man sits on floor by bed and considers the effects of meth on the brain

Effects of Meth on the Brain

Methamphetamine is a stimulant drug that affects the brain in several different ways. It affects how people think, feel, and behave. When someone uses meth, they experience an intense rush of pleasure followed by surges in energy and alertness that can last for hours. However, these effects are short-lived and can be followed by feelings of irritability, aggression, insomnia, paranoia, and depression.

People often deem meth as a recreational or street drug. However, most people consider it to be one of the most dangerous illicit drugs out there. The effects of meth use on the individual are detrimental, especially to the brain. Yet meth addiction treatment can help people reverse the effects of meth on the brain and body.

Understanding the Effects of Meth on the Brain

Meth use can potentially lead to functional and molecular brain changes. Specifically, chronic use of meth can cause symptoms that resemble psychological concerns. While an individual is using meth, they can portray instances of methamphetamine psychosis. Some of the psychotic symptoms that can occur during meth psychosis include:

  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Agitation
  • Violent behavior

It is often assumed that when meth use stops, the methamphetamine psychosis would subside, but, unfortunately, this is not always the case. The symptoms can actually still show up for months, if not years, after the individual stops using the drug.

Brain Changes from Meth Use

The meth psychosis that is a telltale trait of abuse is actually indicative of changes in the brain. Neuroimaging studies that have been done on chronic meth users have shown that there are changes in dopamine activity for certain, but also structural and functional changes that can be related to things like emotion, memory, and general cognition.

Non-neural brain cells referred to as microglia show increased activity in the brains of chronic meth users. Research has found people who previously used meth had double the amount of microglial cells than non-users. These cells, meant for good, protect the brain from infectious agents. However, when the cells are overactive because of being stimulated by meth, they actually start attacking healthy neurons in the brain.

Research that has been done on animals has shown that decision-making is affected, but meth can also prohibit the cognitive acknowledgment that useless habitual activities that are non-productive should be suppressed. For example, someone who chronically uses meth may know that using meth is affecting them negatively, but they continue to use the drug because it is a habitual behavior.

Paired with the fact that dopamine transporters are affected by meth, the inability to suppress habitual behaviors makes meth one of the hardest drugs to stop using without professional addiction treatment center programs. The urge to use can be so strong that many people who wish to stop using meth will make many failed attempts to stop before they seek help.

How Meth Addiction Treatment Can Help

It is common for people to enter a meth detox center and expect that once the drug leaves their system, their symptoms will subside. While prolonged abstinence will definitely help negate some of the negative psychological symptoms, it is important for people entering treatment to understand true recovery can be a time-consuming process that requires diligent rehabilitation efforts.

The good news, many effects of meth on the brain reverse. For instance, microglial cell levels returned almost to normal in prior meth users after two years. Most biochemical markers related to viability and nerve functions also seem to return to normal after about a year. Studies limit themselves to the brain functions of someone who previously used meth after several years of abstinence. As a result of the study, some changes appear incredibly long-lasting, if not irreversible.

Meth addiction treatment can include a combination of psychotherapies and medications, including:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Dialectical behavior therapy
  • Motivational Interviewing
  • Intensive outpatient programs
  • Group therapy

It’s crucial to seek out a rehab center that has experience with treating meth addiction. While the effects of meth on the brain can be long-lasting, recovery is possible.

Reach Out to Promises Behavioral Health for Help

Once you understand how meth affects the brain, you may be even more determined to make a change. Promises Behavioral Health is here to help. We provide comprehensive addiction treatment and mental health services in our centers. Through care that is customized to you, we will help you or your loved one learn how to recover from meth addiction. Reach out today at 844.875.5609 or reach out online to get started.

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