With the highly addictive nature of methamphetamine comes the obvious chance of an accidental overdose. And when this situation is suspected, it’s crucial that the user obtain medical care immediately. Symptoms of an overdose include extreme agitation and paranoia, difficulty breathing, chest pains, severe stomach pain and, in the most serious cases, seizures, heart attacks and strokes. Once in an emergency room, methamphetamine overdose treatments usually involve close monitoring of the patient’s vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate and blood pressure, and any dangerous variations in these signs are treated accordingly. Additionally, the overdose victim will likely receive intravenous fluids to maintain hydration, medications that regulate heart rate and blood pressure and, if the methamphetamine was swallowed in its crystal form, activated charcoal and laxative to clear the drug from the body as quickly as possible.
Whether an overdose of methamphetamine was accidental or the result of long-term abuse, it’s important that the addict seek treatment for methamphetamine addiction immediately at a qualified and comprehensive drug rehabilitation center. Currently, addiction specialists are reporting that the most effective treatments to help someone in overcoming methamphetamine addiction are comprehensive behavioral therapies that combine education for both the addict and his or her family, individual counseling, a standard 12-Step support program and strong encouragement for non-drug-related activities. Each of these has shown to be very effective in reducing and eliminating methamphetamine abuse.
Although there are many medications that have been shown to be effective in treating certain substance disorders—medications that help ease cravings for cocaine and alcohol, for instance—there are currently no medications that counteract the specific effects of methamphetamine or help with long-term avoidance of the drug.
As with so many addictive substances, breaking the cycle of chronic methamphetamine addiction occurs in a series of stages. In stage one, which typically lasts for two weeks, the body is purging the drug from its system quickly. It’s during this time that the body is attempting to heal itself and return to a state of normal activity, and as methamphetamine addicts often eat poorly, don’t sleep enough and become severely dehydrated, this period is sometimes referred to as the “sleep, eat and drink” stage. By stage two the “crash” of detoxification has eased, and for two to three weeks the addict is beginning to feel stronger both emotionally and physically. However, because the addict may feel exceptionally better the chance for a quick relapse is good, as overconfidence leads to thoughts that their addiction wasn’t that serious after all and they can control their use in the future.
During stage three, which may last up to four months, it’s common for the addict to experience a difficult period of depression, boredom and despair. Because the user wants to fight these feelings, restarting their use of methamphetamine seems like a logical idea, a way to reconnect with the world of enjoyment—being with friends and fellow users, having nearly unlimited energy and stamina etc.—that comes with taking the drug. Therefore, relapse is also a concern during this time, and a critical time for the addict to be getting intensive counseling from qualified rehabilitation specialists who can suggest effective methods for coping with the feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Through stage four, which generally runs to the six-month mark from initial withdrawal, the addict needs to work at adjusting back to a life free of methamphetamine use. Again, with the help of therapists in a comprehensive in- or outpatient program, addicts can develop tools to help them reintegrate back into their old lives, fight the cravings for the drug (which have become much more manageable at this point) and generally discover the things that made life interesting before they began their spiral into addiction.
During stage five—six months to one year since the addict quit using methamphetamine—it’s likely that their previous addiction is a distant memory or, at worst, something they think about only occasionally and in short, fleeting moments. But as with any addiction it’s important to remember that there can never be a true “cure” for methamphetamine abuse, and so this stage should be viewed as ongoing despite the fact that their addiction may seem far in the past. By utilizing the coping tools provided them from addiction specialists and rehabilitation counselors and therapists, the methamphetamine addict can reach long-term, permanent recovery free of the devastating social, physical and psychological effects of chronic methamphetamine use.