Crystal Meth Addiction: Symptoms, Effects & Timeline

Methamphetamines, or more commonly known as crystal meth, are highly addictive stimulants similar to amphetamines, that sometimes quickly, yet sometimes slowly, destroy a user’s life. According to 2013 survey data, over 12.3 million Americans over the age of 12 admitted to using crystal meth, non-medicinally in the last year. Some common street names include:

  • Ice
  • Glass
  • Tina
  • Shards
  • Hot Ice
  • Crystal

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, meth is a Schedule II drug. It is in the class of drugs known as stimulants. Stimulants, or “uppers”, create a false feeling of happiness, increase energy, and causes users to focus or fixate on items at a fast pace. Many stimulants also create a feeling of invincibility. However, these effects are very harmful to the brain and central nervous system. According to the United Nations’ Office on Drugs and Crime, it is estimated that there are almost 25 million people currently addicted to methamphetamines in the world. The majority of all meth abuse takes place in the US, with the Czech Republic and most of Southeast Asia following close behind.

The Physical Signs of Crystal Meth Abuse

Meth produces feelings of euphoria and alertness, and can be taken orally, snorted, intravenously, or smoked. Even if meth is only taken for a short period of time, it can cause elevated body temperature, heart damage, dangerously high blood pressure, and even seizures. Due to the high risk of complications and addiction, crystal meth remains one of the most dangerous illegal drugs on the streets. Crystal meth addiction is especially dangerous due to the way it progressively shuts down the body, and because it is so highly addictive, this can happen at a very rapid pace. Meth use is associated with aggressive behaviors, paranoia, memory loss, confusion, and psychosis. Abuse is also linked to potential brain damage and heart conditions. In some cases, convulsions due to meth abuse may result in death. When first ingested, meth works on the brain. The stimulant causes a release of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter that causes feelings of pleasure from normal activities like getting or giving a gift, playing with puppies, or laughing. Meth causes dopamine to be released very quickly, therefore the user will experience a rush or an overwhelming feeling of happiness. However, this feeling only happens in the beginning stages of use, and addiction happens when the user continues to ‘chase’ this feeling. The longer methamphetamines are used, the less they begin to work. More amounts are needed to create the feelings as the last, and then the period of destruction commences. Regular use of meth can also lead to problems that linger long after a person gets clean. Meth use can cause irreversible brain and heart damage, affecting coordination and thinking.

Are There Withdrawals When Quitting Crystal Meth?

It is a common misconception that because meth does not cause physical dependence or sickness when it is quit, that it is not possible to become addicted to. This belief is absolutely false. Addiction is typically determined by a person continuing to still use a substance that begins to cause problems and consequences in their lives. Additionally, the cessation of meth use after periods of regular use or abuse does, in fact, cause harmful psychological symptoms. Some of the reactions reported during weaning off of meth include, but are not limited to:

  • Extreme exhaustion coupled with insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Psychosis and confusion
  • Intense cravings

Methamphetamine withdrawals do not always require medical supervision during the detox period, but it is recommended for a few days. The emotions and intense feelings that arise during detox can be very overwhelming to deal with alone. Regardless of how an addict chooses to detox, it is always recommended to attend a drug treatment center to address the psychological aspects of addiction and learn how to live clean.

What are the Long-Term Effects of Crystal Meth Abuse?

Since crystal meth does not have a severe physical withdrawal, such as heroin or alcohol, many users continue using despite the negative consequences that come with active addiction. Many of those who have sought treatment for methamphetamines often use on and off for years, binging for weeks at a time before things get bad. The physical and mental effects over time can include:

  • Mental symptoms such as hallucinations and paranoid delusions.
  • Inability to pay attention or focus.
  • Cognitive problems marked by poor judgment and memory loss.
  • Dramatic weight loss.
  • Aggression and violence towards self and others.
  • Changes in physical appearance.
  • A severe decline in dental health.
  • Scarring from obsessive skin picking.
  • Repetitive movements.

Treatment Options for Crystal Meth Addiction

While it is possible, it is very rare that meth addicts successfully kick their addictions without support and treatment. Many crystal meth addicts choose a one-to-three-month residential treatment program followed by outpatient and individual therapy. It’s extremely valuable to spend some time away from old environments where meth addicts spent time using. By checking into our drug treatment program, patients will receive their own personalized treatment plan. During this time, root causes of crystal meth addiction will be identified and addressed. If the client has a history of trauma, anxiety, or depression, we have counselors that are experienced and excel at dealing with these delicate topics. While attending an inpatient treatment center like Pax House, we can help you learn how to live a new life without crystal meth and other drugs. You can expect therapies such as:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Group Therapy
  • Motivational Interviewing
  • Life-Skills Training
  • Relapse Prevention Education
  • 12 Step & Recovery Program Integration
  • Family Groups
  • Alumni Program
  • Aftercare Planning

These are just some of the therapies and techniques used when treating crystal meth addiction. Each person’s situation can be different, which is why an intimate, individualized treatment program like the one Pax offers, is one of the best options when quitting crystal meth for good.

What Happens After I Leave Rehab?

Once a client completes their inpatient treatment plan, facilities will typically suggest that the client follow through the continuum of care and enter an outpatient program as well as a sober living home when possible. Following through all the levels of care can seem like a long time, and can be overwhelming for those entering treatment, but as they say “one day at a time”. An outpatient program many times includes attending group sessions three to five times a week, for a few hours each session, as well as an individual therapy session once weekly. This helps to keep the routine established going, and can be a huge benefit to someone in early recovery. Sober living homes provide the same type of environment with a structured environment and rules such as curfew, drug testing, and other requirements that help establish accountability. Pax House employs highly knowledgeable case managers that will assist with aftercare planning so the addict isn’t facing the world alone while transitioning back into the world as a newly sober, healthy member of society. If you think you might need help for yourself or a loved one, call Pax House at any time of the day to get started on the path towards recovery at (626) 398-3897.

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