Meth Addiction in Maryland

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In Maryland, the opioid crisis has largely overshadowed surging cases in methamphetamine addiction. The Drug Enforcement Administration reports that meth-related deaths have increased tenfold since 2014. Nationwide, the problem is worse, with 1.6 million people reporting having used meth and almost 1 million having a dependence in 2017 alone.

While the highest availability of meth is concentrated in the western U.S., the drug passes through every state. With Maryland’s crackdown on opioid misuse, residents increasingly turn to alternatives like cocaine and meth. No matter where you are, these drugs carry a very high risk of addiction — especially meth.

This article will discuss methamphetamine in detail: its short and long term effects, withdrawal symptoms, addiction treatment, and more.

What is Meth?

Methamphetamine is a powerful synthetic stimulant that was first developed in the early 20th century from amphetamine. Meth and amphetamines are both occasionally prescribed in limited dosages for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and short-term weight loss treatments. However, these drugs are more widely used as illegal substances. And, unlike amphetamine, meth is much more potent because of its lasting effects on the brain.

In illicit meth labs, the drug is usually synthesized using pseudoephedrine, an ingredient in over-the-counter cold medication, as well as dangerous additives like acetone, household cleaner, drain cleaner, gasoline, and lithium.

Meth is also known as:

Also known as crystal meth, blue, and ice, meth is typically smoked, snorted, injected, or orally ingested. It causes euphoria, alertness, talkativeness, and decreased appetite.

What Does Meth Look, Taste, and Smell Like?

Meth is a white crystalline powder — sometimes tinted blue, yellow, or pink — that dissolves in water or alcohol. The powder resembles rocks and flakes off in shards that resemble glass. It can also be pressed into pills.

Meth has a distinctive bitter taste. Usually it is odorless, but the dissolvent chemicals can add a strong chemical-like smell. Every batch of meth is different, so buyers often don’t know what other chemicals or substances they’re getting.

How Meth Addiction Develops

Over 70% of law enforcement agencies in the pacific and west central regions of the U.S. say that meth poses the greatest drug threat in their respective areas.

Like cocaine, meth triggers the release of dopamine in the brain, causing a rush of pleasure and alertness. When produced naturally, dopamine is recycled back into the neuron, but meth blocks this reuptake. When used repeatedly, meth changes the chemistry of the brain itself. Because dopamine is also responsible for motivation, memory, learning, and reward-processing, meth can damage a person’s overall health.

First the body develops a tolerance — more of the drug needs to be taken in order to feel the same high. Eventually tolerance becomes dependence, where more of the drug is required just to feel normal. If users try to stop at this stage, they experience intense withdrawal symptoms, which is why addiction is so devastating.

Users typically follow a binge-and-crash cycle of use, where they go without food and sleep in favor of taking meth every few hours until they run out or become too disoriented to continue.

Short and Long Term Effects of Using Meth

Meth Half-life

Another key difference between meth and cocaine is the duration of the high — meth lasts much longer. On the short end it lasts six to eight hours, and on the high end 12 to 24 hours. Various factors influence this period of time, especially the route of administration.

Smoking or injecting produces an instant and concentrated high, whereas swallowing or snorting takes 5-20 minutes to feel its effects, which are powerful but not as intense.

In the short term, meth increases alertness and physical activity while decreasing appetite. Because of its stimulant properties, it can lead to elevated heart rate, irregular heartbeat, and high blood pressure.

With repeated, long-term use, these symptoms intensify and slowly damage the brain. The euphoria caused by meth makes it difficult for users to feel pleasure outside of the drug. The more intense symptoms of long-term meth abuse include:

  • tooth decay
  • anxiety
  • insomnia
  • mood swings
  • violent behavior
  • paranoia
  • psychosis (hallucinations, delusions)

Over time, meth can also impair motor skills, verbal learning, emotional regulation, memory, and decision-making. Evidence also shows that meth over-stimulates microglial cells, which defend the brain against infections and remove damaged neurons. If these cells are hyperactive, they start to attack healthy neurons. Eventually, long-term meth use can eat away at the brain itself.

Symptoms of Meth Withdrawal

Given the terrible effects of meth, it is crucial to stop use as soon as possible. However, the withdrawal symptoms for people who are addicted can be just as painful, which is what makes meth so difficult to quit.

The acute symptoms of meth withdrawal include increased appetite, psychosis, depression, extreme fatigue, drug cravings, and anxiety. The severity and duration of these symptoms vary depending on the abuser’s level of dependence and personal biology, but they typically peak within the first 24 hours after last use and taper off over the next two weeks.

This period is followed by post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS), which can last a few more weeks to months. PAWS is mostly characterized by anxiety and meth cravings. People need to be especially vigilant about relapse during this period, as it is less predictable than the acute phase. The best way for someone to get the help they need is to join a treatment program at a professional rehab facility.

Treatment for Meth Addiction and Withdrawal

Individual circumstances will determine what course of inpatient or outpatient treatment will be most effective. Both options enable access to trained medical professionals with specialized experience in addiction recovery.

There is no medication to treat meth withdrawal directly, but a physician may prescribe the antidepressant bupropion to help ease the psychological symptoms. However, treatment options vary from person to person, so it is best to check in for inpatient or outpatient treatment and follow up with therapy. These steps, taken together, offer the best chance at strengthening and prolonging your sobriety.

Symptoms and Treatment of Meth Overdose

As an illegal, unregulated substance, meth comes in varying levels of potency and can carry a variety of other substances and additives — like fentanyl — that increase toxicity. Therefore, the symptoms of a meth overdose can look very similar to those of a “regular” dose. An overdose can happen upon first use or any time thereafter.

The symptoms of a meth overdose include:

  • trouble breathing
  • heart attack
  • stroke
  • seizure
  • high or low blood pressure
  • high body temperature
  • kidney failure
  • stomach pain
  • loss of consciousness
  • aggressive behavior

Like with meth withdrawal, there is no specific medication to reverse a meth overdose, but certain overdose symptoms can be treated. For example, if an overdose results in a stroke, heart attack, or kidney failure, ER doctors and first responders can treat these conditions. Doctors can also administer IV fluids and meds to combat anxiety (benzodiazepines), regulate heart rate and blood pressure (beta or alpha blockers), and/or mitigate psychosis.

The important thing is to seek help right away if you think you or a loved one has overdosed. Every second counts.

What If I Know Someone Going Through Meth Addiction?

If you know someone going through meth addiction, the least you can do is let that person know you’re there for them. If it’s someone in your family, arranging an intervention with the help of an intervention specialist can be the catalyst for that person to finally get help. The intervention specialist can facilitate the conversation between the addicted person and their family and help the person find a suitable treatment center.

Whether you’re a friend, family member, or just an acquaintance, make sure to maintain an open and patient mindset. No one should expect a perfect recovery, which is all the more reason for the addicted person to have consistent support.

Here are some signs that commonly indicate someone has a meth addiction and needs help:

  • hyperactivity
  • twitching
  • dilated pupils
  • sudden and/or extreme weight loss
  • skin sores
  • burns on lips or fingers
  • irregular sleep patterns
  • tooth decay
  • mood swings, agitation

In addition to binge-and-crash using, the addicted person may also experience “tweaking” — a 3-15 day period at the end of a binge when anxiety and insomnia are at a peak. This is a result of the initial euphoria wearing off while the drug’s effects of hyperactivity and alertness remain.

People may even borrow or steal money in order to obtain more drugs. They also may forego activities they once found enjoyable. These behavioral symptoms, combined with the physical symptoms listed above, are a fairly reliable indication that someone is struggling with meth addiction.

Meth Addiction Recovery in Maryland at Avenues Recovery

Combating Maryland’s ongoing meth addiction cases requires excellent clinical centers that are experienced in addiction recovery.

At Avenues Recovery, you will receive care from medical professionals whose life’s work is to help people through addiction. We treat people in every stage of recovery, so whether you’re in detox, rehabilitation, or therapy, we will prioritize your holistic health.

We offer residential treatment, Partial Hospitalization (PHP), Intensive Outpatient (IOP), and Outpatient (OP) treatment programs that are all customizable to your unique needs. These options can include family and couple therapy sessions, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), immersive 12-step programming, outdoor activities, and more.

Our modern facilities feature a casual atmosphere, beautiful grounds, and advanced amenities so that you can recover comfortably. At the center of every treatment plan are our core values: life skills, wellness, nutrition, social acceptance, financial responsibility, and family.

You don’t have to recover alone. Let us help you make your sobriety as comfortable and long-lasting as possible.

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Brooke Abner,

Motivational Coach