Understanding Meth Abuse

Learn more about the causes and symptoms of meth abuse, both short- and long-term effects, and available treatment options.

Table of Contents

Understanding Meth Abuse and Addiction

Methamphetamine, or meth, is a highly addictive stimulant medication that primarily affects the brain and central nervous system. Meth can be extremely addictive due to its short-term “positive” effects. The common signs of meth use are increased attention and energy, euphoria, and decreased fatigue.1

With meth use and addiction, once the positive effects wear off, users of the substance are prone to extreme fatigue, irritability, depression, and anxiety, among other symptoms.

Meth Abuse

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Half-Life of Meth

The effects of meth use can typically last between six and twelve hours depending on the method of consumption. The half-life of meth is usually around ten hours; however, it can take longer to break down if used intravenously.2

Is Meth Addictive?

Meth is extremely addictive due to releasing large quantities of dopamine in the brain. The dopamine floods the brain, causing feelings of euphoria, alertness, and concentration. Meth abuse often leads to repeated use and addiction. Long-term meth abuse can cause changes to the dopamine system in the brain which can contribute to memory loss and depression. Though many effects of long-term meth addiction may resolve within one year, some effects may be permanent.3

Symptoms of Meth Abuse

Meth abuse and addiction can be seen in physical and behavioral changes. Meth addiction symptoms and meth side effects may include:

How Do People Use Methamphetamine?

Meth comes in various forms and can be smoked, swallowed, snorted, or injected. The use of meth can vary among geographical regions and has changed over time. Uses include:4

How Does Methamphetamine Affect the Brain?

Meth use can have a profound effect on the brain. The use of meth causes an increased amount of the neurotransmitter dopamine to flood the brain. Dopamine is responsible for feelings of pleasure, motivation, movement, and reward reinforcement. Abnormally large amounts of dopamine can alter brain function and increase the chances of meth addiction.7

Changes to the brain due to meth addiction can typically improve after one year of discontinuing use. However, long-term meth reactions may cause some permanent damage to the brain and body.

How Long Does Meth Stay in the System?

The length of time it takes for meth to leave the body, or the meth withdrawal timeline, depends on the amount and frequency of use and the body’s ability to break down the substance. As mentioned previously, the half-life of meth is typically around ten hours, and it can take up to four days for the meth to completely clear the system. Meth can be detected in the body via the following methods:8

The length of time it takes to detect meth in the system is very dependent on how long and how much you have been using. For heavier users, the meth can be detected in the higher ranges of these timelines.

Short-Term Effects of Meth Abuse

The short-term side effects of doing meth, or meth reactions, can include:

The symptoms of meth use are based on the increased amount of dopamine in the brain and these increased levels of dopamine have various effects on the body’s systems. The meth side effects can lead to an increase in addictive behaviors and long-term use.

Long-Term Effects of Meth Abuse

There are many negative effects of meth use in both the short-term and long term. However, some of the long-term effects of meth include:

The long-term effects of meth can be significant and make meth addiction hard to treat. For the best results, it is important to seek treatment as soon as possible in order to treat the symptoms before they become permanent and life-threatening.

Treatments for Methamphetamine Addiction

There are no current medications for meth addiction treatment. However, there are several options for treating meth abuse. Treatment can include a combination of detox, behavioral therapies, and meth addiction rehab.

Meth Abuse

Meth Detox

The meth withdrawal timeline typically starts around twenty-four hours after the last use. Symptoms of meth withdrawal include extreme fatigue, depression, cravings, dehydration, nausea, headaches, anxiety, and sometimes hallucinations. The detox process can take up to fifty hours and sometimes symptoms can persist for two weeks, or even months, after the last use.

Detoxing from meth may include the use of sleep medication to help regulate sleep, antidepressant medication to help regulate dopamine, and anti-anxiety medication. Undergoing detox in a medical facility provides a safe environment away from the drugs while also receiving medical supervision.

Behavioral Treatment

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been shown to be an effective form of treatment for meth abuse. CBT focuses on learning and shifting behaviors to stop unhealthy thoughts and patterns.

Motivational incentive is another form of behavioral treatment shown to be effective in treating meth addiction. Motivational Incentives for Enhancing Drug Abuse Recovery (MIEDAR) involves using vouchers or cash rewards to encourage drug-free behavior.

Another type of behavior treatment used for meth abuse is the Matrix Model. This model is a comprehensive sixteen-week treatment that combines behavior therapy with family therapy, 12-Step programs, drug testing, and increasing non-drug activities.

Meth Addiction Rehab

Treatment in a meth rehab center may be the best treatment option for long-term meth addiction or people who experience severe withdrawal symptoms. Rehab, or inpatient treatment, involves staying in a secure and stable environment for one to three months or in some instances, up to one year. At an addiction rehab facility, you will learn healthy coping skills and address addiction and mental health issues with various therapies.

Find Help For Meth Addiction at Profound Treatment

At Profound Treatment, we provide detox and residential treatment services using evidence-based treatment aimed at improving health and decreasing relapse in a safe and supportive healing environment.

If you or a loved one is struggling with meth addiction or abuse, contact Profound Recovery at (310) 929-9546, email admissions@profoundtreatment.com, or our website https://profoundtreatment.com/contact-us/.

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