What Are The Challenges of Breaking Free From Methamphetamine Addiction?

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What Are The Challenges of Breaking Free From Methamphetamine Addiction?

It is that time again. Your apartment kitchen cupboards are empty, and your family cannot stop at the store to help you with groceries. Exhausted, you drag yourself out of bed and head out to the grocery store. It’s a Saturday, and you know the store is going to be super busy. Traffic and road rage are the last things you want to deal with as you have felt very irritable lately, probably from the methamphetamine. 

You arrive only to find yourself looking in the mirror in the clothing aisle. The sores seem to have reappeared on your face. You can deal with the acne, but your tooth decay and gums are becoming painful. Not to mention, you have dropped some weight but not enough for anyone to notice yet. You are too distracted by the intense pleasure and dopamine high from the night before. The withdrawal symptoms are tapping on your shoulder, so you decide to rush through the store, ditch the shopping cart, and head home. Maybe a friend will drop some groceries on the porch for you. Something else is more important right now—your addiction.

Perhaps you’ve experienced something similar to this scenario. Luckily for you, there is hope for recovery. Unfortunately, it can be a long and difficult road. Here are some of the challenges of recovery from methamphetamine.

What Is Methamphetamine?

Based on statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 1.6 million U.S. adults reported methamphetamine use between 2015-2018. Furthermore, there were 32,856 deaths from psychostimulants such as methamphetamine in 2021. This has become a terrible challenge for the United States as a whole.

Methamphetamine is considered an “upper.” This is an informal drug classification used to illustrate how certain drugs affect our nervous system. Uppers are classified as a stimulant while downers are depressants. Along with things like ecstasy, Adderall, and cocaine, methamphetamine is classified as an upper. However, in proper terms, methamphetamine is referred to as a stimulant. According to the National Institute of Health, methamphetamine is a strong, extremely addictive stimulant that alters the central nervous system. 

Methamphetamine consists of white crystalline powder. The drug has no scent, is bitter-tasting, and dissolves easily in alcohol or water. Methamphetamine was created in the early 20th century from amphetamine. The substance was originally used in bronchial inhalers and nasal medication and is often misused today. 

How Methamphetamine Affects Our Body

According to the same NIH study, methamphetamine is a very potent stimulant. It has very harmful effects on the central nervous system that last much longer than amphetamine. Therefore, the drug has a high likelihood of widespread abuse. 

Based on an NIH methamphetamine research report, the stimulant can come in different forms. The drug can be injected, smoked, orally ingested, or snorted into the nasal cavity. If the drug is snorted or injected, the stimulant is immediately sent to a person’s bloodstream. This causes immediate and intense effects. Even though the effects do not last more than just a few minutes, the rush can be explained as extremely pleasurable. Oral ingestion produces euphoria, but it is not as strong as when injected. Snorting or injecting the drug can cause a more probable scenario for addiction. 

Methamphetamine can cause insomnia, hyperactivity, and a decrease in food cravings. The increased release of synthetic dopamine produced by the stimulant is thought to participate in the drug’s damaging effects on the nerves in the brain. This is often described as a false sense of an energy burst.

Short-Term Side Effects

Even in smaller doses, methamphetamine can cause side effects after immediate use. A few direct short-term side effects of methamphetamine consist of: 

  • Hyperthermia
  • Euphoria
  • Cardiovascular problems
  • Tremors
  • Confusion
  • Paranoia
  • Irritability
  • Irreversible damage to the blood vessels in the brain

Long-Term Side Effects

A separate NIH study found that tolerance to methamphetamine’s euphoric effects develops when the drug is taken more than once. In this way, the person who frequently uses the stimulant becomes more dependent on increased doses for satisfaction. Long-term effects include: 

  • Addiction
  • Changes in brain structure
  • Memory loss
  • Violent behavior
  • Weight loss
  • Severe dental problems
  • Strokes and deadly convulsions
  • Permanent loss of natural dopamine 
  • Death

Withdrawal Symptoms

When a person stops taking methamphetamine, withdrawal symptoms can occur. The symptoms can be very intense. Withdrawal symptoms typically last 24 hours after use and can last up to just a couple of days or even weeks depending on how it was administered. Acute symptoms last about a few days but protracted withdrawal can affect a person for up to three weeks after the acute withdrawal is over. This often leads to relapse due to the severity of the side effects. Some withdrawal symptoms include: 

  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Night terrors
  • Intense cravings
  • Nausea
  • Decreased sexual pleasure

Breaking Free From Addiction

Methamphetamine addiction is lethal. Detangling yourself and breaking free from using methamphetamine can be very challenging as the acute and prolonged withdrawal symptoms can be very intense. Although medications do not treat methamphetamine addiction, there are several types of behavioral treatments and community resources available to help.