Addiction and Recovery

Less than half an hour after I smoked the dope, it kicked in. I had more energy than ever before. My life was suddenly perfect, and I was perfect. I didn't want it to end. I stayed up for seven days. Every half an hour, we'd smoke more to keep up the high. I didn't eat (the dope made food taste like cardboard). Occasionally, someone would drop me off at my house so I could shower and change. My dad freaked out when he saw me. I was enjoying myself too much to care.

Soon I was snorting dope every day. My grades dropped from Bs and Cs to Fs, then I stopped going to school altogether. I eventually got kicked out, but I didn't care. My parents, however, were really upset. My dad and I never used to fight; now all we did was scream at each other. It was the first time I'd ever seen my dad cry.

In December 2004, I got arrested—not for being high (which I was), but for shoplifting at Wal-Mart. That's when my dad told the authorities I needed help. The judge sentenced me to 50 days at a treatment facility.

In rehab, I learned how to deal with my problems. I was really angry before I started using, and meth only made it worse. But I discovered I have a lot of potential, and I don't need meth anymore. My parents and counselor told me they had faith in me to be strong. Four days after returning home, I ran into some friends who asked if I wanted to get high. I was proud of myself for saying no. I get tempted, but now I say, "It's not for me."


Drug addiction is characterized as a compulsive craving for a drug, a need for ever-increasing quantities of that drug, withdrawal symptoms if a drug is not used regularly, and continuation of drug use regardless of negative circumstances or consequences. Addiction is referred to as a disease.16

The word addiction comes from the Latin addicere, meaning "to give oneself up." Meth addicts cannot say no to taking the drug, even when they recognize there are negative consequences to continuing the drug, such as failing school, losing the trust and respect of a parent or best friend, having a criminal record, or becoming anorexic or chronically sick. For example, cigarette smokers who have chronic bronchitis, yet continue to smoke, are addicted to tobacco. Addicts are usually in denial to the extent of their drug abuse, and often are blinded to the risks and consequences of using meth even when everyone around them can see its destructive force.27

An important characteristic of addiction is tolerance—a frequent need for ever-increasing quantities of meth to maintain the same effects as when the drug use first began. Another defining trait of addiction is having withdrawal symptoms, including cravings. Cravings are a daily symptom of meth addiction because, as discussed, the brain soon craves the drug to supply it with dopamine. These brain cravings cause the meth addict to feel extremely uncomfortable, agitated, unhappy, and hopeless until the next meth high is experienced. Cravings cause the meth addict to have an intense preoccupation with getting and using meth at the expense of any other activity such as school, jobs, friendships, and personal hygiene.27

Withdrawal from meth produces the opposite of its stimulating effects. This compounds the unpleasant feelings associated with cravings. Stimulation, strength, and alertness become sluggishness, fatigue, and apathy. Focus and euphoria become disorientation and extreme depression. Without meth, the addict is voraciously hungry, falls into a coma-like sleep, and experiences chills, tremors, and muscle pains.2, 7 9

These physical effects that result from tolerance, cravings, and withdrawal in the body are caused by changes in a meth abuser's brain chemistry, and are the hallmark of drug addiction.


In the last 15 years, meth use and abuse has spread to all areas of the country. Even though teen meth use has decreased over the past few years, the overall number of people of all ages who use meth keeps rising each year.

One of the most reliable indicators for measuring this increase in meth abuse is data collected on those admitted to national drug treatment programs for meth addiction.11 This information is analyzed by the Drug and Alcohol Services Information System (DASIS) and is called the Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS).40 These programs operate under the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the same group that runs the National Surveys on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).

The 2004 TEDS report (the most recent data) provides a variety of information about the 1.9 million people who checked in for drug addiction treatment in 2004. Demographics, including geographic location, age, and gender, along with the types of drugs mentioned as the primary source of the addiction, are examples of the data collected. Most drug users are multiple drug users, so they are asked about the primary drug for which they are seeking addiction treatment.40

Teens can enter a drug rehabilitation program in a variety of ways. A teen can "self-refer" on his or her own behalf. Or, a teen can enter a program via intervention by parents, a school, social service agency, temple or church, substance abuse or health care provider, or the criminal justice system.40

Data collected from TEDS indicates that the criminal justice system refers the greatest number of people to substance abuse treatment facilities. Justice system referrals, as defined by TEDS, include any referral from a police official, judge, prosecutor, probation officer, or other person affiliated with the judicial system. They also include court referrals for driving under the influence of drugs as well as referrals to treatment in lieu of prosecution of a drug offense.

TEDS reports that between 1993 and 2003, the criminal justice system admitted more 12- to 17-year-olds to treatment programs than any other age group or any other route of referral to drug treatment programs (52 percent in 2003 versus 38 percent in 1993). It is unclear whether this means more teen meth abusers needed treatment or if heightened focus on meth resulted in increased arrests.40

TEDS data from the past 15 years illustrate the spread of meth across the United States. The data show both an increase in admissions for meth as well as an increase in the number of states with meth admissions. Methamphetamine and amphetamines are grouped as stimulants in the data.40

* In 2004, five drugs made up the overwhelming percentage (95 percent) of all TEDS admissions. These drugs were alcohol (40 percent), opiates (18 percent; primarily heroin), marijuana/hashish (16 percent), cocaine (14 percent), and stimulants (8 percent).

* The proportion of admissions (all ages) for methamphet-amine/amphetamine abuse increased from 3 percent to

8 percent between 1994 and 2004.

* Methamphetamine makes up the majority of stimulant admissions for treatment of addiction (86 percent).

* Although in recent years the actual number of teen meth users has decreased, the percentage of youth (12- to 17-year-olds) admitted for stimulant addiction rose from 6 to

9 percent between 1993 and 2003. This piece of information is one of the main reasons why communities and lawmakers are saying that meth use is an urgent and pressing issue.

* The increasing numbers of meth abuse admissions in every state in the country illustrates the spread of meth across the nation. Between 1993 and 2003, methamphet-amine/amphetamine abuse admissions increased from 13 admissions out of 100,000 admissions to 56 per 100,000 of those aged 12 or older.

* In 2003, 18 states far exceeded the national average of methamphetamine/amphetamine admissions. Ten of these states were in the West, six in the Midwest, and two were in the South. None were in the Northeast. This data pinpoints the intensity of meth use and its geographic spread across the country.


Teenagers at risk for developing an abusive relationship with methamphetamine can include those who:

* Live with family conflict and discord. Adolescents whose parents are often in conflict, frequently absent, or inconsistent in setting boundaries and guidance are more likely to use illegal drugs. Teens may use meth to cope with family stress, low self-esteem, depression, anger, and anxiety.39

* Do not fit in with peers. Some adolescents, particularly those girls who physically mature sooner than others, may feel out of place. Cognitive differences—from those teens with attention deficit syndrome to those with extraordinary intelligence—can put some distance between students and their contemporaries. Those excluded from the mainstream may find that drug use means ready acceptance among a cluster of new friends.39

* Want to lose weight. Teen girls are especially susceptible to using meth as they are confronted with unrealistically thin body images (often supported by television and Hollywood). The addictive brain cravings can lead a teen unwittingly into anorexia.1

* Are bored or have witnessed the sale of drugs in their neighborhood or school.38

* Associate with drug-using friends. As discussed earlier, peer influence is one of the strongest factors in predicting meth use among teens.16, 39


Positive reinforcement occurs when a teen receives a pleasurable sensation from using meth and is motivated to use methamphetamine again to achieve the same pleasurable experience. The intensity of the pleasure that a drug delivers to the user is also a reinforcer of the experience. The more the drug experience is pleasurable, the more the user's experience is reinforcing, and therefore the higher the drug's potential for addiction.34

Negative experiences are equally as reinforcing as good drug-taking experiences. Some teens experience meth's effects as unpleasant. Although many love the roller coaster highs of meth, others do not, and find meth's racing heart, anxiety, and jitteriness so uncomfortable that they never use it again.16

Those teens that enjoy meth's roller coaster ride also quickly understand that the aftereffects of meth's lows are as intense as meth's euphoric highs. Coming down from a meth high can be a very negative experience, replete with depression, fatigue, digestive problems, and body pain. This reinforces the drug-taking behavior, as meth users take more meth to escape these negative experiences.7, 9

Achieving pleasant or euphoric moods is clearly a perceived effect of methamphetamine use. But it is equally important to recognize that avoiding unpleasant moods or situations can be another important motivator, and therefore is another dimension of reinforcement. Both experiences—pleasure or avoidance of pain or sadness—can lead the teen meth user toward addiction. In fact, researchers believe that teens who use meth to seek relief from emotional pains such as anger, depression, or family/school problems are experiencing even stronger reinforcement for repeated meth use than those motivated by a desire for euphoria.16

Certain routes of exposure to a drug are more reinforcing than others. Because smoking and injecting meth produces a high within seconds, its pleasurable effects are more reinforcing than eating or snorting the drug.


Prevention of drug abuse is easier, more cost-effective, and preferable to treatment for drug abuse. The earlier a possible drug dependency or strong probability of drug use is identified, the better the chance of correcting it. For example, by

Continue reading here: Addiction A Strange Sort Of Magic

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