Methamphetamine, or meth, is an extremely potent psychostimulant drug that has been increasing in popularity for the last few decades. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has determined that drug overdose deaths have been on a steady incline every year since 1999, peaking at 10,333 in 2017.
Meth, also known as ice, crank, speed, crystal, and many other street names, remains just as deadly addictive no matter what you call the drug. It comes in forms that resemble white rocks or shards of glass and often has a blue tint.
The NIDA has also determined that an estimated 964,000 people aged 12 or older (about .4 percent of the population) had a methamphetamine use disorder in 2017. That means that these people reported clinically significant impairment, including health problems, disability, and failure to meet responsibilities at work, school, or home as a result of their drug use. The addictive nature of meth is such that it often becomes the first priority for its users.
To better understand the drug and Vertava Health Massachusetts’’s approach to methamphetamine treatment, it is very important to understand how the drug affects the brain and body of its users.
Biology Of Meth Addiction
Methamphetamine works by hijacking the body’s central nervous system (CNS). The CNS is a very important system of the body that consists of the brain and spinal cord. This system acts as a relay system that delivers messages that are responsible for the actions, regulation, and maintenance of just about every bodily function.
To put it another way, if your body was a big city, the central nervous system is the series of roads and highways that the postal service uses to deliver messages between the boss and important city officials. The CNS achieves this by using chemical messengers called neurotransmitters to communicate between different systems and organs of the body.
When you do something that inspires happiness, joy, or satisfaction, it is marked by a certain chemical response in the brain. Your brain releases dopamine in an effort to train you to repeat such actions in order to be rewarded. Dopamine is directly responsible for feelings of reward, motivation, memory, attention, and even the regulation of body movements and functions. When an outside source begins to dictate how your brain regulates itself, there’s no telling the amount of havoc that can be wreaked on the systems of the body.
Meth works the same way as many other stimulant drugs, such as cocaine. Its use results in the unnatural, massive release of the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and dopamine. The flooding of these two neurotransmitters into the body leads to a number of extremely potent euphoric effects, increases in energy, feelings of invulnerability, and other psychological results. This release of dopamine is described as so intense that no natural cause can compare.
After an extended period of meth use, a person may find that they are unable to be happy or content without the drug. This is the basis for addiction. The drug has told the body to expend all of its dopamine leading to an intense crash when the user runs out. The body is also surprisingly adaptable to outside chemicals. After a while, the body recognizes that meth is what is causing the release of massive amounts of dopamine, so it stops production of the neurotransmitter on its own.
Meth is often used in multiple day binges in which a person doesn’t sleep or eat. The effects of its use suppress both appetite and the desire to eat, which can cause extreme and rapid weight loss.
Knowing the warning signs of meth overdose can mean the difference between life and death.
Signs Of Meth Addiction
Because of the drug’s potency, methamphetamine use can quickly escalate into addiction. An addiction to meth can be devastating to all aspects of a person’s life and health. Some users may try to hide their drug use initially but eventually meth addiction will make itself apparent as the user begins to show physical and behavioral signs of addiction. Some of these physical and behavioral signs and symptoms are outlined below:
Drastic Weight Loss:
As mentioned above, meth use can shut off the parts of the brain that tells your body when it’s hungry or needs nourishment. It is not uncommon for an addicted person to go days without eating, leading to very rapid and stark weight loss. This is one of the first signs to look out for. Along with this drastic weight loss can come the thinning or falling out of hair and the person’s facial skin taking on a “drooping” appearance.
Oral Health Issues:
Another side effect of meth use is the cessation of saliva flow in the mouth, especially by users who smoke the drug. The mouth counts on the flow of saliva to help wash away harmful bacteria that can cause sores, tooth decay, and gum issues. When there is little or no saliva present in the mouth, the bacteria is free to wreak havoc on the teeth and gums.
This can lead to a condition referred to as “meth mouth.” Along with the lack of saliva in the mouth, a meth user may be so stimulated by other sources that oral hygiene is no longer a priority. The lack of brushing, flossing, and rinsing can also lead to severe oral health issues.
There are a large number of skin issues that can develop in meth users. Some of these issues can depend on the method of ingestion. For example, if a person smokes meth as their preferred method of administration, they’re much more likely to have burn marks on their lips or hands.
Even more extreme skin issues can develop if a person injects meth intravenously (IV). IV drug use can open the person up to an increased risk of skin infection. If a meth user misses a vein, they can inject directly into muscle and cause skin abscesses.
Tied to a psychological symptom, a person addicted to meth may often feel the sensation of bugs crawling under their skin. This fabrication of the mind can lead to a person scratching or picking at their skin until it bleeds.
Any drug that activates the dopamine neurotransmitter systems will have a tremendous potential for deep-rooted addiction in the brain. These systems exist in order to reward behavior that is conducive to positive growth and development. When an outside chemical is introduced that hijacks these systems, the brain will make the pursuit of that chemical its number one priority.
As a result of this effect on the brain, meth users will have difficulties controlling doses of meth that they use. Users may continue to self-administer the drug until they run out. At this point, the user may have been awake for several days and is likely to be in an irritable and potentially violent state.
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Psychosis and Paranoia:
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) explains that use of the drug can bring on strong symptoms of psychosis and paranoia. Users may experience mental delusions and auditory or visual hallucinations that fuel paranoia, aggression, and irritability. The longer a person has been bingeing on meth, the more intense and frequent these delusions become.
Advanced psychosis from meth use is referred to as “tweaking.” This state occurs when a person has been using the drug without sleep for anywhere from 3 to 15 days. This results in advanced confusion, irritability, and paranoia.
People in this state show outward symptoms that are easy to spot. These users will have very fast eye and body movements and may talk in a rapid and confused manner. This state occurs once meth use can no longer provide them with the euphoria that it once did. This inability to achieve desired results can lead to frustration and anger that can then lead to violence.
Memory And Learning Difficulties:
As discussed above, dopamine plays a role in how the brain learns and remembers information. Long-term meth use can cause severe chemical imbalances in the brain that have the potential to become permanent. Chronic users may have difficulty when learning new tasks, particularly if those tasks involve new motor skills.
Detox And The Recovery Process
Because of the intense stranglehold that methamphetamine addiction can have on all aspects of a person’s life, the approach to treatment must be both compassionate and comprehensive. Because of these facts, Vertava Health Massachusetts is committed to providing a full continuum of compassionate care from detox to residential treatment, counseling, and aftercare. Our compassionate mental health professionals will be with you every step of the way during the difficult recovery process.
While occasional and recreational meth users will experience a “crash” that lasts a few days after meth is out of their system, people who have experienced addiction for a long period of time will have a much greater difficulty once they detox. Some of these symptoms can last multiple weeks.
The National Institute of Health has determined that once meth leaves a person’s system, acute withdrawal symptoms may include depression and psychosis but typically resolve within a week. Cravings for the drug are also present and found to last at least five weeks.
Our detox program at Vertava Health of Massachusetts is here to treat symptoms of meth withdrawal and make the transition as smooth as possible while the drug leaves your system. Our skilled and compassionate medical professionals will provide you with emotional and medical support at any time, day or night. We will closely monitor your condition as we work to formulate an individualized care plan as the symptoms of withdrawal begin to subside.
Once your condition is stabilized, we can begin to form a plan that will address the root of your issues with addiction.
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Detoxing from the harmful substance you were addicted to is the first step towards sobriety. Once detox is achieved, rehab begins in our residential treatment facility.
Residential treatment is a type of program that involves living on-site within an addiction treatment facility to participate in a formal schedule of individual and group-based services. Our aim is to remove the patient from a situation of possible crisis and get them into an environment of compassionate care.
At Vertava Health of Massachusetts, each patient’s residential program schedule is individually tailored in order to best suit their needs and goals for addiction treatment.
This individualized approach allows for each person entering our meth addiction program to receive personalized treatment that recognizes the unique aspects of their experience with addiction and any previous treatment history. No two people are the same so no two approaches to treatment should be the same either.
At Vertava Health of Massachusetts, our residential treatment program lasts approximately 30 to 60 days, with the last 10 days dedicated to a seamless transition into outpatient treatment.
We realize that the decision to seek treatment for meth addiction is not easy. We’ve compiled a list of frequently asked questions to help you stay informed:
- How to overcome meth addiction?
Meth is one of the most powerfully addictive drugs on the street today, but overcoming meth addiction is entirely possible. The first step is to reach out to a licensed and knowledgeable addiction treatment facility such as Vertava Health of Massachusetts. Safely and effectively detoxing and transitioning to a sober life is key to overcoming meth addiction.
- How to help someone with meth addiction?
If you’re witnessing a loved one struggle with meth addiction, you can help by stopping any enabling behaviors. Identifying your enabling behaviors and replacing them with positive, supportive ones can hold a person accountable for their addiction. Another way to help a person suffering from addiction is to plan an intervention. Getting loved ones together to talk to the person about how their substance use has affected them can have a profound effect on their desire to get sober.
- What are the signs of meth addiction?
Because meth is such a powerful drug, there are many ways in which you can identify meth addiction. Behaviors such as paranoia, irritability, and aggression may all be signs of addiction. Physical signs such as skin lesions or burns, rapid weight loss, and manic behavior may also be signs of addiction.
At Vertava Health of Massachusetts, our goal is to help you attain harmony between your mind and body in order to overcome addiction. Our programs will help you shed your issues with addiction in order to begin a new life of health and wellness.
Please contact us today at 844-906-0978 to learn more about how we can help you.