Meth Addiction: Abuse Signs, Effects & Treatment

Meth Addiction Treatment Guide

Amphetamines are a class of drugs that stimulate the central nervous system, specifically parts of the brain. The drugs are used in prescription medications as well as street drugs. Due to the way amphetamines affect parts of the brain, they are considered highly addictive. Methamphetamine (Meth) is one of the most commonly abused amphetamines.

Meth Addiction Treatment

Methamphetamine Statistics

According to a September 2018 report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, methamphetamine continues to be the most widely used synthetic drug in the world. The distribution of the drug has multiplied six-fold in just 10 years. Similarly, a report from the National Institute on Drug Abuse indicates that in 2020, an estimated 2.6 million people who are at least 12 years old have used meth in the past year. Meth use is becoming more common among the younger generation. In 2021, studies showed that adolescents in the 8th, 10th, and 12th grades used meth within the last 12 months. Of the 2.6 million people who use meth, approximately 58% report having a substance use disorder related to their meth use. Not only is meth a highly addictive synthetic drug, but it is also responsible for overdose deaths. In 2020, it was reported that almost 24,000 people died from an overdose of methamphetamine.

Signs of Meth Abuse

People become addicted to meth very quickly. Some recovering users report that they were addicted after trying meth only one time. As a result, there are only subtle differences between the signs of meth use and the signs of meth addiction. In the early stages of meth use, you may notice some changes in behavior or lifestyle, such as:

• New financial or legal problems
• Withdrawing from friends and family
• Hanging out with a different crowd
• Loss of interest in activities, work, or school
• Changes in behavior, such as being more aggressive or secretive
• “Meth mouth,” a condition that describes the rotting of teeth caused by the chemicals in meth
• Sores on the body
• Acne
• Scratching and picking at the skin
• Weight loss
• Inability to eat or sleep

Can You Recover from Meth Without Treatment?

Meth is an incredibly addictive drug, so it is very difficult to detox on your own. Additionally, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration reports that underlying mental health conditions are significant motivators for substance use. People with mental health conditions often rely on substances, such as meth to achieve a sense of normalcy or what they perceive as normal. Unfortunately, meth only masks the disorder.

Once a person stops using meth, symptoms of the mental health condition emerge. A person may not have the skills to manage the mental health condition, and relapse is very likely. Treatment for meth use not only focuses on the detox and withdrawal process but also on helping the person better manage the underlying cause of substance use and addiction. In addition to counseling, medications may be prescribed to alleviate symptoms of the mental health condition. This provides the coping skills and tools that may not have been available prior to treatment or even when the person started using meth.

Treatment for Meth Addiction

Addiction to meth is treated using a variety of approaches that aim to eliminate amphetamines from the body and provide a person with improved coping skills. A person may benefit from a single type of treatment or a combination. The most common therapeutic approaches for methamphetamine addiction treatment are:

• Detox
• Cognitive behavioral therapy
• 12 Step programs
• Group counseling
• Peer programs

Detox for Meth

Detox is the first step toward recovery from an addiction to any type of amphetamine. People who stop using meth will experience withdrawal symptoms that can be difficult to manage on their own. For this reason, medically supervised detox is the best option. Detox under medical supervision provides you with the clinical and emotional support that is needed during detox, and the team typically includes clinical staff and mental health counselors.

Eliminating meth from your system may take several days or even weeks. The timeline depends on your history of use as well as how quickly your body metabolizes the drug. Initially, you will feel a “crash” for the first 24 to 48 hours. This is followed by other physical and psychological symptoms that last until your body completely eliminates the drug.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Meth Abuse

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an effective therapeutic approach that is used in mental health counseling. It is not only used for addiction to meth but also for many other conditions, such as anxiety and depression. The goal of CBT is to identify the underlying cause of your addiction. Studies into addiction have shown that the majority of people who abuse drugs, such as meth, are motivated by symptoms of a mental health disorder. By addressing the mental health condition as part of addiction treatment, you are better prepared to successfully remain sober after treatment.

12-Step Programs

The 12-step program has been a long-standing tool in addiction treatment, and it continues to be an effective approach for continuing sobriety after treatment. It was first developed in 1935 for alcoholism, but the program has expanded into every type of addiction. The steps work as a blueprint for how to manage challenges that arise every day rather than rely on drugs and alcohol.

According to a study published by the National Library of Medicine, approximately five million people use the 12-step program and other self-help approaches as part of their recovery. The program is effective for adults as well as adolescents. Using the 12 steps as a foundation of recovery has been linked to longer periods of sobriety, with most people stating that they have abstained for five years or longer. The program is most effective when it is coupled with other therapeutic approaches.

Group Counseling

Group counseling is often coupled with individual counseling to provide clients with an avenue to interact with others in treatment. This lays a foundation for validation and support outside the therapeutic setting. For those who are recovering from addiction to meth, they find others who struggle with the same issues. Oftentimes, those in recovery also find that they have insights and experiences that they can share to help others. Group counseling sessions may have a general group of clients, or special groups may be set up based on gender, addiction history, and other criteria. The group is led by a mental health professional most times, but there may also be a peer leading the group with a counselor monitoring the progress of the group.

Peer Programs

Peer programs have proven successful for meth abuse because they give clients access to someone who can relate to their experiences. Although this may be achieved in a more formal therapeutic setting, peer programs provide an additional layer of support for those who are in recovery for addiction to meth. Specifically, a peer helps to keep the person in recovery through mutual respect and understanding. Specifically, a peer may:

• Help build key coping skills
• Provide access to healthier communities and support systems
• Advocate for the person as needed
• Mentor the person in recovery
• Guide a person with goals and progress

Inpatient and Outpatient Programs

Once you meet with a counselor for an assessment, your plan of care may include inpatient or outpatient substance use treatment programs for meth addiction recovery.

Inpatient Substance Use Treatment

An inpatient substance use treatment facility provides people in recovery with support 24 hours per day, seven days per week. It also allows clients to separate from environments and triggers that may contribute to abuse and addiction. Inpatient substance use treatment may last six months to one year. Depending on your personal circumstances, the counselor may suggest a shorter inpatient treatment program that lasts one to two months. While you are at the facility, you’ll meet with counselors to learn new coping skills. You’ll also start to take better care of yourself physically through improved nutrition and exercise. The goal of inpatient treatment is to allow you to focus on yourself and overcome addiction. Inpatient treatment also gives you the structure you need to manage long-term sobriety, and it prepares you to return to the world as a sober person.

Outpatient Treatment Programs

Outpatient treatment programs help you continue on a path of sobriety after you complete inpatient treatment. In some cases, your counselor may recommend outpatient treatment instead of inpatient, especially if you have a family or job that needs to be sustained. Your outpatient treatment program for meth and other amphetamines may include individual or group counseling. Both of these therapies allow you to maintain the access and support you need to remain sober and manage the challenges of daily life without relying on substance use.

Individual Outpatient Meth Recovery Counseling

Inpatient counseling focuses on helping you deal with the immediate emotional effects of your addiction to meth. Clients often overcome feelings of hopelessness, guilt, anger, and shame while in an inpatient facility. Although not as intense, individual outpatient counseling for meth recovery is extremely valuable. Once you complete an inpatient sub use treatment program, you have a new set of skills and tools to use every day. Inpatient counseling allows you to work with a counselor to address any challenges that arise, both as an individual and in your relationships. Your counselor works with you to set goals and monitors your progress, looking for any signs of potential relapse. The counselor guides you through a healthier thought process that sets you up for success in your sobriety.

Group Outpatient Meth Recovery Counseling

Outpatient group counseling is another avenue for meth addiction treatment to help you manage long-term recovery. The sessions provide the same level of support as inpatient group sessions, yet the conversations can be quite different. You share experiences in the world outside treatment as well as key insights, skills, and tools used to address challenges.

Outpatient Peer Programs

Peer programs are available on an outpatient basis, although the relationship is slightly different compared to an inpatient program. In most cases, peers are used on a more frequent basis than counselors. A client who faces a particularly difficult situation on a specific day may reach out to the peer rather than delay advice and support until the next scheduled counseling session. This helps clients in recovery more easily navigate a sober life on a daily basis, and it also provides a sense of empowerment and self-sufficiency. It also teaches a person that asking for help is a healthy and positive way to live.

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Reviewed By:

Dr. John Elgin Wilkaitis

Dr. John Elgin Wilkaitis completed medical school at The University of Mississippi Medical Center and residency in general psychiatry in 2003. He completed a fellowship in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in 2005. Following this, he served as Chief Medical Officer for 10 years of Brentwood Behavioral Healthcare a private health system including a 105-bed hospital, residential treatment, and intensive outpatient services.

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