Plenty of what people know about meth comes from the media. That includes TV shows like Breaking Bad, documentaries about the national drug crisis, and news media. The problem is, not everything you see about meth on TV is accurate.
Meth has all kinds of reputations, some of which contradict each other. You might have heard that meth makes you a better talker, that it makes you more productive, or that it’s an easy way to get high for days.
Or you may have heard that meth users can’t benefit from treatment because their brains are too damaged.
None of those perceptions are true. They’re all myths that skew your perception of meth and what it does to your body.
Without a real idea of what meth is, you can’t protect yourself from meth addiction and its effects.
Read on to get the lowdown on what’s factual and what’s a myth:
Myth #1: It’s Easy to Hide Meth Addiction
Does meth come to mind when you think about a functioning drug addict? It shouldn’t—it’s hard to hide when you’re under the influence of meth.
Meth causes all kinds of long- and short-term effects that others around you can see. When you’re under the influence, meth causes changes such as:
- Increased energy
- Increased attention
- Inability to sleep
- Lack of appetite
Some people experience behavior changes when they start using meth. It’s common for meth and lying to go hand-in-hand. The people around you may notice that you become secretive about where you go and what you do every day.
In the long term, you may experience severe weight loss, skin sores, and dental decay. Many of the signs of meth use are easy for an outsider to notice. You shouldn’t assume that you can hide a meth addiction.
Myth #2: Meth Users Can’t Recover Their Brain Function
It’s true that meth drug abuse causes changes to your brain structure and function. When you use meth over time, the effects include:
- Damaged dopamine receptors
- Damaged brain areas including the frontal lobe, basal ganglia, grey matter, and more
After long-term meth use, your brain also develops changes in brain protein levels and metabolism.
All of these effects can affect your brain function in a negative way. But it’s not true that meth users can’t regain function. The structural changes can last for years, but with treatment, meth users can recover.
Myth #3: Meth Makes You Better at Socializing
One of meth’s best-known effects is that it makes you feel social. Like other stimulants, when you use meth, you’re likely to feel confident and energetic in conversations.
The problem is, your self-perception is skewed when you use meth.
Your friends, family, and colleagues might notice the signs of being high. When you’re using meth, your behavior may become erratic and you might not even notice.
Some people even develop psychotic or delusional behaviors from using meth. These meth behaviors can damage your relationships and actually make you worse at socializing, even though it doesn’t feel like it.
Myth #4: Meth Helps You Focus at Work
Meth has documented effects on your executive function, including:
- Information processing
When you’re under the influence of meth short-term, you notice improvements in these areas. That’s not surprising since the pharmaceutical version of methamphetamine (Desoxyn) is approved to treat severe attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
That improved function and focus may tempt you to start using meth at work. The problem with that is twofold:
- Behavior changes can tip off your coworkers to your meth use
- Long-term meth use actually decreases your executive function
Meth isn’t a good focus tool for working or studying. With time, it can make your focus and performance worse.
Myth #5: Meth is a Sex Enhancer
Like many stimulant drugs, meth increases your sex drive and enhances your libido.
There’s an entire subset of LGBT men who use meth to enhance sex—a practice called party-n-play, or PnP. Heterosexual people use meth to enhance sex, too.
The problem is, meth comes with all kinds of sexual problems that cancel out the enhancing effect.
Long-term meth use can lead to trouble performing during sex. It also increases the likelihood that you’ll engage in risky sexual behaviors. Those can include unprotected sex or sex with multiple partners. People who use meth are more likely to develop HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
Myth #6: Medication Can’t Help Meth Addiction
As of 2020, there’s no meth medication-assisted treatment (MAT) that’s approved to treat the signs of meth addiction.
Some people with meth addiction avoid treatment. They might erroneously think that they can’t benefit from treatment because MAT isn’t an option. But that’s not the truth—off-label medications can treat meth dependence in some cases.
Those medications include:
- Bupropion, which reduces withdrawal and treats cognitive deficits caused by early meth withdrawal
- Dextroamphetamine, which can increase treatment adherence and lessen dependence
- Methylphenidate, which reduces injection meth use in people with severe dependence
- Naltrexone, which blocks cravings and reduces the effects of meth
- Risperidone, which decreases meth use by lessening cravings
All of these medications are off-label for treating meth use. There may need to be more research to understand how these drugs treat meth addiction. Still, medication can be an option for some people with meth addiction.
Myth #7: Meth Addicts Can’t Benefit from CBT
There’s a false perception that people with meth addiction have permanent brain damage and can’t benefit from therapy.
You might avoid going to treatment because you think that it won’t help you. The truth is, you can benefit from therapy if you have meth addiction.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most effective methods of treating addiction, including meth.
It’s true that your brain changes with long-term meth use. But it’s not true that those changes mean you can’t benefit from therapy.
Meth use affects your ability to learn, but CBT can help you take that ability back.
Myth #8: Harm Reduction Makes Meth Safe
Harm reduction is the practice of taking precautions during drug use to lessen risk. The goal of harm reduction is to avoid the health risks and potential of overdose.
Some methods of harm reduction for meth include:
- Self-care, including eating, drinking, and sleeping enough
- Avoiding risky sex behaviors while using meth
- Using clean needles for injection and not reusing needles
- Testing your drugs before you use them
- Only using meth with other people in case of an overdose
Harm reduction is important if you’re actively using meth, but it doesn’t make meth safe by any means. Even when you reduce risk, there’s always still a risk that you could overdose or experience permanent health effects.
Myth #9: Meth Highs Can Last for Days
Wondering how long does a meth high last? Many people turn to meth because they see the long high as a convenience.
You may have seen someone go on a multi-day meth bender on TV, and that does happen in real life. But it’s not because a single meth high lasts for days.
A meth high can last from 8 to 12 hours. People who go on meth benders re-dose when they need to, which may be 2 or 3 times per day. Over the course of a 3-day bender, you might use meth 9 times or more.
Myth #10: Meth Overdose is Not That Dangerous
It’s very dangerous to overdose on meth!
Because all of the media focus is on opioids, many people mistakenly believe that meth is a safer option. Meth does cause overdoses and they can be fatal.
The effects of a meth overdose may include:
- Chest pain
- High heart rate
- High blood pressure
- Large pupils
- Paranoid thoughts
- Stomach pain
- Trouble breathing
Some people experience psychosis when they’re overdosing on meth. The signs of psychosis can include hallucinations and delusions.
Without help, a meth overdose can lead to coma and death. Call 911 immediately if you suspect a meth overdose.
Get Treatment for Meth Addiction
Now that you know the lowdown about meth, it’s time to consider getting treatment. Without help, meth addiction can affect every part of your life, including:
- Your social life
- Your performance at work
- Your financial stability
- Your wellbeing and health
If you recognize the signs of meth abuse in yourself, it’s time to get help. Bedrock Recovery Center can help with evidence-based treatment that includes:
- CBT: This type of therapy helps you learn to manage your thoughts, feelings, and expectations by changing your coping skills.
- Contingency management: These programs incentivize you to stay off meth by rewarding you for meeting your recovery goals.
- Medication: Medications can help keep you comfortable during detox and after. While MAT for meth isn’t an option yet, there are other medications that can help you on your recovery journey.
Call us today to learn how you can start your recovery at Bedrock Recovery Center!
Bedrock Recovery Editorial Team
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This page does not provide medical advice.