Meth Treatment

Treatment for crystal meth and methamphetamine addiction involves detox, behavioral therapy and peer support. Comprehensive rehab provides the best hope for recovery.

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Crystal meth and methamphetamine are potent stimulants that cause an immediate, euphoric high and a spike in energy and physical stamina. Both types of meth are highly addictive. They have toxic effects on the body that are sometimes fatal.

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Comprehensive treatment is the best way to recover from crystal meth addiction. The disease can be treated on an inpatient or outpatient basis, depending on the patient’s needs.

“Mostly, treatment includes an environment with supportive care where you’re going to receive all sorts of things, such as group therapy and therapies for cognitive behavioral modification,” Dr. Edward Bednarczyk of the University at Buffalo told

“You’ve got to get away from the people that are feeding your habit,” Bednarczyk said. “You’ve got to get away from your friends that are doing the same things themselves that’ll help hook you back in.”

Breaking the cycle of addiction and confronting cravings can be difficult when you aren’t in the controlled, drug-free environment of an inpatient program. Outpatient treatment, however, is less disruptive to a person’s life. It is often preferable for people with meth addiction depending on insurance coverage, job constraints and other limitations.

Meth Detox

Treatment for meth addiction begins with detox. The goal is to clear meth from the body and safely manage withdrawal symptoms that arise when the brain is deprived of meth. A medical detox program can help ease this transition and address any symptoms that a person experiences.

Inpatient detox is especially crucial for individuals who are experiencing severe depression or suicidal thoughts.

Quitting meth suddenly can cause distressing withdrawal symptoms that are similar to those of cocaine withdrawal, but meth can cause longer and more intense periods of depression.

During the crash period associated with meth withdrawal, a person will usually feel irritable, anxious and aggressive. Typical withdrawal symptoms include depression, long periods of sleep and intense cravings. Seizures are a rare side effect of withdrawal.

Up to 40 percent of people addicted to meth will develop meth psychosis, a condition characterized by hallucinations and delusions. Psychosis can occur during meth use or shortly after.

Some meth side effects can last long after quitting the drug. Meth psychosis can continue for days, and sometimes even months, after meth is eliminated from the bloodstream. People experiencing meth-related psychosis usually require medical treatment with antipsychotic medications.

Treatment Options

Currently, the Food and Drug Administration has not approved any medications to treat meth addiction. However, researchers are investigating new medications in clinical trials that may prove useful during detox and recovery. Most treatment centers today provide behavioral therapy and counseling for methamphetamine and crystal meth addiction.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

CBT was originally designed to treat alcohol addiction, but it is commonly used to treat meth addiction and other substance use disorders. A 2014 study in the journal of Drug and Alcohol Dependence noted good clinical outcomes in people addicted to meth who were treated with CBT.

The treatment method teaches people how to identify and correct problematic thoughts and behaviors that trigger drug use. It also teaches them strategies for maintaining abstinence and improving self-control.

Important elements of CBT include exploring the consequences of meth addiction, recognizing and avoiding high-risk situations and monitoring cravings.

Contingency Management

Contingency management is another popular treatment for meth addiction. With this approach, patients receive rewards or incentives — usually in the form of cash or prizes — in exchange for abstinence. Abstinence, or sobriety, is confirmed through drug testing.

According to a 2010 study published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 55 percent of individuals enrolled in an incentive-based program stayed in treatment for 12 weeks. By comparison, 39 percent of those who received traditional therapy without incentives remained in treatment that long.

The researchers concluded that contingency management was effective for improving treatment outcomes for people who abuse methamphetamine.

The Matrix Model

The Matrix model is an intensive, 16-week outpatient treatment program that integrates a number of evidence-based behavioral therapies. Research has shown that the technique helps reduce methamphetamine abuse.

Key elements of the Matrix model of treatment include individual and family counseling, group therapy, family education and relapse prevention training. Patients also participate in 12-step programs or other self-help group meetings.

12-Step Programs

Participation in 12-step groups such as Crystal Meth Anonymous can also help individuals achieve and maintain sobriety.

Most 12-step programs are modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous, which focuses on surrendering to a higher power and working the program’s steps in order.

An essential feature of 12-step programs is attending meetings to build fellowship with others battling addiction. Relationships with sponsors — people who are further along in the recovery process — also provide guidance and accountability. Crystal Meth Anonymous and similar groups offer free meetings in cities around the country.

Future Drug Therapies for Meth Addiction

Researchers are currently looking into possible drug therapies for meth addiction that would ease withdrawal and prevent relapse.

Naltrexone, a drug that’s used to treat alcohol and opioid addiction, has shown promise in treating meth addiction. A study by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that Naltrexone significantly reduced meth cravings and the rewarding effects of the drug. As a result, study participants were less likely to desire to use meth.

Ongoing clinical trials are testing combinations of naltrexone and other drugs, including bupropion, which is used to treat depression and nicotine addiction. Researchers are also developing new drug compounds to treat and cure meth addiction.

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Meth Recovery and Aftercare

Relapse is common with meth addiction. A 2014 study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence found that 61 percent of people in treatment for meth addiction relapsed within one year. During the period two to five years after discharge from treatment, 25 percent relapsed.

But just because someone relapses doesn’t mean treatment has failed. In fact, relapse is an expected part of recovery. Meth recovery requires continued vigilance and effort. With dedication and the right aftercare resources, you can minimize the risk of relapse and learn to live comfortably without crystal meth.

“It can be done,” Bednarczyk said. “People have come off of meth. You do have long-term consequences from this exposure that you’ve taken, but it’s not a completely irreversible set of symptoms. It’s something that you can improve, but it takes time.”

Support from others is essential to long-term sobriety. While family and friends play a vital role in recovery, encouragement from peer support communities is just as important, if not more so.

No one can understand the struggle with addition quite as well as someone who’s been through it, and peers who are successful in recovery can empower others. One way to connect with other people in recovery is by regularly attending 12-step meetings.

Sober Living Homes

For many people, returning to the home environment too soon can put their recovery at risk. Sober living homes can ease the transition from treatment to routine living.

Also known as halfway houses, sober homes are drug-free environments that offer a structured living situation to individuals after inpatient treatment. These residences provide a safe environment where people in early recovery can practice using the tools and techniques they learned in treatment.

Recovery from Meth Mouth

One of the most devastating physical effects of meth addiction is extensive tooth decay and gum disease. Unfortunately, this oral damage, sometimes called meth mouth, can linger long after a person has stopped using the drug.

Oral damage from meth can be challenging to treat and repair. It may require tooth extractions and the use of dentures. But dental treatment for meth-associated tooth damage is an important part of the recovery process and can help restore a person’s self-esteem and confidence.

Conquering meth addiction can be challenging, but taking those difficult first steps toward recovery could be the best and most important decision you ever make. If you need someone to talk to about meth addiction or want to find out more about treatment options near you, consider calling a meth hotline. Many of these hotlines are free to call and available 24 hours a day.

Medical Disclaimer: aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

Amy Keller, RN, BSN
Content Writer,
As a former journalist and a registered nurse, Amy draws on her clinical experience, compassion and storytelling skills to provide insight into the disease of addiction and treatment options. Amy has completed the American Psychiatric Nurses Association’s course on Effective Treatments for Opioid Use Disorder and continuing education on Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT). Amy is an advocate for patient- and family-centered care. She previously participated in Moffitt Cancer Center’s patient and family advisory program and was a speaker at the Institute of Patient-and Family-Centered Care’s 2015 national conference.

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