its byproducts out of the system entirely. During the detox period, the user will experience withdrawal symptoms as the body adjusts to no longer having meth in it.
In many instances, those who are withdrawing from crystal meth may choose to do so in a specialized detox facility under the supervision of medical professionals and addiction specialists. Luckily, many detox facilities exist on-site at addiction treatment centers, making the process of transitioning from withdrawal to rehabilitation much easier, smoother and more efficient.
Detoxification is an integral step to addiction recovery and withdrawal is one of the biggest challenges to overcome. When a “meth head” decides that it is time to stop using, their brain and body will not take kindly to the decision. After all, when someone uses methamphetamine on a regular basis, they have slowly trained their brain to expect the drug and may not be able to function properly without it. During the detox period, therefore, the brain will continually send out signals that result in the user craving the drug for long periods of time.
Simultaneously, the brain will attempt to recalibrate itself without the help of methamphetamine. As it does so, it may go into a panic state as it attempts to return to its natural way of functioning. This process will be ongoing until it adjusts to the absence of meth.
While the brain situates itself, the rest of the body will be working to flush the drug out of itself. Meth and its traces will be removed via sweat, urine, vomit, and stool. During this time, the user may experience extreme pain. However, those who are able to withstand the unpleasant side effects of withdrawal will be on the road to a meth-free life.
As the body works to rid itself of methamphetamine, the addict is likely to experience nausea. Vomiting and diarrhea are common withdrawal symptoms, especially during the initial stages of detox. The addict’s body, after all, is working to flush all traces of meth out of the system at this time. The individual’s nausea can be worsened by the fact that detox may cause them to feel dizzy or confused. It is important that they drink plenty of water, even if they don’t feel the need to so that they don’t become too dehydrated as they withdraw.
Meth addicts who have gone through detoxification will tell you that it is a very dehydrating process. During withdrawal, the body is continuously flushing toxins out through the urine and sweat. In order for the individual to sweat and urinate properly without losing too much water, they need to keep drinking it. When we become too dehydrated, our brain can dry out, causing us to feel headaches. In professional detox facilities, doctors and addiction specialists will work to keep the patient hydrated in order to prevent them from experiencing severe head pain.
Intense shaking, shivering and tremors are one common symptom of methamphetamine withdrawal. This occurs due to the decrease in dopamine and serotonin being sent to the user’s brain after they cease their meth intake. When the nervous system recognizes that it is no longer receiving the drug it once depended on, it starts to react adversely. Essentially, shaking is a signal from the nervous system that the body is lacking something it needs. However, during this time it becomes increasingly important for the addict to abstain from using if they want to get clean
Meth withdrawal is considered to be right below heroin withdrawal on the list of the most difficult detox processes. It can be severely painful, particularly for those who are accustomed to using the drug regularly. As the user works through the detox period, they may clench their jaw tightly to cope with the pain of withdrawing. Many recovering addicts have reported that the worst pain they felt was the ache in their jaw, caused by constant clenching and grinding as their body cleansed itself.
In addition to withdrawal being a painful experience physically, recovering addicts may experience a number of psychological symptoms during, and after, the withdrawal process. While most addicts report that the most intense symptoms appeared during the initial stages of withdrawal, many have said that the psychological side effects of meth lasted for years after they discontinued using.
These psychological symptoms can be attributed to the fact that, when using methamphetamine habitually, the brain becomes accustomed to a constant supply of large quantities of dopamine and serotonin. Human beings are not equipped to deal with those chemicals in such high quantities. As a result, the brain of a meth addict can “crash” once they stop using the drug. The crashing period is also known as the “comedown" The symptoms of the comedown period can take many forms including depression, fatigue, anxiety, exhaustion, and insomnia. The length of time that these withdrawal symptoms last will depend on the nature of the individual’s addiction and other factors such as mental health history.
While it is obviously possible to die from a crystal meth overdose, it is highly uncommon for the withdrawal process to be fatal. The greatest risk faced by recovering addicts during the detox period is dehydration. However, those who withdraw in an addiction treatment center or detox facility will be treated by doctors to ensure that they stay hydrated throughout the process.
1-3 days after last use: During this time period, the addict will start to experience the earliest psychological symptoms. They will most likely feel strong cravings for meth and consider relapsing to ease the pain. They may become panicked, anxious, or agitated. They may also experience visual or auditory hallucinations. In many cases, the user will become exhausted and tired but unable to sleep due to their agitation and pain.
3-7 days after last use: During the second half of the first week of withdrawal, the addict will experience the most extreme physical side effects. Habitual users will flush the majority of methamphetamine contained in their bodies outward and their body will react accordingly. They will feel aches in their muscles and experience strong cravings for the drug. Psychological symptoms will persist.
Second week of detox: Those overcoming a serious addiction will continue to feel cravings during the second week of withdrawal. Depression may increase while the serotonin and dopamine levels in their brain deplete. It is common that, after the first week of detox, meth addicts find themselves unable to sleep.
Third and fourth week of detox: Even after most of the methamphetamine has been flushed out of the user’s body, they will continue to feel depressed or anxious. They will most likely find themselves with more energy than they had during the previous stages of detox, but only for short periods of time. Their body will be in the process of adjusting to depleted levels of serotonin and dopamine. They may start to regain their appetite and begin sleeping better.
Second month of detox and beyond: Depression and anxiety can be long-lasting side-effects of a methamphetamine addiction. Our bodies aren’t accustomed to dealing with the high levels of dopamine that the drug provides. Once it is deprived of this dopamine supply, the user may find that they get less joy out of everyday activities than they once would.
During this time period, addicts should seek as much psychological support as they can find. Overcoming meth addiction can be a lifelong process. It involves physical treatment as well as psychological counseling. Those who beat their addiction should seek out support from professionals and other recovering addicts. Doing so can be an integral part of getting clean and enjoying a drug-free life.
Some medical professionals prescribe medication to help addicts deal with meth withdrawal. These drugs are intended to aid the individual in their journey toward physical and psychological well-being.
One medication commonly used as part of the drug addiction treatment process is bupropion. Found in prescription products such as Wellbutrin, bupropion is known to help reduce cravings in some addicts. It is commonly prescribed to treat nicotine addiction as well as opioid dependency and can be helpful in the meth addiction recovery process. This drug, however, does carry a risk of abuse and should only be used under the supervision of medical professionals.
Any strong treatment plan will include a regiment of counseling, therapy and support whether it includes medication or not. It is important to remember that addiction is not simply a physical condition, but a psychological one as well. In order to successfully stop using meth, addicts will need to treat both their bodies and minds if they want to stay clean in the long run.
There are a variety of places in which an addict can go through the methamphetamine detox process. The chosen location will depend on the nature of the individual’s addiction. In some cases, a meth addict may be required to detox in jail if they’ve been arrested. Most prisons have medical professionals on staff that are trained to help ensure the withdrawal process goes smoothly.
If the addict is detoxing from meth by their own free will, however, they may choose to do so within the confines of a specialized detox facility. These facilities may exist solely to help addicts detoxify or can be on the site of a hospital or addiction treatment center. Wherever the facility is located, addicts who check into them to withdraw from drugs get the benefit of having medical professionals nearby as they go through the detox process. These doctors will ensure that the individual is fully hydrated and not in any danger as they flush the drugs out of their system.
Withdrawal can be scary and painful, so having doctors close while you experience it can make the whole process a bit easier and safer.
It is entirely possible to withdraw from methamphetamine at home. However, addicts who choose to do so are at a far greater risk of relapsing or harming themselves during the process.
It is important to understand how painful, frightening and traumatic it can be to detox. Particularly if the user is attempting to overcome a strong meth habit, they can experience heavy cravings, severe anxiety, and overwhelming depression after they cease their use of the drug. It is common for those withdrawing from methamphetamine to give up and seek out a fix in order to relieve the pain they’re experiencing. Likewise, it is not unheard of for addicts to self-harm when they withdraw from drugs as a response to the physical and emotional turmoil of the whole process.
The benefit of detoxing in a specialized facility, hospital or addiction treatment center, therefore, is that the user will be unable to obtain the drug even if they want it. They will also be under the supervision of specialists who will prevent them from harming themselves as they withdraw. Meth addicts who are thinking about kicking their habit should give some strong thought to where they want to detox and if they think that doing so at home is something they can handle.
The road to overcoming meth addiction can be long but is fruitful for the addict if they are able to stop using. During this process, some addicts will choose to attend a rehabilitation program. Rehab programs are specifically designed to help users get the physical treatment and psychological support they need to work toward a drug-free life.
Meth rehab comes in a number of different forms. Each type of meth rehabilitation program offers its own unique benefits catered to the needs of the individual addict. Because addicts have different lifestyles, different types of rehab work for different types of people. However, the goal of every rehab program is to provide addicts with the emotional and psychological tools they need to stay clean over the course of their life.
Many times, those who are working to recover from methamphetamine addiction will check in to an inpatient rehabilitation facility. Inpatient rehab is a type of addiction treatment in which the addict will live on-site at the facility for a certain period of time. They won’t be permitted to leave the premises during the duration of their stay. During that time, they’ll meet with addiction counselors, medical professionals and treatment specialists who will help them work to overcome their addiction.
The early stages of an inpatient program will be rigorously scheduled, giving the addict time to spend focusing on their recovery. They will spend many hours in group therapy sessions with other recovering addicts sharing experiences and helping each other through the difficult process.
For many addicts, inpatient meth rehab is the safest way to work through recovery without the risk of relapse. Because rehab facilities are substance-free campuses, the possibility of scoring meth while staying in the center is impossible. Those who choose this form of rehabilitation find that spending 24 hours around people who want to help them and other individuals who are going through the same process is beneficial to their recovery.
Not every addict chooses to attend an inpatient rehab program. Those who need to (and believe that they have the fortitude to) go to work or school as they recover from their addiction might find that outpatient rehab is a better option for them. Specifically, they find that an intensive outpatient program is the best possible tool to help them through the process.
Intensive outpatient rehab programs (IOPs) provide addicts with the opportunity to reap the benefits of inpatient rehab without requiring them to live on the facility’s campus. Users who choose this form of treatment will spend up to eight hours of each day on-site meeting with addiction counselors and attending group therapy sessions. After they’ve completed their assigned treatment sessions, they will be permitted to return home or attend school.
This form of rehab works best for those who have their addiction under enough control that they can avoid using drugs when outside of the facility. Those who are unable to abstain from using meth while off-site are not recommended to attend outpatient programs during the initial stages of their recovery.
For some folks, addiction treatment recovery will include time attending both inpatient and outpatient programs. Because many addicts detox in the same place that they attend rehab, it is common to move directly from the withdrawal process to inpatient treatment. There, they will start to work through the stages of their recovery.
Similarly, many people will transition to outpatient after spending a certain amount of time living on campus. Although they may have attended weeks of treatment sessions, many addicts find that it wasn’t enough time to keep them clean forever. Choosing to attend outpatient treatment sessions after living in the facility for a time is common, as it helps the addict to receive continued support as they work toward returning to everyday life. In some cases, the outpatient program won’t be as intense as an IOP. This gives the individual more time to attend to their daily schedule while enabling them to maintain a support network at the center.
Addiction treatment will vary depending on the specific needs of the individual. Inpatient programs, for example, may last up to 6 weeks. For some addicts, this period may be longer. When it comes to methamphetamine, specifically, the withdrawal process alone can take up to several weeks. Given that an inpatient program often includes detoxification period, the user may want to spend more time on campus after withdrawing to get their head straight, fight off cravings and receive psychological support. In some cases, addicts will choose to live in the facility for a few months before returning to the outside world.
Of course, not everyone has the time to live in a treatment center for that long. For this reason, many addicts limit their inpatient time to a few weeks and commit to several months of outpatient rehab. They may choose to partake in a partial-hospitalization program (PHP) after they complete inpatient. There, they will receive continued support by checking in to the facility every day and meeting with therapists as well as other recovering individuals. The amount of time rehab lasts will depend on how long it takes the addict to feel comfortable living their life without the constant risk of a relapse.
Whether someone fighting an addiction chooses to live on campus or simply attend rehab during the day, they will be required to meet regularly with therapists and counselors. These addiction specialists will monitor the status of the individual’s recovery while meeting with them regularly for counseling sessions. During their sessions, they will discuss their experiences and work to develop psychological tools for fighting cravings in the future.
Psychotherapy, for example, will work to identify the psychological roots of the person’s tendency to seek out addictive substances. CBT targets the user’s impulses and helps them to develop more productive responses to situations that might trigger them to relapse. Family therapy helps the addict to understand the way that their habit has impacted the lives of their family members and other loved ones.
The specific therapy regimen that an addict chooses to pursue will depend on their individual needs and the requirements of their treatment program. In most cases, addiction treatment will include a variety of different types of therapy, enabling the user to see which methods are most beneficial for them personally.
Particularly for those who have been addicted to meth for years, rehabilitation can be a lifelong endeavor. Even individuals who have spent months on end living in an addiction facility and attending intensive outpatient treatment sessions will find that they still fight cravings for meth. Certain psychological aspects of addiction just never seem to go away.
For this reason, many addicts seek out “aftercare” once they’ve completed their time in an inpatient or intensive outpatient program. There are a number of different forms of aftercare, but each one is intended to provide the addict with continued support as they attempt to rebuild their lives.
One of the biggest challenges in recovering from meth addiction completely is steering clear of situations where the opportunity to use is presented. Those who kick an addiction often have to dissociate from the people with whom they used to do drugs with, as being around folks who are still using drugs will greatly increase the risk of a relapse.
Sober housing provides a great opportunity for recovering addicts to live and spend time with people who are also in the process of rebuilding their life after overcoming an addiction. These properties are often owned and managed by former users and will only allow residents to live there if they remain drug-free. In sober houses, residents share household responsibilities such as cleaning and cooking. Each individual will hold a job outside of the house and will sometimes reconvene at night for NA meetings or group therapy sessions. Occasionally, sober homes will provide discounted rent for new residents in order to help them regain financial stability while they work through the initial steps of transitioning back to normal life.
Some meth addiction centers will provide the option for alumni to rent a living space on campus for a certain period of time after they’ve completed rehab. This is different than both inpatient and intensive outpatient rehabilitation as the resident will not be required to stay on campus. They will most likely be required to find a job offsite in order to work toward becoming financially independent. The facility will allow the resident to attend group support sessions and may even hold special NA meetings for their post-rehab residents.
This option can be helpful for those who want to remain within the safe environment of a rehab center during the initial phase of their life as a newly sober person.
In most cases, those who successfully overcome a meth addiction should continue to seek therapy and support after they’ve exited their rehab program. Addiction treatment, after all, is an ongoing process that can take many years of work. Addicts might choose to attend drug counseling sessions for a long period of time or find therapists who specialize in the forms of therapy that they find work best for their individual case. A user who found that psychotherapy was particularly helpful for them in rehab might choose to see a specialist in this field on a regular basis for several years.
Although methamphetamine is not classified as a narcotic under the guidelines of the federal government, those who struggle with meth addiction often attend Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings as part of their recovery process. As the organization’s name describes, NA is an anonymous group of individuals who have lived through drug addiction and are taking the steps necessary to stay clean.
NA is a “12-step program”, meaning that members will work through 12 steps designed to help addicts confront the nature and effects of their addiction while developing skills for coping with life as a substance-free person. Individuals may start to attend NA meetings as soon as (or even before, in some cases) they detox from meth. There are no requirements for membership and users are invited to attend meetings however often they choose to. Meetings are often held in public buildings such as schools, town halls or community centers and are open to anyone who is or has struggled with addiction.
Many NA members commit to attending meetings for years or even the rest of their lives. The program is organized around “sponsorship”, meaning that newly-sober members will seek out a veteran member to act as a “sponsor” for them. Sponsors will provide mentorship and advice to the addict, helping them to remain clean as they work through the sometimes difficult stages of meth addiction recovery. Once an addict has been drug-free for a long enough period of time, they will lend support to other new members by becoming sponsors themselves.
It takes time, energy and commitment to get clean. However, there are endless success stories that come from those who decided it was time to stop. By making through detox without a relapse and then getting the necessary support from addiction treatment professionals, even the most addicted “meth head” can eventually get past drug abuse.
Although they may experience cravings for a long time, it is entirely possible for any addict to move past their days of meth abuse. With some hard work, dedication, and help from the right people, they can come out of the dark tunnel that is an addiction. There is an amazing, drug-free life waiting for them on the other side.