Understanding Meth Addiction & Treatment

Over the last decade, methamphetamine (meth) overdoses have increased significantly in the United States after a period of relative inactivity. Initially, this considerable increase went largely unnoticed due in part to the focus on the nation’s opioid epidemic. However, in 2019 two million people over the age of 12 admitted to using meth within the last year. Many of these people also reported suffering from mental illness during times of meth use.

Unfortunately, meth has made a comeback and is affecting millions of people nationwide. However, there is some good news. Once meth use has stopped, the body has the ability to heal, giving hope to those wanting to recover from meth.

Meth Addiction

Meth Use in Nevada

In recent years, Nevada has had some of the highest meth-related deaths in the country. Further, in 2016, more than half of primary drug offenses in the state involved methamphetamine, and in 2017-2018 meth was considered the number one drug threat to Nevada. Today, meth busts local to Las Vegas continue to reveal huge quantities of methamphetamine that were meant for illegal distribution.

The meth use statistics in Nevada can be attributed to a few things. First, opioids have become more expensive and harder to obtain, allowing meth to surface as an accessible, cheaper alternative. Another reason for the prominence of meth in Nevada is the state’s proximity to Mexico, where much of the product is made. In Mexico, the Mexican cartel is credited with manufacturing high-quality methamphetamine in sophisticated labs where it is then smuggled into the U.S. states.

To combat meth addiction in Nevada, analysts have determined that stricter laws and drug arrests are not enough. To address Nevada’s meth problem, attention to drug rehabilitation and behavioral therapy must also be given. This means that treating the actual addiction through quality meth rehab programs is a way forward through the state’s emerging meth epidemic.

What Is Meth?

Methamphetamine is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant. Meth is also referred to as speed because it speeds up the brain-to-body messaging system. Examples of legal stimulants include caffeine, nicotine, and prescription ADHD medications, while illegal stimulants include drugs like meth and cocaine.

As noted with most stimulant use, immediate, short-term effects of meth include:

  • Increased alertness
  • Higher energy levels
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Rapid breathing
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Decreased appetite
  • Elevated body temperature

While stereotypical perceptions of meth users may bring to mind images of underweight people with dental issues (“meth mouth”), methamphetamine actually has a legal history as a decongestant and weight loss aid. Today, legal meth still exists in prescription form, but it is rarely prescribed due to side effects and high addiction potential.

Methamphetamine comes in powder or in a solid, glass-like form and it easily dissolves in liquid. Therefore, people use meth by swallowing it in pill form, by snorting or smoking it, or by liquifying and injecting it. Most often, meth users smoke the substance from a meth pipe called a “flute” which gives an intense “rush” or “flash.” Meth users can also learn how to make a meth pipe from common objects like lightbulbs or tinfoil.

How Is Meth Made?

How Is Meth Made

Unlike opioids, meth is not made from natural substances like plants. Rather, it is produced from a combination of chemicals that can be relatively easily obtained. One of the main ingredients of meth has historically been pseudoephedrine, a decongestant found in cold and allergy medication. However, as the sale of pseudoephedrine continues to be monitored, meth production has evolved to use ingredients that are more accessible.

Currently, phenyl-2-propanone (P2P) is often substituted for pseudoephedrine. The other chemical ingredients used to make meth are highly toxic and can include acetone (nail polish remover), lithium (found in batteries), and sulfuric acid (drain cleaner).

Homemade Meth

Meth cookers are resourceful. Homemade meth is made in makeshift meth labs in homes, hotel rooms, and any other dwelling where substances can be combined. Chemicals used to make meth are highly flammable, and meth lab explosions are common.

Usually, the people that make homemade meth are not chemists. Instead, they are users who are cooking meth from hearsay meth recipes that describe an illicit method on how to make meth. Needless to say, these recipes are not vetted for safety and those who choose to try them are taking outstanding risks with personal welfare.

Shake and Bake Meth

The shake and bake, or “one-pot” meth-making method simplifies the process of cooking meth by eliminating elaborate lab equipment in exchange for a two-liter soda bottle. By “shaking” up a handful of chemicals in a soda bottle, the user will get a quick two-ounce (or smaller) hit of meth. While seemingly convenient, the chemical reactions in this method are just as explosive, and learning how to shake and bake meth has resulted in many shake and bake meth burn victims.

Interestingly, data from 2017 meth seizures reveal that the vast majority (81%) of meth labs in the U.S. were using the personal use, shake and bake meth method. The rest of the meth circulating the country is mainly from Mexico. Unlike homemade meth, Mexican meth is made in sophisticated labs by chemists, is incredibly potent, and is still cheap. Meth pictures reveal that this Mexican super meth looks like clear glass or glass that has a blue tint.

Meth Slang

Street names for meth that is illegally made include:

  • Ice or Ice Meth
  • Speed
  • Shards
  • Bikers Coffee
  • Stove Top
  • Tweak
  • Chalk
  • Crystal or Crystal Meth
  • Crank

Other meth slang terms refer to actually getting high on meth. These include:

  • Getting amped
  • Going on a “run” (referring to the binge and crash pattern of meth use)
  • Blowing clouds (referring to smoking meth)
  • Getting geared up
  • Getting foiled
  • Tweaking
  • Getting scattered

Meth Addiction

Methamphetamine is extremely addictive. People on meth experience a dopamine release in the brain, the feel-good chemical that acts as a mood enhancer. This initial rush, while brief (only a few minutes), gives way to a meth high that could last for hours. This release of dopamine then teaches the brain to view meth as a reward and to crave more of the drug. If a person gives in to the cues to continue meth use, an addiction to meth can begin.

Over time, a tolerance to meth will occur and the user will require more of the drug to get the same high. Eventually, meth dependence will develop and the user will not be able to feel pleasure at all unless under the influence of meth.

Once this physical and mental addiction to meth occurs, withdrawals will take place when the person tries quitting meth. Meth withdrawals often include anxiety, depression, and meth psychosis, and could last from a week to months while the brain repairs itself.

Meth Addiction Symptoms

An addiction to methamphetamine, while alarming, is treatable. Understanding the signs of meth use and meth addiction symptoms could be the difference between early intervention and an established addiction. Like other CNS stimulants, meth will cause a user to feel alert and more energetic which may be difficult to notice at first. However, as meth use continues, more noteworthy signs of use become apparent.

Physical Signs Of Meth Use

  • Dilated pupils
  • Elevated heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing
  • New physical tics or twitches
  • Increased activity, including talking more than usual
  • Crashing, or depletion of energy (occurs as meth wears off)

Behavioral Signs of Meth Addiction

  • Unusual sleeping patterns or staying awake for long periods of time
  • Abrupt weight loss or reduced appetite
  • Agitation, aggression, or irritability
  • Sudden periods of depression
  • An abrupt shift in friends or peer groups
  • Poor hygiene

Another tell-tale sign of meth use is tweaking, which is associated with excessive or chronic meth exposure. Tweaking usually occurs after a meth binge; it is compulsive behavior and is fairly easy to notice. Notable signs of tweaking include psychosis, paranoia, hallucinations, self-harm or uncontrollable picking,

In addition to tweaking, if any meth paraphernalia is found, this could clearly indicate that a person is using meth. General meth paraphernalia includes burnt spoons or pieces of foil, hollowed-out pens or straws, rubber tubing or laces, or dried-up cotton balls.

Dangers of Meth

Dangers of Meth

The dangers associated with meth use are extensive and span far beyond addiction. On the surface, pictures of meth addicts before and after addiction show some of the physical harm that using meth can cause. These include meth mouth, meth scabs or meth sores, and malnutrition. However, the damage caused by meth use reaches far beneath the surface to brain damage and altered thought processes, which can last long after meth use has stopped.

Additionally, meth use is connected to violence, and users are more likely to be victims or participants of violent crimes. This is thought to be attributed to the intense stimulant effect that methamphetamine provides, which often causes psychosis and aggression.

Side Effects of Meth

The meth circulating in the United States is pure and potent. On a scale of zero to 100, with 100 being the strongest, the methamphetamine available in 2021 frequently scores over 90 in both purity and potency.

This potency increases the side effects of meth experienced by the user, which can vary depending on the way that meth is consumed. Below are some commonly experienced side effects of meth use depending on how it is used.

Shooting Meth

Shooting meth (or injecting meth) creates a quickly-felt, intense high. However, the high from injecting meth lasts for a shorter amount of time than other methods of using meth. Therefore, people who shoot meth are likely to do so repeatedly in an effort to continue to feel the “rush.” This can often go on for days and is referred to as a meth “run.”

Side effects of shooting meth include the following:

  • Increased risk of addiction (due to intensity of the high)
  • Higher risk of tolerance
  • Damage to or collapsed veins
  • Track marks and punctures
  • Risk of disease from contaminated needles
  • Infections of skin and blood

Smoking Meth

Smoking meth is one of the most common methods of use. Smoking meth causes the drug to reach the brain quickly and creates an intense high, similar to when a user shoots meth. However, the damage from meth’s effects on the throat and other soft tissue, such as ulcers, occur quickly. This is due to the toxicity of the chemicals used to make methamphetamine.

Other side effects of smoking meth include:

  • Addiction
  • Lung disease or infection
  • Gum disease and tooth decay
  • Mouth and throat sores

Snorting Meth

When swallowed or snorted, meth use provides a less intense yet still highly addictive effect.

Side effects of snorting meth include:

  • Addiction
  • Damage to the nasal membranes
  • Runny or bloody nose
  • Postnasal drip
  • Holes in the septum (the wall between the two nostrils)

Short-term side effects of meth that occur regardless of the method of use include seizures, dangerously high body temperature, mood disturbances, anxiety, confusion, and heart palpitations (to name a few).

Long-term side effects of meth use include meth-induced brain damage that can cause impaired learning and memory loss. Depleted dopamine receptors, which help a person experience feelings of happiness, can also take a significant amount of time to heal after chronic meth use. This means that depression following meth addiction is common.

Other long-term side effects of meth use include meth psychosis (for example, schizophrenia-like psychotic symptoms) and strokes due to injury to the blood vessels in the brain.

Can You Overdose on Meth?

Meth Overdose

The short answer is, yes, you can absolutely overdose on meth, and meth overdose can be fatal. In fact, meth overdose deaths nationwide have been increasing at a remarkable rate over the last decade.

Meth overdose occurs when too much of the drug is consumed. Considering that meth users often go on binges, it is easy to understand how accidental meth overdoses can take place. And unlike opioids, there is no antidote to reverse a meth overdose.

Signs of meth overdose are similar to signs of meth use but magnified. Meth overdose symptoms often include:

  • Spike in body temperature (hyperthermia)
  • Shallow, rapid, or difficulty breathing
  • Racing heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Chest pain
  • Extreme psychosis or agitation
  • Seizures
  • Coma

If you recognize signs of a meth overdose, call 911 immediately. Meth overdose treatment usually includes activated charcoal to absorb toxins, sedatives, antipsychotics, and IV fluids.

Polysubstance Use: Using Meth with Other Drugs

Methamphetamine is often used with other substances, such as alcohol, which increases the toxicity of both substances and heightens the risk of overdose. Combining drugs can also lead to a dual addiction, or an addiction to two (or more) different substances, which can be harder to quit than a single addiction.

Common substances taken with meth include:

  • Meth and alcohol
  • Meth and Xanax
  • Meth and heroin (speedballing)
  • Meth and weed
  • Meth and Viagra

The health outlook of a person abusing multiple drugs is worse than if they were abusing meth alone. Fortunately, detox and drug rehabilitation centers are aware of polysubstance abuse and are able to help drug users detox from multiple substances safely.

Meth Detox and Withdrawal

Meth Detox & Withdrawal

Methamphetamine is physically addictive. This means that over time, the body becomes dependent on the substance to function normally. In these cases, as the body detoxes after quitting meth, withdrawal symptoms will occur.

Specific meth withdrawal symptoms vary between people depending on their personal history with meth. However, common signs of meth withdrawal include:

  • Exhaustion or meth comedown
  • Depression, anxiety, and paranoia
  • Psychosis or hallucinations
  • Strong cravings to use meth
  • Dehydration, headaches
  • Muscle pain or spasms
  • Insomnia

Supervision during meth detox is highly recommended due to the mental disturbances that often characterize meth withdrawals. Not only will staff at a detox center be able to show you how to detox your body from meth safely but they can help minimize discomfort associated with withdrawals. Ultimately, the best detox for meth will depend on your personal circumstances, which an accredited rehabilitation center can help you figure out.

How Long Does It Take to Detox From Meth?

The meth withdrawal timeline will vary between users. However, the general process is as follows:

Phase 1: The Meth Crash

The meth crash lasts for the first few days after quitting meth. It is signified by exhaustion, irritability, anxiety, and possible hallucinations.

Phase 2: Meth Cravings

Intense meth cravings, depression, difficulty concentration, and muscle pains are noticed throughout the next week or so of meth withdrawal.

Phase 3: Continued Meth Withdrawal

After a week or two of detoxing from meth, a meth user should feel the intense withdrawal symptoms subside. However, it can take many more weeks or months for the body to truly recover, and more mild symptoms may persist during this time.

Quitting meth is difficult, but it is entirely possible. Enrolling in a reputable meth addiction treatment program will ensure that you have the help needed to break the cycle of addiction in an atmosphere that is conducive to healing.

Meth Addiction Treatment in Las Vegas, Nevada

Methamphetamine is an addictive drug that has proven difficult to quit without support. In fact, meth users who attempt to quit cold turkey often relapse, indicating the need for meth addiction help in the form of addiction treatment therapy.

As an addiction treatment center located in Las Vegas, Nevada, a methamphetamine hotspot, the Vance Johnson Recovery Center understands meth addiction. The treatment team at VJRC are experts in meth treatment and can effectively guide you through how to sober up from meth.

About the Vance Johnson Recovery Center

The programs at the Vance Johnson Recovery Center are evidence-based and holistic in nature, meaning that the individual person and their personal circumstances are taken into consideration when developing a treatment plan for methamphetamine recovery. Additionally, our inpatient residential program provides a comfortable, therapeutic setting that supports growth.

Listed below are a few of the treatment therapies available at the Vance Johnson Recovery Center:

Our commitment to you is to support you throughout a continuum of care that extends to before, during, and after treatment at VJRC. Deciding to commit to meth rehab is a huge first step in addiction treatment. To get started on your recovery, contact an admissions specialist at 888-828-2623 or use our confidential online contact form.

You CAN take your life back from methamphetamine abuse. And the Vance Johnson Recovery Center is ready to help.

Meth Facts & Frequently Asked Questions

The rate at which meth leaves your system will depend on the amount used, the method of use, and your personal biology.

In general, it takes about 12 hours for half of the meth taken to be eliminated from the body. This is referred to as the meth half-life.

The type of test will also determine how long meth will be detectable in your system.

  • Blood: Meth stays traceable in blood for around one to three days.
  • Saliva: Saliva tests will pick up meth for about one to four days.
  • Urine: Meth in urine is detectable for about a week.
  • Hair: In hair, meth use can be detected for up to three months.

Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to “how long will it take to get addicted to meth.” The rate of addiction will depend on personal physiology, frequency and amount of meth use, the purity and potency of meth, among a variety of other determinations.

Generally, meth is one of the easiest drugs to become addicted to. This is due to meth’s effects on the brain. Meth creates an intense but brief “flash” or “rush” that can be connected to dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is the “feel-good” chemical responsible for elevated moods, and meth heightens dopamine to unnatural, euphoric levels. While the stimulant effect may last hours, the initial rush fades quickly, leaving the meth user ready to use again in an effort to regain the initial high.

Meth comes in a solid glass-like form or in a powder form that can be pressed into a pill or dissolved in water. Therefore, meth can be snorted, swallowed, smoked, and injected. While the most common form of use is smoking meth out of a meth pipe or “flute,” all forms of meth use lead to dangerous side effects and are highly addictive.

Methamphetamine comes in a crystalline powder or a solid, crystal-like rock (hence the name crystal meth). The color is usually white but can be tinted blue, grey, yellow, pink, or even orange. Since it can be found in powder form, it can also be pressed into pills of various sizes.

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