People have used amphetamines for their stimulant and appetite-suppressing properties since the 1800s. Methamphetamine, made from amphetamines, found its way to soldiers in World War II to help them stay alert on the battlefield.
Methamphetamine lost some of its popularity as a prescription drug when people discovered the high potential for addiction. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), methamphetamine causes addiction more rapidly and does more damage to a person’s brain than any other amphetamine.
What is Methamphetamine?
Methamphetamine is derived from amphetamines, a powerful stimulant. Because methamphetamine has changed from the original molecule, it can enter the brain more easily. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that almost one million people ages 12 or older had a methamphetamine use disorder in 2017. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) also found that over an eight-year period, there were five times the amount of deaths from methamphetamine. NIDA considers methamphetamine addiction to be a rapidly expanding problem with severe health consequences.
Short-term methamphetamine use may have consequences such as:
In long-term use, methamphetamine can cause:
While not everyone who uses methamphetamine will experience all of these symptoms, substance abuse prevention agencies and health agencies have flagged this substance as a serious and growing health problem. Since methamphetamine acts as a stimulant, the NIDA warns that people abusing the drug may also take unreasonable risks, engage in dangerous behavior, and fail to avoid things that are harmful.
Methamphetamine can cause addiction because it activates dopamine reward centers in the brain, flooding the brain with dopamine and producing feelings of alertness, pleasure, and excitement. Because methamphetamine lasts longer in the brain than other forms of amphetamines, it continues to activate the dopamine system for a longer time. The brain receives many powerful reward signals each time a person uses methamphetamine. Due to this, the brain’s reward centers associate the substance with enjoyable feelings and a dopamine rush.
Methamphetamine overstimulates the dopamine system for long periods of time. If abuse of the drug continues, this excessive stimulation can cause damage to the dopamine receptors in the brain that can become permanent.
How is Methamphetamine Addiction Treated?
Methamphetamine misuse requires treatment under the care of clinically trained professionals. Arresting the use of methamphetamine can cause withdrawal symptoms that can range from uncomfortable symptoms to potentially life-threatening symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms should always be managed in a controlled environment like a detox facility.
The most common withdrawal symptoms from methamphetamine detox include:
Rarer but dangerous side effects include paranoia or psychosis, where the person may hear voices, hallucination, or severe paranoia. These withdrawal symptoms are much less common but need to be monitored closely. Research indicates that most withdrawal symptoms from methamphetamine end within one to two weeks, but cravings for the substance can last five weeks or longer.
Unfortunately, while medications exist to help people get through withdrawal from opioids with minor discomfort, no such medication exists for methamphetamine withdrawal. Medications tried so far have not alleviated withdrawal symptoms.
Therapeutic modalities based on cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) have been most successful in helping people through methamphetamine withdrawal and early recovery. CBT focuses on changing thoughts and behaviors so the person can recognize problematic thought and behavior patterns and learn the skills to choose different ones.
How Does Everlast Treat Methamphetamine Addiction?
Everlast Recovery Centers uses the most effective and evidence-based methods available for methamphetamine addiction treatment. Since medication options do not exist for detox from this substance, our clinically trained staff will monitor the client for any severe withdrawal effects. Most clients will feel uncomfortable but will not need significant interventions during detox.
Everlast’s CBT program will help the person change their problem thoughts and behaviors and create new ones.
Our clients also participate in other types of therapy like acceptance and commitment therapy, which teaches mindfulness and acceptance of feelings without judgment or attachment.
Everlast also offers many programs to help people recovering from methamphetamine addiction to become more involved in healthy living. With damaged dopamine receptors, people must learn how to enjoy life again, so Everlast provides experiential activities such as yoga, meditation, and outdoor activities.
Because 12-Step programs and similar recovery support groups can help people find long-term recovery from methamphetamine, our clients in residential treatment at Everlast will learn about these types of groups as well as ohter key recovery and relapse prevention skills to help them along their recovery journey. Everlast makes sure people leave our program with all the recovery and relapse prevention tools available to them for a successful recovery.