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November 16, 2016
By Susan Callahan, Contributing Columnist
Methamphetamine, or meth, is a powerful substance. Some say no one
should try it, not even once, since the potential for addiction is so high.
Meth affects the central nervous system, making users more talkative
and active, with a decreased appetite and experiencing a euphoric high.
Meth is so addictive as a major stimulant because large amounts of the
drug get into the brain, and therefore there is widespread risk of abuse.
The root of meth, amphetamine, was first synthesized as early as 1887
and meth was “discovered” in the early 1900s. Until 1971 the drug was
widely used as a treatment for all kinds of disorders, until it passed into
the restrictive category of drug control. It is highly addictive. Kicking
the meth habit is notoriously tough. But it is not impossible. And some
surprising habits can actually help.
What Does Meth Do To The Body?
When meth enters the body it boosts the transmission of dopamine and
the rush of this brain chemical gives the user a sense of euphoria
shortly after taking the drug. As people continually take the drug,
dopamine builds up in the brain. Long-term use actually changes the
way the brain functions, compromising motor skills and verbal learning,
and affecting emotional learning skills.
Meth in Figures
According to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health
(NSDUH), around 1.2 million people said they used the drug in that
year, and the average age of the new user was 19.7 years old. The
drug accounted for around 103,000 ED visits in 2011, according to the
Drug Abuse Warning Network. The Treatment Episode Data Set shows
that the majority of people admitted or admitting themselves to
addiction treatment were men (53 percent), and about two thirds were
Not every person who uses meth will become addicted. But as a person
repeatedly uses meth, the rate of addiction soars.
Facts About Meth Addiction
The actual rate of relapse is uncertain but some statistics show that 93
percent of people in treatment for meth addiction end up taking the
drug, or switch to a different drug that has similar effects on the body,
according to Health Research Funding. It can take up to a year without
meth for users to regain control over some functions in the brain such
as impulse control and focus. It is difficult to treat meth addiction
because of the cravings that only subside after a substantial amount of
Meth addiction is tough to treat without therapy or professional
assistance. Experts say that the chances of a meth recovery taking
place without any form of therapy or help are just 3 percent.
We looked at scientific research into meth addiction treatment to find
the unusual habits that can help users kick this serious drug problem.
1. Swimming Can Help Reduce Difficulty of Meth Withdrawal
It seems that swimming can help to reduce the severity of both physical
and psychological dependence on meth, making it easier to carry
through with the withdrawal process, according to experts.
A 2015 study from the University of Semnan in Iran looked at the effect
of swimming exercise on morphine dependent rats. The exercising rats
were allowed to swim for 45 minutes a day, five days a week, for 14 or
21 days as they went through the morphine dependence and
Results of the study show that withdrawal signs were decreased in the
rats that swam during recovery and that voluntary consumption of
morphine was lower.
2. Behavioral Flexibility Helps Improve Ability to Resist Meth
A 2016 study from the University of Poitiers, France shows that pre-
drug levels of behavioral flexibility help to reduce the impact of meth on
The researchers looked at rats and found that “behavioral flexibility is
correlated with METH self-administration and that more flexible rats
take less METH and do not escalate drug taking.
These results suggest that traits of behavioral flexibility may protect
against the development of excessive and dysregulated drug taking.”
On the other hand, those that cannot adapt their behavioral responses
effectively in response to environmental changes have a higher risk of
developing addiction to meth.
3. A New Vaccine Could Help Treat Meth Addiction
Scientists have tested a meth vaccine on rats that shows promise as the
first medical treatment for people with meth addiction. A 2012 study
from The Scripps Research Institute shows that it was possible to give
meth to animals who had been vaccinated, without seeing any signs of
meth intoxication in them.
New vaccines for drug addiction evoke antibodies against drug
molecules in the same way as conventional vaccines create an antibody
reaction against bacteria and viruses.
The vaccine effectively stops drug molecules from getting into the
brain. However, the drug has a simple structure, which makes it difficult
to target with a vaccine. Scientists have been successful with mice
testing and are developing the drug for success with rats.
4. Erasing Drug Memories Prevents Meth Relapse
Meth addicts often relapse since addiction memories can resurface
months or even years after drug-free living.
But scientists think they now have found an approach that helps. The
new approach targets a certain protein in your brain in charge of
memories. A 2015 study from The Scripps Research Institute has
discovered a technique that helps erase dangerous drug-associated
memories in the body, thus aiding in recovery from addiction.
Scientists say they can potentially erase drug memories while leaving
other memories intact.
In the past, targeting the protein that supports memories in the brain
resulted in death since the protein is critically important throughout the
But researchers now believe they have found a way to selectively
target the protein without disrupting the rest of the body.
5. Workouts Can Reduce the Rate of Meth Relapse During Withdrawal
Researchers at The Scripps Research Institute (2014) discovered that
even brief workouts can cut the risk of relapse in meth-addicted rats
who are withdrawing from the drug.
The scientists found that exercise targeted neurons in a new brain
region that had never before been linked with meth withdrawal, which
highlights exercise’s potential as a meth treatment.
Scientists said there was no correlation between length of workout and
risk of relapse.
The experiment looked at two groups of rats, one with access to a
running wheel during withdrawal and one without access. The rats
given access to running wheels showed a reduction in drug-seeking
6. Your Gender May Help Your Meth Addiction Recovery – Or Hinder It
A 2013 study from the UCLA Center for Behavioral and Addiction
Medicine shows that girls are more likely to continue using meth during
treatment than boys, leading experts to seek new strategies for
treating meth abuse in teen girls.
Adult women were also found to be more susceptible to meth than
adult men. The trial looked at 19 teens with meth addiction.
7. People Who Take More Risks are More Likely to Relapse
A 2016 study from Kurdistan University of Medical Sciences, Sanandaj,
Iran looks at the link between risk-taking and relapse in meth users.
Participants in the study undertook an assessment measuring their risk-
taking level and the researchers found that patients with higher risk-
taking behavior had a more probability of relapse. Also, unmarried
status, unemployment, addiction family history and criminal offense
increased the rate of relapse.
This suggests that meth addiction treatment could be more successful if
tailored to individuals rather than administered across the board.
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|Swimming helps reduce meth addiction