How Is Meth Addictive?
Methamphetamine is one of the most addictive drugs, capable of triggering dependency quicker than most other illicit drugs. Commonly referred to as “crystal,” “glass,” “ice,” or “chalk” on the streets, it is three times as addictive as cocaine and nearly impossible to quit without professional help. Paired with the rapid onset of negative effects that it has on the brain and the unbearable withdrawal symptoms, addiction to methamphetamine continues to grow with an estimated 1.2 million addicts in the United States according to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Complicating things further, it’s “easy” to use and one of the most widely available drugs produced, using ingredients common to cold and antihistamine medications.
Individuals with a methamphetamine dependency problem are best treated during the early stages of addiction. Methamphetamine produces euphoria or a high that is followed by an unpleasant feeling, much like going up and then down a rollercoaster ride. Users continue to use the substance more and more to receive the same effect, putting themselves at risk of addiction.
Although the drug can be legally obtained from medical professionals, because it’s so habit-forming, prolonged usage is not recommended. As stated by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, it should be taken “only in very small doses due to its addictive properties.”
Methamphetamine Use in the United States
Based a survey done in 2005 by the National survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), at least 10.4 million individuals in the United States have tried methamphetamine in their life. Between 2004 and 2005, 1.3 million residents were reported to have used the drug. While these figures have declined in recent years, drug overdose deaths involving methamphetamine remain on the rise. According to a recent report by the National Center for Health Statistics, “the number of drug overdose deaths that involved methamphetamine increased from 1,388 in 2010 to 3,728 in 2014.” The Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) also stated emergency room visits involving methamphetamine remain on the rise. That rise makes meth the fourth most mentioned illegal drug in emergency room visits.
Why Is Methamphetamine Addictive?
Methamphetamine poses a higher threat of addiction than drugs like marijuana. Many people have been hooked on the drug after trying it just once. It is essentially a feel-good drug that causes the brain to be flooded with unnatural levels of dopamine. This excess dopamine is what causes the high that attracts people to the drug.
The drug affects the reward center of the brain and this causes the user to continue desiring the drug even after the high subsides in order to receive the same effect. The more often the drug is used, the more the brain desires the effect, continually forcing the user to seek it out. If the methamphetamine use continues, the brain will eventually stop producing dopamine on its own, thus preventing the user from experiencing any pleasure without help from the drug. Most people up the dosage to continually revisit that state of euphoria.
As tolerance to the drug increases, the natural levels of serotonin, a mood stabilizer in the brain, will also decline. At this point professional help is essential to reduce the effects of the drugs.
Methamphetamine Use Signs
Methamphetamine addiction cannot be diagnosed by using a blood test or brain scan but fortunately there are physical signs that can signal drug dependency or addiction. Common signs include frequent meth cravings and the inability to quit the drug. However, other signs may vary based on an individual’s genetic makeup, coexisting mental problems, how long the drug has been consumed, and the presence of other drugs in the body.
Behavioral Signs of Methamphetamine Addiction
- Compulsive lying
- Neglecting social and recreational activities
- Repetitive behavior
- Skin picking
- Increased attentiveness
- Rambling speech
- Increased sweating
- Disruptive behavior
- Mood swings and irritability
Physical Signs of Methamphetamine Addiction
- Rapid weight loss
- Decreased fatigue
- Dilated pupils
- Loss of appetite
- Rapid heartbeat
- Increased respiration
- Increased blood pressure
- Enhanced energy
- Hair loss
- Tooth decay
- Changes in facial features
- Nasal congestion
Cognitive Signs of Methamphetamine Addiction
- Hallucinations and delusions
- Poor learning habits
- Lack of judgement
- Poor memory
If the addict is a teen, it can be difficult to distinguish between signs of addiction and teenage hormonal flare ups.
Possible Indicators That a Family Member or Teenager is Abusing Meth
Neglecting Assignments and Chores – Teenagers whose lives have been consumed by drugs quite often lose interest in school and may neglect their chores and assignments altogether.
Always Needing Money – Addicted teenagers may make unreasonable requests for money without any sensible explanations as to why they need it.
Health Issues – Meth addicted teenagers can develop health issues, including high blood pressure, seizures, rotting teeth, and more.
Neglected Appearance – When all a teen cares about is the next high, they might lose all interest in personal appearance
Sudden Behavioral Changes – When drugs take hold of a teen, he or she may abruptly change day to day behaviors, such as suddenly demanding more privacy at home and acting secretively.
Treatment for Meth Addiction
Consequences of Long Term Meth Usage
- Kidney failure
- Lung disorders
- Brain damage
- Psychological problems
While drugs such as heroin can be treated using methadone, there is no medication approved by the FDA for treating methamphetamine dependence. For this reason, recovering from meth addiction can be challenging. For chronic abusers, intensive inpatient treatment is generally required to break the addictive patterns. Treatment generally involves intensive therapeutic sessions in a drug free environment under the supervision of medical practitioners.
If you or a loved one is struggling with meth addiction, it’s important to seek professional care. Depending on how far along your addiction is, there are a number of treatment options that you can choose from including enrolling in an outpatient program or attending therapeutic group sessions. Addiction recovery is a lifelong process but finding the right treatment center can make the process less stressful. According to the Foundation for a Drug Free World, 93 percent of meth addicts who try to quit end up relapsing. Methamphetamine is one of the most addictive drugs and therefore requires a high level of professionalism for successful recovery.
BLVD Treatment Centers are geared towards assisting meth addicts in the fight to regain their lives. Contact us by calling 888-537-6671 to get one step closer to a drug free life.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse: What treatments are effective for people who abuse methamphetamine?
- National Institute on Drug Abuse: What are the long-term effects of methamphetamine abuse?
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2015). Behavioral Health Trends in the United States: Results from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse: Signs of Meth Use and Addiction.