While the nation has been focused on a widespread opiate crisis, methamphetamine has been quietly making a comeback, largely due to cartel smuggling. In 2016, agents on the San Diego/Mexico border seized 21,747 pounds of meth, 10 times more than they had a decade before. The drug fanned across the United States, wreaking havoc on communities and destroying individual lives. Thankfully, there are treatment options for people who are struggling with this devastating addiction.
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About The Program
Inpatient treatment is advised for users who have dropped out of outpatient programs or who are particularly concerned about relapse. 24/7 support is provided in the form of medical care and psychiatric services in addition to regular group and one-on-one therapy sessions. Most programs last from one to six months.
While outpatient treatment has the same goal—to help users achieve sobriety and establish a strong support system—it is less structured than inpatient treatment. Patient commute to and from the facility, sleeping elsewhere and returning for therapy, medical care, and group counseling.
Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP) is a step down from inpatient care. While patients don’t sleep in the rehab center, they spend the majority of each day receiving drug addiction treatment, counseling, and attending therapy.
Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP) are for patients who require a more rigid structure than outpatient treatment provides, but are unable to commit to living in an inpatient program. Compared to outpatient care, more days per week are required and a stricter oversight is provided to prevent the possibility of relapse.
Meth detox usually takes between one and three months. In that time, the body should be able to remove any remaining traces of the drug from the user’s system. However, just because the drug is physically gone, several psychological effects often linger. While they are most intense in the weeks after secession, symptoms like cravings, anxiety, and depression can remain for months afterward.
In the first 24-72 hours after the final use, withdrawal symptoms like intense exhaustion (also known as “the crash”), as well as panic, paranoia, and hallucinations are all possible. One week after the final use, intense cravings typically set in. Patients will have trouble with abstract thoughts and will find concentrating on tasks unusually difficult. Rapid weight gain may also be triggered.
In the second week, psychological symptoms like depression and mood swings may begin. However, after the second week, sleep becomes easier and energy levels start to improve. While cravings may occasionally strike, the intervals between them become longer. It’s important that patients continue to remain active in their support groups and resist relapse which only resets the cycle of addiction.
Inpatient vs Outpatient
While they both help achieve the same goal, inpatient and outpatient treatment programs differ in several key ways.
Inpatient treatment is best for patients who have struggled with the long-term effects of addiction. They may find it harder to resist the temptation to relapse and require the structure of 24/7 care offered by inpatient treatment. Many users also tend to live in negative environments that make rehabilitation challenging or nearly impossible, and inpatient treatment offers a supportive, positive environment.
Outpatient treatment is ideal for users who have less severe methamphetamine addictions and are strongly motivated to achieve sobriety. Because of this personal impetus, they can safely navigate the more relaxed outpatient schedule. Patients are not asked to sleep in a treatment facility, and are asked to report to meetings and therapy sessions several times a week.
Signs of Drug Use
Identifying methamphetamine abuse in its early stages can save the life of a loved one and help them enter treatment before an intense dependency develops. There are several signs to look for, which are divided into physical and psychological categories.
Physical indicators of meth abuse may include rotting teeth (aka meth mouth), acne or sores on the skin, drastic weight loss, and intense scratching. Psychological symptoms include, among others, intense anxiety and paranoia, bizarre behavior, irritability, and confusion.
Side Effects of Meth Use
When meth is smoked or injected intravenously it causes a “rush” or “flash” produced by a figurative waterfall of dopamine—the “feel good” chemical—being released in the brain. This leads to increased heart rate and blood pressure, rapid breathing, and a powerful sense of euphoria.
If used in the long-term, meth can lead to erratic, psychotic, and violent behavior. Hallucinations—both auditory and visual—are possible, as are delusional thoughts and paranoia. Extended use can also lead to anorexia.
Costs & Insurance Options
In general, outpatient programs cost anywhere between $1,000 and $10,000. Inpatient programs are often more, ranging from several thousand to tens of thousands for more luxurious programs. The cost depends on the services required to treat a specific case of addiction, the meth addiction treatment center, and the duration of the treatment.
Most insurance plans offer, at the very least, partial coverage for treatment options. Comprehensive coverage is often available for higher premiums. Patients may also be covered under an employer’s group insurance, but the extent of that coverage is dependent on the plan selected by the employer.
Helping a Loved One
Because of the intense paranoia that accompanies a meth addiction, users may be difficult to communicate with or convince to listen to a group of concerned loved ones. However, persistence, patience, and kindness are essential to getting someone to enter a rehab program. It’s important to keep in mind that meth addiction is a disease, not a moral failing.
When discussing a loved one’s meth addiction, it’s important to use positive “I” statements (e.g. “I love you and am concerned for your health and safety”) instead of accusatory “you” statements (e.g. “You’re an addict and you have to get clean”). If a user feels that they are being attacked, they may retreat even deeper into their addiction. No matter how challenging it might be to remain positive, it’s the best chance any family has at convincing a loved one to enter a treatment plan for long-term recovery.
If the loved one isn’t receptive to personal discussions with family members, it’s recommended that a professional interventionist is hired. Professional interventionists have experience coaxing stubborn meth users into a rehab program, and can help families prepare statements to the loved one.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. Methamphetamine. 2018.
New York Times. Meth, the Forgotten Killer, Is Back. And It’s Everywhere. 2018.
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