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How To Recover From Meth Addiction

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

March 28, 2019

Meth addiction is a serious problem that can be dangerous to a person’s health and wellbeing. Recovering from meth addiction often involves receiving inpatient treatment within a rehab facility, and may require continued outpatient support to help you remain abstinent from meth.

Methamphetamine, or meth for short, is a powerful and illegal stimulant that may be sold on the street in powder form, or as a shiny rock (crystal meth) or pill.

Meth is known to cause an intense rush that may last for up to 30 minutes before leading to feelings of agitation and other symptoms of a drug ‘crash’.

Meth use can pose significant dangers to physical and mental health in short term and over time. It can damage the brain and heart, and may cause those taking it to become violent and aggressive.

According to a national survey from the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) in 2012, a little over one million people reported using meth in the past year. It is also one of the most common drugs mentioned in drug-related visits to the ER.

What Causes Meth Addiction?

Meth produces its effects through changes it makes to certain chemicals in the brain. Methamphetamine use is most commonly linked with the brain chemical, dopamine. This chemical plays a role in body movement and motivation.

Taking meth increases levels of dopamine, which can reinforce use of the drug through its impact on the brain’s reward system. This can drive a person to continue using the drug at greater frequency. In a short time, this can make it difficult for a person to stop their meth use and lead to both a physical and psychological addiction.

Once someone has become addicted to meth, they may begin experiencing uncomfortable and distressing withdrawal symptoms within hours after use. This can then continue a pattern of drug use in order to relieve these symptoms and continue to experience drug effects.

Recovering From Meth Abuse And Addiction

Meth addiction recovery can be a difficult process, but it is possible. Recovery from meth abuse and addiction can be most successful when it involves integrated care with support from medical and addiction specialists.

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Treating addiction to meth begins with stopping the use of the drug, and removing the drug from your system. This is a process known as detoxification, or detox.

Medically-Supervised Meth Detox And Withdrawal Symptoms

The most effective way to stop using meth is to enter a medically-supervised detox program. This is the first step is treating your addiction, and provides a safe place for you to undergo meth withdrawal under the supervision of medical specialists.

Methamphetamine withdrawal occurs when someone who is addicted to meth has stopped or reduced their use of the drug. This can be an uncomfortable process and feature symptoms that may cause significant stress to the mind and body.

Common symptoms during meth withdrawal include:

  • fatigue
  • agitation
  • intense drug cravings
  • hallucinations
  • insomnia
  • increased appetite

Most symptoms tend to last no longer than ten days, although each person’s experience with withdrawal may vary. Some symptoms of withdrawal, including depression and drug cravings, may persist for months, or even years in some severe cases.

Once you have successfully detoxed from meth, doctors can help you determine an appropriate treatment plan. This may include recommendations for further treatment to help keep you on the path towards recovery from your meth addiction.

Behavioral Therapy For Meth Addiction Recovery

Addiction is more than its physical effects, and can have a negative impact on a person’s emotional and mental health. Meth use has been tied to certain psychiatric problems, which may be effectively treated through counseling. The most effective treatment identified for meth addiction is behavioral therapy.

Behavioral therapies may be offered on an inpatient or outpatient basis, depending on your personal needs.

The types of therapy that can be helpful in treating meth addiction include:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): This type of therapy focuses on helping patients learn how to recognize situations that may trigger them to use drugs. Through skill-learning, patients may explore ways they can work to avoid their triggers, or how to cope with them in more effective ways.
  • Contingency Management: Contingency management is an approach that offers positive reinforcements, or incentives, for not using a drug. This can be a helpful motivator and involve incentives that are personalized to fit each person’s needs.
  • Motivational Interviewing: Motivational interviewing is a collaborative process with a patient and their counselor. This approach aims to help a patient identify the internal motivation they need to overcome their substance abuse and remain sober. This may provide a particular benefit when used for early intervention.

Inpatient Treatment Programs

Inpatient treatment programs are often recommended after detox to provide structured support in the early stages of recovery. These programs are residential, which means the person may live onsite for a specified number of days under 24/7 supervised care. During this time, you may collaborate with a treatment team of providers, which may include a medical doctor, counselors, a nutritional counselor, and a psychiatrist.

The early stages of meth recovery can be difficult, and some people may struggle with some basic cognitive functions during this time as a result of their meth use. You may have trouble remembering things, including names. Staff and other providers can offer you the support necessary to manage these drug-related problems, and may work with you to identify appropriate treatments.

Inpatient facilities often offer a variety of treatment modalities within their programs to help treat all aspects of addiction and can include:

  • individual counseling
  • group therapy
  • nutritional counseling
  • dual-diagnosis treatment
  • Yoga
  • relapse prevention
  • aftercare support

Inpatient drug programs commonly last between 30 to 90 days, but may last longer depending on each person’s needs. Longer stays tend to provide patients with the most benefit and reduce risk for relapse. This is especially true for people who have been using meth for an extended period of time and have a more difficult time remaining sober.

Outpatient Treatment Programs

Some inpatient rehab facilities may offer step-down programs for patients who need additional support after leaving an inpatient program. This may include a partial hospitalization program (PHP) where a person may live on or off-site and receive treatment up to five days a week for half the day.

Another option is intensive outpatient (IOP) treatment, which involves living off-site but returning to an inpatient facility for about three hours a day, three days a week. During this time, patients may continue sessions with their counselor, attend nutritional counseling, or participate in other therapeutic group activities offered at the facility.

If your nearest inpatient facility does not offer an outpatient program, or you do not have lodging offsite, additional options may be available to help you access the support you need. This may include finding affordable, temporary housing for you offsite, or finding another outpatient program closer to your residence for more convenient access.

Sober Living Communities

Staying within a sober living community is another option that can be beneficial for recovery. These residential communities are designed to provide a stable, substance-free living space for people whose previous residence may lack the support they need to remain sober.

Sober living communities may include condos, apartments, or houses available in rural and urban areas. They may also offer varying levels of support to help you manage your drug urges and remain substance-free in your day-to-day life.

Support Groups

Outpatient support groups can often be vital to people who are new to recovery. Support groups provide a way for individuals to connect to others who understand what they are going through. These may include 12-step groups, or local Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings, depending on what is available in your community.

Meth Relapse Prevention And Continued Care

Relapse is a valid concern for those recovering from meth addiction and is more common among people who are new to recovery. People may also be more likely to relapse if they have reduced or stopped their treatment too early.

Drug relapse is not a sign of failure, or weakness of character. However, it can have serious consequences if ignored or left alone. This includes the risk that the person will return to their old pattern of drug use.

Addiction Treatment For Meth Abuse: Call Our Rehab Center Today

Recovering from meth addiction is not an easy process. Fear about the possibility of recovery, and of what life may look like without your addiction is real for many people.

Recovering from an addiction to meth is a lifelong process and commitment. Entering into an inpatient treatment program is often the first step in finding some stability. It is equally important to maintain your commitment afterward for continued healing.

Let us help you take these important steps for your recovery. Contact us today for more information about treatment for you or a loved one.

National Institute on Drug Abuse - DrugFacts: Methamphetamine, Treatment and Recovery

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration - Methamphetamine Addiction, Treatment, and Outcomes: Implications for Child Welfare Workers

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