Drug Addicition: Meth (cont.)

MEMBER QUESTION:
Are women or men more prone to be meth users? Is there even a bias with meth?

ROSENKER:
Absolutely not. One thing about addiction is it never has any bias.

MODERATOR:
What affect does meth have on parenting?

ROSENKER:
It's not parenting, per se, that's the problem. When an addict gets into the late stages of addiction, when everything begins to deteriorate and the drug is the number one motivation -- nothing is more important than that drug - not job, school, kids, spouse -- nothing. The addict is willing to give up any of those things to continue the use.

The reason whey we see it more frequently in meth and heroin users is the high level of addictiveness of those drugs. They enter late-stage addiction rapidly and in a short period of time, unlike many traditional alcoholics that can be drinking for years before we see late-addiction consequences. In comparison, the adult alcoholic loses the job and the family as a last resort after many years of drinking. The meth user can lose those things in a short period of time, such as months or weeks.

The second part of the question is -- can they ever be good parents? Absolutely -- in recovery. As far as recovery for meth users -- traditional, short-term treatment that works for traditional drug users does not work for meth users. It needs to be longer term and more intensive.

MEMBER QUESTION:
I work as a nurse in corrections and see a multitude of inmates that have been using meth. What are common withdrawal symptoms and what can be done to help with them?

ROSENKER:
Common withdrawal symptoms are extreme agitation, paranoia, sweating, nausea and muscle cramping, not to mention the physical damage in and of itself to teeth, skin, and other parts of the body.

It's a painful withdrawal, but can be helped with some medications that can be used for pain management short term to help with some of the initial pain.

What is most concerning in the early stages of recovery for meth users and withdrawal is their desire to use and get high is extremely, and I can't overemphasize it, extremely intensive , unlike many other drugs we've seen. Despite all the other negative consequences they are experiencing, their desire to want to continue to get high is not dissipated at all. They also experience a clenching of the teeth and grinding of the teeth during withdrawal and months or so of recovery, which again is part of the withdrawal from the amphetamine.

Lastly, difficulty sleeping. As if all of that wasn't enough!

MEMBER QUESTION:
How long can withdrawal symptoms last?

ROSENKER:
The intensive initial physical withdrawal will typically last approximately up to two weeks. The minor physical withdrawal - the difficulty sleeping, the teeth clenching, recovery from some skin irritations and some other things can last 30 to 60 days, if not longer, depending on the amount of abuse and time they've used.

Psychological withdrawal, although you can compare it to other addictions, they will always want to get high during some points of their recovery. Meth addicts are preoccupied more frequently about getting high throughout the day for many days after they're drug free, which again makes the short-term traditional 30-day treatment ineffective for meth users.

MEMBER QUESTION:
When I quit it was because I was pregnant. I just stopped like that. Why was it so easy? I could never have stopped before, it was too hard. That fact makes me scared I will start using once the baby is born.

ROSENKER:
You're probably right. It's one of those things that if we could explain it we could fix the whole addictive cycle. Some people who are addicted can stop a particular chemical by saying I'm done, usually for a reason such as pregnancy, job interview or for whatever the reason may be. Unfortunately, it's invariably short term.

It is also not uncommon to hear that you stopped your meth use while pregnant -- it's a similar story I've heard with alcoholics and heroin users -- they've stopped while they are pregnant and started again after the baby is born. What it unfortunately reinforces to them, and wrongly so, is that they were in control.

Typically when they start using again, it's as if, physiologically and psychologically, they've been using the whole time. They essentially pick up where they left off, it takes less for them to get high and the deterioration is much faster.

MODERATOR:
What could someone like this member do to reinforce abstinence?

ROSENKER:
Without a doubt, you can reinforce abstinence by getting involved in a narcotics, alcoholics or self-help type group that will help you with your recovery. Doing it alone and kind of bearing it through is not going to be effective.

MEMBER:
I was a heavy meth user during college and haven't used in 11 years. I had major audio hallucinations for 10 months after quitting. I needed meds and everything! I quit with help through a rehab, doctors and a 12-step program. Get help through a recovery program.

ROSENKER:
I couldn't agree more on what you're saying. The only way to recover from meth use and addiction is through tons of support, whether it be family, self-help, physicians, rehab programs or a combination thereof; it's the only way to get into recovery from meth addiction. This is one drug you typically cannot go cold turkey from and not use again.

"What I've not seen effective thus far with meth addicts in treatment is the traditional outpatient. Residential treatment appears to be the best and most effective for meth addicts."