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Stages of Meth Addiction

In 2021, 0.6% of U.S. residents aged 12 and older were diagnosed with a methamphetamine use disorder. Doesn’t seem like much, right? 

This equates to 1.6 million people, which is more than the entire population of Hillsborough County. Can you imagine walking down the street and seeing nothing but people taking meth, including yourself?

It might sound unbelievable, but the truth of the matter is methamphetamine use is prevalent, and many need help to find their recovery. Clean Recovery Centers offers a welcoming and compassionate environment for any and all looking to leave meth use disorder behind and begin anew.

Meth addiction doesn’t happen overnight, but the stages of meth addiction may be hard for loved ones to recognize. In this article, we will discuss what the stages are and how you can help a friend or family member if you notice them going through these stages.

stages of meth addiction clean recovery centers

spotting signs of meth addiction in a loved oneThe Stages of Meth Addiction: Where Does It Begin and End?

Think back to that first sip of iced coffee on a hot, Florida day. Maybe it is your first time ever having coffee or your first time trying a new flavor. Regardless, that first sip sets up what happens next. One of two things is likely to happen. Either your first coffee experience is a no-go and you never try another coffee again, or you love the taste and begin to get one every day. While this may seem mundane, it is the very basis for how meth and other substance addictions often begin. They are more complex, however, than simply having coffee. Let’s take a look at the different stages of meth addiction.

Experimental Meth Use

The experimental stage of meth use may or may not move forward into a meth use disorder. As the word implies, this stage simply means trying meth once or twice. The person may decide they don’t like how meth makes them act or feel and never pick it up again. However, some may find the effects pleasant and want to continue use, leading to the next stage of meth use disorder.

Recreational or Social Meth Use

Recreational or social meth use is the second stage of developing dependence. The person may only seek out meth on certain days or when they are around certain people. Meth is likely not the center of the person’s life in this stage, but they may begin to feel some unwanted side effects. They may find it harder to stay focused at work or have difficulties waking up for their shift. Friends who don’t take meth may begin to suspect something is going on and distance themselves. The risk of entering the next stage also increases during this time.

Regular Methamphetamine Use

Regular methamphetamine use is when the shift begins from accomplishing daily tasks to focusing more on taking meth. Job performance and relationships have gone beyond slipping to possible loss. The person may start showing signs of meth use including face sores, tooth decay, paranoia, and mood swings. Weight loss may also be noticeable. The person is teetering on the border of dependence, and without proper care, they will move into the fourth stage of meth addiction.

Methamphetamine Use Disorder

Methamphetamine use disorder is when the person is fully dependent on meth. Meth works in the brain by causing a rush of dopamine (the reward chemical) and then blocking the brain’s ability to filter it out. Essentially, the brain is flooded with pleasure without a way to drain the excess. Because of this, the brain then stops producing dopamine when meth is not in use. The person will have a difficult time feeling pleasure from normal, dopamine-releasing activities, such as eating or exercising. This leads to taking more meth to feel good again.

However, with taking more meth comes tolerance. The brain gets used to having meth and knows it will release dopamine. The brain adjusts by releasing less, causing the person to have to take more to achieve the same results as before. This cycle is the definition of a methamphetamine use disorder. The person in this stage will more than likely need help to stop their use safely and effectively.

Recovery Stage: Out of the Woods?

Many loved ones of someone with a meth use disorder have a hard time understanding that seeking treatment is not a “cure” for addiction. Entering a treatment program for meth use disorder is the first step to a lifetime of recovery. In treatment, therapies and coping skill development will help the person find what led them to meth dependence and how they can heal from the past to build a future. But that doesn’t stop as soon as they walk out of the treatment center. Meth use disorder recovery will entail continued work, involving support groups, therapy sessions, and family involvement. The path of recovery is not always easy, and having loved ones who can provide support and compassion will help with the process.

Spotting Signs of Meth Addiction in a Loved One

We have discussed the stages of meth use disorder, but what specific signs can you look for in your loved one? Meth use comes with common symptoms that are noticeable as use continues. One surefire tell is that meth is often used in a binge and crash cycle. The effects of meth are short-lived, lasting from an hour to a few hours. Your loved one will continue to take meth when the effects wear off, usually for days on end. However, the body cannot keep up and eventually forces itself to shut down, known as the crash. Your loved one may spend the next 2-3 days sleeping and eating to recover from the binge session. This cycle tends to repeat itself often.

Another sign of meth use disorder is finding paraphernalia. Meth can be smoked, injected, swallowed, or snorted. Finding lighters, makeshift pipes (sometimes made out of broken light bulbs), needles, syringes, and small ziplock bags with white powder residue can indicate meth use.

One of the most dangerous signs of meth use happens when your loved one already is in the midst of a meth use disorder. Formication is the hallucination that insects are crawling under the skin and is common with taking meth. Your loved one may have visible sores on the face and extremities from attempting to pick the bugs out. Psychotic symptoms including paranoia, delusions, and hallucinations can make your loved one feel a lack of reality. They may become agitated and violent, distrusting friends and family members and possibly causing harm. Auditory and visual hallucinations can detach them from what is actually happening in the situation. When this occurs, seek medical help immediately. Do not put yourself in harm’s way, medical professionals will be equipped to provide treatment safely.

Get Help for Methamphetamine Use Disorder in Hillsborough County, FL

Whether you or a loved one are in stage two or four of methamphetamine use disorder, it’s not too late to start thinking about seeking help. Meth alters the way the brain functions, and it may seem impossible to stop now. Recovery from meth addiction is possible, and all it takes is taking the first step into treatment. You are stronger than you think, and treatment will help build on that strength to take your life back from meth. Recovery is not just possible – it is achievable and you have the ability to thrive.

If you or someone you love is in the stages of meth addiction, you are not stuck, and treatment options are available to break the cycle. Clean Recovery Centers offers expert care coupled with a compassionate and respectful environment. We incorporate wellness into our treatment including nutritional counseling and brain mapping to promote healthy habits in recovery. Call us today at (888) 330-2532 to learn more about our program or to get started.

Get clean. Live clean. Stay clean.

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