As opioid overdoses and addiction take the spotlight across the country, crystal meth is quietly making a return in many rural areas of the country, including across Texas. Why isn’t it getting the media attention that opiate addiction and overdoses are receiving? Because crystal meth kills its users far more slowly, and so far, the death toll is not as high as it is for opioid drugs.
One study shows that the use of the drug has increased 250 percent since 2011, after use of crystal meth was at an all-time low following a focus on the part of law enforcement to find and eradicate clandestine crystal meth labs. A change in laws increasing control over certain over-the-counter substances used in the production of the drug had a positive impact on lowering rates of crystal meth production and use as well.
New methods of production have been created since that time – more portable methods that allow for quick setup and takedown time – and the drug is very frequently being imported into the country from Mexico and other parts of Central America. One attorney general has said that he believes we are heading into another “full-blown epidemic with meth.”
Is crystal meth a problem for you or someone you love?
The Problem with Methamphetamine
A stimulant drug, crystal meth makes people feel awake, increases their metabolism while decreasing their appetite, and makes it possible for them to drink more alcohol or use heroin and other drugs for longer than they might be able to sustain otherwise. This means that there are a number of different reasons why someone might experiment with crystal meth and why they may continue using the drug, including:
- Recreational use
- To stay up and stay focused on a project, activity, or party
- To get more done during the day
- To lose weight
For this reason, meth users run the gamut in personality, age group, social group, culture, and income level. It is not always easy to immediately recognize the signs of abuse, especially in those who may otherwise look functional – at least not at first.
Crystal Meth Takes a Toll
Though the effect of crystal meth abuse is not as rapid as the effects of abuse of heroin or painkillers, it takes a very visible toll on users after just a few months of regular ingestion. Whether the drug is snorted or injected, outside observers will begin to notice:
- Extreme weight loss
- Poor skin, nail, and hair health
- Sores and scabs
- Extreme mood swings and irritability
- Multiple days/nights without sleep
Binges can last for days at a time, and by the end of them, the user may be surly and aggressive. Their overall personality may change as well as their appearance, and in a few short months, an individual who first started using meth will be a completely different person.
In addition to the social, emotional, and behavioral issues that use of crystal meth can cause, it can lay waste to physical health. People who use the drug regularly often deal with:
- “Meth mouth” (damaged teeth and gums)
- Liver damage
- High body temperature, which can lead to brain damage
- Rapid heart rate, arrhythmia, and other cardiac issues that can lead to stroke
These issues can work together to contribute to sudden death, and if crystal meth is used in conjunction with other drugs (e.g., heroin, alcohol, etc.) or if needles are used as a method of ingestion, more risks arise and the risk of death increases as well.
Connecting with Treatment
Crystal meth is again unique in that those who embark on a path to recovery when crystal meth is their primary drug of choice often experience a far different trajectory as compared to those who seek help for addiction to alcohol, heroin, and other drugs.
Though there can be extreme emotional issues related to crystal meth detox and a few physical ones primarily related to malnutrition and sleep deprivation, there is not necessarily a medical detox requirement at the outset of rehabilitation. Rather, stabilization may be necessary if there are extreme health issues (e.g., liver damage, malnutrition, etc.) and/or mental health issues (e.g., psychosis, hallucinations, etc.), but within a few days, the individual should be ready to begin the process of addressing the underlying issues that drove their use of crystal meth.
Often, between about nine months and one year into recovery, just as one might begin to feel confident in the ability to stay sober, cravings may strike out of nowhere. Those who have experienced this unexpected phenomenon attest to how they may feel as if there are no concerns for their ability to stay sober, and then suddenly, they are high. Some report that this can happen at any time – even after years of sobriety. This means that, for those who often used crystal meth in addiction, the need to stay actively engaged in treatment for the long-term is necessary.
The good news is that, with active and ongoing engagement with treatment services, building a new life in recovery is possible. Is someone you care about in need of your intervention and assistance in connecting with treatment today?