Named for its clear, crystalline appearance, crystal meth is one of the purest, most potent forms of methamphetamine. When you smoke the drug, it quickly enters your bloodstream via the lungs. Crystal meth can also be snorted or injected into your veins for a fast, cocaine-like high. Because this central nervous system stimulant acts directly on your brain’s pleasure centers, its euphoric effects are extremely addictive. Once you’re hooked on methamphetamine, the side effects of withdrawal can be so hard to tolerate that getting clean seems impossible.
For many crystal meth addicts, multiple relapses stand in the way of a permanent recovery. According to the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, 92 percent of users who go through crystal meth detox will relapse, a percentage that’s even higher than the relapse rate for cocaine. So if you’ve made the decision to get crystal meth out of your body and out of your life, is there any hope for a lasting recovery? Detox can give you the clarity you need to move forward into a brighter, healthier future.
Why Is Meth Detox So Hard?
The physical, emotional, legal and financial consequences of crystal meth addiction have destroyed many lives, but the nature of methamphetamine dependence drives users to keep abusing the drug, regardless of its effects. Meth affects the brain’s limbic system, the area that contributes to higher functions like learning and memory. The limbic system also plays important roles in emotion, fear and pleasure. Crystal meth interferes with the normal functions of the limbic system, causing rapid physical tolerance and dependence.
When you use crystal meth, the drug triggers the brain to release dopamine, a chemical that creates pleasant sensations in response to certain behaviors. The brain’s natural reward system allows us to survive by motivating us to pursue life-sustaining behaviors like eating and sexual reproduction, according to Richard A. Rawson, Ph.D., author of Methamphetamine: New Knowledge, New Treatments. But the brain’s reward system can also be triggered by central nervous system stimulants like methamphetamine, which creates sensations of energy and euphoria. Once the brain gets used to the intense response that the drug creates, the addict is driven to seek and use crystal meth again and again.
Detoxification from crystal meth usually isn’t life threatening. However, the intensity of the addiction and the severity of withdrawal symptoms make detox hard to deal with, especially for heavy users.
- Physical withdrawal symptoms. Crystal meth withdrawal can cause agitation, sleep problems, exhaustion and appetite disturbances. Health problems caused by meth abuse, such as lung damage, tooth decay, skin infections, abscesses or severe weight loss, often come to the forefront during the withdrawal period and must be addressed by medical members of a detox team.
- Psychological side effects. Methamphetamine withdrawal affects both the body and mind, but the psychological side effects may be hardest to tolerate. When the brain is used to the pleasurable effects of meth use, a sudden drop in dopamine levels can cause anhedonia, or the absence of pleasure in everyday activities. Meth users may experience depression, disorientation or anxiety during detox. In extreme cases, users may experience psychotic episodes and become aggressive or even violent.
- Cravings for the drug. In response to low dopamine levels, the brain generates powerful cravings for crystal meth. These cravings often drive recovering meth addicts back to the drug, even though they’re fully aware of the potential consequences.
- Social pressure to use. Crystal meth users often rely on a network of fellow users and dealers who support them in their habit. Breaking free from this network can be one of the greatest challenges of detox. At a residential treatment program, you can recover your health in a secure, structured environment. As part of your rehabilitation, you’ll learn how to handle the social pressures that can prompt a relapse.
What’s Involved With the Detoxification Process?
Detox from crystal meth can take place at a wide range of venues, from hospitals and inpatient rehab centers to jails, mental health facilities, and outpatient clinics. The detoxification process itself may take from several days to two weeks or more, depending on the extent of your use and how long you’ve been addicted.
The first stage in crystal meth detox is to evaluate the client to determine the severity of the addiction. If the client is acutely intoxicated, extremely agitated, combative or psychotic, hospitalization and intensive medical monitoring may be required to prevent harm to herself or others. The focus of detox will be to help the client get stable, reduce agitation and address health concerns caused by drug abuse. Clients should be evaluated and treated for co-occurring conditions like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder.
If the client is alert and oriented and motivated to change, detox may take place at a residential treatment center, a partial hospitalization program or an outpatient treatment facility. Once the client is stabilized, treatment will center around counseling, group therapy, relapse prevention and other psychosocial methods that can help the client stay clean. Treatment for depression, anxiety, bipolar or other co-occurring disorders should be part of the recovery plan.
Challenges of Crystal Meth Detox
Detoxing from crystal meth poses specific challenges to you and your treatment team. According to the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs (ADP), the effects of methamphetamine on the brain can cause confusion, mental exhaustion and disorientation during the withdrawal phase. In meth withdrawal, which may last for two weeks or more, users often need to sleep for hours or days at a time as their bodies recover from the effects of the drug. Participating in therapy sessions and group meetings may be impossible when you’re unable to stay alert and focused.
In order for crystal meth detox to be effective, a rehab program should be long enough to allow the client to become stable enough to concentrate on treatment. A brief detox treatment of one or two weeks might give you just enough time to rest and recuperate physically before you’re discharged back to your old life. Without the necessary coping tools, it’s highly likely that you’ll relapse.
The obstacles of detox can be overcome with a multi-disciplinary treatment plan. A comprehensive crystal meth treatment program may involve these important strategies:
- Counseling for the client and family members
- Group therapy sessions
- Behavioral modification therapy
- Medication support for co-occurring disorders
- Treatment for health complications of crystal meth use
- Nutritional evaluation and counseling
- Regular drug screening
What Are the Rewards of Detox?
Detoxing from crystal meth may be one of the toughest challenges you’ve ever taken on, but the rewards of getting clean make the process worthwhile. By successfully completing a crystal meth detox and rehabilitation program, you can have the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve taken a big step toward beating your addiction to one of the most powerful drugs available. You can also reap these benefits:
- Protecting your body from severe lung or kidney damage
- Preventing learning problems and memory loss
- Reducing your risk of diseases transmitted by intravenous drug use
- Avoiding the legal risks of illegal drug use
- Protecting yourself and your loved ones financially
The purpose of detoxification is to remove a toxic substance — in this case, crystal meth — from your body. But detox must be followed by an individualized rehabilitation program, like the one we offer here at Axis, if you want to stay clean and sober over the long term. If you’re committed to the process of rehabilitation, contact us for information on our unique recovery services.