Candace has published “The Warning signs of Meth Addiction” and Spoke up about her addiction to methamphetamine and journey into recovery. She now gives you a full path through the mental health effects surrounded in early methamphetamine addiction recovery.
“Currently, there is an estimated 1.4 million people in the U.S. using methamphetamine, and the number is rapidly increasing. Meth gives its users a boost in energy and confidence as well as a false sense of happiness. The United Nations reports that it is now the most abused hard drug in the world, surpassing the combined total of cocaine and heroin users, according to acadianaaddiction.com.
In honor of Mental Health Awareness month, I would like to share some things about the psychological effects meth addicts suffer from before, during, and after recovery. Many individuals with addictions may have undertreated or undiagnosed mental illnesses. Many addicts attempt to self-medicate the mental illness’s underlying causes.
Some of these illnesses may include:
Antisocial Personality Disorder
I feel the most difficult struggle of a recovering meth addict is the psychological side effects that linger long after detox and well into the first several months of recovery. The long-term effects include: paranoia, hallucinations, repetitive motor activity, and psychosis. Nearly one year into meth recovery, I still suffer with fleeting paranoid thoughts and repetitive motor activity.
While I was in addictive addiction, paranoid psychosis totally prevented me from maintaining a job, establishing meaningful relationships, and anything else that required me to be in a social setting. I began to think each and every person I came in contact with was part of great conspiracy to get me busted and sent to prison or sent off to treatment. I found a way to link everything together, even down to the commercials on TV and the cars in parking lots.
I was always being followed. I spent a lot of time writing down license plate numbers along with the make and model of vehicles. I thought any SUV with tinted windows belonged to Federal or undercover narcotic agents. I even went as far to take pictures of the vehicles. I came to a point I could no longer tell the difference between my paranoia and the real world. Reality no longer existed for me.
I rotated cell phones every few weeks and alternated phone numbers every month. I constantly changed passwords and privacy settings on my social media accounts. It was not uncommon for me to disassemble a phone and discard the pieces in various locations.
My mind connected every aspect of my present situation to something or someone from my past.
Music had hidden messages; the motel rooms I often occupied were tapped, hacked, or bugged… Yes, even the cable box and hairdryer. My life was one big conspiracy theory. Everyone had a vendetta against me. I trusted no one not even family and childhood friends. My brain was functioning similar to that of an acute paranoid schizophrenic.
As I talk about this today, these things seem so far-fetched, almost comical. Fear dominated and controlled my life. This was my nightmare, but I would not wake from it until a few weeks after I got to treatment. These were all just false perceptions of reality created through my bizarre thought disorder.
Methamphetamine reduces the binding of dopamine-to-dopamine transporters in the brain area that is important for memory and movement. Essentially, the brain gets drained of dopamine, making it difficult for recovering addicts to find fun and pleasure in activities they once enjoyed.
The temporal lobe, where language and long-term memory are stored, suffers the most damage. In addition to memory loss, the inability to grasp abstract thoughts is also a problem. The brain damage is similar to Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, and epilepsy. Recovering addicts often find themselves subject to extreme mood swings and gaps in their memories.
The good news is that studies show damaged receptors and transmitters in the brain start to regrow within six to twelve months of complete abstinence from the drug, and after twelve to eighteen months, dopamine levels began to increase as well as dopamine activity. The cells in the brain eventually start communicating again. They find new connections, new paths. When the transmitters begin to work again, the dopamine levels begin to rise. When dopamine levels rise, feelings of happiness and pleasure return.
For those of us in meth recovery, patience is the key. It is a difficult addiction to treat, but many of these negative effects began to heal with time. New skills are learned along with self-esteem and self-confidence rebuilding. Not all of us heal at the same rate. Again, it takes time to rewire and change the brain. The longer we remain drug free, the more likely we are to recover our important brain functions.
I’m approaching my one-year mark of being drug free. I can say much of the mood swings, depression, paranoia, and anxiety have almost dissipated. I’ve learned how to quickly dismiss any paranoid thoughts by surrounding myself with a good support system of family and friends I can trust.
Reading and writing has helped me learn how to focus again. Word and puzzle games have helped me learn to strengthen my memory. As for my patience in this healing process… well, patience has never been a virtue of mine. And like many addicts, I looked for instant gratification from substances, people, and relationships.
Today, I find gratification in the smiles of my boys, celebrating small victories in sobriety, and making new clean and sober friends.”
Your story matters. If interested in sharing what you know might help in this battle please email me at SubstanceForYou@gmail.com !
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