In This Article
Why is Meth So Addictive?
Methamphetamine (meth) is a highly addictive, illegal stimulant that affects the central nervous system (CNS). The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) labels ita schedule II stimulant due to its high abuse potential.1
Chemically, it is similar to a class of drugs known as amphetamines, which are used to treat:
- Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
How Does Meth Work?
Methamphetamine provides an immediate high. It releases a flood of dopamine into the brain after ingestion.2 Dopamine is a chemical in the brain that promotes feelings of pleasure and reward. Meth’s ability to create these feelings with dopamine can lead to substance abuse as we will discuss below.3
What are the Effects of Meth?
Different forms of meth can amplify its stimulant effects. Meth users who smoke crystal meth, for instance, experience an extremely euphoric rush.⁴ Smoking meth puts the drug directly into the blood in the lungs which then travels into the brain and other organs. This causes the most rapid action, since all other forms of ingestion (IV, snorting, oral) require the drug to pass through the liver and other organs before getting to the brain.
Even a small dose of meth can be more addictive than other stimulants like cocaine. This is because methamphetamine stays in the brain longer, which leads to prolonged stimulant effects.⁵
Meth addiction is possible due to the drug’s:
- Immediate effects
- Ability to remain in the body for long periods
- Ability to release large amounts of dopamine
Signs and Symptoms of Meth Addiction
Meth addiction is a type of substance use disorder (SUD). Studies have shown that drug addiction can develop quickly among meth users who smoke and inject meth.⁶ Other types of ingestion methods include snorting and taking a pill.
There are various signs to look for in someone with meth addiction, including:
- Legal problems due to meth use
- Inability to quit, despite deteriorating physical health
- Meth cravings
- Spending large amounts of time focusing on getting meth, using meth, and/or recovering from meth binges
- Increased tolerance to methamphetamine
- Inability to handle work, school, and home responsibilities due to meth use
- Psychosis and/or paranoia
- Worsening mental illnesses, such as depression and anxiety
- Withdrawal symptoms when trying to stop using meth
What Type of Rehab Works Best for Meth Addiction?
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the most effective meth addiction treatment approaches are behavioral therapies and contingency management programs.
The Matrix Model, which uses the 12-step model and consists of family and support group therapies, has been shown to reduce meth abuse.⁷
Positive incentive programs, such as the Motivational Incentives for Enhancing Drug Abuse Recovery program (MIEDAR), can also treat meth addiction. These programs provide tangible incentives, such as cash prizes, to stop meth use.
One study showed that MIEDAR programs were effective in helping recovering users sustain abstinence from meth.⁸
A facility might utilize a combination of MIEDAR or other behavioral therapies in meth rehab. Additional treatment options include:
Inpatient Treatment Programs
Inpatient treatment programs offer a structured environment with 24/7 medical and counseling staff on hand. They also offer intense treatment for co-occurring disorders and provide medical detox services. Detox is a necessary first step in substance abuse treatment.
Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOPs)
These programs can help people who are transitioning from inpatient treatment. Participants attend classes for up to 30 hours per week. These classes focus on addiction and mental health treatment for co-occurring disorders.
Outpatient Treatment Programs
These programs are best for mild to moderate cases of meth addiction. They offer help from a drug abuse counselor in an outpatient setting. Participants don’t live at the facility and return home after day classes.
Having a stable, substance-free, and supportive home environment is also crucial for outpatient treatment success.
Crystal Meth Anonymous (CMA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) offer additional emotional support and guidance. These groups hold meetings periodically throughout the week in various locations. They are valuable additions to treatment programs.
These self-help groups are managed and run by other people who are working through recovery themselves.
What Happens During Meth Rehab?
Depending on the treatment facility and level of care, meth rehab might involve various courses and frameworks for recovery. These include:
Methamphetamine withdrawal symptoms are common with long term meth use.
One of the most debilitating symptoms of meth detox is severe dysphoria, also known as depression. The normal pleasure centers have been suppressed by meth intake. They do not return to normal for a long time during the recovery period.
Other symptoms include:
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Appetite loss
- Nausea or vomiting
During detox, a treatment provider might prescribe medication to help manage withdrawal symptoms. For dysphoria, initial studies suggest that medications like bupropion and naltrexone can help people remain abstinent.⁹
Nursing staff will also take vital signs, conduct wellness checks, and ensure you complete necessary daily activities such as showering and eating.
Like all SUDs, successful treatment for meth addiction requires self-motivation to stop using the drug. People who want to keep using it will almost always continue to do so. Behavioral therapy is the most effective treatment for meth abuse. Types of behavioral therapy include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Family therapy
- Family education
- Individual counseling
- 12-step support groups
These psychological treatments help break the cycle of drug abuse by re-configuring negative thoughts around substance abuse. Studies have shown that psychotherapy is associated with reductions in meth use after just two to four sessions.¹⁰
After completing inpatient treatment, your treatment team will decide which level of follow-up care is appropriate for you.
Follow-up care can consist of:
- Outpatient programs
- Individual therapy
- Health services
How Long Does Meth Rehab Take?
Rehab treatment lasts anywhere between 30 to 120 days. For people with severe physical dependence on meth, detox can take longer and may occur at an inpatient program.
The average stay for meth rehab is less than 90 days.11 Stays longer than 90 days are typically not as beneficial as shorter stays.
Does Insurance Cover Meth Rehab?
Although there are varying levels of insurance coverage, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires insurance companies to cover at least some portion of addiction treatment by law.
Certain insurance providers cover high levels of care, such as inpatient rehab stays, for meth treatment. Other providers only cover outpatient program costs. 12-step self-help group therapy is always free of cost.