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Crystal Meth Addiction: Signs, Symptoms, Effects and Treatment

Are You Addicted to Crystal Meth?

Methamphetamine is a stimulant drug most commonly encountered on the illicit market as a crystallized or powdered form. It can be smoked, inhaled or snorted.

If you or someone you love is addicted to crystal meth, you might feel powerless or unable to find help. But substance abuse recovery is quite possible.

Crystal Meth Addiction Signs and Symptoms

Using crystal meth can cause significant changes in brain chemistry, which, in turn, can rapidly lead to an addiction.

Short-term users might take crystal meth to help them get through a project or to “perform.” They may deny having a problem, but they could be one step away from becoming chronic users.

During the later stages of addiction, crystal meth users may become so preoccupied with getting their next fix that their lives essentially fall apart. Friends and family may become virtually non-existent to them. Careers fall to the wayside, and health and appearance often become neglected-so much so, in fact, that the addict might seem unrecognizable to loved ones.

Addiction Symptoms

A person exhibiting at least 2 of the following symptoms within a 12-month period may already be struggling with a methamphetamine use disorder or, more plainly, a crystal meth addiction: 2

  • Taking crystal meth in larger amounts or over a longer period of time than intended.
  • Having a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control crystal meth use.
  • Spending a great deal of time engaged in activities to obtain crystal meth, use it or recover from its effects.
  • Experiencing cravings or a strong desire or urge to use crystal meth.
  • Failing to fulfill major role obligations at work, school or home due to recurrent crystal meth use.
  • Continuing to use crystal meth despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused by or exacerbated by the effects of crystal meth.
  • Giving up important social, occupational or recreational activities because of crystal meth use.
  • Frequently using crystal meth in situations in which it is physically hazardous.
  • Continuing to use crystal meth despite having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or made worse by crystal meth use.
  • Tolerance: needing more crystal meth to achieve the desired effect or experiencing less of an effect with the same amount of crystal meth.
  • Withdrawal: experiencing withdrawal symptoms when meth use is stopped or taking crystal meth to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms.

Things to Look for

If you are concerned that someone you care about might be using crystal meth, look for certain behaviors or physical signs, such as:
man on crystal meth scratching skin

  • Dilated pupils.
  • Mood swings, excitability, depression, aggressiveness.
  • A lack of attention to personal hygiene or grooming.
  • Noticeable tooth decay.
  • Weight loss.
  • Skin sores from picking, or scratch marks.
  • Financial problems, such as neglecting to pay bills and getting into debt.
  • Stealing or other types of illegal behaviors.
  • Risky sexual behaviors.
  • Staying awake for days.

Keep in mind that just because someone exhibits some of these behaviors does not necessarily mean that they have a crystal meth addiction. Seeking the advice of a qualified treatment specialist can help you identify whether the person does indeed have an addiction.

How Long Does It Take to Get Addicted?

The amount of time it takes someone to get addicted to crystal meth will vary based on:

  • How often they use it.
  • How much they use.
  • Other factors, including the person’s physiology.

In general, it’s easy to become addicted to crystal meth due to the drug’s powerful effects on the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine is often referred to as a pleasure or “feel good” compound.

Crystal meth floods the brain with dopamine, leading to an abnormal rush of feelings of pleasure or euphoria that don’t occur naturally. As with any addictive substance, once the body becomes accustomed to the drug and the level of tolerance grows, more and more meth is necessary to produce the same result.

Getting Treatment and Starting Recovery

Before beginning crystal meth treatment, it’s important to realize that during the initial phase of detoxification, many people will experience withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can vary from person to person and with the level of dependence. Some people experience a quick crash that lasts for a few days. This crash can include feelings of apathy, an increased need for sleep and an increased appetite.

Others who are more dependent may experience more intense feelings of withdrawal, such as mood swings, anxiety, irritability, depression, insomnia and body aches and pains. These feelings usually subside after a week to 10 days.

Supervised treatment can help monitor these symptoms and provide support and assistance during withdrawal.

Common Treatment Types

Treatment for crystal meth addiction doesn’t stop after the withdrawal phase ends. Because of the neurochemical changes crystal meth causes, users are often unable to feel “normal” feelings of happiness for quite some time after they stop using. Detox alone has been shown to be ineffective in reducing crystal meth use. Inpatient treatment has been shown to be the most effective form of treatment. 3

Treatment options for crystal meth addiction include:

  • Inpatient treatment under 24-hour, supervised care in a residential facility. Inpatient rehab may involve a combination of therapeutic approaches such as group counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or, in some cases, pharmacotherapy. Treatment may take place over the course of up to 90 days. It is often useful for those who have unstable home situations, little or no social support, repeated relapse, a dual diagnosis or who are dependent on more than one drug.
  • Outpatient treatment is a less intensive option than inpatient, but one that often offers many of the same therapeutic options. You continue to live at home and attend treatment sessions at a facility several times a week.
  • Self-help groups such as Crystal Meth Anonymous are supportive treatments often best used in conjunction with inpatient or outpatient treatment or as follow-up care. Support groups are based on the 12-step model. They’re anonymous and provide a way for recovering addicts to help each other stay sober.
  • Wilderness therapy for teens is another form of inpatient treatment geared toward minors who struggle with addiction. It occurs in a structured, supervised natural environment, such as a ranch or a camp. It blends traditional therapies with life skills training, recreational activities or work therapy.
  • Dual diagnosis treatment is used to help people who struggle with a crystal meth addiction and suffer from a co-occurring psychological disorder such as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It includes components such as cognitive behavioral therapy, self-help and, in some cases, pharmacological therapy.
  • Alternative therapies include acupuncture or body-centered therapies such as yoga.

It can be difficult to break a crystal meth addiction without proper treatment. The type of treatment that is most effective largely depends on the individual, the level of addiction and the length of use. Treatment centers will conduct extensive intake evaluations that can help you decide which form of treatment is best for you or your loved one.

Paying for Treatment for Crystal Meth Addiction

Paying for treatment is an obvious concern, and the cost varies depending on the type of treatment.

  • Inpatient rehab can range from $2,000 to $25,000 for one month. Outpatient can range from free to $10,000 for the same time period.
  • Some people can afford to pay out-of-pocket, but many insurance plans will pay for at least a portion of treatment.
  • Some community treatment centers may offer low-cost or free treatment due to government grants and subsidies.
  • For those who qualify, Medicaid or Medicare may pay for some or all treatment costs.
  • You can also look into ways to finance recovery for yourself or a loved one.

American Addiction Centers has helped thousands recover from addiction and we can help you or your loved one too. Check your insurance to find out instantly if your insurance provider may be able to cover all or part of the cost of rehab and associated therapies. You can also sign up 24/7 text support for addiction questions at your convenience.

Call to speak to a treatment support specialist about what your insurance will cover. If you don’t have insurance, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) national helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Crystal Meth Dependency Short- and Long-Term Effects

Short-term and long-term effects of crystal meth addiction can vary from person to person and will additionally be influenced by the preferred method of use. However, the longer and more often a person uses, the more likely they are to experience severe mental and physical consequences.

Short-term effects of crystal meth addiction can include:

  • Decreased appetite.
  • Increased heart and breath rate.
  • Increased activity.
  • Increased wakefulness.
  • Increased body temperature.
  • Raised blood pressure.4

Long-term effects of crystal meth addiction may include:

  • Weight loss.
  • Severe dental problems (“meth mouth”), including tooth decay and tooth loss.
  • Increased risk for stroke.
  • Insomnia.
  • Violent behavior.
  • Inability to feel pleasure (anhedonia).
  • Psychosis.Paranoia.
  • Reduced thinking and motor skills.
  • Memory problems.5

Chronic crystal meth use impacts the areas of the brain responsible for memory and emotion, leading to serious cognitive and emotional symptoms. 1

Crystal Meth Recovery Stories

Recovery from crystal meth is difficult but possible. Several celebrities have shared their stories of recovery from crystal meth.

  • Singer Fergie of the Black-Eyed Peas discussed her journey through the recovery process with Oprah Winfrey.
  • Actor Tom Sizemore, who achieved success in movies such as “Heat,” “Saving Private Ryan” and “Black Hawk Down,” struggled with crystal meth and heroin addiction but has managed to get his career and his life back on track.6
  • Actress Jodie Sweetin of “Full House” abused crystal meth, ecstasy and alcohol before going to Alcoholics Anonymous. She now says she is “happier than I can remember.”7

Find a Recovery Center

You or your loved one do not have to suffer endlessly, and you’re not alone. You can break the cycle of addiction!

Call now to speak to a recovery support specialist about crystal meth addiction treatment options. Our representatives can help you find the right treatment program, discuss payment options and help you start down the road to recovery.