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Crystal Meth Addiction

teen on couch smoking

Crystal meth is a form of methamphetamine–a substance that is widely abused throughout the country. Its widespread illicit production dwarfs that of its pharmaceutical counterpart – marketed as Desoxyn – a stimulant medication with very limited clinical application.

Methamphetamine is a white powder that can be used orally, snorted, smoked, or injected. Crystal meth appears as white or cloudy chunks that resemble broken glass. This form of the substance is most often smoked, but can also be ground to a finer powder for insufflation or injectable routes.

Manufacturing methods vary, but most illicit methamphetamine is created by a process which combines amphetamine and/or amphetamine derivatives with various other chemicals to result in a relatively inexpensive to produce, yet potent final product. The majority of methamphetamine is manufactured and distributed illegally in the US and sold at a low cost. Crystal meth is often manufactured in home labs using rudimentary (and very dangerous) methods.

Regardless of the manufacturing process, the drug is known for its high potency and strong propensity to lead users towards addiction.

If you’re addicted to meth, recovery is possible–we can help you find treatment anywhere in the country. Call 1-888-744-0069Who Answers?.


Effects of Crystal Meth

Because crystal meth is a stimulant, it speeds up the various processes throughout the body and brain. The “high” resulting from usage can elicit:

  • Feelings of euphoria.
  • Increased energy.
  • Increased focus.
  • Diminished need for sleep.

Like with other addictive substances, the negative effects quickly begin to outweigh the positives. The unwanted effects of crystal meth include:

depressed-insomnia-man-crystal-meth-addiction

  • Unhealthy weight loss.
  • Inability to sleep.
  • Anxiety.
  • Confusion.
  • Paranoia, hallucinations and other psychotic symptoms.
  • Violence.
  • Irritability.
  • Changes in brain signaling.
  • Cardiovascular disturbances.
  • Problems with memory and cognition.

As use continues and escalates, the negative impacts become more extreme and more damaging. For example, crystal meth addicts frequently suffer from a condition known as meth mouth–where use directly and indirectly leads to the teeth becoming damaged, cracked, and decayed. Additionally, weight loss can be so extreme it leads to malnutrition and organ damage.

Effects of crystal meth extend beyond the individual abusing the drug to other people around them. Those that choose to manufacture the substance in their home put those with whom they live at extreme risk. The chemicals and byproducts of production can harm or kill others in the home immediately (e.g., explosion) or over time (e.g., chronic exposure to toxins).


Signs and Symptoms of Addiction

Once used, traces of crystal meth can stay in the body for a long period of time. The high from the drug can last for more than 12 hours. During this period of time, you may notice signs and symptoms that include:

  • Different activity levels and sleep/wake schedule.
  • Changing relationships marked by more conflict with established relationships. Often someone high on crystal meth will be aggressive or interrupt others in conversations.
  • Problems with money / inability to pay bills.
  • Possible problems with the law.
  • New interests and activities or less interest in previous activities.
  • Needing more of the substance to create the same high–a phenomenon known as tolerance.

Someone addicted to crystal meth will continue using even when they experience negative life changes. Those struggling with their addiction may be unable to quit using even if they desire to stop.

Stages of Use

People using crystal meth often follow a pattern of use that can be described as “binge and crash”. They will use large amounts of the substance continuously over hours or days without eating or sleeping. When there is no more money or energy to acquire more, the user will sleep for extended periods being drained of energy.

Stages of use include:

  • The rush – Lasting from 5 to 30 minutes with extreme euphoria and positive feelings.
  • The high – Lasting from 4 to 16 hours.
  • The binge – Using until no further high can be attained, or until all amounts of the drug is consumed.
  • Tweaking – The response to the inability to continue the high. While tweaking, the user may:
    • Become violent and physically aggressive.
    • Lose touch with reality.
    • Experience visual and tactile hallucinations–e.g., that bugs are crawling on them, which may then lead to scratches and self-harm.
  • The crash – May present as the body shutting down and sleeping. When awake, the user will feel drained and unhappy, leading to desire for more meth.
  • Withdrawal – Some substances begin to leave the body immediately, but since meth stays active for so long, it can take days or weeks for full withdrawal symptoms to present.

Dependence

Like many drugs of abuse, in the case of crystal meth, addiction is highly interconnected with physical dependence.

sad-woman-head-in-hands-crystal-meth-addict

Dependence means that the body becomes used to the drug so much so that it functions or is perceived to function differently without it. Because of the dependence, the body will crave the substance in order to feel and operate normally. When use is ended, the user may experience:

  • Fatigue with extended periods of sleep.
  • A potentially profoundly depressed mood.
  • Feeling confused or disorganized.
  • Increased irritability.

Addiction Treatment

It will be important to evaluate for the stage or severity of crystal meth use because that information will help to shape effective treatment. Medically-assisted detox will not be always be offered for meth abuse treatment because the immediate consequences of ending use are not dangerous. Most recovering methamphetamine addicts will only require sleep, food, and water in a drug-free environment at the onset, though someone that is receiving treatment while tweaking or experiencing severe psychological repercussions may benefit from inpatient services.

The best treatment options will acknowledge and attempt to manage the potential impact of protracted withdrawal symptoms that may persist long after use has ended. The person in recovery will do well to receive ongoing, long-term treatment that incorporates aspects of:

To learn about treatment for crystal meth addiction, call 1-888-744-0069Who Answers?. Our treatment advisors can talk you through your options and help you find a program that’s right for you.


Sources:

How to Treat Stimulant Addiction

The stimulants are a broad class of substances that affect the nervous system in a way that leads to increased activity across a number of mental and physical processes—serving, in varying degrees, to boost energy and attention but also capable of impacting our cardiovascular and respiratory systems. The stimulant category encompasses drugs that are encountered both predominantly illicitly (e.g., cocaine, crystal meth) as well as legally, in the case of those prescribed by a medical provider (e.g., Adderall) 1,2,3.

During a 2014 survey, 3.1 million people in the U.S. admitted to using stimulants within the last month 1. With so many people abusing stimulants of all kinds, you may indeed know or love someone who’s abusing one of these drugs. Understanding the best ways to help a stimulant addict can ensure you approach the situation as effectively as possible.


How to Approach a Stimulant Addict

Try to approach your loved one as calmly as possible, reserving judgment.

If you suspect that a loved one is abusing a stimulant substance, you should proceed with caution. Approaching the situation without adequately preparing yourself may harm, rather than help, the situation (and your relationship). Rather than reacting too hastily, consider a thought-out plan and make sure you understand how someone suffering from a stimulant addiction may react to your attempts to reach out.

Someone that is abusing a substance or addicted to it will likely resist your attempts to point out the problem or change their behaviors. Drug abuse can, in some cases, change the brain of the user in ways that may diminish self-control and judgment, which makes your task more complex 4. Approach your loved one with care.

All too often, conversations about getting help become arguments, as loved ones of addicted people have often long been frustrated by the inability of their loved one to stop and feel that they are choosing the drug over them. However, even if you are upset and frustrated, approaching your loved one while overwhelmed with these emotions can derail your attempts to help. Rather, try to approach your loved one as calmly as possible, reserving judgment. Also, try approaching them during periods of sobriety.

During your conversation 4,5:

Woman contemplates starting an intervention with her friend about stimulant addiction
  • Provide your love, support, understanding, and patience. If you speak when emotions are high, your message will be lost and your loved one will only absorb your anger or sadness.
  • Ask many questions. People become defensive when told what to do. Instead, use questions to gain information about your loved one’s stance and views on their stimulant use.
  • Focus on the positives. Speaking too much about drug use turns any situation negative. By finding ways to emphasize positive traits and abilities of your loved one, you can encourage them to see more than drug use in their future.
  • Stay consistent. Decide on a stance early and behave accordingly. For example, if you are outlining consequences for drug use, be prepared to follow through with them.

CRAFT

People that feel overwhelmed during this process may consider seeking help for themselves through programs like CRAFT. Community reinforcement and family training helps concerned significant others (CSOs) of substance-abusing individuals and gives them tools and coping strategies to maintain a strong relationship with their loved one while encouraging the person towards formalized treatment 6.

CRAFT teaches 6:

  • The benefits of exploring past patterns.
  • The ways to recognize drug-using behaviors.
  • Which behaviors to reward and which to extinguish.
  • Effective communication skills.
  • When to allow natural consequences without intervening.

During these sessions, CRAFT stresses the importance of self-care for the CSO. If you become overburdened, you cannot help your loved one 6.

CRAFT is focused on getting your loved one to seek treatment. This stands in contrast to another approach: the intervention. During an intervention, a group of people that care about the stimulant user compel him or her towards treatment through peer pressure and the threat of negative consequences. Interventions are commonly thought of as the only way to get an addicted individual into treatment; however, there are other options (such as CRAFT) and, in fact, there is little-studied evidence of the efficacy of confrontational interventions like those commonly seen on TV 4.


Stimulant Addiction Treatment

Doctor explains to patient stimulant addiction treatment options

Treatment for an addiction to stimulants will be guided by:

If the person is currently intoxicated, medical treatment can be helpful to 3:

  • Observe the individual and monitor their vital signs.
  • Maintain a safe setting that limits potentially negative interactions with the outside environment.
  • Prescribe medications to manage the acute withdrawal syndrome.

If use has already ended, withdrawal symptoms should be monitored. Although these are not typically dangerous, your loved one may experience high levels of depression with suicidal ideation or thoughts of violence against others. These symptoms may last for a few hours or longer depending on the exact stimulant(s) being chronically abused 3.

Your loved one may experience high levels of depression with suicidal ideation or thoughts of violence against others.

Treatment for stimulant addiction can take place in a number of different settings based on the individual’s symptoms, risks, and support system. Treatment settings include 7:

  • Inpatient—A highly structured environment that often provides full access to medical services (inpatient treatment in a hospital setting, for example).
  • Residential—A long-term treatment where the person lives for several months while working intensely on recovery from stimulants.
  • Outpatient—A less restrictive and often cheaper option that allows the person to remain in their home and attend treatment during the week.

Whatever the setting, the various recovery programs will apply similar treatment methods and therapeutic styles including 7:
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy—Will aid in identifying and avoiding problematic situations.
  • Motivational interviewing—Works to increase the person’s desire to commit to and engage in treatment.
  • Contingency management—Focuses on rewarding positive, adaptive behaviors to reduce the desire to use stimulants.
  • Family therapy—Involves and helps to modify the reactions of loved ones to maintain recovery.

The Matrix Model is one treatment option that includes various aspects of the above treatments as well as group therapy, drug testing, and relapse prevention to treat stimulant abuse. This model of treatment was developed specifically for stimulant addiction 8.


Does someone you love need an intervention?

How Common is Stimulant Abuse?

Stimulants are commonly abused and prescription stimulant abuse is a growing problem, especially among young adults. But are they addictive? Yes, stimulants—even prescription ones—can be very addictive when abused. Cocaine and methamphetamine have reputations for quickly developing addictions, especially in their crack and crystal forms.

Therapeutic prescription stimulant use can be maintained for long periods, but abusing the medications by taking them in ways other than prescribed will significantly boost the risk of addiction.

The prevalence of stimulant misuse is alarming. Per the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, in 2014 1:

  • About 570,000 people admitted current methamphetamine use.
  • Over 1 million people used prescription stimulants nonmedically.
  • About 1.5 million people currently used cocaine.
  • Of the 1.5 million, about 350,000 people were using crack.

Potential Signs of Developing Addiction

Am I Addicted to Stimulants?

You may be unable or unwilling to see the negative impact that stimulants play in your life in the early stages of abuse or addiction, due to the perceived benefits like higher energy, improved concentration, or weight loss. With time, however, the “benefits” will start to be overtaken by the downsides caused by sustained drug use, such as health issues, professional problems, relationship turmoil, etc.

You may have a problem if you 4:

  • Continue to use more of the substance without being able to stop.
  • Attempt to acquire the substance through prescriptions from multiple doctors.
  • Spend more time getting and using the substance.
  • Are increasingly unhappy.
  • Have encountered relationship, work/school, legal, or financial problems associated with your use.
  • Find your physical health is deteriorating.

Someone that is intoxicated by stimulants and/or compulsively using these drugs may show signs and symptoms like 3:

  • An elated mood or increased sense of well-being.
  • Dilated pupils.­­­­­
  • Sweating.
  • Decreased need for sleep.
  • Higher energy levels.
  • Confusion.
  • Irritability.
  • Increased aggression.
  • Rapid speech while moving quickly between topics.
  • Paranoia.

These symptoms are likely to be persistent and potentially worsen over time as the user needs more and more of the stimulant to combat an increasing tolerance 3.

Once the individual’s body becomes dependent on the substance, they will experience withdrawal symptoms if they are unable to use or are attempting to decrease their dose. These symptoms may include 3:

  • Stimulant cravings.
  • Lack of energy/fatigue.
  • Erratic sleep.
  • Extreme hunger.

Call Our Hotline Today

Stimulant addiction has the power to ruin your life, but you can recover with help. If you are unsure of your next step, consider calling 1-888-744-0069Who Answers?. Our treatment support representatives can help you get into a program today.


References:

  1. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2015). Behavioral Health Trends in the United States: Results from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014). Research Report Series: Prescription Drugs: Abuse and Addiction.
  3. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (1999). Treatment for Stimulant Use Disorders: Quick Guide for Clinicians.
  4. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). What to Do If Your Adult Friend or Loved One Has a Problem with Drugs.
  5. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2015). Family Checkup: Positive Parenting Prevents Drug Abuse.
  6. Scruggs, S.M., Meyer, R, Kayo, R. (2014). Community Reinforcement and Family Training Support and Prevention.
  7. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). Drug Facts: Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction.
  8. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2012). Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide.

Meth Relapse

Meth’s Extreme Harm

Methamphetamine is a highly addictive and extremely dangerous stimulant drug. Commonly known as meth, it is often used in crystalline form (as rocks or crushed up into a powder) by smoking, swallowing, snorting, or injection 1. The effects of meth are felt quickly after ingesting the drug and fade quickly, which leads many people to take multiple doses within a short time 1.

The short-term effects of meth include increased focus and energy, decreased appetite, rapid breathing and heartbeat, and elevated body temperature 1. Chronic meth use can result in a pervasive decline in physical and mental health and give rise to a number of devastating symptoms, including 1:

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 5.4% of individuals over the age of 12 will use meth at some point in their life 2.

Approximately 0.3% of all Americans over the age of 12 have used meth within the past month, indicating a possible ongoing substance addiction problem 2.

Meth relapse statistics indicate that about 61% of meth users will relapse within 1 year of finishing substance abuse treatment 3.

  • Anxiety.
  • Confusion and problems with concentrating.
  • Extreme weight loss.
  • Dental problems including gum disease, rotten teeth, and tooth loss.
  • Difficulty sleeping.
  • Hallucinations and paranoia, even after stopping meth use.
  • Itching sensations, which can lead to excessive scratching, sores, and scarring.
  • Violent behavior.

Because of the dangers and harmful consequences of using meth, many meth users seek treatment. However, because meth is so addictive—and leads to the development of significant physiological dependence—treatment, and the period of abstinence that it entails, will often immediately usher in a potentially intense withdrawal syndrome, complete with troubling symptoms such as anxiety, depression, fatigue, symptoms of psychosis, and intense drug cravings 1.

The sheer level of discomfort that accompanies acute stimulant withdrawal frequently leads former meth users to relapse.


When searching for treatment, look into all of your options and choose the program that is right for you.

What Is a Relapse?

Meth relapse occurs when a person returns to using meth after a period of abstinence, such as while completing a drug rehabilitation program or other form of treatment 3. Even if a person only uses meth once after a period of self-restraint, this is still considered a relapse because the goal of substance abuse treatment and recovery is complete abstinence from the drug.

Recovery from meth addiction is a lifelong process that requires ongoing treatment, dedication, and support.

Meth relapse rates are measured by tracking how often people in recovery use meth. Interestingly, meth relapse rates are similar to relapse rates for chronic medical problems such as diabetes, asthma, and high blood pressure 4. This has led many mental health professionals and addiction experts to adopt the perspective that recovery from meth addiction is a lifelong process that requires ongoing treatment, dedication, and support.

It is important to note that relapse does not mean that recovery has failed or that the individual will never be able to abstain from meth 4. Rather, many professionals believe meth relapse statistics indicate that relapse is a natural part of the recovery process 5. They believe that when relapse occurs, it means the patient has not identified the root cause of their drug use yet 5.

For example, many female meth users report that they use meth to cope with depression 5. Therefore, if depression symptoms persist after substance abuse treatment, it is likely that the patient will relapse if she has not found a healthier way to cope with the depression symptoms 5. Relapse can be used as a way to better understand triggers for meth use and can serve as a way to prevent future meth relapse.


Why Do People Relapse on Meth?

Many people who have never struggled with an addiction problem find it difficult to understand why people relapse.

Meth relapse has been compared to the process of toppling a line of dominoes 6. When a recovering meth user first steps outside the protective environment of a drug rehab facility or addiction treatment center, they are forced to face the world and all its stressors on their own. The first problem that arises is like the first domino falling 6. They may be able to sustain their recovery for a while by themselves, but without the help of a relapse prevention program or support group, they will be forced to carry the weight of the problem on their own 6.

As more and more stressors mount, the urge to return to old behaviors, like using meth, grows.

As life moves forward, more problems arise, as they do for everyone. However, for a recovering meth addict, these problems contribute to a mounting world of stress that meth had once erased. As more and more stressors mount, the urge to return to old behaviors, like using meth, grows 6. Toward the end of the line of dominoes, the weight of all the problems and stressors becomes too much, and the result is meth relapse 6.

Others, including doctors Sharon Boles and Nancy Young, say that people relapse often on meth because treatment interventions wear off over time as individuals re-acclimate to the regular world 5. In such cases, professionals recommend that “treatment needs to be reinstated or adjusted or that another treatment should be tried 5.”


Meth Relapse Warning Signs

In order to prevent meth relapse, it is important to be aware of the warning signs. Most people who relapse say that, in hindsight, they could see their relapse warning signs starting weeks or even months before the actual relapse event. Warning signs of meth relapse may include 7:

  • Feeling overwhelmed with problems or stress.
  • Bottling up emotions.
  • Isolating oneself from friends and family members.
  • Not going to recovery support meetings or not participating while at meetings.
  • Focusing on others’ problems rather than talking about one’s own problems.
  • Poor self-care, such as not getting enough sleep or having poor eating habits.
  • Thinking about people and places associated with meth use.
  • Minimizing the consequences of meth use.
  • Talking about the good times associated with meth use.
  • Scheming or negotiating with others or oneself to justify reasons to use.
  • Looking for opportunities to be around meth.
  • Experiencing meth cravings.

Stress and attempting to cope with recovery alone are serious threats to sobriety. To be successful in long-term recovery, it is important to establish a strong social support system, remain diligent about your aftercare, and ask for help when you need it.


What to Do When You Relapse on Meth

man calling loved one

Meth relapse is common, so if you relapse, remember that you are not the only person to do so. If you know someone who has been abstinent for a significant period of time, call him or her. Explain that you relapsed and need help getting back on track. Another option is to immediately check yourself into a detoxification program or attend a Narcotics Anonymous meeting.

As soon as you realize that you have relapsed and you do not want to continue on the path of meth use, it is time to take action. Rather than beating yourself up or assuming that you cannot stay sober, focus on what you can do to regain control. You have several options, including:

  • Calling a trusted friend or family member.
  • Reaching out to your sponsor.
  • Calling your therapist for a session or increasing your number of sessions per week.
  • Increasing your attendance at 12-step meetings.
  • Journaling about all the reasons you have to get sober and maintain your recovery.
  • Calling a drug rehab facility or a drug helpline for more information.

Going to Treatment After Relapse

Relapse means many things to different people, but it always sheds light on what is and is not working for your recovery. Use this relapse as a chance to learn more about yourself and work to find a better recovery plan that suits you. This often means reentering some form of treatment after a relapse.

Your goal for future treatment and recovery should be to beat that time and continue to become stronger in your sobriety.

Attending treatment after a relapse is common. If it is your second time or more attending treatment, consider this experience a time to be honest about what did not work for you and what you believe you need in order to maintain your recovery. It is easy to fall into the mental trap of calling yourself a “failure,” but doing so does not help you and is simply untrue. The amount of time that you were able to abstain from using meth is a victory. Your goal for future treatment and recovery should be to beat that time and continue to become stronger in your sobriety.

If you believe you need help understanding what your relapse experience means for you, we want to help. Call our helpline at 1-888-744-0069Who Answers? for more information about the best treatment options following a meth relapse.


How to Create an Effective Relapse Prevention Plan

Relapse prevention is about maximizing your strength and minimizing any factors that may threaten your sobriety. To do that, you need a relapse prevention plan, which is a list of options or steps you can take if you feel yourself weakening to the possibility of relapse.

Everyone goes through periods of self-doubt or difficult days when they think about using meth again. A relapse prevention plan is your guide to dealing with those thoughts and feelings in a way that helps you become stronger and does not derail your goals. An effective relapse prevention plan includes:

  • A list of your triggers, such as people, places, or specific emotions.
  • Options for managing your cravings.
  • Activities and tools for protecting your mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing.
  • A list of people you can call in case you feel an urge to relapse.
  • A list of 12-step meetings near you that you can attend if you feel the urge to relapse.
  • Your favorite tools that you can use to help you cope with stress and everyday problems, such as exercise, yoga, meditation, hobbies, or worksheets.
  • A list of your passions, things that are important to you, and people you love to remind you why you are fighting for sobriety.

Over time, your relapse prevention plan may change as you meet new people, learn more about yourself, discover new interests, and find new ways to stay strong.

If you or someone you care about is struggling with meth relapse or concerned that relapse is imminent, call our helpline today at 1-888-744-0069Who Answers? to get help.


References:

  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2017). Methamphetamine.
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2012). Methamphetamine.
  3. Brecht, M. L. & Herbeck, D. (2014). Time to Relapse Following Treatment for Methamphetamine Use: A Long-term Perspective on Patterns and Predictors. Drug & Alcohol Dependence, 139 (1), 1825.
  4. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014). Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction.
  5. Otero, C., Boles, S., Young, N. K. & Dennis, K. (2006). Methamphetamine Addiction, Treatment, and Outcomes: Implications for Child Welfare Workers.
  6. Gorski, T. (2001). Understanding Relapse.
  7. Melemis, S. M. (2015). Relapse Prevention and the Five Rules of Recovery. Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, 88 (3), 325332.

Why Don’t We Have Addiction Vaccines?

After three decades of research, people with addiction still have few medication options. While there are a handful of modestly effective FDA-approved drugs to treat alcohol, nicotine and opioid-use disorders, there are none at all for cocaine, methamphetamine and other narcotics. And the fact remains that most people with a substance use disorder will relapse – from 40 to 60%, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA).1

You want it to take away withdrawal symptoms, you want it to reduce craving and you want it to block the high.

- Dr. Kyle Kampman

One problem is that addiction is a complex condition involving the brain, body and psychology. “If you want to treat addiction, you want [the medication] to do three things,” says Dr. Kyle Kampman, a psychiatry professor and medical director of the Charles O’Brien Center for Addiction Treatment at the University of Pennsylvania.2 “You want it to take away withdrawal symptoms, you want it to reduce craving and you want it to block the high.”

No current medication can do all three things. That’s why the idea of vaccines for addiction has long—some critics would say too long—been embraced by researchers. A vaccine could prevent a person from getting high in the first place, which would theoretically moot the issue of cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

According to Kampman, other potential advantages of vaccines are the long duration of action, the certainty of administration and a potential reduction of toxicity to important organs.

No less significant is that patients do not have to detox or go through withdrawal before treatment—as is the case with most currently available medications. “It is not necessary to be abstinent first,” says Dr. Diana Martinez, associate professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University.3

How Addiction Vaccines Would Work

An effective addiction vaccine would kill the buzz induced by booze and other substances before a person could feel it. But it also requires the person’s buy-in: Knowing that they could not get high, they would not continue trying to.

The science of vaccines for addiction is like that of other vaccines: They produce antibodies against the virus that target the virus (or molecule), neutralize it and thereby prevent infection. In the case of addiction, the antibodies bind to the cocaine or heroin molecule, bulking it up and making it too big to pass through the barrier between blood and brain. If it doesn’t get to the brain, it doesn’t get a person high.

Addiction vaccines will not prevent addiction, nor will they “cure” someone who is not trying to overcome their condition. Most researchers agree that they would work best as relapse prevention — in combination with another anti-craving medication, an antidepressant, behavioral therapy or a combination of all three. Dr. Kim Janda, a professor of chemistry and immunology at the Scripps Research Institute, says the aim is to use them as an assist once someone is sober since vaccines would not be helpful for those who do not wish to be abstinent.4

They don’t prevent or reduce cravings, however, and that’s one of their main drawbacks. In several of the scant number of clinical trials run on nicotine and cocaine vaccines, patient compliance has been a key issue. If the physical and psychological cravings are not blunted, they can easily override a person’s willpower not to use. “I think that the vaccines aren’t going to take away craving issues,” says Janda. “They’re just going to enforce the inability to receive any benefits from taking the drug.”4

The vaccines aren’t going to take away craving issues. They’re just going to enforce the inability to receive any benefits from taking the drug.

- Dr. Kim Janda

Current Options Are Few and Faulty

Vaccines may be no magic bullet, but even at partial effectiveness they would improve the current state of the addiction medicine cabinet. Here’s a list:

  • Alcohol: Naltrexone (Vivitrol), acamprosate (Campral) and disulfiram (Antabuse) are FDA-approved, while topiramate is showing good results in trials.5
  • Nicotine: Bupropion (Wellbutrin) and varenicline (Chantix) are FDA-approved medications; replacement therapies include the patch, spray, gum and lozenges.6
  • Opioids: Methadone and buprenorphine (Suboxone) are FDA-approved substitute medications, while naltrexone is approved to treat cravings.7
  • Cocaine: Nothing
  • Methamphetamine: Nothing
  • Cannabis: Nothing

The most innovative of these medications is the anti-smoking treatment Chantix, a nicotinic receptor partial antagonist. A review by the independent Cochrane Collaboration is mixed: Chantix was better than Wellbutrin but not superior to over-the-counter nicotine replacement therapies, which are far cheaper.8

A recent study found that prescribing both Chantix and Wellbutrin may work best (combination treatment is typically more effective than a single drug, but also more toxic).9 Chantix can have severe side effects, too, including depression, bizarre dreams and suicidality; the FDA put a black box warning—the agency’s strongest safety warning—on the drug.10

Naltrexone, an opioid receptor antagonist, can block the intoxicating effects of alcohol and opioids—but again, only for some people and only to some extent.

Naltrexone, an opioid receptor antagonist, can block the intoxicating effects of alcohol and opioids—but again, only for some people and only to some extent. In the case of opioid addiction, it is effective only for people with a specific genetic mutation in an opioid receptor.11 Most clinical trials of naltrexone’s efficacy for alcohol use disorders studied the medication as an assist to behavioral therapy — and that’s how it’s often recommended to be used. “It’s a tool,” says Dr. Larissa Mooney, assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at UCLA’s Integrated Substance Abuse Programs.12

What’s Coming Out of the Pipeline?

Addiction vaccines have been in development since the 1990s—without a single success. The biggest investment of resources has gone to experimental vaccines against nicotine and cocaine, and numerous agents have made it as far as Phase III. But their repeated failures to show efficacy in humans in the clinic (as opposed to animals) may cast doubt on the viability of the vaccine project.

  • Nicotine: After early promise, two 2011 Phase III trials found that NicVax, the leading anti-smoking vaccine candidate, worked no better than a placebo.13 Research continues, however. A small 2013 study showed that NicVax immunization reduced binding of nicotine to its receptor by 12.5% and decreased cigarette use by 40% as well as reduced cravings.14 In 2013, a similar anti-smoking vaccine, Niccine, failed in Phase II trials.15
  • Cocaine: Most of the progress in the development of a cocaine vaccine has come from the labs of Weill Cornell Medical College’s Dr. Ronald Crystal and Baylor College of Medicine’s Dr. Thomas Kosten’s labs. But recent setbacks have frustrated the work. In July 2014, Kosten published the disappointing results of a small Phase III study of an experimental cocaine vaccine showing adequate safety but poor efficacy. “It was not overly successful,” Kampman, a co-author on the study, says. “It is hard to get good levels of antibodies.”16
  • Heroin: An effective vaccine would be a big boost for people with heroin use disorder, who have the lowest rate of recovery. (This is why methadone and Suboxone are essential medicines.) The labs of Dr. Kim Janda and Dr. George Koob at the Scripps Research Institute have made the most progress, using a so-called “dynamic” heroin vaccine. A 2013 study in rats showed that vaccination significantly decreased their relapse rates. “Right now, [the heroin vaccine] is pretty good,” Janda says. “We can give a large overdose, and the animals are still fine. We can’t really do that with the other drugs.”17
  • Methamphetamine: The Scripps group is also moving a methamphetamine vaccine through rat trials; in 2013 they published a paper showing that one candidate gave evidence of protecting rats from becoming intoxicated with a robust antibody response.18

The Difficulties in Vaccine Development

The scientific challenges to developing an effective addiction vaccine have become all too clear since the 1990s. Most of the target molecules are so small that getting the immune system to “see” them, together with getting a high enough antibody level, is the highest hurdle.19

With methamphetamine, because it has a long half-life—it lingers in the nervous system—antibodies have to be especially robust to flush out the molecules.

Each substance poses its own unique set of problems. A vaccine for alcohol is thought to be improbable because the ethanol molecule is too small to be adequately targeted. With methamphetamine, because it has a long half-life—it lingers in the nervous system—antibodies have to be especially robust to flush out the molecules.20 As for cocaine, simply taking more of the drug overcomes the effect of the vaccine.21

In principle, a vaccine would make someone immune for a period of months. However, the vaccines currently in development have a much shorter effect. For a sustained effect, Janda says, a patient would need an initial shot followed by 2-4 boosters every 2-3 weeks over the first 6- to 8-week period. Even then, protection would last only 3-6 months.19

This holds true in the hierarchy of addictions, too. With 50 million nicotine addicts, 1.4 million cocaine addicts and 400,000 meth addicts in the U.S., it’s no wonder that there are multiple anti-smoking medications but none for cocaine or meth.

There are other, more general hurdles, too. A vaccine would probably not protect against other drugs, or diminish cravings, and its effects could likely be overridden, at least in part, when a person relapses and takes enough of the drug — which could pose a serious health risk. This underscores the fact that vaccination works best with patients who are motivated to quit.

Economic hurdles also stand in the way. Taking a new drug from early development to market costs $2.6 billion, according to the most recent survey from the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development. [22] Drugs for medical conditions that affect large numbers of people offer the best bet of a payoff; substance misuse and addiction are widespread, but the vast majority of people experience natural recovery.

Anti-addict stigma extends to drug development as well… This discourages funding for potential treatments for addiction medications…

Anti-addict stigma extends to drug development as well, says Janda. This discourages funding for potential treatments for addiction medications — “it’s a moral failing, not a medical disorder,” is the rationale — especially to illegal narcotics like heroin, cocaine and meth.23

The good news is that vaccines are cheap, at least compared to other medications. If they are not a magic bullet, they would at least offer a new approach that, when used in combination with other medications and behavioral therapies, could significantly raise the standard of addiction treatment.

Sources

  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014). Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction.
  2. Penn Medicine Neuroscience Center. (2016). Kyle M. Kampman, M.D.
  3. American Society of Addiction Medicine. (2014). Cocaine Vaccine: Research Review.
  4. The Janda Group: The Scripps Research Institute. (2016). Research Areas in the Janda Group.
  5. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2008). Helping Patients Who Drink Too Much: A Clinician’s Guide.
  6. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2016). FDA 101: Smoking Cessation Products.
  7. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014). Heroin.
  8. PubMed. Nicotine receptor partial agonists for smoking cessation.
  9. Science Daily. (2014). Combining Treatments Boosts Some Smokers’ Ability to Quit.
  10. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2015). FDA Drug Safety Communication: FDA updates label for stop smoking drug Chantix (varenicline) to include potential alcohol interaction, rare risk of seizures, and studies of side effects on mood, behavior, or thinking.
  11. PubMed. (2010). Opioid antagonists for alcohol dependence.
  12. The Fix. (2014). Shortcuts to Recovery.
  13. Global News Wire. (2011). Nabi Biopharmaceuticals Announces Results of First NicVAX(R) Phase III Clinical Trial: Smoking Cessation Immunotherapy Failed to Meet Primary Endpoint.
  14. Irina Esterlis, Ph.D., Jonas O. Hannestad, M.D., et. al. (2012). Effect of a Nicotine Vaccine on Nicotine Binding to ?2*-Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptors In Vivo in Human Tobacco Smokers. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 170(4), 399-407.
  15. Oxford Journals. (2013). Niccine®, a Nicotine Vaccine, for Relapse Prevention: A Phase II, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled, Multicenter Clinical Trial.
  16. PubMed. (2014). Vaccine for cocaine dependence: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled efficacy trial.
  17. EurekAlert! (2013). Preclinical study shows heroin vaccine blocks relapse.
  18. Miller, M.L., Moreno, A.Y., Aarde, S.M., Creehan, K.M., Vandewater, S.A., Vaillancourt, B.D., Wright, Jr., M.J., Janda, K.D. & Taffe, M.A. (2014). A methamphetamine vaccine attenuates methamphetamine-induced disruptions in thermoregulation and activity in rats. Biological Psychiatry, 73(8), 721-728.
  19. Shen, X., Orson, F.M., Kosten, T.R. (2012). Vaccines for Drug Abuse. Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics, 91(1), 60-70.
  20. The Scripps Research Institute. (2012). Meth Vaccine Shows Promising Results in Early Tests.
  21. National Institutes of Health. (2004). Vaccines and Depot Medications for Drug Addiction: Rationale, Mechanisms of Action, and Treatment Implications.
  22. Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development. (2016). Tufts CSDD Assessment of Cost to Develop and Win Marketing Approval for a New Drug Now Published.
  23. Time. (2015). Why You’ve Never Heard of the Vaccine for Heroin Addiction.

7 Shocking Facts About Meth in the Gay Community

As one of the most popular drugs in the gay community, users mistakenly believe that crystal meth leads to fun and enhances their life experiences. Due to that train of thought, this drug has become somewhat of an epidemic among the gay population—particularly in major metropolitan cities.

Here’s a look at 7 alarming facts concerning meth use in the gay community.

Meth Abuse is Rampant

In general, gay men report higher levels of drug and alcohol addiction than their straight counterparts. Over the last 15 years, crystal meth has grown into a particularly destructive force in the gay community.

“The number of arrests involving crystal meth has doubled so far this year over 2013,” said Michael Kasten, a committee chairperson on Florida’s No More Meth Task Force. “If you look at the actual arrests by sector [in Florida], they are in the gay neighborhoods of Fort Lauderdale.”

“It’s such a tough problem. There’s such a high rate of recidivism; you don’t get much success,” said Mark Ketcham, executive director of SunServe. “If you know you’re not going to win, it’s hard to take it on, but we have to start somewhere. We have to start addressing the whys. It’s an uphill battle, this damn thing. It’s just very frustrating.”

Meth is Combined with Other Drugs

The gay community is the largest consumer of “party” drugs. Though crystal meth is by far the most popular party drug, a lot of gay men and women combine their meth use with other drugs. A few of the substances commonly combined with meth include Special K, Poppers, Viagra, GHB and Ecstasy.

While meth and heroin are often combined, the most popular speedball cocktails in the gay community include meth and GHB or Viagra.

One of the most concerning trends in the gay community is “speedballing.” When someone mixes sedatives and uppers—drugs with opposite effects—the results can quickly throw body systems into chaos.

While meth and heroin are often combined, the most popular speedball cocktails in the gay community include meth and GHB or Viagra. The problem is that many users aren’t aware of the life-threatening dangers associated with speedballing.

“GHB is a sedative and goes hand in hand with meth. First you get a blast of high from the meth and then the GHB evens you out,” said Todd Connaughty, director of clinical services at the Pride Institute in Minnesota. “… With GHB it’s very easy to pass out and bad things can quickly happen.”

What’s more, newly released data also reveals that the combination of crystal meth and Viagra can escalate HIV production in the brain.

Sex/Meth Parties are Increasingly Popular

Thanks to social media platforms like Grindr and Tinder, sex parties have become extremely prevalent. Party hosts often advertise that guests will be treated to free meth and anonymous sexual escapades. In many areas of the nation, these parties have become a regular occurrence. And, unfortunately, most of the party guests end up having unprotected sex.

Recently, a man named Zachary opened up to SFGN magazine about the prevalence of sex/meth parties in South Florida. Zachary, a recovering addict, attended one of these lavish parties after reading an invitation post on Grindr.

“The party was hosted in a house situated in downtown West Palm Beach. There was like this extravagance to it. It was very classy. They had coolers, drinks and Gatorades, a snack bar. It was a well organized event,” said Zachary.

Making things worse, most—if not all—of the sexual intercourse that took place that night was unprotected.

It was all unsafe sex. I didn’t care because I was high. In the two days that I was there, 75 or 80 percent of the time we were having sex.

- Zachary

Meth is Highly Dangerous for Gay, HIV Positive Men

Though meth is a destructive force in every demographic, it’s particularly damaging within the gay community. The most pressing concerns are based on data that indicates crystal meth can potentially help promote a virulent strain of HIV (dubbed the HIV “SuperVirus”) and/or severely reduce the effects of life-saving HIV medications.

After 1 year of evaluation, the results showed that meth users had a lower ratio of CD4/CD8 cells—immune cells playing an important role in HIV—indicating less resilience of the immune system.

A study conducted by the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) examined a group of male gay drug users who were all HIV positive. The test group contained men who used meth, cocaine, pot, alcohol and various other party drugs. All were taking effective HIV medications and, upon starting the study, had low levels of the HIV virus in their blood.

After one year of evaluation, the results showed that meth users had a lower ratio of CD4/CD8 cells—immune cells playing an important role in HIV—indicating less resilience of the immune system. Additionally, these men had a measurably higher amount of HIV in their semen.

Spike of New HIV Infections in Younger Homosexuals

Right now, the highest level of risk reported belongs to the under-40 gay population in the western states, with the highest usage belonging to gay men between the ages of 17 and 29. This risk includes both risk of crystal meth addiction and risk of acquiring HIV. For those who are HIV negative, using crystal meth could potentially put them on the “fast track” to contracting the deadly virus.

For members of the gay community who are already HIV positive, using crystal meth speeds up the damage to their bodies and minds. Even with the most effective anti-viral drug cocktails, HIV positive people are susceptible to a host of brain and body illnesses. Weight loss, muscle deterioration and AIDS dementia are commonly advanced among members of the gay HIV positive community.

IV Meth Use On the Rise Among Gay Men

The IV trend—known as “slamming”—gives users an intense rush or high. Many gay men are tempted to inject meth at sex parties…

Research has shown that there is a serious uptick in the number of gay meth users injecting the drug. In fact, the number of men injecting (in a sexual context) quadrupled between 2011 and 2013, according to Antidote, a U.K. LGBT support service. The figures, compiled by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), seemingly back up experts’ warnings of a “meteoric rise” in the number of gay men injecting meth.

The IV trend—known as “slamming”—gives users an intense rush or high. Many gay men are tempted to inject meth at sex parties, which can go on for days. Those same experts warn that the IV meth use trend is likely linked to the disturbing rise of HIV infection rates among gay men.

Sex without Meth Can Feel Devastatingly Disappointing

Though quitting meth is hard for all users, it’s doubly hard for gay men. Meth causes an enormous surge of dopamine in the brain. This “feel good” chemical is responsible for the feelings of euphoria and sexual arousal meth is famous for. Using the drug enhances pleasure, eliminates sexual boundaries and makes even the shyest user feel like a social butterfly. Once the drug is no longer supplied, all those feelings disappear.

Once in recovery, most gay men wrestle with the fact that they can no longer sexually perform as they did while actively using meth. During the recovery process, they are faced with the reality that sober sex is much different than meth sex. And for some, the resulting sense of loss is too much to handle.

Since sexual activity places gay men at a high risk of relapse, most experts advise them to abstain from sex of any kind for at least one year. The resulting intimacy isolation can make it extremely difficult for gay men to stay off meth.

Spotlight on ADHD Meds and Their Frightening Meth Connection

The opioid crisis has been making headlines for years, but there’s another drug epidemic that has been flying under the radar: Abuse of ADHD drugs.

ADHD drugs, such as Adderall and Ritalin, increase levels of the brain chemical dopamine and provide mental stimulation. This, in turn, allows users to become more focused and calm because they no longer need to engage in self-stimulating behavior.

The number of young people abusing ADHD medication has been steadily increasing over the last five years, with almost 9 percent of high school seniors abusing and approximately 35 percent of college students in the same category. And unfortunately, this misuse does have consequences: Over 19,000 people have suffered from complications related to ADHD drugs since 2013.

One of the biggest problems in the spread of stimulant addictions is that doctors are now so quick to diagnose ADHD when other conditions are causing the problems. Interestingly enough, ADHD prescriptions have risen 29.2 percent from 2010 to 2015 and sales of ADHD drugs have risen almost 41.8 percent during the same time.

Making Meth a Substitute?

Perhaps the scariest problem of all is that, when people are hooked on ADHD medications and the supply runs out, they’re rapidly turning to substitutes – like crystal meth.

Though there has been little research into this issue, there is one recent study that compared d-amphetamine (Adderall) with methamphetamine. Using 13 participants who were regular methamphetamine users, each was given a dose of either meth, Adderall or a placebo on separate days under double-blind conditions. This process was repeated over several days, with each participant given multiple doses of each drug.

Surprisingly, meth and Adderall caused similar effects with the participants; so much so that the regular meth users couldn’t distinguish between the two.

According to neuroscientist Dr. Carl Hart, these results aren’t surprising, since the two drugs are nearly identical in their chemical structure. In his opinion, the only major difference between crystal meth and Adderall is public perception.

Helping or Harming?

With an allure of gaining energy, a sharpened focus and a sense of euphoria, users can quickly develop an unhealthy tolerance to ADHD drugs, meaning they need more and more to get the same effect. Eventually, taking the simulant pharmaceuticals becomes cost prohibitive and users turn to street versions, such as meth, because they are cheaper, stronger and more accessible.

Image Source: iStock

Meth Overdose

Methamphetamine in a bottle
Methamphetamine, most commonly known as “meth,” “crystal,” “speed,” and “ice,” is an addictive stimulant that causes users to experience an intense euphoric rush 1. Meth can be smoked, snorted, injected, or consumed orally by users.

Meth is the second most popular illegal drug in the world 2. In 2014, almost 13 million Americans over the age of 12 reported having used meth at some point in their lifetimes 3.

Over time, repeated meth use can lead to the development of physical dependence and tolerance. As tolerance builds, meth users will often need to continually increase their usual dose to achieve the desired high. This is extremely dangerous because when a user consumes too much meth, he can experience an overdose.

In 2011 there were over 102,000 meth-involved emergency room visits in the United States alone 4. More than half of these visits involved a combination of meth and other drugs, with the most commonly co-abused substances being marijuana and alcohol.

Being aware of the signs and symptoms of a meth overdose is essential, as the sooner that a person experiencing an overdose receives help, the higher the chances of survival.

In less than five minutes, see if your loved one—or you—is addicted to meth. Take our online confidential survey.


Signs and Symptoms

A meth overdose may be acute or chronic 5:

  • An acute overdose occurs when a person uses a large amount of meth one time and experiences an adverse reaction. Acute overdoses may be fatal in some cases.
  • A chronic overdose refers to the cumulative, negative health effects of ongoing methamphetamine abuse.

Both acute and chronic meth overdoses can have disastrous consequences.

Man with pain in chest area

Common signs of an acute meth overdose include 2, 5:

  • Enlarged pupils.
  • Rapid, slowed, or irregular heart rate.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Chest pains.
  • Heart attack.
  • Stroke.
  • High body temperature.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Kidney failure.
  • Stomach pain.
  • Altered mental status.
  • Agitation.
  • Paranoia.

During a meth overdose, altered mental status can include psychotic episodes, irritability, and/or suicidal ideation 2. In rare cases, a person may experience coma or seizures.

A chronic overdose refers to the accumulated health effects of long-term use. Chronic meth abuse can lead to:

  • Anxiety.
  • Severe sleep disturbances.
  • Extreme mood changes.
  • Violent outbursts.

Some users experience psychotic symptoms, including severe paranoia and tactile hallucinations that give the sensation of bugs crawling on their skin.

Long-term meth use can also lead to significant weight loss, dental complications, and skin problems (such as sores and abscesses).

Surviving an Overdose

Meth overdose can be fatal, and the health consequences can be lasting, if not permanent. Psychotic symptoms like hallucinations and paranoia may persist for up to one year 5.

Also, permanent physical damage may result in the brain and body if a person experiences prolonged seizures, stroke, heart problems, kidney failure, and/or altered mental status.


Risk Factors

Certain risk factors may increase the likelihood of a meth overdose including 2, 4:

  • Mixing meth with other drugs and alcohol.
  • Using larger and larger amounts of the drug, e.g., to combat tolerance.
  • Injecting the drug.
  • The presence of pre-existing health conditions, such as hypertension.

What to do in Case of an Overdose

If you witness a meth overdose, call 911 immediately.

Woman calling 911 emergency

Overdoses can be potentially life-threatening and should be managed by a medical professional. When calling for emergency help, be prepared to share the following information, if possible 5:

  • The victim’s age and weight.
  • The type and amount of drug used.
  • Whether the drug was smoked, inhaled, or injected.
  • The last time the drug was taken.

Securing professional help as quickly as possible is important during a meth overdose. The long-term prognosis for those recovering from an overdose will depend on how much of the drug was used and how quickly the person was treated 5.

If you or someone you know has suffered a meth overdose and is lucky enough to have survived, you may wish to consider treatment and/or prevention strategies to avoid future complications. Those who have survived a meth overdose should embrace the opportunity to make positive lifestyle changes.


Prevention

Taking steps to prevent a meth overdose can minimize the chances of negative complications, including heart attack, stroke, and death. Avoiding certain risk factors, such as using high doses, injecting the drug, and mixing meth with other drugs and alcohol, may minimize the likelihood of an overdose. However, the only certain way to avoid an overdose is to not use meth. 

If you or someone you know is abusing meth, consider getting help. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) recommends the following treatment approaches for meth addiction 6:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) focuses on helping people understand how their thoughts impact their feelings and behaviors. CBT also helps patients to identify their triggers and develop a relapse prevention plan.
  • The Matrix Model has been shown to be an effective treatment for addiction to stimulants like meth. This treatment combines education, relapse prevention, individual and family therapy, and drug testing. The therapist takes a coaching role and provides praise and rewards for positive behaviors like abstinence. Participants are encouraged to also attend self-help group meetings like Narcotics Anonymous.
  • Contingency management treatment involves providing rewards for sobriety. This encourages recovering individuals to remain abstinent and stay focused on their recovery.
  • Motivational Incentives for Enhancing Drug Abuse Recovery (MIEDAR) is an effective approach to treating meth addiction and combines incentives or rewards for positive change with interventions aimed at increasing motivation for recovery.

Treatment for meth addiction may occur in different settings and levels of intensity:

  • Detox may be necessary in some cases of meth addiction. Detox centers are staffed with medical professionals who monitor a patient’s withdrawal symptoms and provide services and sometimes medications to ease discomfort and ensure a safe withdrawal. While detoxing from meth is often not dangerous, adverse complications may result if a person has pre-existing health issues.
  • Inpatient or residential treatment offers the opportunity for recovering individuals to receive intensive therapeutic services while living in a drug-free environment.
  • Outpatient treatment offers structured substance abuse therapy one or more times per week, but does require on-site living arrangements. Outpatient substance abuse treatment can be a good option for individuals with less severe addictions, those who recently completed a residential program, or those who have been able to maintain sobriety for a period of time.

In addition to treatment, free self-help groups like Narcotics Anonymous, Crystal Meth Anonymous, and SMART Recovery provide support and tools to help with the recovery process.

Meth overdose is a serious condition that can be potentially fatal. Seeking treatment for meth addiction can help to prevent the onset of lasting health consequences and can mean the beginning of a new life.


References:

  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014). DrugFacts: Methamphetamine.
  2. Cruickshank, C. C., & Dyer, K. R. (2009). A review of the clinical pharmacology of methamphetamine.Addiction104(7), 1085-1099.
  3. Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (2015). 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed tables. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: Rockville, MD.
  4. Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (2014).The DAWN report: Emergency department visits involving methamphetamine: 2007 to 2011. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: Rockville, MD.
  5. S. National Library of Medicine. (2015). MedlinePlus, Methamphetamine overdose.
  6. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2013). Research report series: Methamphetamine. NIH Publication No. 13-4210.

How Drug Addiction Hurts Relationships

Drug abuse effects

Many of the discussions surrounding addiction tend to focus on the physical and psychological effects of substance use. The effects of drug addiction, however, expand beyond these issues and further encompass one’s social health and well-being. Social health refers to one’s relationships and the ability to maintain healthy, rewarding connections. Social health and a healthy support system are correlated strongly with individual’s success, self-esteem, and happiness in life.

Unfortunately, substance abuse and addiction can damage social health. All types of relationships – family, friendships, and romantic relationships — can be put under enormous strain when someone becomes addicted.

The Elements of Successful Relationships

Even without the presence of an addiction, relationships are complex issues that take work to maintain. Successful relationships:

  • Use honest, assertive communication based on respect.
  • Are fun and rewarding.
  • Have the goal of compromise, trust, and understanding.
  • Have an absence of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, violence, and aggression.
  • Can thrive with times of individuality and times of togetherness.
  • Allow for all members to feel good about themselves.

The Damage Associated with Addiction

When addiction enters the mix, many of the elements that make for successful relationships become much more difficult to maintain. Once a substance user progresses from occasional use to addiction, they are likely to have a single focus: obtaining and using the substance.

Since relationships often cannot compete with the euphoric experience of substance use, the user will typically put less time and energy into maintaining the relationship, allowing various damaging elements to begin to surface.

Secrecy

Someone that begins using alcohol or other drugs excessively may not be outwardly open about their use due to strong feelings of shame, guilt, and fear of judgment. They may think others will not understand or accept the situation, which breeds the tendency to be secretive with their loved one. They may lie about:

  • Where they are.
  • Who they are with.
  • The events of the day.
  • Why they are behaving differently.
  • Why money is missing.

At times, secrecy will increase to the point of the complete distancing or isolation. This can put enormous strain on any relationship.

Is your relationship suffering as a result of addiction?
Call to find drug treatment at 1-888-744-0069Who Answers? today.

Trust Issues

With increased lying and deception associated with secrecy, it is only a matter of time until the significant other begins to notice differences between fact and fiction.

The loved one may begin to develop trust issues due to the perceived lack of respect, honesty, and loyalty. Trust is essential to feelings of safety and care in a relationship and reduced trust often leads to the emergence of a number of relationship-damaging issues like jealousy, anger, fear, and resentment.

Anger and Abuse

Anger and violence can become concerns as a relationship deteriorates. Frustrations will be high, but if someone is using a substance that is known to cause aggression, the situation may be even more dangerous. Drugs known to increase anger, irritability, and violence include 1:

Living with an addict or alcoholic can put the loved one at greater risk of victimization. Additionally, the loved one living with an alcoholic or addict may have an increase in their own frustration, causing them to express anger or act out violently against the substance user.

If you are experiencing domestic violence in your relationship, you can always reach out to a domestic violence hotline.

Enabling

Anger is not the only way substance abuse can impact the user or a loved one. At times, in a flawed attempt to help the addict, a loved one will transition into an enabler. Enabling includes:

  • Taking on responsibility for the behaviors and feelings of the addicted loved one.
  • Working hard to minimize their negative consequences.
  • Accepting blame.
  • Making excuses.

A classic example of enabling is providing money on a consistent basis so that the user is able to retrieve drugs. He or she may ask for money for gas or groceries, and while their loved one may suspect it is going to drugs, they provide it anyway. The line between helping and enabling is often extremely difficult for those who love someone struggling with addiction to discern.

Codependency

Codependency shares some traits with enabling. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), codependent people:

  • Control others because they do not think the other person can function independently.
  • Have low self-esteem and overly focus on their loved one.
  • Are willing to compromise their own needs, wants, and beliefs to keep their loved one calm and content.
  • Are very cautious and aware of the emotional changes of others.
  • Maintain loyalty and commitment to their loved one despite lack of reciprocation.

Codependent individuals often get involved in relationships that are one-sided. Someone who is codependent may be frustrated by the needs and actions of their addicted loved one but may also feel a compulsive need to take care of that person. The codependent needs the addict as much as the addict needs the codependent. Their identity may become wrapped up in the “martyr” role, feeling compelled to “serve” or “sacrifice” for their partner, yet simultaneously acting to fulfill their own needs for attachment and closeness.  Codependent relationships typically involve their fair share of enabling, as the caretaker figure will often try to cover for the addicted individual or resolve their issues instead of allowing them to face the natural consequences of their substance use.


Repairing the Damage

Repairing the Relationship

  • End the current dysfunctional habits.
  • Acknowledge the damage of the past and develop strategies to better deal with these issues in the future.
  • Reinvest time and energy towards a healthy, successful relationship.

Treatment Options

Individual therapy for the addicted individual. Ending substance use is the first key element in repairing the relationship. It will be very difficult to begin or maintain a functional relationship during a period of active addiction. Addiction counseling and psychotherapy will allow the individual to gain a better understanding of the impact of substance use on their mental, physical, and social health — in addition to learning coping mechanisms for substance use and developing healthier interpersonal skills.

Couples counseling

Individual therapy for the significant other. The non-addicted person in the relationship can also benefit from therapy by:

  • Gaining education surrounding the nature of substance abuse and addiction.
  • Understanding their role in relationship struggles and patterns.
  • Addressing their own mental health and “self-care” needs related and unrelated to the addiction.

Family/couples counseling for both. Family/couples counseling can be very helpful as both partners can simultaneously learn and practice skills that promote a more desirable relationship by learning healthier ways to interact with each other.

Support group meetings for both individuals. People in healthy relationships are able to function well together and apart. Support groups are a good way to spend time apart while still being in an inviting, empathetic environment. For the person in recovery, Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and SMART Recovery are good options. For the loved one, Al-Anon, Co?Dependents Anonymous, Families Anonymous, and others are available.

Regardless of the form of treatment, several relevant themes will be crucial to the future of the relationship, including:

  • Communication. Certain care must be made to engage in productive communication that shows a level of respect. The communication should be encouraging, clear, and concise. A reciprocal exchange of thoughts and feelings is the goal. Active listening with good eye contact in a calm, distraction-free environment will increase the productivity of the conversation.
  • Limit-Setting. Unhealthy relationships frequently involve poor or absent limit-setting. Limit-setting includes a clear description of expectations paired with the consequences of specific actions. Equally important is follow-through and consistency. If a loved one says that continued substance use is unacceptable but continues to tolerate the actions, the limit is negated. Limits require consequences to be effective.

Irreparable Relationships

A loved one may find it too challenging to modify their behaviors as outlined in individual or family/couples counseling. They may begin to acknowledge that they are causing more harm to their significant other. Likewise, the person with an addiction may realize that continuing to be in this relationship is too destructive to the other person or himself.

If the decision has been made to end the relationship, consider these tips to move forward in the safest, most effective way:

  • Make a plan to ensure safety if domestic violence is a factor. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your support network or other forms of support and safety, like your local police station or a domestic violence hotline.
  • Share your plans for moving on with people you trust for support.
  • Seek continuous social support during and after the breakup.
  • Be clear, concise, and consistent with your communication.
  • Be wary of promises for change and forms of manipulation. Remember to look out for yourself, first, and do what will benefit you most on the long-run.

Seeking Help

If you or someone you love is suffering from addiction and looking for an inpatient treatment center, call our confidential advisors at 1-888-744-0069Who Answers?. We can help provide you with options for finding an appropriate drug addiction treatment program. Be sure to ask if the treatment program provides couples counseling or family therapy, if you are looking to work on both your relationship and addiction.

You may also wish to seek inpatient or outpatient therapy for your relationship concerns, specifically. SAMSHA’s Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator can help you find individual, group, and couples therapy near you.

Remember, if you love someone with a substance use disorder, it is important not to neglect your own needs. Support groups for loved ones of individuals suffering from drug and alcohol addiction can help you build a network of people who understand and help you learn how to care for yourself as you navigate this difficult journey. Support groups include Al-Anon and Nar-Anon.


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Can You Get Addicted to Crystal Meth After the First Use?

Crystal meth is a powerful, synthetically made stimulant. It can be ingested orally, injected intravenously, snorted or smoked. Crystal meth is notorious for its high addictive potential and many people suggest that taking just one hit will get you addicted.

Just how powerful is this substance? Because of factors such as wildly variant purity levels of the street product, as well as differences in individual propensities to develop substance abuse problems, it’s difficult to say definitely how addictive meth is. What is clear, though, is that any use of meth has the ability to cause a range of harmful physical and psychological effects and, in many, can precipitate a pattern that may eventually lead to full-blown addiction.


What Happens the First Time Trying Crystal Meth?

Smoking or injecting crystal meth produces what is sometimes referred to as a “flash,” a brief but intense rush of pleasure or euphoria. As a result, these specific methods of ingestion may have a higher relative risk for binging, continuous use, and a rapid onset of addiction.

Snorting or ingesting crystal meth also produces euphoria, but each is slower-acting. Individuals snorting crystal meth will feel the high in 3-5 minutes, while oral ingestion might take closer to 15-20 minutes before full effects are realized.

The crystal meth high produces desirable feelings like an intense sense of wellbeing, sustained periods of alertness/wakefulness, and increased confidence. These effects are often experienced most acutely upon first use, with each successive use an attempt to relive that first experience.

While addiction can set in quickly, it is not the same thing as merely liking a drug. Addiction entails continuous, compulsive use in spite of evidence that doing so has or will be harmful. How quickly an individual becomes addicted depends on:

  • The method of ingestion.
  • Genetic influences.
  • Environmental influences.
  • The existence of any co-occurring mental health disorders.
  • Other interpersonal, social, and psychological factors.
Thinking of trying one of the world’s most addictive drugs? Consider the effects.

Effects of Crystal Meth

Following the initial high from crystal meth, users may experience the following short-term effects:

  • Increased wakefulness and physical activity.
  • Decreased appetite.
  • Increased respiratory rate.
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Irregular heartbeat.
  • Hyperthermia (overheating of the body).

Crystal meth’s short- and long-term effects are similar to those seen with cocaine use. Though both are stimulant drugs, crystal meth and cocaine differ from each other at a molecular level. As such, they both interact with and elicit different effects from various neural processes. For example, crystal meth is more slowly metabolized by the body, and has a different impact on our brain’s reward system.

The metabolic rate for crystal meth is twelve times longer than for cocaine, meaning that meth acts on the brain for a longer period of time. Also, while crystal meth and cocaine both block the reabsorption of dopamine (reuptake), only crystal meth actually results in ramped up vesicular release of this neurotransmitter – creating a veritable one-two punch in terms of heightened stimulation.

The result can mean damage to nerve terminals in the brain and an increased risk for physical and psychological illness (such as Parkinson’s disease), according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.


Why Is It Dangerous?

Methamphetamine is one of the world’s most addictive and dangerous substances and its negative impact is felt on an individual level, by those individuals’ families, and by society at large. A 2009 report  from the RAND Corporation found that the cost to the US from methamphetamine was $23.4 billion in 2005 alone.

Overdose

Acute overdose of crystal meth is extremely dangerous and can be fatal. Someone overdosing on crystal meth may present with the following signs and symptoms:

  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Dangerously high body temperature.
  • Extreme agitation.
  • Seizures.
  • Severe stomach pain.
  • Heart attack.
  • Coma.

If you believe you or someone you know has overdosed on meth, seek help immediately.

When speaking to an emergency operator, be sure to provide information about recent drug use history as well any symptoms you’ve noticed.

Based on a global drug study in 2009, methamphetamine has moved to the number two spot, behind only cannabis, as the most widely used drug in the world. Per the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), nearly 570,000 people had used meth in the month prior to the survey.

Physical dangers of using crystal meth include:

  • Hypertension.
  • Risk of stroke.
  • Irregular heartbeat.
  • Hyperthermia (raised body temperature).

An even greater risk to meth users is the potential development of overt psychotic symptoms. Crystal meth acts on the brain hours longer than most other stimulants, increasing the risk of paranoia, hallucinations, and other persistent psychotic symptoms.

Another potential and unique risk of using meth is severe damage to teeth and gums, also referred to as “meth mouth”. The individual or combination of particular side effects – dry mouth, hygiene neglect, and/or teeth grinding – can lead to rapid and significant dental decay.

Damage to the skin, linked to drug-induced psychosis, may also occur. Users often report the feeling that insects are crawling under their skin, prompting violent scratching, sores, and eventual damage to the skin’s surface.

 


How Do You Get Addicted to Crystal meth?

Addiction to crystal meth depends on a number of factors that extend beyond the substance alone. For example, someone with low family support, or a history of drug abuse, psychiatric illness or impulsivity may be at greater risk for addiction.

Regardless, the path to addiction is not necessarily straight, nor is it immediate. Initially, a drug’s effects simply feel good to the user. Whether to alleviate feelings from a crash, or to re-experience the high from initial use, a person may use again, beginning a cycle that can be extremely to break as time goes on.

With repeated use, the user will start developing a tolerance and find that he needs to take more and more to get the effects he’s seeking. This pattern of taking increasing amounts of or more potent meth puts the user at risk for dependence, a state in which the body has adapted in such a way that it needs the drug in order to function as expected. Without continued meth use, the body begins to experience the effects of withdrawal, which can be extremely uncomfortable both physically and psychologically. The avoidance of withdrawal is a particularly compelling reason for the continued use of meth. Even the best intentions to quit using can be squashed by the desire to stave off the symptoms of withdrawal.

Addiction has set in when the individual continues to take a drug, in full awareness of the potential harm the drug poses or has already caused.


What To Do If You’re Considering Trying Crystal Meth

Woman leaning against wall thinking

If you are considering trying crystal meth, you might want to take a step back and ask yourself the following questions:

Why do I want to try crystal meth? Is it because of pressure from friends or family?

  • If so, seek advice or help from someone close to you that will not pressure you into using the drug. If such a person does not exist in your life, consider calling a hotline.

What is it that I’m gaining from using crystal meth?

  • Is it the allure of that initial rush, or are you trying to fill an emotional void in your life?
  • If the initial rush is driving your curiosity, you may think about whether that brief feeling of pleasure is worth risking your health, relationships, and career.
  • If you are trying to fill a void in your life, you may consider seeking help from a mental health professional. If that sounds like too big of a step, try talking to someone you are close to and trust.

If you need help for drug abuse or addiction, you can find it at 1-888-744-0069Who Answers?. A confidential treatment support specialist will help you find the care you need.


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Methamphetamine Detox and Withdrawal

older woman looking sickly and depressed due to methamphetamine use
Methamphetamine (meth) is a powerful central nervous system stimulant with highly addictive properties. It can be smoked, nasally inhaled, injected and even eaten. No matter how it is used, the effects have a rapid onset followed by a high that can last as long as 12 hours.

Meth abuse is linked to a number of harmful physical effects that, in some cases, may be fatal. In fact, nearly 8.2% of all emergency department visits in 2011 involved methamphetamine use, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Detoxing from meth can be extremely unpleasant and may even result in the development of anxiety and/or depression in some individuals. In some cases, suicidal ideation with the potential for self-injury can occur, making professional or medically supervised detoxification (detox) and treatment services an important aspect of meth abuse recovery.


Signs of Methamphetamine Withdrawal

man suffering from depression due to methamphetamine use

Detoxification (detox) and withdrawal from methamphetamine abuse can involve a number of different distressing symptoms. The most common withdrawal symptoms are:

  • Depression.
  • Anxiety.
  • Extreme exhaustion.
  • Intense cravings.
  • Suicidal thoughts.
  • Severe hunger.

The extent to which an individual has been abusing meth plays a major role in the course of their detox and withdrawal – the more chronic or heavy the abuse was, the more uncomfortable the user may feel.

Users with a higher tolerance may experience a more intense withdrawal period, often necessitating the help of medical professionals.


How Long Does Meth Withdrawal Take?

The timeline for meth withdrawal will vary by individual, depending on amount used and how long the person was abusing meth before seeking treatment. Fortunately, most meth withdrawal symptoms alleviate within a couple weeks.

The methamphetamine withdrawal period can be psychologically taxing. Having a professional staff on hand to help recovering users during this period can make a huge difference in the recovery process.

For most people, the depressive and psychotic symptoms will alleviate within about a week of sobriety. Most users will slowly stop feeling the overhanging sadness that can come with meth withdrawal and begin finding pleasure in day-to-day activities again (Zorick et al., 2010).

Intense drug cravings, one of the more stubborn and long-lasting symptoms, usually begin to dissipate in the second week of abstinence, though some cravings may persist longer – up to five weeks, according to some reports. The methamphetamine withdrawal period can be psychologically taxing. Having a professional staff on hand to help recovering users during this period can make a huge difference in the recovery process.


Why Should I Enter a Meth Detox Program?

One of the most dangerous aspects of meth withdrawal is the risk of developing severe depression, which can not only precipitate relapse, but be accompanied by self-injurious or suicidal thoughts. Users attempting to undergo detox on their own may find the psychological symptoms so distressing that they turn to self-harm or more meth for relief, both of which may bring grave consequences.

Professional detox services can help recovering users rid their body of methamphetamine so that they can begin their recovery path from a point of sobriety. They ensure the patient’s safety and comfort during this potentially turbulent transition. Any medical concerns that arise can also be safely addressed with formal detox treatment.

During professionally-monitored detox and withdrawal, the recovering user may come to find that there are underlying mental health issues contributing to and/or made worse by their meth abuse that are unrelated to the meth withdrawal symptoms. This is known as a dual diagnosis, and a formal treatment program that specializes in dual diagnosis care can help a person work through both diagnoses in a safe and healthy manner.


How to Find a Meth Detox and Treatment Facility

young woman in therapy session as part of treatment for methamphetamine addiction

Meth detox will typically be monitored in a facility, but once detox is complete a patient has the choice to enroll in either an inpatient or outpatient treatment program.

Inpatient treatment involves temporarily living at the treatment facility. This means that the patient will be in an entirely sober environment while they learn how to resist future meth use and examine why they were abusing meth in the first place. Inpatient treatment necessitates a full commitment to the program, which means that a person cannot work during treatment.

Outpatient treatment may be suitable for someone whose pattern of use is less problematic or who has a strong system of support at home. It may also be right for someone who simply cannot take time away from home or work. Outpatient treatment involves periodic weekly check-ins with the treatment facility as well as individual and group therapy.

There is no currently accepted medication to treat methamphetamine withdrawal and addiction. Behavioral therapy is the most effective treatment for meth addiction. This can involve:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy, in which a person examines their own drug use, why they abused meth, and how they can avoid relapse.
  • Contingency management, also known as motivational incentives, which involves the use of rewards to motivate lasting sobriety.
  • Matrix Model, an intensive form of therapy that incorporates many different approaches to treatment with education and regular drug tests.

When searching for a treatment program to help with meth abuse, bear in mind that a program offering supervised detox is the safest option. Meth detox and withdrawal can be a difficult period of time in a recovering user’s life, and professional help can usher you through the struggle safely and leave you better prepared to cope with future temptations to use. To find a program, call us at 1-888-744-0069Who Answers?. We can help you find a program that will restore you or your loved one to a drug-free life.


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