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Treating Crystal Meth

In the United States, over 1.5 million people addicted to methamphetamine, also known as meth or crystal meth. Methamphetamine addiction is difficult to treat. Compared to treatment of other drugs, research shows that recovering methamphetamine addicts require longer and more intense treatment programs.

Methamphetimine Withdrawal

Crystal meth cessation is not associated with severe physical withdrawal symptoms. Reports indicate that former addicts experienced anhedonia, or the inability experience pleasure. This experience can last for months and may lead to relapse.

The brain is recovering from producing abnormally low levels of dopamine. Brain scans performed on 15 detoxified, former methamphetamine users showed a 24% loss in the normal number of dopamine transporters. This loss is linked to slowness in motor skills and poor performance on memory and verbal tasks. This period of depression can trigger the obsession of euphoria experienced while using the drug.

Effective Methods of Treatment

Unlike heroin addicts, who can be weaned off the substance with methadone, there are no pharmacological treatments for methamphetamine. The most effective way to treat methamphetamine addiction is a detox center, which can take over 6 weeks, followed by cognitive-behavioral therapy. This approach focuses on the how the way we think affects our feelings and actions.

Behavioral therapy may include an initial assessment of the user’s drug history, mental status, current drug use and relationships with family members. They may be asked to attend group therapy, one on one counseling sessions and 12-step groups. Other groups may focus on spirituality or family support.

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