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Crystal Meth Addiction

Woman struggling with addictionDrug addictions, or substance use disorders, are dangerous conditions that can get progressively worse with time. Often referred to as crystal meth, methamphetamine is a potent and addictive stimulant that is commonly abused for its euphoric and energizing properties. There are several stages of crystal meth use that precede addiction, beginning with experimental or recreational use and increasing in severity to regular use, problem or risky use, and then finally crystal meth addiction 1. Often, those who are addicted to crystal meth are unable to control their use and may face a number of harmful consequences, such as losing a job, divorce, or going broke, but continue to use anyway.

This article will address the following:

  • Signs and symptoms of crystal meth addiction.
  • Rehab for crystal meth addiction.
  • Cost of treatment and payment options.
  • What causes addiction?
  • Long-term effects of crystal meth addiction.
  • Find help today.

Signs and Symptoms of Crystal Meth Addiction

Crystal meth is a highly addictive central nervous system (CNS) stimulant and a member of the amphetamine class of drugs. It most often appears as a white, odorless, crystalline powder that resembles shards of glass or small blue-white rocks. Crystal meth can be smoked with a small glass pipe, dissolved in water and injected, snorted through the nose, or swallowed 2.

When it is smoked or injected, it enters the bloodstream and the brain very rapidly, causing an immediate, intense but fleeting “rush.” This rush is described as being an extremely pleasurable experience. Snorting or swallowing crystal meth leads to a more gradual, less-intense onset of drug effects, but may also result in a relatively prolonged sense of euphoria and long-acting high 3.


Side Note Picture
Before a person can get help for an addiction, he or she must first recognize that their drug or alcohol use is a problem. One major sign of substance addiction is an inability to control use.

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Crystal meth is often abused in a pattern known as “binge and crash.” In an attempt to maintain the pleasurable rush or high sensation, users will take more of the drug when the effects begin to wear off. It is common for crystal meth abusers to continually take the drug for several days in a row, neglecting sleep and food 3.

Crystal meth induces a pleasurable feeling primarily because it increases the activity of the neurotransmitter dopamine throughout the brain. Dopamine is a chemical messenger involved in the brain’s reward system. This system regulates the body’s ability to experience pleasure and, when functioning properly, motivates a person to repeat behaviors that are essential to human survival, such as eating and reproducing. Stimulant drugs like crystal meth essentially flood the brain with dopamine, resulting in an overstimulation the brain’s reward system which, in turn, can compel people to repeatedly seek that intense rush or high 2,5.

There are a number of different signs and symptoms of crystal meth addiction. These signs can be behavioral, physical, or psychological. If you or someone you know is struggling with a crystal meth addiction, you might have noticed some major behavior changes or changes in the person’s mood.

The following are some of the behavioral signs that a person is addicted 1,6,7,8:

  • Using more crystal meth or for a longer period of time than intended.
  • Failing to control or quit using crystal meth.
  • Continuing to use crystal meth despite interpersonal, physical, or psychological complications resulting from use.
  • Continuing to use crystal meth despite failure to fulfill obligations at home, school, or work.
  • Spending a large amount of time getting, using, or recovering from the effects of crystal meth.
  • Choosing crystal meth use over important recreational or social activities.
  • Using crystal meth in dangerous situations, such as while driving.
  • Lying about whereabouts or crystal meth use.
  • Exhibiting episodes of violence.
  • Displaying hostility or defensiveness when confronted about crystal meth use.
  • Failing to eat regularly.

In addition to behavioral changes, crystal meth abusers experience many physical and psychological symptoms including 6,8:

  • Strong cravings for crystal meth.
  • Increased wakefulness.
  • Increased alertness.
  • Increased physical activity.
  • Decreased appetite.
  • Rapid breathing.
  • Rapid heart rate.
  • Irregular heartbeat.
  • Increased blood pressure.
  • Increased body temperature.
  • Extreme weight loss.
  • Severe dental problems (known as “meth mouth”).
  • Skin sores.
  • Complications from injection use, such as collapsed veins, abscesses, and/or contraction of HIV or hepatitis viruses.
  • Complications stemming from intranasal use, such as chronic sinusitis, upper airway inflammation, and perforated nasal septum.
  • Mood swings.
  • Psychosis.
  • Sleep disturbances.
  • Confusion.

Rehab for Crystal Meth Addiction

man speaking to therapist about crystal meth addictionCrystal meth addiction is a complex condition that can be a challenge to treat. The first step towards recovery is often one of the hardest: recognizing that you have a problem. Crystal meth users are frequently in denial about the severity of their drug problem and it is best to approach them with empathy and understanding rather than judgment.

Although it is possible to quit using crystal meth on your own, it can be difficult due to the lasting functional and molecular effects the stimulant has on the brain 7,8. Quitting abruptly can lead to uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, which often contribute to relapse. Crystal meth addiction treatment programs can provide the patient with support for the serious emotional and physical symptoms of crystal meth withdrawal 9. Professional treatment may also provide the patient with the following benefits:

There are currently no FDA-approved medications for the treatment of methamphetamine addiction, but medication can be prescribed for any co-occurring mental health disorders or, in some cases, to manage any severe psychological withdrawal symptoms. Comprehensive treatment programs will work to address all of a person’s needs and problems and simultaneously treat co-occurring disorders, such as depression and anxiety. The most effective kinds of treatment interventions for crystal meth addiction are behavioral therapies, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and contingency management (CM) 10.

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Involves group or individual counseling that concentrates on learning skills that will help prevent relapse, such as identifying relapse triggers, engaging in sober activities, and developing strategies to reduce cravings.
  • Contingency Management (CM): Utilizes positive reinforcement, by offering tangible rewards for good behaviors, such as attending counseling sessions or providing a drug-free urine sample.

There are many different types of addiction treatment programs, all of which have their own strengths and weaknesses. No one individual treatment modality is right for everyone. Luckily, there are plenty of options out there to help crystal meth abusers obtain and maintain sobriety.

Review some of the various types of treatment below to see which one best meets your individual needs.

  • Detoxification: Although not technically a form of treatment, detox is the first step towards recovery. Whether you choose a short-term detox program or an outpatient or inpatient program that offers detox services, detoxification can provide you with medical supervision while you withdraw from crystal meth both safely and comfortably. Detox can include the use of medicines like benzodiazepines and anti-psychotics to make withdrawal less turbulent 10.
  • Outpatient treatment: Includes a variety of programs involving behavioral counseling (like CBT and CM) on both an individual and group level, while still allowing you to live at home and fulfill home, work, or school obligations.
  • Inpatient treatment: Provides 24-hour structured treatment, counseling, and medical care, while you live at the treatment center. Residential programs range from 30-90 days, but may last longer depending on your individual needs.
  • Community-based treatment: Includes peer-to-peer programs, such as Crystal Meth Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, as well as church groups and other support programs.
  • Specialized treatment: Includes group counseling and peer-to-peer programs for LGBT patients, teens, veterans, and women-only or men-only groups.
  • Luxury treatment: Inpatient programs housed in luxury residential settings that provide, at a relatively higher price point, posh amenities such swimming pools, golf, gourmet meals, massage, and other spa services.
  • Executive treatment: Often a variant of luxury rehab, these inpatient programs cater to working professionals, such as CEOs, who can’t afford to take time off while recovering from a crystal meth addiction. Executive treatment centers provide patients with private work rooms, high-speed internet access, and telephones.
  • Holistic treatment: Holistic treatment programs tend to include a combination of mainstream services, such as therapy and counseling, and alternative or complementary modalities, such as massage, acupuncture, yoga, mindfulness and meditation, art and music therapy, and equine therapy.

Cost of Treatment and Payment Options

The cost of addiction treatment can vary greatly depending on a number of different factors, such as:

Side Note PictureBefore you can get clean and sober, you need to recognize the need for treatment. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health, over 20 million people in the U.S. have a problem with drug or alcohol abuse but have not yet sought treatment.

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For instance, a Crystal Meth Anonymous meeting at your local church is free to attend, while a 90-day stay at a luxury treatment program could cost tens of thousands of dollars.

If you have private health insurance, chances are your plan will provide partial or full coverage of addiction treatment, depending on the services you’re interested in. Call your insurance company to learn more about your policy coverage for substance abuse treatment.

Even if you don’t have insurance, there are plenty of ways in which you can finance your addiction treatment. Insurance is not the only option. Your health and happiness are of the utmost importance and it’s okay to ask for help. Below are a few financing options:

  • Friends and family: Although it may be tough for you to ask for help, you may want to talk to your friends and family about your recovery plan and ask for them to lend or donate money.
  • Start a crowdfunding campaign: Try internet sites, such as GoFundMe or IndieGoGo, which allow you to reach a large audience and receive donations.
  • Use a credit card: You may be hesitant to fund your recovery with a credit card, but remember, nothing is more important than your sobriety.
  • Use savings: Weigh the risks of cutting into your savings against the risks of continued crystal meth use.

What Causes Addiction?

There is no one specific cause for any addiction, including crystal meth. There are many factors that can increase a person’s risk of crystal meth addiction. These include:

  • Genetics: There is no single gene that causes addiction, but addiction does have an inherited component. This means that susceptibility to addiction is sometimes (but not always) passed down from parent to child. Stimulants, such as crystal meth, have a heritability rate of 0.4, which means that 40% of crystal meth addiction can be attributed to genetics 11.
  • Environment: The environment can interact with an individual’s genes to influence the development of a substance addiction. The environment includes a number of different influences, such as family, friends, economic status, and community.
  • Trauma: Early traumatic events, also known as adverse childhood experiences (ACE), can contribute to the development of addiction. Examples of an ACE include physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, neglect, witnessing domestic violence, growing up with addicted family members, and parental separation or divorce 12. In fact, research has revealed that for each ACE or traumatic event, the odds of substance abuse increase 13.
  • Mental health: Mental health disorders commonly co-occur with substance addictions, such as crystal meth. Recent research has shown that about 45% of Americans who seek addiction treatment also have a co-occurring mental health problem 9.

It is important to remember that addiction is a multi-faceted condition that is not caused by one factor alone. Biology is not destiny; if your parents struggled with addiction it does not mean you will develop an addiction as well.

Long-term Effects of Crystal Meth Addiction

The long-term effects of crystal meth addiction can be devastating for both a user and their friends and family. Addiction is a progressive condition, which means that the longer crystal meth is abused, the more problematic the use will get. Crystal meth is particularly rough on the body. It can negatively impact weight, appearance, nutrition, emotions, and cognitive functions.

Potential the long-term effects of crystal meth addiction include 14:

  • Severe anxiety.
  • Confusion.
  • Insomnia.
  • Mood problems.
  • Aggressive or violent behaviors.
  • Visual and auditory hallucinations.
  • Delusions.
  • Severe paranoia.
  • Impaired thinking and motor skills.
  • Changes in brain structure and function, resulting in cognitive and emotional complications.
  • Increased risk of Parkinson’s disease, a progressive movement disorder.
  • Skin sores.
  • Severe weight loss and malnutrition.
  • Severe tooth decay and tooth loss (“meth mouth”).
  • Tolerance, meaning that the individual requires increasing doses to feel the desired effects.
  • Dependence, resulting in withdrawal symptoms with cessation of use.

Addiction takes a toll on all aspects of a person’s life. The longer the substance use continues, the more the drug will interfere with normal functioning. These long-term effects may include:

  • Loss of job or expulsion from school.
  • Interpersonal problems, such as divorce and separation.
  • Legal problems, such as D.U.I. or assault.
  • Child neglect, resulting in loss of custody.
  • Financial hardships.
  • Infection with HIV, Hepatitis B or C from needle sharing.
  • Consequences of unsafe sex practices, such as sexually transmitted diseases (STDs,) and pregnancies.

Find Help Today

Don’t let a crystal meth addiction destroy your life. It is never too late to get help and turn things around. No matter what your situation is, we can help. Call our helpline at 1-888-439-3435 Who Answers? to speak with a treatment advisor today. Our treatment advisors can help you find the program that’s right for you.