Meth Addiction Recovery Rate In The United States

Recovery Rate for Addiction to Meth
Meth Addiction Recovery Rate

There are many myths and urban legends surrounding meth addiction, but there are also plenty of harsh realities. Would it surprise you to learn that methamphetamine is more addictive than either cocaine or alcohol, and that the rate of relapse, even among patients who go to rehab, is nearly 90 percent? According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, over 300,000 Americans are habitual meth users. They represent different age groups, social classes, and geographic regions, but the majority of them have the same problem—staying clean. The drug’s powerful effects on the brain, combined with a general lack of education and focus on meth use, mean it’s statistically easier to recover from an addiction to heroin than to meth. How does methamphetamine alter brain chemistry? And what can be done to change the infamously low success rate of those who seek help?

Why Meth is so Addicting

While many drugs, such as cocaine and heroin, fuel addiction by mimicking a neurotransmitter and teaching your brain to crave them, meth is slightly different. Meth actually imitates dopamine and norepinephrine, the pleasure-inducing and alertness-inducing chemicals in the brain. Every time you smoke, snort, or inject methamphetamine, your brain is triggered to release more of these chemicals naturally, until it eventually breaks down and loses the ability to produce them in adequate levels. So in order to feel high and even to stay awake, addicts need more and more meth. This is why a meth user coming off the drug will typically be volatile and may sleep for days at a time. While on the drug, meth users report feelings of confidence, euphoria, invincibility, and increased sexual drive. But meth soon burns up their bodies’ resources until they depend on it to function.

Recovery Rate for Meth Addiction Rehab Patients

The number of meth addicts who remain sober at least three years after treatment hovers at 12 percent. Experts attribute the low number to several factors, including the lack of understanding of how meth addiction rehab is unlike rehab for other drugs, such as cocaine and heroin. Most rehabilitation centers are naturally focused on treating more well-known addictions, and many doctors and counselors still don’t fully understand the way a meth addict’s brain differs from that of other addicts. Unfortunately, the main difference is time. According to researchers at the University of Iowa, meth addiction simply cannot be controlled in under 30 days. Budget cuts and issues with the insurance industry, especially when it comes to adolescent treatment, have cut many recovery programs to 14 days. A single use of methamphetamine can stay in a patient’s system for up to 6 months, and the drug has a greater effect on basic physical and behavioral functions than any other addictive substance. Addicts have a hard time fully recovering because they aren’t being treated long enough.

Access to Treatment

Without the benefit of rehab, the recovery rate for meth addiction drops from 12 percent to merely 5 percent. Nationwide budget cuts have resulted in a loss of jobs and government funding for recovery programs, and it’s becoming more difficult than ever to find affordable care. While reduced and subsidized payment plans were once available for low-income and uninsured patients, these resources are becoming scarce. Though meth is a drug that encompasses all income levels, it’s primarily known for being cheap and accessible, and over 30 percent of meth addicts are living in poverty. Poverty directly contributes to an individual’s risk of addiction on all levels, and their inability to find affordable rehabilitation centers directly contributes to a very low recovery rate. The World Health Organization claims that of the 27 million severe drug addicts worldwide, only 1 in 5 has access to the care they need. This is especially a problem for meth users because they do need longer treatment plans, and their access to sober living facilities and recovery counseling could be the only thing that keeps them clean.

Mental Illness and Meth Addiction

Another serious factor contributing to the recovery rate of meth addicts is the fact that users of this particular drug are more likely to be self-medicating for mental illnesses that either occur or become compounded due to the addiction. A 2013 study by Australian National University said that methamphetamine produces psychotic reactions similar to acute paranoid schizophrenia. They maintain this is important because meth use is highest in those who already have a risk for psychosis, including people with a family history of mental illness and those who have suffered traumatic life events such as abuse. The study focused primarily on long-time meth users – the average length of use for participants was 13 years. These participants had a 60 percent increase in psychotic symptoms coinciding with heavier meth use. Research like this proves that treatment for mental disorders associated with methamphetamine is essential to the recovery of heavy users, and it theorizes that the extremely high likelihood of relapse for a meth addict in recovery could be linked to their inadequate treatment for underlying conditions. The medication and counseling they receive should not only be focused on their drug use, it should be focused on their psychological state. It seems evident today that doctors are still learning about meth addiction, and the study of how to effectively treat patients recovering from this highly addictive drug is still ongoing. But what seems most certain is that access to better, more affordable care is the first thing that would reduce the amount of meth users who relapse. A dedication to treating mental illness and providing in depth counseling to patients would also make a difference in the startling statistics associated with meth addiction recovery rates. There is no typical meth addict. They range from teenage boys to housewives, with every age and income level in between. It may be that the wide-ranging appeal of this drug is part of what makes it so hard to stop. You cannot accurately put a face on meth addiction because it could happen to anyone, which means everyone deserves the right to ask for help.

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