The chains of addiction are always challenging to break, but methamphetamine holds a considerably tighter grip on individuals. The highly addictive drug has damaging effects on the body and brain. Meth is nearly impossible to quit without support.1 Ahead, Ocean Hills Recovery discusses why meth has such a powerful effect on people and how professional support can help those suffering quit.
The Powerful Effects Meth Has on the Brain
Why is meth so addictive? The stimulant drug has a potent effect on the brain, making it incredibly challenging to quit without assistance. When meth enters the body, it stimulates an increased release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasurable feelings.1 Dopamine is the same mood-boosting neurotransmitter responsible for joy when we eat chocolate or have sex. Among the addictive drugs that alter dopamine levels, meth produces the most significant dopamine release of these.2 High levels of dopamine creates euphoric feelings. These euphoric feelings are one reason people continue going back to their meth use.
Meth use has damaging effects on these pleasure centers and alters brain chemistry.1 It disrupts the body’s ability to produce natural neurotransmitters. Therefore, individuals become dependent on the drug for these feel-good chemicals. Most cannot feel pleasure or happiness without meth once use has begun. Continued use quickly results in a tolerance to meth’s effects, which means that the person with a meth use disorder requires more substance to elicit the same desired effect. This physical and psychological dependence leads to addiction.
With prolonged use, meth can destroy brain tissue and damage the central nervous system. This damage leads to cognitive, motor, and emotional issues.1 People can eventually experience changes in behavior, mood, or decision-making and cannot reverse much of this damage.3 The first step in protecting one’s body from the lasting effects of meth is to discontinue use right away. However, discontinued use can pose a challenge to many due to the severe withdrawal symptoms experienced when meth is no longer available to the body.
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Meth Withdrawal Symptoms
When an individual quits using meth, withdrawal symptoms are unavoidable. These unpleasant symptoms are the body’s way of reacting and are considerably more severe than many other drugs, given their powerful effect on the brain and body. Knowing what to expect from meth withdrawal can help prepare someone for the detox process, though. The severity of withdrawal symptoms varies based on many factors, including length and severity of use. Rest assured that the withdrawal symptoms will not last forever—professional support can help minimize the signs. Although everyone’s experience is different, a typical timeline is the following.4
Meth Withdrawal Timeline
Immediately: The euphoric effects of meth wear off approximately 8 hours after the last time of use.
Days 1-3: These first few days are often the most challenging, with withdrawal symptoms reaching their peak. Without support, many individuals who attempt to quit using meth return to the substance within this period. A person may have feelings of lethargy and fatigue within the first few days of withdrawal because the brain’s natural dopamine production has been interrupted by continued meth use. The body now has difficulty making its feel-good chemicals. Many individuals feel very depressed or suicidal during this period. Some may even experience hallucinations, paranoia, panic attacks, or anxiety. Medications prescribed by a professional during a supported detox can relieve these symptoms and help those struggling get through this critical period.
Days 4-14: Patients may experience aches and pains during the first two weeks after quitting meth. Continued mood disorders, fatigue, and sleeping problems are not uncommon. Continuing the prescribed medications and any other supportive treatments to help with withdrawal is still critical during this period—be sure to take therapies as directed by your supervising specialist to combat cravings. Many patients will begin to get their appetites back.
Weeks 2-3: As the body heals, many patients begin to feel better during this period. They experience improved sleep and increased energy. Many still require medication to address anxiety, depression, or mood swings.
Months 1-3: Depending on the individual, medically supervised detox may be required for more than 30 days. Although patients in months 1 through 3 are well on their way to regaining the healthy life one had before meth, support is still necessary. The road to recovery is a life-long journey for all.
Safe and Comfortable Medical Detox Treatment
Halting meth use abruptly is not only challenging but can also be dangerous. Supervised medical detox will ensure that a person can safely and comfortably rid their body of the addictive substance. With the help of an experienced team of compassionate professionals, an individual can be monitored and supported throughout the process. To provide relief from uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, a doctor may prescribe medication. These could include medications to address achy muscles, anxiety, depression, hallucinations, among other signs. A professional can advise which is appropriate for each unique patient.
Successfully quit using meth with the help of Ocean Hills Recovery.
If you or a loved one are struggling with meth use, help is available. It is possible to quit using meth through supervised detox treatment options. Reach out to our compassionate staff to take the first steps toward recovery today.
About the author:
Greg opened his home and heart to alcoholics and addicts in 2003. He is a Certified Addictions Treatment Counselor (CATCI). Starting in 2009 Greg has fostered the growth of Ocean Hills Recovery into one of the most respected and effective treatment centers in the area and has been working with people with addictions since March of 2001. Greg believes in a holistic approach to recovery. His focus is on drug alcohol addiction treatment with a combination of 12 Step work, therapy and counseling, and the rejuvenation of the body through healthful eating and exercise. He has designed his program to foster a family-like atmosphere and believes that people in recovery are just beginning their lives. He encourages the people he works with to learn to enjoy life in sobriety. Greg is married to Nicole; they have two adorable sons together and an energetic yellow Labrador Retriever.