Crystal Meth Addiction: Statistics and Treatment
What is Crystal Meth?
Crystal meth, or methamphetamine, is a Schedule II stimulant drug. Odorless, white and extremely powerful, crystal meth is highly addictive and one of the most widely-abused drugs in the United States.
Although certain methamphetamine drugs have medical purposes and are available by prescription, illegal methamphetamine is manufactured in clandestine laboratories known as “meth labs.” Due to the hazards associated with the illegal production of crystal meth, these clandestine laboratories are a growing concern among law enforcement and citizens alike. The chemicals used in the manufacture of crystal meth are highly toxic, often explosive and can lead to various types of risks and complications.
For example, the following ingredients are commonly found in crystal meth:
- Battery acid
- Paint thinner
- Lighter fluid
- Engine cleaner
- Brake fluid
- Red phosphorous
- Rubbing alcohol
Crystal Meth Statistics
In the Untied States, crystal meth statistics include the following:
- In a 2005 national survey, 10.4 million people ages 12 or older admitted to using meth at least once in their lifetime.
- Nearly five percent of American high school seniors have tried crystal meth.
- In 2010, the number of first-time meth users reached approximately 105,000.
- In 2012, the DEA seized over 4,500 pounds of illegally-manufactured methamphetamine.
- According to the United States government, crystal meth is the most widely-abused drug in the country.
- The DEA reports that, while much of the crystal meth found in the US is produced on American soil, a large percentage is manufactured in Mexico and smuggled across the border by Mexican cartels.
Like cocaine, crack and other stimulant drugs, crystal meth is extremely addictive. In most cases, crystal meth is either smoked, inhaled through the nasal passages or injected intravenously. These methods provide the user with a powerful, though short-lived, euphoria that almost instantaneously leads to cravings for more of the drug. These cravings lead to continued use and ultimately, addiction.
Meth use is associated with the following effects:
- Anxiety and agitation.
- Prolonged wakefulness. Some addicts report staying awake for several days at a time while using crystal meth.
- Increased physical activity, fidgeting, restlessness, etc.
- Rapid heartbeat and respiration.
- Increased body temperature, or hyperthermia.
- Reduced appetite.
Due to the effects of crystal meth, this drug is associated with a wide variety of complications to health and well-being. For example, crystal meth addicts are at an increased risk of experiencing complications like the following:
- Severe paranoia, confusion and, in some cases, hallucinations.
- Tooth decay. This complication is the result of meth’s toxic ingredients and their effects on teeth, gums and overall oral health.
- Extreme weight loss, malnutrition and dehydration.
- Risky behaviors, which may include driving under the influence, prostitution and promiscuous or unsafe sex. Due to these behaviors, meth users are at an increased risk of contracting and spreading a variety of diseases, including HIV and hepatitis C.
- Damage to the heart, lungs and other vital organs. Because of this damage, meth users are at an increased risk for complications such as stroke, heart attack, pneumonia and more.
- Overall decline in cognitive function.
- Financial difficulties, which are often due to failure to keep a job as well as financing a costly drug habit.
- An increased risk of incarceration as a result of drug-related crimes.
- Difficulties in relationships, including those with family members, friends and business associates. It’s not uncommon for meth use to lead to divorce, loss of custody and other complications.
Treating Methamphetamine Addiction
Because of the hazards associated with methamphetamine use, seeking treatment for addiction to this drug is essential in protecting physical health, psychological well-being and overall quality of life. Thankfully, through the proper methods, treating meth addiction safely and effectively is an attainable goal.
As with other addictive substances, treating addiction to crystal meth can be a multifaceted process. To promote long-term recovery, treatment typically involves methods pertaining to various areas of health. For example, treating methamphetamine addiction usually involves the following methods and approaches:
Detoxification, which is defined as a process which rids the body of all addictive substances, is usually the first step in treating addiction to crystal meth. While detox can be uncomfortable, it is essential to the recovery process.
Due to the effects of methamphetamine withdrawal, it is recommended that users undergo detoxification in a supervised, preferably medical, environment.
These withdrawal symptoms, which can last up to several days, often include the following:
- Extreme cravings for methamphetamine drugs
- Irritability and anxiety
- Profuse sweating
- Shaking, tremors and other involuntary movements
- Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and other gastrointestinal issues
- Heart palpitations
- Violent behaviors
- Loss of energy
- Changes in sleep patterns. Some users report insomnia while others experience the need to sleep often and at odd hours
Once detoxification is complete, treating meth addiction usually involves psychotherapy. The objectives of this type of treatment include allowing the patient to explore the many aspects of addiction, encouraging the formulation of coping methods and improving overall psychological health.
While a variety of psychotherapy methods are used to treat addiction to crystal meth, one of the most effective is behavioral/cognitive therapy. This approach, which is designed to help the patient pinpoint and modify destructive thoughts and behaviors, has been shown to promote long-term recovery from meth addiction as well as improve health and quality of life.
Other forms of psychotherapy that have proven helpful in the treatment of meth addiction include group counseling and family therapy. Group counseling provides benefits such as peer support while family counseling is designed to repair drug-related damage to personal relationships. Both these types of therapy are conducive to long-term recovery as they provide patients with the tools necessary to restore health to their lives and relationships.
Addressing Physical Health
Since addiction to crystal meth is associated with so many risks to physical health, treatment often involves a complete physical examination. While physical evaluations may vary, they usually include the following points:
- Screenings for STD’s and other illnesses. Tests for HIV, hepatitis C, syphilis and other communicable diseases are common in addiction treatment facilities.
- Organ function tests. Since meth use can damage vital organs, tests are often performed to determine heart, lung and liver function.
- Medication. Once physical health levels are determined, many meth users, especially those who have used the drug long-term, require medications to treat drug-related damage to the body.
- Nutrition. Since meth addiction is often associated with malnutrition, dehydration and extreme weight loss, nutrition often plays a major role in treatment and recovery.
In the treatment of meth addiction, continued care and support are extremely important. Since meth users benefit most from long-term treatment, aftercare programs can increase the odds of recovery and prevent a relapse with illicit drugs. In most cases, aftercare programs include several types of support, some of which include the following:
- Continued therapy sessions.
- Followup meetings with case managers or social workers.
- Help with housing, finding a job, etc.
Although the use of crystal meth is a growing problem in the United States, it can be treated safely and effectively. The treatments listed above will help prevent recurring drug use as well as improve overall health and well-being.