Ice or Methamphetamine is the Rocky Balboa of the contemporary drug world and something you really don’t want to go up against single handed. This substance is a highly potent stimulant that jabs with unmitigated speed and releases approximately 1250 units of dopamine, a ‘feel good’ chemical neurotransmitter, into the user’s brain. Compare this, if you will with cocaine’s feeble 400 units or the simply puny 200 units released during the natural act of sexual intercourse and you have some sort of idea of the extreme clout of this heavyweight.

Obviously, this chemical prowess makes Ice one of the most addictive drugs currently available in the world. The flip side of this musclebound compound is that it damages the neurons in the brain resulting in a rapid decline in the user’s ability to feel pleasure without it. In fact, after many years of abuse and in the worst case scenarios, this can actually cause irreversible damage to the dopamine and serotonin centres, meaning that the addict is incapable of feeling pleasure naturally ever again. Terrifying really, but these scary facts really will never stop the addict from using. Powerlessness, cravings and denial weave a confounding spell of around the mind of the addict because, whatever the drug, addiction is a chronic and progressive disease of the brain. Each different substance, of course, has its own specific arsenal of killer shots.

The almost unbearable cravings that result from physical and physiological dependence on Ice are really just the first reason why seeking residential care is a really good idea. This is actually the thing that tips a lot of addicts into the outstretched arms of treatment as they discover that they cannot stop using in their own. The whole business of craving a drug is a complex one. A recent scientific report from the University of Vienna led by Monika Seltenhammer has shown that the protein (which in the case of addicts morphs from FosB to DeltaFosB and is thought to be responsible for the phenomenon of craving) in the brain called DeltaFosB was still detectable nine days after death. The researchers are assuming that this period would be much longer in live subjects, probably even months, leading them to conclude that substantial and ongoing support is needed for addicts to stop using, way beyond just detoxing. Stopping any drug is a pretty petrifying business and one which can be surrounded with a warzone of negative thinking all emanating out from the kernel of FEAR.

There are a bevy of unique individual factors that come into play concerning both detox and ongoing recovery, including but not limited to: the age of the addict, their biological make up, tolerance, length of use, method of use, health problems and abuse suffered both before and during their addiction. However, when explaining why residential drug and alcohol treatment is really particularly effective in the case of this specific drug, it is particularly useful to understand what the experts deem the 5 Stages of Meth withdrawal.

Furthermore, it is important to recognise that it takes an outrageous length of time – potentially up to 2 years – for the meth-head’s brain to completely re-establish normal levels of dopamine and serotonin. And the best head start that you can get on this long road to recovery is provided by the support, education and routine of residential treatment program. Here you can be immersed in the process of recovery and build a solid foundation upon which to base the rest of your life unhindered by the triggers of your usual environment.

Stage 1: Withdrawal (0-15 days)

Meth users often require a short medicated detox and this is much more easily and safely facilitated with a medical team on hand to monitor the situation. The first two weeks of meth withdrawal are frequently referred to as the ‘eat, sleep, drink period’, three things the user has probably not been doing much of while they have been wired to the max fighting it out in the boxing ring of active addiction. During this time it is totally normal to feel physically exhausted, experience bouts of nausea and be troubled by prolific cravings. Mentally this is a challenging time too because the addict can feel jumbled, confused and unable to really function, so being surrounded by people who know what you are going through is of infinite value. Understandably, this couple of weeks sees the addict at their most vulnerable but at the end of a detox, the sounding of the bell rings only to signal the end of the initial round of recovery. And ironically, it is more about surrender than about the deftness of your moves.

Stage 2: The Pink Cloud (16-45 days)

Some people get over this initial detox stage and feel incredible, utterly untouchable and like they have been totally reborn. You would think that this is a pretty sweet scenario but actually this can be just as treacherous as feeling beaten to within an inch of your life because it’s simply far from the truth. Forgetting how bad it was out there using is really perilous at this point. Addicts need to be grounded and there is nothing that succeeds in doing this quite like being involved with a therapeutic community. Having advertised this period as often characterised by feelings of elation, by the same token feelings of loneliness and boredom can also feature prominently. Again the company and support provided by a fellow recovering people and the input of an expert team can really be extraordinarily beneficial here. Added to that it probably takes about 16-45 days, (depending on the individual) for the addict to be able to participate fully in any program of recovery.

Stage 3: Treading Water (6weeks – 4 months)

This is a really slippery period in which many addicts falter. Relapse is a real possibility despite having some time away from the vigorous exertions of using. Possibly it is exactly this which is the problem, living as a using meth-head by default means existing in a world powered by a potent stimulant which is chaotic, frantic and frenetic. Missing this is part of the process and at this stage of recovery many addicts experience a protracted period of grief, boredom and pessimism. During this time you are really learning to live without that heightened stimulation and a scheduled program of recovery is truly valuable. This is where you learn to establish and consolidate healthy routines which is always easier without distraction especially as concentrating on anything at all is hugely challenging in these early days.

Stage 4: Consolidation (4months – 6months)

During this period the body and brain are well on their way to healing and there are fewer cravings and more balance in your day to day life. At this time you are really starting to develop a new sense of self that is not strangled by the constrictions of the disease and who you were as a champion addict. A whole range of emotions are becoming apparent and learning how to deal with these can be really challenging. Frequently, this is the time when the reasons why you used begin to come into technicolour focus. This is also an exciting stage where life is happening and new opportunities, new jobs, education and goals are starting to open up. A good treatment program will have helped prepare you for the challenges that you are going to face and helped you to recognise and deal with difficult emotions. This is a time where you need to keep plugged into a good after-care and support system because you are not out of the woods yet.

Stage 5: Maintenance (6 – 12 months)

Recovery, from any substance, from meth to alcohol requires maintenance and this means ongoing effort. Residential rehab provides an immeasurable head start to those recovering from the disease of addiction and although this final stage is labelled ‘maintenance’ and given an estimated time of between 6months and 1 year, this is really a stage which can last a lifetime.

In the case of meth, it’s so important to remember that the brain takes a considerable length of time to heal properly. Keeping up with therapy, support groups and keeping doing the things that you did to get to this point is vital.  It is probable that your path into addiction took a little while so it’s likely to take some time and effort to truly walk free, however, far in the murky past those sessions in the ring with Rocky Balboa feel.

So if it’s time for you to hang up your gloves and seek recovery call one of our experts at the Hader Clinic today to find out more about how we can help.