As of 2011, an estimated 11.7 million Americans reported abusing meth (also known as methamphetamine) on a regular basis, according to the U. S. National Library of Medicine. Not unlike other types of narcotic stimulants, meth stimulates or speeds up most every major bodily process through its direct effects on the central nervous system.
Meth produces the same pattern of physical effects as cocaine; however, meth’s mechanism of action actually reinforces itself making for a much more addictive drug. The more addictive the drug is the more damaging its effects. Considering meth’s addictive potential, people recovering from all-out addictions require ongoing treatment after meth detox.
Meth detox treatment programs provide a supportive, structured environment that enables recovering addicts to make it through the first stage of meth’s withdrawal effects. Also known as acute withdrawal, this stage can last from one to two weeks and include the following symptoms:
- Extreme drug craving
- Stomach cramps
- Aggressive behavior
After completing meth detox treatment, most, if not all meth addicts go through what’s known as protracted withdrawal. While less intense than the acute stage, there’s still a high risk of relapse.
Protracted withdrawal symptoms include:
- Fuzzy thinking
- Inability to experience pleasure or any sense of contentment
- Impulse control
- Memory problems
Without continued treatment, these symptoms can easily set the stage for a relapse episode to occur once a person completes meth detox treatment.
The Recovery Process
Meth addictions have a lasting impact on a person’s physical and psychological make-up. Methamphetamines can do great damage to the brain’s physical structures and the body’s overall health. Even after a person stops using, the brain and body have a ways to go in terms of healing and repairing damaged processes.
Likewise, recovering from meth addiction entails a process where brain and body functions must “re-learn” how to operate normally. Meth detox only lays the foundation. The treatment a person receives after meth detox is where the real recovery process begins.
As a highly addictive drug, meth exerts its greatest influence on a person’s brain reward system. As brain structures deteriorate, they in turn alter a person’s perceptions, thoughts, emotions and learning processes. By the time addicts enter meth detox, the drug’s damaging effects have essentially warped the brain’s reward system. At this point, meth has become the only motivating force in their lives.
For these reasons, motivational therapies play a central role in the meth rehab process. These therapies place recovering addicts in real-life situations that work to motivate ongoing abstinence and develop healthy, productive daily living skills.
Recovering meth addicts face an ongoing risk of relapse regardless how long they’ve maintained a drug-free lifestyle. According to the University of Nebraska, relapse rates among recovering addicts runs at 92 percent. In other words, 92 percent of recovering meth addicts will relapse sometime in the future. This relapse potential in and of itself warrants a continued need for treatment after meth detox.
By continuing in treatment, recovering addicts learn how to develop strategies for overcoming drug cravings. More importantly, addicts develop the types of coping skills needed to live life without the need for meth’s effects.