This article is not about all the scary things methamphetamine does to your body – you can find that information in a million and three other places.
This article is written for people addicted to methamphetamine (and loved ones of methamphetamine addicts) to show specifically:
- How methamphetamine changes your physical, psychological and mental health in ways that make it very hard for you to stay clean.
- Why you probably need addiction treatment and how addiction treatment helps you to overcome the mental, psychological and physical consequences of your addiction.
Why Is Methamphetamine So Addictive?
- When you take meth your brain gets flooded with dopamine. Meth causes the release of extra dopamine and it also blocks the reuptake (or cleanup) of dopamine in the synaptic clefts between neurons. This causes a long and very pleasurable high.
- With repeated use your brain adapts and you start needing more and more meth to get the same effects (tolerance)
- With repeated use (and especially as you start using larger quantities) you start to deplete dopamine and certain other neurotransmitters in your brain.
- Once you have depleted your normal levels of dopamine and your brain has adapted to expect massive levels of dopamine, stopping becomes quite difficult. As your dopamine levels fall after use you experience very strong cravings and negative feelings, like depression and an inability to experience pleasure.
This combination of very strong cravings and very harsh effects when in initial withdrawal make methamphetamine a very addictive substance.1
And unfortunately, though the cravings are hard to beat, the way meth changes your physical, mental and psychological health exacerbates the situation and makes quitting for good all that much tougher.
Mental Consequences of Methamphetamine Addiction
Heavy methamphetamine use causes cognitive deficits (it limits your ability to think clearly). While using methamphetamine you’ll likely experience a diminished ability to:
- Learn new skills and information
- Recall information
- Make inferences
- Manipulate existing information (abstract thinking)
- Ignore irrelevant information
- Recognize and recall words
- Recognize and recall pictures and images
By about 12 weeks of abstinence you will have recovered most of your thinking abilities. However, the ability to recognize and recall words and images actually gets worse after abstinence and then only gradually improves, over a long period of time.2
So here’s the situation:
- You just quit and the cravings are intense and you need to make a lot of life-changes to have any chance of resisting the urges to use
- At the same time, you’re dealing with an inability to think clearly, your memory isn’t working well and you can’t seem to learn new ways of doing things
…Not an ideal combination for success, unfortunately!
Fortunately, you don’t have to re-invent the wheel here. There are effective strategies available to help you overcome your cognitive deficits and you can learn simple tips and tricks to keep you out of risky situations and away from negative thinking patterns that increase your odds of relapse.
If you’re thinking about trying to quit methamphetamine, you need to realize that:
- Your cognitive capacities are diminished…for now. You will recover in time but your thinking problems will make it hard for you to stay clean.
- In order to stay clean for long enough to allow your brain to heal and for your cognitive capacities to return you’ll likely need to rely on the techniques and strategies you can find in an addiction treatment program – like a crutch that helps you walk (think) until you’re healed enough to do it on your own.
Psychological Consequences of Methamphetamine Addiction
After using methamphetamine for a while you may start experiencing psychological problems, like paranoia, psychosis, hallucinations, compulsive sexual behaviors, aggression and others.
Meth Withdrawal Symptoms
Most of these psychological symptoms will abate quickly after you stop using, but in some cases, psychotic symptoms can endure for months or even years after last use.3
Quitting methamphetamine after a long period of use will likely also cause you psychological problems, such as:
- Strong cravings
- Thoughts of suicide
So though you may have great reasons and good intentions to stop using, the psychological consequences of your addiction make it difficult for you to achieve your goals.
How can you stay sober when you’re not completely in touch with reality?
How can you overcome urges to use when drowning in hopelessness and depression?
Well, the answer is, you can stay sober by:
- Finding a detox clinic or residential facility to stay in until psychotic symptoms abate completely and until you’re stabilized enough to benefit from treatment
- Get into a treatment program that addresses your lingering depression and anxiety and teaches you coping strategies to manage your feelings without relapse
Physical Consequences of Methamphetamine Addiction
Physical consequences of methamphetamine addiction frequently include:
- Extreme weight loss and malnutrition
- Dental problems
- Skin abscesses (from skin picking)
Physical health complaints that are tolerable when high may be quite hard to live with when sober, especially when you’re also depressed during the initial period of abstinence.
- Many people need a period of residential stabilization (detox) before they can begin to get any benefit from addiction treatment.
- People with serious health complaints will likely need this stabilization, and appropriate medical attention, before they can begin to benefit from an addiction treatment program4
If you’re in a lot of pain it’s going to be harder to stay clean, right? So to maximize your odds of staying clean you probably need to deal with the causes of pain and discomfort before you can start off with addiction treatment.
Page last updated Oct 13, 2013