How to Quit Meth: A Guided Path to Regaining Control

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Methamphetamine misuse affects millions of individuals, families, and communities around the country. Individuals diagnosed with methamphetamine use disorder (MUD) have a higher risk of experiencing trauma, suicide, overdose, mental health issues, or other health complications. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), between 2015 and 2019, "methamphetamine use increased by only 43%." In addition, "Frequent methamphetamine use, defined as using for at least 100 days in the past year, increased by 66%." Multigenerational methamphetamine abuse often contributes to the development of MUD and makes it more challenging to quit meth. Treatment programs incorporate family members into the recovery process to reduce the risk of relapse and heal multigenerational trauma. 

Early intervention and treatment is the best way to address issues related to substance use disorder (SUD) and co-occurring mental health issues. The experts at Pathways Recovery Center have decades of combined experience helping individuals and families in and around Azusa, California. Clinicians provide essential support and recovery services to people struggling with substance abuse. 

Understanding Methamphetamine and Its Grip

Methamphetamine has a unique chemical makeup that profoundly affects neurotransmitters, including dopamine. The drug is chemically similar to dopamine and can interfere with signals in the brain. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), "Research in primate models has found that methamphetamine alters brain structures involved in decision-making and impairs the ability to suppress habitual behaviors that have become useless or counterproductive." Methamphetamine affects multiple regions of the brain and other body systems. The drug is highly addictive and impacts impulse control and behavior.

Methamphetamine causes an intense euphoria followed by a quick comedown. The combination makes it easy to become dependent on the substance very quickly. Most people who misuse methamphetamine go through a cycle of using the substance, experiencing the beginning of withdrawal, and taking the substance again to counter the adverse side effects. Dependency is often developed within a short period. Some people become addicted to the drug after using it only a handful of times.

Even a single dose of methamphetamine causes significant changes in the brain. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), "High doses can elevate body temperature to dangerous, sometimes lethal, levels, and cause convulsions and even cardiovascular collapse and death." Most people are unaware of the inherent dangers of illicit drugs like methamphetamine. 

Some of the most common long-term physical and neurological side effects of methamphetamine use include: 

  • Weakened immune system 
  • Increased risk of stroke or cardiovascular disease 
  • Kidney and liver damage
  • Sleep disturbances 
  • Skin lesions or infections
  • Poor dental health 
  • Muscle stiffness 
  • Extreme weight loss and malnutrition

The intense euphoria people experience and the cyclic nature of methamphetamine addiction makes it difficult for many individuals with MUD to notice the behavioral and psychological changes caused by chronic substance abuse. In addition, the effect of methamphetamine on the brain changes how people perceive specific experiences. According to Neurologic Clinics, "With repeated use in both humans and experimental animal models, methamphetamine depletes the brain's stores of dopamine and damages dopamine and serotonin nerve terminals." Dopamine is linked to memory and learning.

Recognizing the Signs of Meth Addiction

Everyone reacts differently to methamphetamine addiction. Symptoms exist along a spectrum ranging from mild to severe. Many effects are cumulative. Over time, the symptoms worsen and begin to impact a person's quality of life and ability to function. 

Some of the first physical, behavioral, and psychological signs of methamphetamine misuse include: 

  • Changes in appetite, energy levels, and sleep patterns 
  • Extreme mood swings, including uncharacteristic irritation or aggression 
  • Unusual risk-taking behaviors, including unsafe sex, excessive spending, or self-harming behaviors
  • Loss of control and impulsivity
  • Social isolation and withdrawal from close relationships 
  • Secretive behavior 
  • Lying, stealing, or manipulating others to get money for purchasing methamphetamine 
  • Wearing long sleeves and layers even during hot weather to hide track marks 
  • Difficulty concentrating or learning new tasks

Extreme high and lows, alongside the cyclic nature of methamphetamine use, increases the risk of rapid decline in physical and psychological health. Professional mental health recovery programs are the safest and most reliable way to treat MUD. Often, families and friends must help their loved ones transition into treatment. Pathways Recovery Center provides families with information about interventions and how to support their loved one's recovery. 

The Physical and Psychological Challenges of Quitting Meth

Detoxification and withdrawal treatment is the first step toward long-term recovery. The care team uses evidence-based methods to provide personalized care for MUD and co-occurring mental health disorders. Clinicians at Pathways Recovery Center collaborate with clients and their families to ensure treatment addresses all underlying issues affecting recovery. 

Individuals in treatment may experience the following withdrawal symptoms: 

  • Fatigue 
  • Weight gain as appetite returns
  • Irritability 
  • Extreme mood swings 
  • Dehydration
  • Chills, muscle aches, nausea, and other physical symptoms 
  • Sleep disturbances, including hypersomnia and insomnia 
  • Dysphoria and depressive symptoms
  • Anxiety 
  • Inability to feel pleasure from everyday activities 
  • Social isolation 
  • Cravings 

Clients face many challenges, including relationship issues during early recovery. A strong support system is essential during early recovery. Family and friends provide stability, motivation, and accountability to help loved ones in treatment cope with cravings and avoid relapse. The clinical team at Pathways Recovery Center encourages clients to participate in family therapy to repair damaged relationships and strengthen their support system. 

Psychological cravings are severe during early recovery. Many people have a difficult time managing their emotional and behavioral health without the guidance of an addiction recovery expert. In addition, many people have co-occurring mental health disorders impacting their ability to focus on establishing and maintaining sobriety. According to NIDA, "For many people, drug and alcohol problems begin as self-medication: using substances to cope with temporary stress or to manage symptoms of chronic mental health problems they may not even know they have." The clinical team provides clients with the tools, resources, and skill development they need to successfully treat MUD, co-occurring mental health disorders, and any underlying issues.  

Steps to Start Your Journey to Quit Meth

The first steps toward recovery from SUD involve admitting there is a problem and reaching out for expert help. Many people actively using methamphetamine don't have the presence of mind to question their choices or get the help they need. Family and friends often must step in and motivate them to seek treatment. Those first steps are often the hardest; many fail to make the necessary calls. 

People who misuse substances often interact primarily with people who enable their addictive behaviors. Giving up those toxic social connections is essential to recovery. Many people struggle to let go of friendships and social groups related to methamphetamine misuse. Family and friends who have their loved one's best interest at heart play a vital role in helping them accept the need for change. 

Supportive friends and family provide the following: 

  • Practical support, including providing transportation to medical appointments or childcare 
  • Emotional support 
  • Inspiration and motivation to accept essential lifestyle changes

During the early stages of recovery, friends and family provide stability and ensure their loved ones feel comfortable and safe participating in treatment. According to BMJ Open, "Families are significantly impacted by addictions and family involvement in treatment can reduce the harms and can also improve treatment entry, treatment completion and treatment outcomes for the individual coping with an addiction." Clinicians at Pathways Recovery Center provide families with the information and guidance they need to help their loved ones heal and grow. 

The Crucial Role of Detox and Residential Treatment

Detox programs ensure clients have medical supervision and access to vital support services during withdrawal. Methamphetamine is a highly addictive substance. Detox is dangerous without the support of recovery experts and medical professionals. Withdrawal and detox services at Pathways Recovery Center are tailored to the needs of clients and the substances they misuse. 

Residential detox treatment programs provide clients with a safe space and ensure clients have the following: 

  • A structured schedule to follow 
  • Clear expectations 
  • Consistency
  • Accountability 
  • Reduced distractions and temptations 

The care team uses a holistic approach to address MUD and underlying issues related to recovery. Many clients require multiple levels of care to successfully recover from substance abuse. Detox treatment is the first step, and most clients transition directly into residential care, where they receive the tools they need to manage their condition. 

Residential treatment programs at Pathways Recovery Center offer the following services and treatments: 

  • Individual and group therapy 
  • Peer support 
  • Medication-assisted treatment (MAT)
  • Case management 
  • Relapse prevention education 
  • Alternative holistic therapies 
  • Alumni Services 
  • Aftercare planning

Clients in treatment rely on their care team and loved ones to help them find healthy ways to cope with the symptoms and side effects. According to the previously mentioned page by BMJ Open, "It is estimated that more than 50% of those seeking services for an addiction are also coping with mental illness, and many studies have also found that the rates of suicidal ideation, suicide attempts and completed suicides are elevated for individuals with an addiction." Treatment involves integrative care to address trauma or other underlying issues simultaneously. 

Building a Supportive Network for Recovery

Support groups and group therapy help clients create a strong support system. Peers and the care team collaborate to ensure everyone feels heard, understood, and valued. 

Participating in group activities ensures clients have the tools they need to do the following: 

  • Create deeper social bonds 
  • Support their recovery from SUD
  • Address traumas or underlying issues affecting mental health

Many clients damage personal relationships while under the influence of substances. The care team guides clients through repairing relationships and building new healthy connections with peers and other individuals. Positive social connections enhance the effectiveness of treatment. In addition, healthy social interactions reduce stress and decrease the symptoms of SUD and co-occurring conditions. According to Psychiatry, "Numerous studies indicate social support is essential for maintaining physical and psychological health." Many people in treatment make lasting friendships with peers they meet during rehabilitation. 

Pathways Recovery Center has created a thriving sober community in Azusa, California, where clients and their families feel welcomed and supported. Alumni services ensure clients and their loved ones continue to receive guidance and access to essential resources after completing treatment. The care team understands early recovery often involves unexpected challenges, and they continue to provide support until clients feel comfortable maintaining their sobriety independently.  

Rebuilding Your Life After Meth

The process of rebuilding a life after methamphetamine addiction requires time, dedication to sobriety, and a strong support system. Treatment programs provide clients with the necessary life skills and psychoeducation to ensure they know how to reclaim their lives. Most people must change how they engage with friend groups and their local community to reduce the risk of relapse and increase positive social connections. Establishing new routines makes it easier for people to stay healthy and sober. 

A few common strategies people use to reclaim control of their lives and build healthy routines include: 

  • Gaining employment or returning to work 
  • Beginning of resuming education 
  • Rebuilding self-esteem through therapy and self-care 

Building a healthy lifestyle helps people move forward after recovering from methamphetamine abuse. According to the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, "A healthy lifestyle includes habitual consumption of nutritious foods, regular physical activity, and consistent sleep." Creating routines to support sobriety, mental well-being, and physical health reduces the risk of relapse. Healthy habits also decrease the symptoms and side effects of SUD, including cravings, triggers, and impulsive behaviors. 

Coping With Triggers During Long-Term Recovery

Methamphetamine abuse affects the brain and how it makes memories and processes emotions. As a result, some people experience extreme reactions to everyday situations or thoughts. The triggers may cause intense cravings or other symptoms of SUD. Relapse prevention education and individual therapy sessions help clients identify and manage triggers. 

People often cope with triggers by doing the following:

  • Reducing exposure to people or places connected to past substance misuse
  • Using grounding exercises, breathwork, mindfulness, and other techniques to stay focused and calm 
  • Reaching out to members of their support system

Everyone has different triggers. Stress often worsens the effects of triggers and may cause some people to feel concerned about relapsing. In those moments, Pathways Recovery Center and other resources are available to provide support and guidance. Triggers don't have to cause setbacks in recovery. 

Staying Vigilant: The Lifelong Commitment to Sobriety

Methamphetamine addiction is cyclic. Individuals in recovery must stay vigilant and aware of how they feel and the behaviors they adopt during recovery. Some people heal from their disease and return home, where they experience sensations, memories, flashbacks, or cravings related to past substance use. Addiction is a chronic disease. Individuals in recovery must remain mindful to reduce the risk of relapse.

Addiction may go into remission during treatment. However, clients must remain aware of their thoughts, behaviors, and beliefs. If they notice backsliding in thoughts or behavior, the care team can provide additional support to keep them from relapsing. Most people in aftercare use community-based resources and alumni services to help them cope.

Regular check-ins and attending local therapy or support groups do the following: 

  • Reduces stress, anxiety, and depression 
  • Ensures clients in recovery have access to essential recovery services 
  • Provides families with additional resources for navigating long-term recovery

Some people still require therapy even years after quitting methamphetamine. Many people with MUD have underlying traumas. The case managers at Pathways Recovery Center provide aftercare planning, referrals to outside services, and information on alumni support. In addition, the care team continues to provide essential services to clients with complex or severe MUD and co-occurring conditions to ensure they maintain sobriety after completing the program. 

Pathways Recovery Center has created a compassionate and thriving community where clients and their loved ones can engage with peers and clinicians during treatment and aftercare. 

The benefits of joining an active recovery community include: 

  • Motivation to continue making progress in recovery 
  • Additional accountability for choices and behaviors 
  • A safe space to share concerns or celebrate successes

The first step in recovery from methamphetamine misuse is often the hardest. Accepting there is a problem and reaching out for help. The compassionate clinicians at Pathways Recovery Center provide individuals and families with the information and resources they need to successfully navigate recovery from methamphetamine addiction. 

Addiction recovery treatment programs help individuals and families overcome obstacles in recovery. Often, clients have co-occurring mental health disorders requiring simultaneous treatment and integrative care. The clinical team at Pathways Recovery Center uses evidence-based and alternative holistic therapies to help clients achieve emotional and physical stability during the early stages of detox and withdrawal. Once clients feel stable enough to manage their mental health, the care team guides them through finding the right program to meet their needs. The support of family and friends is an essential part of recovery for many people. Pathways Recovery Centers encourages families to engage in the recovery process. To learn more about our programs and services, call us today at (888) 771-0966.

Clinically reviewed by 

Moses Nasser
Dr. Moses Nasser, a double board-certified physician in Family Medicine and Addiction Medicine, with expertise in holistic healing, addiction medicine, and psychiatric care, holds an X-waiver to prescribe buprenorphine and has extensive experience in mindfulness-based customer service and medication-assisted treatment.

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