What is Crystal Meth?
For drug dealers who want to make a significant amount of money in a short period of time, crystal meth seems to provide the perfect answer. With an investment of about $150, CBS News reported in 2010, a dealer can produce a stash of drugs worth about $10,000 on the market. While this work might benefit the dealer, allowing that person to reap huge financial rewards in just a short period of time, that work can also be disastrous for the buyers of those drugs. Crystal meth is terribly addictive, and getting over that addiction can take years of hard work and dedication.
At The Oaks at La Paloma, we’ve helped many clients recover from crystal meth abuse and addiction, and we know that recovery is possible. If you have an addiction, reading up on how recovery programs work might give you the courage to tackle your problem head on so you can really get better. We also hope that you’ll call us and let us help you get started on the journey to recovery.
Understanding Crystal Meth Users
In the late 1990s, crystal meth was considered a major drug of concern. According to the Treatment Episode Data Set, the number of people who admitted to crystal meth use when they entered addiction treatment programs rose steadily during that time, peaking in 2005 with 154,000 admissions. Now, the number of people who admit to crystal meth abuse seems to be dropping, with only 137,000 people asking for help with the use of the drug in 2007. This success might be due, in part, to governmental efforts.
As the rates of abuse rose in the 1990s, officials in some hard-hit states created legislation that made specific crystal meth ingredients illegal to purchase without a prescription. With raw materials harder to find, dealers were forced to switch to other addictive drugs to sell to their clients. While the legislative work against crystal meth has been effective in driving down the rates of addiction, people who want the drug are still able to get it. Some parts of the population, in fact, might be especially susceptible to crystal meth addiction. These groups include:
- Men who have sex with men
- Low-income drug users
- Women hoping to lose weight
- Working class people in rural areas
While people within these groups might be very different, with their own specific reasons for using and abusing drugs, the treatment programs they’ll all use in order to recover may have a significant amount of components in common.
Crystal Meth Treatment & Detox
Addiction programs begin with detoxification. Here, the person’s body adjusts to functioning without access to drugs, and as the mind clears, the person becomes physically and mentally prepared for the hard work of addiction rehab. People who take only crystal meth may move through this process rather quickly, as there are no specific medications that can be used to quell symptoms of withdrawal and the physical symptoms of withdrawal tend to be mild. As a result, people who take only crystal meth need to get into rehab as quickly as possible, so they can begin to strengthen their minds and use the power of thought to keep their addictions under control. There are many people, however, who take crystal meth as part of a poly-drug addiction pattern. According to the Treatment Episode Data Set released in 2009, about 31 percent of people with addictions to meth also abuse alcohol, and 37 percent abuse marijuana along with meth. People who abuse multiple drugs in this way might need a longer detox program, so they can receive medical assistance with any symptoms the multiple drugs might be causing.
When a user takes in crystal meth, the drug zooms through the brain, attaching to portions of the brain that release and utilize dopamine. The science is complicated, but in essence, the brain recognizes that it is being manipulated, and it finds that manipulation deeply unpleasant. As a result, it begins to turn off receptors, shut down chemical responses and otherwise adjust so that it can function normally even when the drugs are present in the body.
These tiny adjustments take place slowly, adding up one by one, and they might be incredibly persistent. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), scans of the brains of people who took meth remain altered three years after people stopped taking the drug. The dopamine system was still amended, even though no drugs are present.
Dopamine is considered a feel-good chemical, released and processed by the brain when something incredibly pleasurable is taking place. If this system is damaged, people might feel sad and low almost all of the time. Their brains have been primed only to respond to huge levels of dopamine. Small levels do nothing. This might explain why people who take meth feel an increase in suicidal thoughts. One study published in the Journal of Addictive Diseases found that about 19.2 percent of gay and bisexual men who were addicted to meth, and who did not have HIV infection, had suicidal thoughts. This is a strikingly high number, considering these men were not facing a fatal disease. It’s likely the addiction simply caused them to feel low, sad and miserable. Some rehab programs provide clients with antidepressant medications, allowing them to undo the damage caused by the addiction.
The medications can take weeks to kick in, but for some people, the medications provide just the sort of adjustment their damaged minds need in order to help them feel calm, happy and at ease. Not everyone in crystal meth treatment needs antidepressants, however. Some people find relief through counseling. Here, they learn more about the damage that has taken place due to the addiction, and they use alternative methods to help their minds clear. Massage, meditation and visualization can all help these people control their depression and learn to overcome the negative signals put out by the brain.
As mentioned, there are no pills or shots that can cure an addiction to crystal meth. Instead, people will be asked to use the power of their minds in order to keep their addictions under control. Therapy in crystal meth treatment can help people to develop those skills.
Drug rehab therapy allows people to:
- Identify what a drug craving feels like, on a physical and an emotional level
- Predict when a craving is likely to strike
- Practice avoiding situations in which cravings arise
- Learn tips that can help them overpower cravings without relapsing
While traditional therapy like this has been proven helpful for some people who have methamphetamine addictions, there are some people who need more intensive help in order to beat back their cravings. According to the NIDA, these people might benefit from the Matrix Model of therapy. Here, the treatment described above is augmented with family therapy, drug testing, support group meetings and encouragement for non-drug-related activities. It’s a comprehensive model in which the person has access to a variety of tools and approaches, as well as help and support from a variety of different people. Some therapists also provide their clients with prizes and rewards for each step they take in the treatment process. After each clean drug test, each therapy session attended and each support group meeting completed, the person gets a small gift. This makes the recovery process seem infinitely rewarding, right now, which could be helpful for people who have trouble maintaining motivation for projects that are beneficial days or weeks in the future. The gifts make the benefits immediate.
The Alcoholics Anonymous model, in which people who are addicted to alcohol begin a journey of fellowship and support with other people who have their own addiction issues, has been modified for people who have addictions to crystal meth. By joining a support group like this, a person addicted to crystal meth may tap into a vast network of people who have developed their own toolkit for dealing with addiction. The person will be paired up with another addict in recovery, and when cravings are on the rise, the two can talk and work through the craving together.
The person can participate in community service projects, giving back to the community and remembering what it’s like to do something beneficial for another person, without expecting a reward in return. And in each meeting the person attends, the group will share stories and learn more about how the addiction process works. It’s a remarkable way to stay focused on the healing process, and ensure that gains in recovery stay in place, both now and in the future. Joining is free, and the person can attend meetings for as long as he/she would like to do so. Many people begin attending meetings in their rehab programs, and then continue to attend meetings in the community when their rehab programs have been completed.
Building on Success
Obtaining a full recovery from an addiction to crystal meth can be difficult, since the drug is so very addictive and the damage the drug use can cause can be so persistent. As a result, people who are addicted to the drug might need to stay enrolled in therapy for months or even years in order to ensure that they don’t relapse to drug use. A study from the Australian National University in Canberra makes this point quite clearly. Here, researchers found that 48 percent of people who completed crystal meth treatment programs were clean three months later, but after three years, only 12 percent of users who remained in rehab stayed clean.
People can recover from this devastating addiction. Studies like this can be depressing, but it’s important to note that a relapse to crystal meth use isn’t inevitable. However, recovering from an addiction that is this persistent might mean spending a longer period of time in intensive treatment. People might need to participate in an inpatient program for addiction, enroll in a sober living community when that program is complete, and then participate in outpatient care and support group meetings in the years to come. Participation in a stair-step approach like this might seem familiar to people who have chronic conditions like diabetes or heart disease, and that’s just how people who have crystal meth addictions should think about their conditions. They simply cannot put a bandage over the problem with a short program and hope it will resolve quickly. Instead, they must think of their conditions as chronic problems that can be conquered, but only with hard work and continuing dedication.
At The Oaks at La Paloma, we provide an extensive amount of aftercare for people with addictions.
When our inpatient program is complete, we provide people with follow-up appointments with therapists and physicians, referrals to 12-step meetings in the community and a list of support contacts. We can help people find sober living communities, and we can also enroll people in our intensive outpatient program, helping clients to transition from life in treatment to life in the community. With this extensive help, we feel confident that we can help anyone overcome a crystal meth addiction. If you’d like to get started, please call our toll-free line today.