What Is Methamphetamine Addiction?
Meth Addiction: Signs, Dangers and Recovery
A member of the Amphetamine family of drugs, meth, or methamphetamine, is a highly addictive central nervous system stimulant. Under the influence of meth, users experience a rush of dopamine produced by the drug. Dopamine is the chemical in the brain that is responsible for feelings of pleasure, as well as motivation, memory retention, learning, and reward processing. The rush of dopamine produced by meth is much higher than the natural amount of dopamine that is produced in the brain, which causes people to continue using the drug in order to keep those heightened pleasurable feelings.
Many individuals who use meth take it over a period of many days and nights, staying perpetually high, which typically leads to a tolerance of the drug. Having taken it for a prolonged period of time, the user requires higher and higher doses to feel the same effects and the cycle of addiction begins.
Meth and Crystal Meth
The majority of people who are addicted to methamphetamine use the drug in its illicit forms: meth and crystal meth. Meth is a crystalline powder that is most commonly white, though it can be yellow, pink, or brown. It is odourless, bitter, and can be dissolved in liquid. It is most commonly consumed via smoking, snorting or injection. In some cases, it is compressed into a pill and can be taken orally. Many drug dealers will also “cut” meth with other substances to sell less of the actual drug for the same price and fetch a greater profit margin. In some cases, methamphetamine is cut with prescription medications, ranging from antidepressants to opioids. These additives can be extremely dangerous due to the drug interactions and this increases the risk of accidental overdose.
Crystal meth, or crystal methamphetamine, commonly called “Ice” or “Shabu” is the purest and most potent form of meth. Not only does it create a stronger high than regular meth, but the high also lasts up to 24 hours. Crystal meth is clear or blue and takes the shape of coarse crystals that are usually injected or smoked, however it can also be snorted or injested or swallowed.
Any illicit use of methamphetamines qualifies as abuse. Similar to crack cocaine, meth produces a “rush” when smoked or injected; this is caused by an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and pleasure-inducing neurotransmitters in the brain. When meth is snorted, it creates a euphoric sensation, but not a rush. The rush from injection produces the strongest effects and can last up to 30 minutes. After the initial rush, people using the drug experience a steady high that can last anywhere from 8 to 24 hours depending on the mode of consumption and the degree of purity of the drug. Injecting meth produces a stronger high than smoking or snorting, but the effects wear off more quickly. Meth users are known to stay up for multiple days in a row due to binge use and the stimulating effects.
Recognizing the Signs of Meth Use
(Symptoms and direct signs of meth use)
- Loss of appetite
- Increased wakefulness
- Skin sores and infections
- Tooth decay
- Irregular heartbeat
- Raised body temperature
- Weight loss
- Collapsed veins if injecting
(Indirect signs of meth use/addiction)
- Relationship problems
- Financial Problems
- Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed and made priorities
- Withdrawing from social occasions
- Repeated failed attempts to stop using
- Problems at work
- Personality change
- Dishonesty around money and whereabouts
- Frequent recurrence of sickness and infections.
- Contraction of blood borne pathogens including Hepatitis B and HIV
- Birth defects
- Reproductive issues
- Liver failure
- High blood pressure and sudden cardiac arrest
Additionally, snorting meth can damage sinus cavities and nasal passages, which can lead to chronic nosebleeds. The effects that meth has on the heart and central nervous system can overwhelm the body and also lead to seizures, heart attack, stroke, and potentially-life threatening overdose. When meth is mixed with other drugs such as cocaine or alcohol, the likelihood of an adverse reaction and possible overdose is greatly increased. Long-term meth use can also cause significant damage to the brain and the cells that make dopamine, as well as to the nerve cells containing serotonin.
Withdrawal from Meth
The symptoms of meth withdrawal can vary from person to person. The severity of the side effects depends on a number of factors, including the length of time the individual used meth, the amount of meth they used, how frequently they used, and whether they engaged in polydrug use (mixing substances). Additionally, other factors, such as the method used to consume the drug, can affect withdrawal. Those who inject meth will typically experience a longer, more intense withdrawal process than those who don’t.
Signs and symptoms of withdrawal can include:
- Increased appetite
- Excessive sweating
- Red, itchy eyes
- Loss of motivation
- Suicidal thoughts
- Stomach ache
- Severe depression
Meth Withdrawal Timeline
The specific time period for withdrawal varies between individuals, but the acute phase of withdrawal typically peaks around day two or three after last use and generally begins to ease after a week. However, psychological symptoms including mood swings, agitation, drug cravings, and sleep disturbance can persist for multiple weeks and depression can last for much longer.
This is a general timeline of Meth withdrawal without an assisted medical detox:
First 48 hours:
This phase is known as the “crash” and occurs within the first day of stopping use of the drug. During the first 24-48 hours, former users will begin to experience a sharp decline in energy and cognitive function, as well as nausea, abdominal cramping, and sweating.
Days 3 – 10
Withdrawal symptoms typically peak during this time. As the body attempts to adjust without meth, recovering users will experience severe depression, anxiety, and extreme fatigue. Some people will also experience shaking and lingering muscle aches, as well as intense drug cravings.
Day 14 – 20
Symptoms of meth withdrawal typically last around 2-3 weeks. Towards the end of the second week, most physical symptoms begin to subside, but intense drug cravings can persist. Additionally, continuing fatigue and depression are common during this period.
One month and beyond:
The worst of the withdrawal symptoms are typically over at this point. Any remaining symptoms will continue to fade over time. However, for some, the psychological symptoms such as depression and anxiety may continue for several months before they subside.
The Lighthouse Bali is one of only a few rehabs in Southeast Asia that offers medically assisted detox for meth addiction. Our medical, clinical and support teams have extensive experience helping addicts withdraw safely from meth in the most comfortable way possible. A Medical detox is part of our 28 day Primary Inpatient Program and means that you can avoid many of the uncomfortable effects of withdrawal, which often lead addicts to use meth again. A medical detox at the Lighthouse Bali will give you significantly better chance of obtaining and sustaining recovery than attempting to ‘go it alone’.
Inpatient Care and Rehab
The Lighthouse Bali’s 28 day Primary Inpatient Program has helped countless meth addicts get their lives back on track. Through professional, expert care and therapy, individuals are given the tools they need to ensure the best possible chances of a long term recovery.
If you are concerned about yourself or a loved one, we urge you to reach out and contact us. Our private programs are tailormade to suit individual needs in complete confidence and our doctorate level clinical staff have extensive experience in the field of addiction. If you are not currently in Bali but would like to begin a recovery program immediately, we also have online recovery options available which can be taken in this interim period before Bali reopens international borders on September 11th.
To talk to one of our team members, contact us today. We understand that making the first call is never easy, but it’s the first step to getting back on track.