Methamphetamine is an illicit, synthetic drug with a high rate of addiction. Meth is made from different concoctions including battery acid, lye and brake cleaner, all of which are toxic to the human body.
The drug causes a chemical reaction in the brain that makes the body feel like it has unlimited energy. In the process, other parts of the body are drained of their energy reserves. Meth negatively impacts the cardiovascular and central nervous (CNS) systems.
Effects of Meth
Meth addicts enjoy unlimited energy and stay awake for days at a time. Then, they collapse or crash from exhaustion. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the addiction cycle begins because more and more of the drug is needed to achieve the high and avoid the crash. This leads the user on a path of addiction.
Meth is a powerful stimulant that dramatically increases the body’s metabolism. This function works as an appetite suppressant causing dramatic weight loss.
The drug lowers the dopamine or feel good chemical in the brain. When meth abuse is stopped, it takes days or sometimes months for the brain to reprogram and function normally.
Methamphetamine damages nerve endings in the brain, especially those that deal with reasoning and the ability to understand the consequences of one’s actions.
Meth addicts often start their withdrawal after prolonged drug use and many days without sleep. This can lead to serious withdrawal symptoms like:
- Impaired cognitive function
- Extreme cravings
The goal of meth treatment is for the addict to stop drug use and return to a productive life. Treatment can take place in various settings including:
- Residential facility in which the addict stays for a 30-day or longer full-time program
- Day treatment in which the addict attends counseling and support meetings but returns home to sleep
- At home which can be dangerous due to the lack of consistent professional medical support
The drug is powerful and can be challenging to conquer. It takes more extensive and intensive therapy than other drugs to recover.
Adjunct drugs like antidepressants are used to treat other mental health issues, including anxiety, during meth treatment. Two commonly used drugs are Wellbutrin for depression and Modafinil, which is usually prescribed for narcolepsy, to improve an addict’s reasoning.
Various forms of psychological therapy help to guide addicts through recovery. Individual, small group and family therapy can be beneficial. A successful form of therapy is cognitive-behavior therapy, which helps people evaluate their feelings and the triggers that set off addiction.
It is not unusual for a meth addict to hit a wall about 45 to 120 days into treatment. This happens when there are psychological changes that often drive the addict back to using.
Looking towards the future, the NIDA is investigating the effect of antibodies produced by the natural immune system on meth addiction. Antibodies bind together the meth molecules in the bloodstream, which halts their effects on the brain and other vital organs. Currently, these antibodies are being engineered and researched by the NIDA to potentially treat meth overdoses. The NIDA is also investigating a possible vaccine to create antibodies against methamphetamine.