Crystal Meth Addiction — Symptoms, Signs, and Treatment

Methamphetamines come in powder form and can be smoked, snorted, or injected. When meth is in its crystal form, this highly addictive street drug is known as crystal meth, ice, tina, or glass. Resembling shiny rocks or fragments of glass, crystal meth is made by combining over-the-counter drugs with toxic substances.

While pharmaceutical methamphetamine is manufactured to treat ADHD, crystal methamphetamine, better known as “crystal meth” is 100 percent illegal. Meaning, it does not have any medical uses and is strictly used as a recreational substance. Due to its potent, fast high, and low cost, crystal meth use continues to rise across the United States.

Effects and Symptoms of a Crystal Meth Use

Crystal meth is an incredibly powerful stimulant. It works by targeting various brain chemicals, including serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. In turn, a user activates their central nervous and cardiovascular system. Due to the powerful effects that crystal meth has on the body, continued use can rapidly evolve into a psychological and physical addiction.

Dopamine, for example, is associated with motivation, reward, and pleasure. When taking crystal meth, users experience a dopamine rush, as well as a build-up of dopamine in the brain. This can lead to dopamine system activity changes in a way that significantly compromises an individual’s learning and motor skills.

The research also suggests that crystal meth has the ability to alter the structure and function of the human brain, impacting areas associated with memory and emotion. Unfortunately, these brain changes often remain long after someone stops using, resulting in cognitive and emotional difficulties.

While under the influence of crystal meth, a user may display any number of the following symptoms:

  • Increased anxiety
  • Mental confusion, paranoia, and psychosis
  • Increased alertness
  • Outbursts and/or mood swings
  • Picking at the skin, which often results in scabs (this may be related to the sensation of “insects crawling on or under the skin”)
  • Jaw clenching and grinding of teeth
  • Disrupted sleep
  • Rapid breathing

If you are a loved one of someone you suspect is using crystal meth, be mindful of the “crash” phase. Following continued use, there comes a point when a user’s body needs to rest. This will lead to a crash that will likely last anywhere between 1-3 days, where an individual will end up in long periods of sleep.

Following prolonged used, users may experience:

  • Severe tooth decay
  • The development of mood disorders
  • Seizures
  • Heart problems and an increased risk of stroke
  • Respiratory disease
  • Extreme weight loss
  • Impaired sexual motivation and reproductive health issues
  • Death

Signs That You’re Addicted to Crystal Meth

An individual can become addicted to crystal meth after using the drug only a few times. This is because, after several uses, the same dose will no longer have the same effect it once did. Users often enter a cycle of abuse as they try to chase that same high they once had. This can then lead to dependence.

Cravings are one of the most prominent signs that you’re addicted to crystal meth. If you experience intense cravings, this may be a sign that your body has become dependent. If your cravings are not met, you may experience depression, anxiety, or even psychosis.

Another core sign of addiction is the presence of withdrawal symptoms. After prolonged use, the body becomes dependent on crystal meth. If you were to stop using it, you’d likely experience mental symptoms. This is particularly true for long-term users.

Research shows that meth withdrawal tends often consists of two main phases. The first phase is the most intense and begins approximately 24 hours after a user’s last dose. Symptoms will then begin to weaken over the next week or so. While the second phase is less intense, it can last anywhere from two to three weeks. In some cases, users experience symptoms of withdrawal for months.

While this process is different for everyone, some of the main symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Psychosis
  • Cravings
  • Changes in appetite

Overcoming an addiction to crystal meth can be incredibly challenging. That is why it’s recommended that you go through the withdrawal process under the supervision of medical professionals within a medically-managed detox facility.

Crystal Meth Addiction Stats

  • The Drug Policy Alliance reported that 11 million Americans have tried methamphetamine on at least one occasion. It is the second most widely abused illicit drug — its users almost outnumber cocaine and heroin users combined.
  • Worldwide, 52 million people aged 15-64 are estimated to have used amphetamine-type stimulants for non-medical purposes at least once over the past year.
  • As reported in the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, more than 1.7 million people age 12 or older reported illicit methamphetamine use. This report also found that twice as many men used illicit meth in comparison to women.
  • According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s 2017 National Drug Threat Assessment, nearly 900,000 people 12 and older currently use meth, and 85 to 90 percent of stimulant-related drug deaths involve meth. Overall, stimulant-related death rates increased by 225 percent between the years 2005 and 2015.
  • When it comes to meth and mental illness, approximately 40 percent of adults using amphetamines have a lifetime history of depression. In addition, more than 75 percent of meth users report symptoms of anxiety.

Getting Treatment for Your Crystal Meth Addiction

Crystal meth addiction does not discriminate, affecting people of all ages, races, genders, and ethnicities. From students to the jobless, athletes to white-collar workers, anyone can become addicted. However, the research shows that select variables increase your risk, including income levels, family history, gender, and race.

Treatment for crystal meth addiction involves a number of steps, including a detoxification phase, personalized therapy, and ongoing support. That is why a comprehensive treatment facility offers the best rates of success in terms of long-term recovery. At Transformations, for instance, we understand that no two people are identical. You are unique not only in terms of your addiction but also in regard to your past experiences, present state-of-mind, and future goals. This will have an immense influence on the type of support you receive and the services that are recommended to you. That is why we offer such a wide selection of treatment options.

During treatment, you will learn to break the cycle of addiction. To do so, you will need to address your current thought and behavior patterns. This can be achieved through evidence-based therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy. As you develop coping skills and better understand your personal triggers, will be able to develop a plan that supports long-term sobriety.

What to Expect on Your Road to Recovery

Treatment for a crystal meth addiction will often depend on the individual and their unique needs. In the vast majority of cases, the first phase of treatment will begin with detoxification. When you enter a professional treatment program at a certified addiction and mental health facility, you can take comfort in medical detox treatment.

Unfortunately, there are no specific pharmacological treatment options that specifically address crystal meth addiction. Instead, medications are available to lessen cravings and reduce psychological distress. This will help you address symptoms of withdrawal, including agitation, anxiety, muscle spasms, and seizures.

With that being said, as more and more research develops, the number of effective treatment options increase. One key study was the first of its kind, finding that naltrexone (the drugs used to treat opioid addiction and alcoholism), may also offer beneficial effects when aiming to treat methamphetamine addiction.

Here is what the study entailed and what they found:

  • While studying 22 men and eight women who used methamphetamine an average of 3-4 days per week, it was found that naltrexone significantly reduced cravings and they were less aroused by methamphetamine. Meaning, naltrexone may make meth less pleasurable.
  • During the study, the participants stayed in a hospital for four days. They were given either naltrexone (25 mg for the first two days and 50 mg on days three and hour) or a daily placebo.
  • Ten days later, the participants were readmitted to the hospital for an additional four days. Those who originally took naltrexone were given the placebo and vice versa.
  • On the last day of their hospital visit, each participant was given an IV dose of meth. Three hours later, the participants were interviewed.
  • In addition to experiencing fewer cravings, those who were given naltrexone also showcased slower heart rates and pulses in comparison to those given the placebo when presented with their drug paraphernalia.
  • Overall, naltrexone was well-tolerated and lead to minimal side effects.

Learn more about naltrexone treatment here.

At Transformations, our Summit Detox center provides safe, effective, and comfortable detoxification. The medications you receive will depend on the substance(s) in which you’re withdrawing from. However, regardless of your personal needs, all guests will benefit from 24-hour medical supervision, premium rooms, supportive staff, and various amenities.

Once your body has eliminated all substances from your system, it will be time to address your mental and physical health. That is why we take a holistic approach, offering programs and services that target both the body and mind. We also offer such a wide variety of programs in order to ensure each client’s unique needs are met throughout the entire recovery process.

For example:

It is estimated that adults living with a serious mental illness, are more than eight times more likely to have a co-occurring substance abuse disorder. This is because many uses in order to reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, etc. This then leads to a cycle of abuse, dependence, and addiction.

If you require dual diagnosis treatment, for example, your care team will work with you to address your personal needs. Whether you have experienced trauma in the past or deal with ongoing depression, your personalized treatment plan will address your unique needs. If your underlying mental health condition is not addressed, this can have a negative impact on your ability to stay sober long-term.

We are here to support you every step of the way. It’s time for you to seek the type of life you deserve — one that is free from addiction. If you’re ready to take the next step, all you need to do is call. Your new life starts here!