4 Key Facts You Must Know about Meth Withdrawal and Treatment


Meth Overview

Meth, Crystal Meth, Methamphetamine, and Crystal Methamphetamine are but the formal labels for this powerful and extremely addictive synthetic stimulant. Street names for meth include:

Similar in structure as amphetamine, meth affects the brain and central nervous system by providing a sudden influx of the neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine, epinephrine, and serotonin. Users who snort or inject the drug experience a “rush” or a “flash”, whereas addicts who smoke meth or consume a speed pill experience more of a feel-good, euphoric sensation.

According to Dr. Petros Levounis, chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at Rutgers University in New Jersey, it is easy to infer that crystal methamphetamine, when used, probably causes the dopamine level in the brain to soar by some 4000 percent over its baseline. That, in a nutshell, reflects on how potent meth is.

The methamphetamine high is instant, though it fades quickly. For that reason, methamphetamine abusers commonly take “hits” in succession in what is referred to as a meth “binge and crash”. Others snort or inject meth or ice in a type of binging known as a “run”; methamphetamine abusers thus go without food or sleep, at times for several days on end.

Meth Withdrawal Symptoms

According to meth users, the crash down from meth, much worse than a hangover from alcohol, is at its most unbearable in the first couple of days, or until sleep takes over. Users are unanimous about this: nothing, they say, is tougher than coming down from a binge on meth. The addict feels flat, drained from all energy, with no will to do anything, and experiencing the worst kind of depression. The craving for meth drives them crazy, with a majority of users succumbing to it and going back for more meth.

That first period, marked by restlessness and depression can last for two weeks or more, followed by another period in which the suffering is less intense. Many users then suffer “post- acute withdrawal syndrome” (PAWS) which can be experienced months after dropping the habit. It is also known that the longer one has maintained the habit, and the higher the frequency with which one used meth, are prime determinants for how bad the withdrawal will feel. Check the following video for more information about the crash.

The effects of meth in the short run

Meth is a lifestyle drug, meaning that, in addition to the physical addiction, a user gets hooked on the lifestyle that is frequently part and parcel of the meth habit. Late nights, partying, hanging out with other meth addicts, that kind of lifestyle becomes a part of the addict’s identity.

In the initial exposure of a user to meth, and assuming the drug is ingested in small quantities (as against in a more extravagant binge), the drug can produce a euphoric sensation. This is coupled with an increased heart rate and blood pressure, increased respiration, increased wakefulness and physical activity, and decreased appetite. In time, when the drug consumption has gotten out of hand, the feelings would have changed to constant irritability, persistent insomnia, aggressiveness, confusion and anxiety.

The effects of meth in the longer run

The excessive use of meth in due course destroys the neurotransmitter systems that bring about the drug’s initial pleasurable feelings. What is left is an addiction that produces extreme agitation, belligerence, combativeness and hallucinations. In addition, methamphetamines cause changes in the areas of the nervous system and the brain that control judgment, resulting in addicts having a heightened sense of overwhelming fear and of being constantly under threat. Such bouts of paranoid schizophrenia are of the type that makes the addict jump convulsively at the sound of a siren or the sight of a uniform, believing that “they” are coming for him.

The damage to the brain resulting from excessive use of methamphetamines is similar to that caused by Alzheimer’s, strokes and epilepsy. Meth can also cause anorexia, hyperthermia, and convulsions that are frequently fatal. And visually, the drug can also cause significant changes in the user’s appearance.

Meth Treatment

Overcoming a meth addiction and staying drug-free is no easy matter. The best way is to seek guidance and ongoing support as an inpatient in a certified and reliable treatment and recovery rehab center. Meth addiction is associated with a number of issues, some of which may be deep in the subconscious, and the professionals at a treatment and recovery center can help with all phases of recovery, including psychotherapeutic techniques.

It is imperative that meth addicts first denounce their illusions about being able to “lick” the meth addiction on their own; they must acknowledge that the only way for getting healthy again is to seek help, ideally from a reliable treatment and recovery center.

They must then undergo detoxification. Going “on the wagon” must not be attempted by any meth addict on their own, for meth addicts may develop life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. A sudden abstinence from meth use can induce conditions in which a person can die. Here is more information about detoxification.

There are currently no FDA-approved medications that specifically counteract the effects of crystal meth or that help to reduce use or assist with sobriety programs. There are however many medications for concurrent symptoms that might be of help in treatment programs. For example, the anti-depressant bupropion reduces drug cravings, and there are similarly a number of medications for anxiety, depression and some of the crystal methamphetamine’s other manifestations.

In the therapy period that then commences, commonly consisting of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), addicts commonly exhibit low self-esteem and a great desire to please others. They are paranoid, consumed by fear and a compulsive behavior, and many of them may exhibit symptoms of bipolar disease. Watch the following video to gain more information about bipolar disorder.

In that early recovery phase, therapy must thus grapple with concurrent symptoms, including other possible pre-addiction issues. Therapy has a priority, namely to try to get to the root of the meth addiction, as the addiction is frequently a valve through which abusers attempt to escape feelings of low esteem and circumvent deeply entrenched concerns and fears.

The most effective treatments for methamphetamine addiction are those that use comprehensive methodologies that include family education, behavioral therapy, motivational therapy that teaches social adaptations and habits for recovery, individual counseling, 12-step support groups, drug testing, and encouragement for non-drug related activities. A certified and reliable treatment and addiction center can help the recovering meth addict navigate through all of those phases.