Addiction, Detoxification and Treatment of Methamphetamine

No one wants to face the horrific nature of a loved one’s addiction to methamphetamine. The confusing changes emotionally, physically and spiritually can make you feel like the person you love is gone and replaced by an awful counterfeit version. In a sense, this drug has such a powerful effect it can seemingly steal a person away.

As a Christian organization, we are devoted to the belief system that addiction is a spiritual disease, with physical, emotional, mental and relational effects. A person is not their addiction; with treatment they can be set free from its perilous reality.

What is Methamphetamine?

Methamphetamine (know as crystal, meth, ice or other street names) is a highly addictive stimulant drug with the ability to increase the brain’s chemistry responsible for producing pleasure (dopamine). Its dramatic appeal is that it provides a quick, intense brain reaction that promotes a level of increased stimulation and stamina physically. However, while the high is quick, there is also a high-speed crash. Thus, the drive to continue to use is what creates the addiction cycle.

Over time, chronic abuse of meth can bring molecular changes to the brain. This can impair emotional and mental capabilities and lead people to exhibit erratic and unstable behaviors.

How is Meth Created?

While some meth can be used in prescription form, for the most part, it is an illicit street drug. The broader supply of meth comes from Mexico, but meth labs are located throughout the United States. Meth is composed of ordinary household products, making it appealing to create with relatively inexpensive over-the-counter ingredients such as pseudoephedrine. However, the production of meth is extremely toxic and dangerous and can lead to explosions if not monitored carefully. All meth labs are an imminent threat.

How is Meth Used?

Methamphetamine usually comes in the form of a white crystalline powder that is odorless, bitter-tasting and dissolves easily in water or alcohol. It can be cooked and turned to what is known as “ice,” a highly addictive form of this substance. It can also come as a pill. Meth can be snorted, smoked or injected by a needle.

Who Uses Meth?

Contrary to the stereotype, meth has no social, race, gender or socio-economic borders. People use meth to increase mood, enhance energy levels and experience a euphoric high. This could therefore include anyone who is looking for a quick “lift.” According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 1.2 million people reported using methamphetamine in 2012. 11 million people have reported using it at one time or another.

Meth is extremely accessible and thus if you suspect a family member or friend is using, you need to know the warning sign.

Meth Symptoms

The symptoms of meth users are somewhat obvious to someone who is aware of them, but can be tricky to spot to those unaware of its effects. People initially using meth can seem healthier. Since it is a stimulant, it can prompt people to perform more tasks, do more physical activity and seemingly have overall more energy. But while it may appear that way at first, eventually it will create unthinkable damage. If you suspect someone in your life in using meth, you might recognize elevated energy followed by extreme fatigue, irritability and depression. This means they may be energetic one day, unable to sleep or rest, and then sleep for days in a row when they are “crashing”.

Some of the Symptoms of Meth Use Include

  • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature that shows up in person being “hyper”
  • Dilation of pupils
  • Disturbed sleep patterns or unable to sleep at all
  • Nausea
  • Bizarre, erratic, sometimes violent behavior
  • Hallucinations
  • Panic and psychosis
  • Convulsions, seizures, and death from high doses

Long-Term Effects

  • Blood vessel damage which can lead to heart attack and stroke
  • Liver, kidney and lung damage
  • Respiratory (breathing) problems if smoked
  • Infectious diseases and abscesses if injected
  • Malnutrition, weight loss
  • Severe tooth decay
  • Disorientation, apathy, confused exhaustion
  • Strong psychological dependence
  • Psychosis
  • Depression
  • Brain damage

Detoxification of Meth

Detox from meth can be difficult like any drug and can lead to sickness. While in a medically supported detox setting, the goal is usually to assist the patient to be calm and relaxed enough to rest. Meth usually takes a significant blow to physical health, and thus other medical help may be necessary.

Because meth creates such toxicity and damage to the brain, it can take months for its full effect to wear off. This needs to be considered in the treatment process, and a longer term support plan needs to be implemented.

As with all drugs, detox from meth will depend mostly on the frequency and levels used over a period of time. There are no beneficial drugs to aid in the detoxification process, other than anti-anxiety medication, so long as it doesn’t draw a person into a new addiction. Anti-anxiety medications should always be used within the structure of medical protocol.

While meth isn’t a dangerous drug to detox from, it is helpful for people to be in a professional atmosphere as to avoid the common tendency to relapse. Relapse rates are excessively high without structured support.

Withdrawal Times

Day 1-3: Detoxification will kick in and the body will try to adjust through sleeping. Mood and depression are common

Days 4-10: Craving will persist. There may be various physical symptoms related to detox, including hallucinations, anxiety, paranoia, sickness, head pain and an overall sense of fatigue.

Up to 1 Month: Meth will be leaving the system, but its effects will be felt. It’s important to understand that meth harms the physical body, but just as important to know that it was a symptom to the user’s deeper rooted problems. This time it is vital to have a replacement to the drug and a means to cope in an atmosphere of support.

Treating Meth

Long-term, the brain can continue to feel the effects of meth for at least a year. This is why seeking solid treatment and recovery is vital. Diet, exercise, rest and spiritual support are critical in long-term growth. Finding a sponsor to walk through the first year and beyond can make or break long-term progress.

As with all drug use, meth is the symptom of deeper problems. What caused a person to seek drugs in the first place must be addressed. There is usually significant damage that had occurred in a person’s life brought to light once they enter into recovery. This can be intense and may include the loss of jobs, family, health and even freedom if jail or prison are involved.

Trying to correct those issues is tempting in the early phases; however, finding the root issues is a more effective way of dealing with meth addiction.

Meth is an incredible thief. It steals life and identity. Coming back to their roots, a person can begin to trace where and how they checked out. It’s vital to implement physical health, but just as important to process emotional pain, loss and trauma. Most important, it’s critical that those in recovery from meth are transplanted into freedom in Christ. By learning to be rooted and grounded in faith, they will meet the redemptive formula at a heart level. God knows a person apart from their addiction. He can speak purpose, love and forgiveness in a way a human can’t. That’s why involving Him is so critical for the follower of Christ.

If you feel overwhelmed, please know you aren’t alone. You may want to attend a meeting with other family members experiencing the same situation. Don’t let shame keep you from reaching out for support.

Let us know if we can help you understand the needs of the person in your life. If we can’t help you, we will find someone who can.

Other Resources:
Christian Families in Recovery
Learn about addiction, intervention and how it affects everyone involved.

Plan an intervention
Meth is a deadly addiction. Don’t wait, call for help today!
Call us at 866.543.3361