Treatment Facilities & Programs

Treatment and Detox Facilities for Methamphetamine Addiction

By Stacy Jackson, Addiction Treatment Specialist

In 2007, over 20 million Americans needed substance abuse treatment but did not receive it, according to the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Why would so many people knowingly damage their lives yet not seek help? The information below explains the basics of drug addiction and introduces the newest devastating drug, methamphetamine. More importantly, it details how detox facilities and other treatment approaches can give addicts back their lives.

Basics of Addiction

Continued drug use—whether meth, cocaine, alcohol, or nicotine—can lead to physical dependence and addiction. Physical dependence occurs when the body adapts to a drug, whether illegal or prescription, and needs higher and higher doses of it to generate the same effect. Taking away the drug leads to physical and mental withdrawal symptoms. Addiction usually encompasses physical dependence, but also includes the inability to stop using a drug despite destructive consequences. Addicts often fail to meet their work, family, and social obligations.

One of the most dangerous, rapidly spreading addictive drugs is methamphetamine, or meth. An estimated 10 million Americans have tried meth at least once, reports Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Users become hooked on the euphoria that the drug creates, but crash as the increased dopamine in the brain wears off. Crystal methamphetamine addiction leads to heart damage, malnutrition, dental issues, aggression, memory loss, psychotic behavior and contributes to a range of vocational and social problems.

The Detox Process

The detoxification process is the first step toward drug treatment and recovery. During detox, the body is cleansed of drugs and often experiences intense effects from withdrawal.

In particular, the withdrawal symptoms associated with meth abuse include increased sleep, general fatigue, lack of focus, impaired decision-making, numbness to pleasure, and depression. Unlike most other drugs, the side effects from meth withdrawal cannot easily be managed with prescription medications. Bupropion can help with a few symptoms in some patients, but no current medications can reliably reduce the paranoia and psychotic symptoms that are linked to crystal methamphetamine addiction.

While detox can occur at home, recovery from meth addiction is most successful when it happens under a doctor's care. After detox has taken place, the patient is ready for assessment and treatment.

Treatment Approaches

Over 13,000 drug treatment facilities exist in the United States, many of which are trained to assist with crystal meth addiction. Drug treatment can take place in an individualized, outpatient, or inpatient setting. Some common approaches include:

  • Medications to decrease withdrawal symptoms and limit cravings
  • Behavioral treatments to change patient attitudes and behaviors and promote a healthier lifestyle
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy to help patients recognize the situations that lead to drug abuse, present ways avoid those circumstances, and teach them how to deal with those environments
  • Family therapy to improve family functioning and address patterns of drug abuse
  • Motivational incentives to replace drug use with other activities that are rewarding and constructive

As mentioned previously, medicated withdrawal assistance for meth users is limited. While methadone and buprenorphine are effective in helping individuals addicted to heroin, they cannot combat the side effects of methamphetamine.

Detox Facilities for Crystal Methamphetamine Addiction

In many regards, crystal meth addiction is more difficult to treat than other drug addictions. The extent of drug treatment often depends on the level of use and the method of administration. For example, people who use meth daily have a lower prognosis and need more intense treatment than periodic users. In addition, injectors have a higher risk of failure than smokers and intranasal users.

Detox facilities, or residential treatment facilities, offer the supportive atmosphere that recovering meth addicts need. These facilities generally include a staff of physicians, psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, nurses, and social workers to provide a full range of recovery options. As recommended by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, treatment must address all of a person's needs—including any psychiatric illnesses and infectious diseases—not just the drug use. An effective treatment program focuses on the patient's physical, mental, social, employment, housing, childcare, and legal needs. In addition, the treatment is provided in a manner that is appropriate for the person's age, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and physical or emotional abuse history.

Instead of relying on regular clinical visits, detox facilities promote treatment through a group living situation. The treatment programs typically last for six to twelve months and depend on a sense of community to influence the perceptions and behaviors of drug abuse. Since patients who are engaged in the treatment process have a higher likelihood of success, small rewards, such as snacks or bus tokens, are often given to sustain session attendance and ongoing progress.

Studies show that recovering meth addicts need a longer and more intense treatment program than addicts recovering from other drugs. Many detox facilities use the Matrix Model, which has been used successfully to treat methamphetamine and cocaine abuse. The model is based on a structured program of non-confrontational education, social support, and relapse prevention groups to explore patient issues and behavior changes. One-on-one counseling, three-times-per-week group counseling, and drug testing are also essential aspects of the Matrix Model.

Treatment programs in detox facilities work toward the following goals:

  • Understanding the addiction and its negative consequences
  • Replacing the immediate effects of meth use with other positive experiences
  • Identifying triggers and ways to avoid or cope with them
  • Using relapses as a learning experience for similar situations in the future
  • Increasing confidence and self-esteem
  • Encouraging abstinence from alcohol and other drugs to limit relapse
  • Establishing ongoing treatment goals

The supportive nature of detox facilities is especially useful in helping meth patients who hit "the wall." This period takes place two to three months into drug treatment and is linked to increased depression and intense desire for the drug. Relapse at this time is common for recovering meth addicts who do not have the tools to deal with these feelings. Patients who can overcome the wall are more likely to stick with the treatment plan and reclaim their lives.

Life After Treatment

Relapse is a risk long after treatment and abstinence. Cravings can be triggered by such everyday events as going to work, arguing with a family member, feeling physical pain, or encountering a person or environment associated with the patient's past drug use. According to the National Institutes of Health, 40% to 60% of people addicted to drugs will relapse. This percentage is even higher for recovering meth addicts because meth abuse fundamentally changes the brain's structure and function, which can take up to two years to heal.

Consequently, treatment programs are not designed to end negative behaviors "cold turkey." Instead, they focus on decreasing these behaviors and encouraging patients who pursue a healthier lifestyle, even if they relapse. Relapse can be minimized through frequent, structured treatment and counseling after release from a detox facility. Social support groups like Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and Cocaine Anonymous (CA) can supplement formal therapy.

Life as a recovering drug abuser can be difficult, but the struggles are worth the improvements to the patient's health and life. Through understanding the addiction, detoxifying the body, and counseling the mind, individuals can reclaim their lives.

Treatment and Detox Facilities for Methamphetamine Addiction

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