When meth addiction is severe, life without the drug can seem impossible. But addiction often comes at the cost of your health, friends, family, employment, and so much more that makes life fulfilling.

Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Patricia Sullivan MD, MPH

woman struggles with meth addiction

Table of Contents

Why Meth Addiction is So Difficult

This issue of addiction does not end with drug use. Someone addicted to meth or any other drug might do almost anything to keep taking it. These things can include lying, stealing, or hurting people. Using meth at all costs can lead to family problems, losing a job, and even arrest and jail time. Even when people understand this, they can still be unable to quit.

People start using drugs for many reasons, often to feel good or stop feeling bad. As is often the case with teenagers, many start using drugs simply because others around them are doing it, and they are curious or want to fit in.

Whatever the reason, taking drugs is usually a choice at first. But as you continue to take them, exercising self-control becomes much more difficult. At this point, drug use is less of choice and more of a compulsion.

Research has shown that addiction changes the brain in areas that are involved in judgment, decision-making, learning, memory, and self-control. These brain changes explain the harmful and dangerous behaviors associated with addiction and why it’s so hard for addicts to restrain themselves. Loss of control over drug use is the biggest sign of addiction.

Perpetuating the Cycle

Addiction is a chronic disease. So, even if you stop using for a while, addiction can remain for a long time. It does not simply go away with time, like a cold might. Things like withdrawal and triggers can lead to relapse and start the cycle again.

Withdrawal results from dependence on a drug. Addictive drugs generally stimulate the brain’s reward centers, which are responsible for making you feel good.

Meth specifically increases the release of dopamine, a chemical messenger in the brain associated with pleasurable experiences. When you continue taking it for a while, your brain’s reward circuit gets used to the excess dopamine, so you eventually need more of the drug to get the same good feeling.

As drug use continues, you will likely develop a dependence on the drug, meaning your brain and body now need the drug to feel normal. At this point, if you stop taking the drug, you will typically feel sick, anxious, and irritable. The unpleasant symptoms of meth withdrawal can make you feel like you can’t live without the drug.

Sometimes people can quit their drug use despite withdrawal if they are away from their triggers, which are people, places, or other things that remind them of their drug use and cause cravings.

Unless people with addictions learn to avoid or manage their triggers, they are likely to relapse any time these triggers are present.

Health Reasons to Quit Meth

As mentioned, addiction can affect people in various ways, but meth inevitably takes a considerable toll on both your brain and body. The changes that meth makes to your brain can affect many areas of your mental state.

Some effects include:

  • Deficits in thinking and motor skills
  • Increased distractibility
  • Memory loss
  • Aggressive or violent behavior
  • Mood disturbances
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia

In long-term users, meth use can even lead to the development of symptoms of psychosis, including paranoia, hallucinations, and delusions.

A common example of a delusion is the sensation of insects crawling under the skin. This uncomfortable sensation can cause people to pick and scratch at their skin, resulting in sores. In some cases, symptoms of psychosis can persist even after a person has quit using meth.

Meth can also cause several heart problems, including rapid heart rate, irregular heartbeat, and increased blood pressure. Because meth decreases appetite, it is also commonly associated with significant weight loss.

Continued use can lead to what is known as “meth mouth” or severe dental problems due to a combination of poor dental hygiene, dry mouth, and teeth grinding.

After prolonged use, the development of physical dependence makes it difficult to feel any pleasure from anything other than the drug.

In many cases, however, long-term users continue to use meth not to produce any pleasurable effects but rather to avoid the uncomfortable effects of meth withdrawal.

What Treatment Can Do For Meth Addiction

With the proper addiction treatment, many people see a drastic improvement in their lives. Improvement is often due to behavioral therapy, which is a common treatment method for drug addiction.

Different medications may also be useful for certain substance use disorders, helping to ease withdrawal symptoms, for example.

However, there are currently no medications that have proven effective in treating meth addiction specifically.

Although pharmacological treatment studies are underway, behavioral therapies are currently the best approach to treating meth addiction. Therapy can address drug use and an array of problems that often accompany addiction.

A major part of treating addiction is recognizing and avoiding triggers for relapse. Teaching methods of coping with triggers is mainly what behavioral therapy aims to do. Therapy helps people change their attitudes and behaviors related to drug use to manage stressful situations and other triggers that might lead to relapse.

Every type of therapy may not apply to you in your journey to recovery. Treatment is meant to be unique to you. For treatment to have a full shot at success, it should address a person and their needs because addiction can impact so many aspects of a person’s life.

Addiction treatment goes far beyond stopping drug use. Counselors can work with you to address your specific medical, mental, social, occupational, family, and legal needs.

The Hard Work Ahead

Although it may seem impossible right now, life without addiction is within reach. However, it’s important to remember that treatment is not a quick fix.

Recovery requires effort and willingness on your part. To remain in recovery long-term, you will have to:

  • Relearn how to live without drugs
  • Work on the problems caused by your drug use
  • Stay away from the people/places you associate with drug use
  • Learn what makes you crave using, so you can avoid or work on those things
  • Treat other problems that led to your drug use, such as anxiety or depression

Although recovery involves commitment and hard work, many people believe the effort is worth it. Treatment has helped countless addicts start fully living their lives again.

Behavioral Therapy Treatment for Meth Addiction at Glance

There are several types of behavioral therapies that address different issues of addiction. You may not need every kind, and not each one will work for you. Your treatment program will work with you to find what suits your needs.

Motivational Enhancement Therapy

Motivational enhancement therapy can be especially helpful when someone is beginning treatment. It makes use of one’s readiness to change their behavior. This type of therapy helps patients discover and use their motivations for stopping drug use, so they feel more encouraged to stick with treatment.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy also deals with self-assessment but takes it a step further to help patients change their behavior. Cognitive-behavioral therapists help patients recognize the situations in which they’re most likely to use drugs so they can avoid or cope with them moving forward. It helps patients to understand their damaging behaviors and alter them.

Contingency Management

Contingency management is another type of behavioral therapy that uses positive reinforcement to encourage remaining drug-free. For example, patients are provided with rewards or certain privileges for attending and participating in counseling sessions, taking treatment medications and prescribed, or passing drug tests. These rewards help people associate staying off drugs with positive results.

Family Therapy

Some people whose addictions impact or are impacted by their family relationships benefit from family therapy. This helps address family influences on drug use and can improve overall family functioning, promoting positive behavior and decreasing drug use. Adolescents especially are often more successful in treatment when they have the support of their parents.

Twelve-Step Facilitation

Twelve-step facilitation is an individual therapy that prepares people for engagement in a 12-step program. Although 12-step programs are not medical treatments, they provide additional support that can help people stay in medical treatment. They emphasize mutual support and provide a drug-free community for those in recovery. Twelve-step facilitation follows the themes of the 12-steps, which include acceptance, surrender, and active involvement in treatment.

A Word From a Former Meth User

Meth use destroyed Susana’s life. In the grips of her addiction, she didn’t see a wait out. She had completely lost control with meth and saw no light at the end of the tunnel.

However, after finally being willing to receive treatment and deal with trauma from her childhood that led her to drug use, Susana successfully began the process of recovery.

Susana has over six years of abstinence from drugs and has built a fulfilling life.

The message is clear: Although there may not seem as if there is hope, meth use can be successfully treated and

Get Help For Addiction Today

Meth addiction can be damaging in so many ways. The addiction is not just damaging to your mind and body, but to those around you. But when you’ve come to depend on any drug, living without it can seem like an impossibility.

It’s likely that you no longer use meth to feel good but rather to avoid feeling bad. Maybe you’ve even tried to quit, but the meth withdrawal symptoms were too much to bear.

Proper treatment can help you get past the initial withdrawal period so you can focus on solving problems instead of simply copying.

Treatment addresses your situation as a whole, which means it takes into account not just your drug use but any surrounding issues or areas of your life impacted by addiction. Anything you leave unaddressed could hinder your progress in recovery.

Fortunately, addiction counselors are equipped to help you deal with many aspects of addiction.

Treatment may sound complex, and it’s normal to feel overwhelmed by the process. But while it’s true that it is no simple task, there are people to help you through every step. First, however, it is up to you to reach out for help, which we can provide.


[1] Drugabuse.gov: The Science of Drug Use
[2] Drugabuse.gov: Long-term Effects of Meth

Susana Spiegel

Susana Spiegel

Susana has experience writing about addiction, treatment, mental health, and recovery. She holds a Bachelors in Arts of Theology from GCU, and has a deep empathy for those who are struggling with addiction, as she is in recovery herself.

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