Crystal Meth Addiction

Methamphetamine is one of the fastest-growing addictions being treated at drug rehab centers today. As of 2006, there were 1.5 million crystal meth addicts in the United States. Without treatment, many crystal meth addicts will be unable to stop and will severely and permanently damage their bodies and brains. Here’s everything you need to know about crystal meth addiction to help you or someone you know get the help they need.

What Is Crystal Meth?

Crystal meth is an extremely powerful and addictive synthetic stimulant. A form of methamphetamine, crystal meth appears as clear crystal chunks that are usually smoked but sometimes snorted or injected. Studies show that even a single hit of crystal meth can cause irreversible mental damage, and regular use can lead to severe physiological and psychological dependence.

Signs of Crystal Meth Abuse

* Dried skin
* Compulsive itching of the face or scalp, leading to a bruised, battered or wounded face
* “Meth jaw,” named for the collapsed appearance caused by rotting teeth and gums
* Large skin sores
* Nosebleeds
* Mouth sores
* Rapid weight loss
* Staying awake for days, and then crashing and sleeping for days
* Nervous, fidgety behavior
* Mood swings ranging from extreme euphoria to aggression
* Needle and track marks, if the person is injecting meth
* Constant sweating
* Paranoia
* Increased irresponsibility, such as neglecting their home, children or the law

Effects of Crystal Meth Addiction

The short-term effects of crystal meth addiction are:

* Erratic, violent behavior
* Suppressed appetite
* Sleep problems
* Mood swings
* Tremors and convulsions
* Increased blood pressure
* Irregular heart beat
* Hyperthermia
* Homicidal or suicidal thoughts
* Prolonged anxiety, paranoia or insomnia

The long-term effects of crystal meth addiction are:

* Brain damage (similar to the effects of Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s disease)
* Psychosis, including hallucinations and paranoia
* Changes in brain structure and function
* Memory loss
* Formication, a disorder in which the person believes there are bugs or insects crawling under the skin
* Aggressive or violent behavior
* Severe dental problems
* Stroke, coma or death

Crystal Meth Treatment

The first step of crystal meth treatment is to enter a detoxification program. During the detox process, the individual will be safely monitored and treated for withdrawal symptoms that can include extreme fatigue, flu-like symptoms, insomnia, depression, anxiety, cravings and dangerous psychotic reactions.

After detox, successful treatment can begin. The most effective treatment for crystal meth addiction is behavioral therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy and contingency management interventions. A comprehensive approach that combines behavioral therapy, individual counseling, 12-Step support, drug testing and positive reinforcement has been shown to be the most effective way to reduce crystal meth abuse.