How Addictive Is Meth?

Is meth addictive? Yes, methamphetamine is an extremely powerful and highly addictive drug. Meth belongs to a family of drugs known as stimulant drugs because it affects the central nervous system by speeding it up. The use of meth is associated with severe health and psychiatric conditions such as impaired thinking and memory problems, aggression, violence, heart and brain damage, psychotic behaviors, and the transmission of infectious bloodborne diseases like HIV and hepatitis.

Addiction is a multifaceted brain disease that causes a person to engage in the repeated use of a drug or substance despite physical and mental harmful consequences. People who suffer from addiction have an intense focus to use the drug and it takes over their life resulting in broken relationships, financial difficulties, and a myriad of health problems.

People who use meth tend to show signs that they are addicted such as poor hygiene, anxiety, intense cravings, depression, and fatigue. The way meth alters the chemical balance of the brain can result in long-term consequences, even after a person takes their last dose of the drug.

How Addictive Is Meth?

How addictive is meth? Meth is extremely addictive because it alters the chemical balance in a person’s brain. Once meth is in a person’s body it increases the amount of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a natural chemical that is found in the brain and is responsible for controlling body movements, motivation, and reinforcement of rewarding behaviors. Dopamine makes a person experience an elevated mood and feelings of happiness, excitedness, and heightened feelings of alertness. Meth is able to rapidly release large amounts of dopamine in the reward areas of the brain. This greatly reinforces a person’s drug-taking behaviors which result in the person wanting to continue to experience those effects.

The Binge and Crash Pattern

Why is meth so addictive? Once a person uses meth the high from the drug starts to fade fast. In order to try to keep the high, people tend to take repeated doses of meth in a binge and crash pattern.

A meth binge typically starts after the initial high fades and a person continues to use meth every couple of hours to maintain those original feelings of euphoria. A chronic user of meth might binge on meth 1 to 6 times a day. This drug becomes so addicting because with each use there becomes less and less of a rush until eventually there will be no rush at all.  This is known as tolerance, meaning they need a higher dose of the drug to maintain the same high as before. This also increases their risk of addiction. During a meth binge it is not uncommon for people to not eat or sleep during the binge period, also known as a “run,” which can last up to 15 days.

The crash happens after a meth user finishes their binge and is the last stage of meth use before a person goes through the withdrawal stages. This stage can cause a person to become very tired and can sleep for up to 3 days in an attempt to recover from the binge. After the crash a person starts to experience withdrawal symptoms from meth if they do not get more of it into their system. This results in the vicious cycle of binge and crash in an effort to relieve withdrawal symptoms such as drug cravings, and maintain that euphoric high.

Method of Use Affects Addiction

There are many different ways a person can use meth. People can smoke it, swallow it, snort it, or even inject the powder that has been dissolved in water or alcohol. Snorting and swallowing meth produces a euphoric high but does not produce the rush that smoking and injecting meth does. It takes 3 to 5 minutes for a person to experience the effects of meth when snorting it. It takes 15 to 20 minutes for a person to experience the effects of meth from swallowing it.

Why is meth addictive? Smoking and injecting meth put the substance more quickly into the bloodstream and brain. This results in an immediate and powerful rush. Smoking and injecting meth causes the drug to be more addictive because it gives a person an immediate rush of extreme pleasure that only lasts a few minutes.

Is meth addicting? People who inject meth are more severely dependent on the drug than people who get meth into their bodies through other methods. A study published in Drug and Alcohol Review, people who smoke meth tend to have lower levels of dependence on meth than people who inject meth. People who smoke meth tend to do so just as frequently as those who inject except they use smaller dosages of the drug per each use. This could explain why they are less addicted to meth than those who inject because people who shoot meth tend to do so frequently, in large doses.

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Meth Treatment Can Alleviate Addiction

Meth is such a powerful substance that addiction to the drug can happen fast. Without proper treatment meth can cause meth sores, mental health issues, broken relationships, problems at work or school, health problems, and even can result in a fatal overdose.

Meth treatment can alleviate the pain and suffering that addiction has caused. Treatment typically involves the use of behavioral therapies to help a person who is addicted to meth identify and change their self-destructive and unhealthy behaviors. Types of behavioral therapy that are typically used include cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing, and contingency management.

Motivational interviewing is used to help measure and improve a person’s willingness to discontinue. Cognitive-behavioral therapy changes a person’s thoughts about meth or other drugs and helps improve their ability to regulate their emotions through the use of coping skills. Contingency management uses motivational incentives and tangible rewards to help a person abstain from drug or alcohol use. Rewards, trigger the release of dopamine in the brain making a person feel good, similar to what meth does.

Typically medications are used to treat substance use disorders, but there are currently no Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved medications to treat meth addiction. However, doctors can prescribe various medications to reduce certain withdrawal symptoms. For example, Benadryl can be used to treat insomnia. Antidepressants can be used to relieve depression symptoms and if a person has headaches specific medications can target that.

Addiction is a relapsing disease. Treatment should also include relapse prevention and social support in order to provide recovering individuals with all the support necessary to overcome their addiction.

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Addiction changes people’s lives and hurts the people you love. So, how addictive is methamphetamine? By now, you should see that meth’s addictive potential depends widely on the method of use. People who snort or swallow meth, tend to be less addictive than those who smoke or inject the substance. However, it is important to note that no matter which way a person takes meth, they can still develop an addiction. Attempting to quit meth can be extremely difficult. Painful withdrawal symptoms often cause a person to relapse in an effort to relieve the pain. If you or a loved one is suffering from a meth addiction finding a high-quality addiction rehab can help. Rehab clinics are well equipped with trained medical and mental health professionals to provide all the tools and support necessary to help you overcome your meth addiction.


Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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