Methamphetamine is a highly psychoactive drug that produces euphoric sensations and rapidly activates the sympathetic nervous system, resulting in symptoms such as increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, dizziness, and increased body temperature.
Over the past few decades, methamphetamine dependence has become a global public health problem with high prevalence rates particularly among the youth. The drug presents major medical, socio-economic, and legal costs among individuals, families, and societies, warranting early intervention and treatment for users.
Health Consequences of Methamphetamine Use Disorder
Methamphetamine use disorder is characterized by intense cravings for meth, the unrelenting urge to obtain or use meth, tolerance to meth use, the constant desire to quit using meth, and clinically significant distress resulting from meth use that leads to impairment of other aspects of the patient’s life, such as personal relationships and work.
Meth use disorder is associated with many physical and psychological consequences. Chronic dependence on meth leads to a number of health problems resulting from direct pharmacological effects of the drug or other problems related to meth use.
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Some health consequences of meth dependence include sleeping problems, malnutrition and weight loss, low resistance to diseases, and even hypertension that could lead to stroke. Mental disorders such as psychosis, depression, and suicidal ideation are also some of the psychological risks associated with methamphetamine use.
Other Effects of Methamphetamine Use Disorder
Methamphetamine use disorder does not only cause health and other medical problems. Globally, meth use disorder has been associated with major financial, legal, and social challenges that tend to greatly alter the user’s life. Some problems linked to meth use disorder include unemployment, bankruptcy, loss of personal relationships, and legal issues such as involvement in criminal activities. The manufacture, distribution, and use of meth itself is a violation of the law in many countries and present many major legal implications.
Rehabilitation for Methamphetamine Users
The rehabilitation process for any substance use disorder is generally divided into 4 steps: assessment, detoxification, therapy, and aftercare. For methamphetamine use disorder, inpatient treatment is preferred over outpatient treatment due to the severe withdrawal symptoms that may manifest after quitting the drug. Inpatient treatment also significantly decreases the patient’s risk for relapse.
Assessment for any substance use disorder, including meth, begins by seeking help from any healthcare professional. A comprehensive assessment builds the foundation for a patient-centered treatment intervention. It also provides a baseline for all clinically relevant information about the patient that will help monitor and modify treatment based on patient needs.
Assessment does not only occur at the beginning of treatment, rather, it is an ongoing part of meth rehab that helps address problems as they arise. When done correctly, assessment provides clients with an early positive treatment experience that will encourage them to continue seeking rehabilitation.
During this phase, the patient will be evaluated for various factors that can influence their treatment, such as the level of severity of their methamphetamine addiction. This is also the step when the healthcare experts will determine the most appropriate treatment program for the patient. The goals of assessment include the following:
- To obtain information about the client, including their personal and drug use history
- To establish rapport with the client and set foundations for a trustworthy clinician-patient relationship
- To identify potential risks during withdrawal
- To assess and identify goals of treatment
- To provide clarifications regarding withdrawal care
- To discuss possible treatment options
The next step is a complete meth detox. Detoxification is the process of ridding the body of methamphetamine and simultaneously managing withdrawal symptoms that the patient may develop. Meth withdrawal is generally more prolonged than withdrawal from any other substances, with the symptoms lasting from 10 to 15 days. During this time, intense and continuous cravings develop as the body cleanses off any trace of the substance. Abstinence will be hard to achieve, and the 7th to 10th day of withdrawal is the most vulnerable time for relapse.
The most common symptoms associated with meth withdrawal are body pains, fatigue, anxiety, hallucinations, insomnia, and depression. While there are no approved medications to treat these symptoms, particular medications such as sleep aids and antipsychotics can help make the patient more comfortable. The symptoms peak at about 1 to 2 days from the day of quitting, but it can take up to a few weeks for the patient to recover.
The third step in the treatment process is therapy. The goal of therapy is to identify the underlying cause of the addiction and treat it adequately to improve the patient’s chances at being completely substance-free. Other appropriate interventions aimed at treating conditions comorbid with methamphetamine dependence are also administered during therapy.
Presently, no evidence has been established that definitively supports the efficacy of pharmacologic modalities in the treatment of methamphetamine dependence. However, some medications, including the ones discussed below, have shown potential in decreasing clinical symptoms related to meth use.
- Modafinil – This is a drug that is clinically used to treat narcolepsy or extreme sleepiness, obstructive sleep apnea, and shift work-sleep disorder. Previous studies have concluded that it may be effective in treating methamphetamine dependence by enhancing the user’s cognitive function, thereby improving overall health-seeking behavior in the patient, including adherence to their treatment regimen.
- Bupropion – This is an antidepressant used in the treatment of major depressive disorder. It is a monoamine uptake inhibitor and has the ability to increase monoamine concentrations in the brain. This helps alleviate meth withdrawal symptoms in early methamphetamine dependence, reducing cravings and preventing relapse among patients.
- Naltrexone – This is an opioid antagonist medication that regulates the endogenous opioid system. Several studies have concluded that naltrexone can play a role in reducing the addictive effects of methamphetamine, leading to reduced frequency of use and controlled cravings.
Psychosocial support, on the other hand, can be provided through residential or non-residential post-withdrawal rehabilitation. Residential rehabilitation refers to a treatment program that is administered in a residential facility. The treatment program is intensive and can include services and activities such as behavioral treatment approaches, group therapy, and community living skills. It typically lasts for several weeks.
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Some residential rehabilitation centers also offer a therapeutic community set-up, a participative, group-based approach to treatment in which people who suffer from meth use disorder live together and engage in the same activities. Therapeutic community focuses on improving patients’ social and community skills and promoting self-driven behavioral change.
Residential rehabilitation has shown great potential in improving overall abstinence among methamphetamine users. One study found that patients in residential rehabilitation were more likely to remain abstinent one year post-treatment compared to patients who underwent no treatment or detoxification alone.
Alternatively, patients who do not want to participate in a residential rehabilitation can opt for a non-residential rehabilitation or “day” rehabilitation. Non-residential rehabilitation offers treatment programs where patients can participate in structured, non-residential activities and services, such as post-withdrawal support, group work, and one-to-one psychiatric sessions, including cognitive-behavioral therapy and motivational interviewing.
A few studies have supported the benefits of non-residential rehabilitation, showing improved outcomes among patients, including reduced frequency of meth use. However, evidence is lacking in terms of other parameters, such as relapse prevention and overall meth abstinence.
The fourth and final step in the treatment process is aftercare. Methamphetamine use disorder has a high relapse rate and there are a lot of factors that could lead to relapse, including lack of a strong support system and exposure to triggers such as stressful life events. Needless to say, staying clean after completing a treatment program will be difficult for many patients.
Aftercare, therefore, helps keep the patient committed in maintaining their meth-free status through structured programs such as the provision of counselling services and access to support groups. These programs aim to keep the patients focused and motivated to continue their recovery journey. Support groups, for example, help in maintaining sobriety among patients. By participating in group sessions, patients can connect with other people who are also undergoing recovery from methamphetamine addiction. The bonds and connections these patients make by going through these counselling and support group sessions are often helpful in keeping them motivated in terms of seeking full recovery from addiction.
When to Seek Mental Health Service
Mental health services may be required for patients who are undergoing meth addiction treatment and are exhibiting co-occurring psychiatric symptoms. The presence of the following indicators typically warrant referral to a mental health service facility:
- Psychotic symptoms that persist even after detoxification and stabilization
- Symptoms that can point to an underlying mental health illness
- Signs of self-harm or harm that may be done to others as a result of a possible co-occurring mental health illness
- Patient is unresponsive or refractory to interventions provided for a possible mental health illness
- Lack of support network that can put the patient at risk
If you’re seeking rehabilitation from addiction to crystal meth or other forms of methamphetamine, Better Addiction Care can help you. We are a third-party information service that helps patients connect with the best addiction treatment facilities near them. Call now to discuss your treatment options.