Methamphetamine is one dangerous drug.

Not only is it easy to develop a meth-related substance use disorder, but recovering from one can be challenging—but this doesn’t mean that you should lose hope. We’ve put together a list of seven common ways to recover from meth abuse along with their success rates, alongside as much information about meth abuse as we could.

The dangers of meth

Methamphetamine is an extremely addictive and potent stimulant — and the number of users is climbing. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the number of current meth users aged twelve and older increased by 61% between 2010 and 2014, and the number of new users increased by 71% in that same period. The DEA expects that meth availability will continue to rise in the future, according to their 2016 National Drug Threat Summary, and meth purity is at an all-time high of 70%.

Part of what makes meth so easy to abuse is the fact that it can be used in so many ways. It can be taken by mouth, snorted, injected, or smoked, catering to every user’s preference and comfort level. It also gives users desirable effects, such as:

  • A euphoric rush.
  • A sense of well-being.
  • Decreased appetite.
  • Excitement.
  • High energy.
  • Increased activity levels and alertness.
  • Talkativeness.
  • The ability to stay awake for long periods of time.

However, meth also destroys parts of the brain that produce serotonin and dopamine, chemicals that make you feel happy. People continue to take meth at that point to avoid the depressive lows of withdrawal; meth is all that makes them happy.

Related: How to enhance dopamine levels naturally

Apart from this, normal side-effects of meth are terribly dangerous. Users can expect to experience:

  • Clenched jaw.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Going hours or days without sleep or food.
  • Intense depression during withdrawal.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Headaches.
  • High blood pressure.
  • High body temperature, sometimes to dangerous levels.
  • Irritability.
  • “Meth mouth,” marked by damaged teeth, dry mouth, and bad breath.
  • Nausea.
  • Nervousness.
  • Paranoia.
  • Psychosis.
  • Sweating.
  • Twitching.
  • Unconscious picking at the skin.
  • Unplanned anorexia due to your body burning more calories than usual. This could even lead to death.
  • Violent behavior, especially after 3-15 days of lost sleep, a time known as “tweaking.”
  • Vomiting.

In short, a methamphetamine-related substance use disorder can be a devastating experience.

Meth rehab success rates

Usually, the first step to dealing with a substance use disorder is to detox and then continue on with rehabilitation. However, a study in Addiction showed that meth users who went through detox were just as likely to use meth again as users who never received treatment. The same study had more promising results for rehab, but they faded over time:

  • After three months, 48% of people who went to rehab were still sober compared to 15% of users who went through detox or who never received treatment.
  • After one year, only 20% of people who went to rehab were still sober compared to 7% of the two other groups combined.
  • After three years, only 12% of people who went to rehab were still sober. 5% of people who didn’t go to rehab were still sober at that time.

Essentially, detox did not help meth abusers stay sober and meth rehab produced results that failed to last over any meaningful amount of time.

The question remains: what should people with meth-related substance use disorders do to make sure they successfully recover?

So how can a meth abuser stay clean in the long run?

Ranked from unknown efficacy to most effective, here are the top seven recommended ways to make sure you fully recover from meth:

Cognitive behavioral therapy (unknown success rate)

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps to treat substance use disorders by teaching people with substance use disorders how to change their self-destructive patterns and make new ones. It focuses a lot on recognizing the early signs of cravings, identifying situations that put you at risk, and developing coping skills to deal with them.

It’s unknown quite how effective CBT is on its own when it comes to methamphetamine abuse, but in combination with other therapies, it can be quite helpful.

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans (unknown success rate)

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is a way to map blood flow in the brain as it travels among different areas responsible for different types of cognition. This allows for doctors and scientists to measure how cognitive, emotional, and social processes are carried in different systems of the brain.

When it comes to meth abuse, this type of imaging can be used to predict relapse rates. One study used decision making to show the differences in the way meth user’s brains processed information about what they perceived through their senses and movements and the way their brains handled prediction and decision making. The people who relapsed showed reverse activation patterns in the prefrontal, parietal, and insular cortical regions. This showed that fMRIs might help identify individuals who are at high risk of relapsing so they can get into a preventative program beforehand.

12-step programs and SMART recovery (5-31% success rate)

12-step programs, including Crystal Meth Anonymous, stress acceptance of the chronic nature of substance abuse, that surrender to a higher power and the group structure leads to recovery. SMART Recovery views alcohol and drug abuse as a dysfunctional habit rather than a disease and relies on secular, science-based techniques to recover from substance use disorders.

Coming together to find support can be invaluable, especially when you find a sponsor, but there are pros and cons to both programs. 12-steps generally improve social interactions, but general health and employment status decline. Psychiatric hospitalizations also increase. SMART improves health and employment, but marijuana usage increased. Life satisfaction increased in by participating in either method.

However, these programs are only effective if you regularly attend meetings, so if you choose to commit yourself to Crystal Meth Anonymous or SMART Recovery —both of which have similar success rates— make sure you’re in for the long haul.

Contingency management (18.2-28.6%)

Contingency management (CM) uses rewards like vouchers or cash to encourage abstinence from alcohol and drugs. At the beginning of treatment, the rewards are low, but the longer you remain sober, the more you can receive.

Studies have shown that adding contingency management to other forms of treatment results in more negative urine tests and more counseling sessions attended. People in CM were also abstinent for longer periods of time, making CM a viable option for meth abuse.

Long-term inpatient rehab (23-75%)

Long-term rehab generally takes place in either hospitals or therapeutic communities and takes anywhere from 6-12 months.

The length of treatment is concurrent with the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s recommendation that treatment should last at least 90 days to be effective and the longer it lasts, the more effective it is.

Hospitals tend to focus on detox and cognitive behavioral therapy, whereas therapeutic communities focus on confronting the places you could improve your psychological and social functioning. Both can focus on finding employment and social support while you’re in treatment, though hospitals are better suited to people with concurrent psychiatric illness.

Aversion therapy (52% success rate)

Contingency management (CM) uses rewards like vouchers or cash to encourage abstinence from alcohol and drugs. At the beginning of treatment, the rewards are low, but the longer you remain sober, the more you can receive.

Methamphetamine aversion therapy involves letting users snort fake meth —generally 1% quinine in mannitol, a white crystalline powder— and then administering an oral emetic to create nausea or an electric shock to create irritation. Pairing the two makes you not want to use meth anymore based on the negative associations. However, it can be a therapy that you might not want to undertake because of the unpleasantness of nausea and shocks.

The Matrix Model (50-60% success rate)

The Matrix Model is a combination of treatments that works especially well for methamphetamine abuse. The program lasts four months, purposely coinciding with “the wall,” the point at which the brain begins to truly recover from meth damage. It also responds to current research, which states that memory and thinking skills continue to deteriorate for months after people stop using. Long-term treatment is the only answer.

The Matrix Model combines behavioral therapy and counseling to help users cope with the depression and anxiety that comes with meth withdrawal. It also teaches them to avoid relapse by explaining why cravings happen and how to respond to them positively. There is also group therapy and Crystal Meth Anonymous support so users can help one another deal with their shared difficulties.

Staff educates the patients and their families on the effects of meth so as to deter users from future use and help their loved ones understand the disorder and how to help. They also help users learn about issues related to alcohol, marijuana, and sexual behavior that coincide with meth abuse. All information is delivered in small pieces because meth abusers may have poor short-term memories due to brain damage.

The environment is highly structured, and staff put much time and attention into establishing relationships with patients that allow the two groups to collaborate on treatment. Drug testing and contingency management help to contribute to this structure. After the four months are through, people graduate to nine months of social support with other users.

One study found that people in the Matrix Model were sober for longer periods of time, provided more meth-free urine samples, and stayed in treatment longer than people who were in other forms of treatment. Another, a study of 978 recovering meth abusers, found that 60% of them were sober six months after completing the Matrix Model program. The proponents of the Model state that the remaining 40% could be helped by an inpatient program, like a therapeutic community or hospital stay, before adding the Matrix Model to their recovery regimen.

The best way to treat meth abuse is a full continuum of care. Reach out to our trained staff to learn more about our treatment programs and create an individualized treatment plan that will fit your needs.

Related: Online Counseling and Rehab for Addiction

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Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village 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.

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