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Some people say meth addiction isn’t treatable – this is a myth.

In fact, methamphetamine users who complete addiction treatment programs have recovery rates similar to users of other types of drugs, like cocaine and opiates.1

But for the best chances of long term success you need to make smart decisions. You need to get the right kind of treatment and you need to get it for long enough to let your brain recover.

By reading this article you will learn:

  • Why you need addiction treatment at all (why detox alone isn’t enough)
  • About the three stages of methamphetamine treatment
  • Whether you need residential or outpatient treatment – and how to know which you need at each of the three stages of treatment
  • About the Matrix Model (a research backed addiction treatment program for meth and cocaine users)
  • About the types of therapies and classes to look for in an addiction treatment program

You can recover, but for the best odds of success you need the right kind of treatment and you need to stick with it for long enough (a year or so) to see the results. Read on to find out more….

Why Do You Need Methamphetamine Addiction Treatment? What Will You Learn?

It’s not about determination, good intentions or will-power.

Addiction causes long lasting structural and functional changes in the brain and these brain changes make it very hard for you to stop using.

Some of the consequences of these brain changes include:

  1. Your impulse control system takes a hit - you’re not as able to resist urges
  2. Your reward and memory systems get hijacked - so whenever you come into contact with anything that reminds you of using (an old friend, a particular smell or sound) you experience intense cravings. Dangerously, often you won’t even know what’s triggered you - you’ll just experience sudden intense cravings, as if out of nowhere!

So it’s not just a matter of will-power. When you get pummeled with frequent intense cravings and when you’re addiction-altered brain isn’t able to resist urges and impulses, it’s no wonder you’d have a hard time stopping on your own.

  • The good news is - your brain will heal, in time, if you can maintain abstinence for long enough. The challenge is getting past the initial year or two.

So that’s why you get addiction treatment – to learn techniques, like coping strategies, that help you to overcome intense cravings and to compensate for your diminished ability to resist urges.2

The Three Stages of Methamphetamine Treatment

To understand what type of treatment you need it’s useful to break down the treatment process into stages and to consider that:

  1. You don’t need the same intensity of care at different stages in the treatment process.
  2. Treatment works best when it’s tailored to the needs of the individual. Some people may need residential care at one or more stages of treatment, other people may not need any residential care at all. It depends on factors like the severity of the addiction, other health concerns, co-occurring mental health concerns, the degree of social support at home and other variables.

The Basic Stages of Methamphetamine Treatment:

  1. The stabilization phase (starting off with treatment and getting through initial withdrawal symptoms – basically, getting you abstinent and stable enough so you can begin to benefit from an addiction treatment program)
  2. The primary treatment phase (an intensive outpatient program, partial hospitalization program or a residential care program)
  3. The maintenance phase (aftercare – long term support, less frequent and less intense. Almost always non residential, though some people, such those coming out of a residential stay, might transition into supportive housing during this phase.)

So Should You Get Residential (Rehab) or Outpatient Treatment?

You may never need (or benefit from) residential care.

  1. You are most likely to need residential care in the first phase (the stabilization phase)
  2. You are less likely to need residential care in the second phase (the primary phase)
  3. You are unlikely to need residential care in the third phase (the maintenance phase)

So should you get residential treatment? This is a pretty significant decision and ideally it’s one you don’t have to make on your own. If at all possible you should try to get assessed by a mental health professional who can recommend a level of care to start with.

Read below to find out what characteristics indicate a need for residential care at each of the three stages of treatment.

1. The Stabilization Phase

Many methamphetamine addicts initiate treatment after very long use or prolonged binges/many days without sleep. This can result in symptoms like psychosis, paranoia/aggression, confusion, diminished cognitive capacities, extreme depression, extreme cravings and even a risk of suicidality.

Because of this, many people initiating treatment will need to stabilize for a couple of weeks before they can move on to the primary phase of treatment.

You need residential care during the stabilization phase if:

  • You can’t stay abstinent for any significant period of time outside of a residential treatment environment
  • You are a danger to yourself or to others
  • You are experiencing very severe withdrawal symptoms
  • Your cognitive functioning is compromised to the point that you cannot reasonably take part in an addiction treatment program (compromised rational thought, compromised ability to think, plan, monitor and stop complex behaviors)
  • You have physical health problems that warrant immediate attention, such as severe malnutrition, systemic skin infections, severe dental deterioration, Hepatitis C, HIV or pregnancy, among others

If you need stabilization before the primary phase of treatment you can expect it to last for roughly 2 to 4 weeks, depending on your needs/progress.

Stabilization generally occurs at a medical detox facility or short term residential care facility.3

2. The Primary Treatment Phase

As soon as you’re stabilized you’re ready to start learning how to stay abstinent for good – and you do this in the primary treatment phase.

This phase of treatment is characterized by frequent brief individual and group therapy sessions, classes where you learn more about addiction, introductions to community support programs, relapse prevention classes, anger and stress management classes and other interventions.

You can get this type of treatment in a few different ways:

  1. You can stay in a residential facility and attend these classes and therapy sessions during the day (residential treatment)
  2. You can live at home and travel to a facility each day to attend these classes and therapy sessions (day treatment or partial hospitalization)
  3. You can live at home, and continue to work or go to school, and attend these therapy sessions and classes during the evenings (intensive outpatient treatment)

Most people do not need to stay in a residential facility for this period of treatment, which is advantageous, because residential care obviously costs quite a bit more.

People who may still need residential care in the primary treatment phase include:

  • People who have no stable or sober/supportive living environment to return home to each night
  • People with no employment or resources
  • People who have no transportation or ability to travel to a facility each day
  • People with other co-occurring mental illnesses
  • People with very serious addictions who have previously tried and failed in less intensive addiction treatment programs

The primary treatment phase generally lasts from a minimum of 2 months (usually longer) up to as long as a year in duration.4

It is important to stick with treatment for the whole duration, especially since those in recovery from methamphetamine addiction typically experience a temporary resurgence in withdrawal symptoms after 3 or 4 months of abstinence – and if you’re not prepared for this and supported during you’re likely to relapse at this point.

3. The Maintenance Phase

Most people are fully able to live at home during the maintenance phase (aftercare).

People without family social support or a safe and sober living environment to return to after residential primary treatment may want to consider moving into a sober-living or transitional-housing environment prior to a full return to community living.

What to Look for in a Methamphetamine Addiction Treatment Program

Any addiction treatment is better than no addiction treatment, and there are a lot of similarities between treatment for alcoholism or other drug addictions and methamphetamine addiction.

However, if at all possible, you should get treatment that is tailored to the needs of stimulant users (treatment for cocaine addiction and methamphetamine addiction is very similar).

One treatment program that is clinically proven to meet the needs of stimulant users is called The Matrix Model.

The Matrix Model

  • The Matrix Model is designed to help stimulant users stick it out through the treatment process and to teach them what’s needed to maintain abstinence.
  • As an evidence based model of treatment, it has research backing its effectiveness (many addiction treatment programs do not)
  • It combines a non confrontational atmosphere (where therapists act as supportive coaches) with a wide array of interventions, such as family and group therapy, relapse prevention classes, an introduction to the 12 steps, cognitive behavioral therapy, urine testing and others.

So if you see an addiction treatment program running the Matrix Model then you at least know that it is designed to meet your needs and that there is research that proves that it works.

Components of Effective Methamphetamine Addiction Treatment

If you can’t (or choose not to) find a treatment program running The Matrix Model or similar, other treatments and interventions to look for in any program under consideration are:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Motivational interviewing
  • Individual and group counseling
  • Behavioral change incentives (like gift certificate vouchers which reward you for negative urine tests)
  • Mindfulness training
  • Relapse prevention training
  • Community self help groups, like NA
  • Medications (there are no FDA approved medications targeted at methamphetamine addiction treatment. Medications may be used, however, to ease withdrawal symptoms - and since many methamphetamine users also have a co-occurring mental illness, mental health medications, like antidepressants, may be appropriate.
  • Interventions to promote self care – better sleep, improved diet, regular exercise, meditation and other lifestyle changes can improve health, improve long term outcomes and reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms and cravings.5
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Page last updated Sep 01, 2013

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