The Craziness of the Crystal
Over the recent past, most rehabs in South Africa, have seen an exponential growth in the number of clients who present with paranoid thoughts and behaviour as a result of the abuse of Crystal Meth as it is commonly called.
Where did it originate.
“Methamphetamine is a man-made stimulant that’s been around for a long time. During World War II, soldiers were given meth to keep them awake. People have also taken the drug to lose weight and ease depression.” It has also been used for the treatment of obesity and in the treatment of ADHD. Today, the only legal meth product is a tablet for treating obesity and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Crystal meth is made with the ingredient pseudoephedrine, which is found in many flu and cold remedies.
It was mainly produced in labs in Mexico however many small labs appear to have sprung up in South Africa. The ingredients are usually variable-depending on that is cheap and accessible at the time, therefore the user never quite knows what they are getting. There is some indication from users that it is laced with what they refer to as “spiritual stuff” (muti).
What Are the Effects?
- Meth can make a user’s body temperature rise so high they could pass out or even die.
- A user may feel anxious and confused, be unable to sleep, have mood swings, and become violent.
- A user may age quickly. His/her skin may dull, and he/she can develop hard-to-heal sores and pimples. They may have a dry mouth and stained, broken, or rotting teeth (meth mouth).
- They may also become paranoid and hear and see things that aren’t there.
It is this last point that seems to be the most prevalent and most concerning for rehab and addiction practitioners. An almost entrenched paranoia that seems to last for many months even though the toxic effects of the methamphetamine should, theoretically, no longer be present in the body
The link between crystal meth use and symptoms of paranoia is well known and well documented in the relevant literature. The real concern for practitioners in the rehab field is being able to differentiate what is crystal meth induced paranoia and what is possibly a psychiatric disorder such as schizophrenia or even bipolar mood disorder.
Several research groups, especially in Japan, have successfully studied methamphetamine-induced paranoia. These studies are well respected as the Japanese methamphetamine subculture is characterised by single use drug users as poly-drug (multiple substances) use has been uncommon. The results showed that a small percentage of meth users suffer from entrenched paranoia after at least 6 months of sobriety but there were a number of cases where even though people had been clean for many years there were still signs of paranoid delusions unrelated to a more severe psychiatric disorder.
Meth-induced psychosis sometimes presents in a similar way to paranoid schizophrenia and research has shown that at least 60 percent of people who use meth experience psychotic symptoms and syndromes.
What are the major signs of meth induced psychosis?
- paranoia, and sometimes
- violent behaviour.
It is extremely difficult to differentiate hallucinations from what is real.
Prior to developing psychosis, a person who uses meth, may encounter a pre-psychotic state that is marked by delusional moods and ideas of reference or believing that everyday events have great personal significance. Delusions and hallucinations accompany full-blown psychosis.
People who are dependent on meth, who use high doses, who experienced childhood trauma, and/or who start taking the drug at a young age have an increased risk of having psychotic symptoms. The sleep deprivation that often accompanies meth use may aggravate these symptoms as well.
Other warning signs of crystal meth psychosis
- Meth delusions: A person has strange, unrealistic, and/or false beliefs.
- Meth hallucinations: Auditory, visual, or tactile hallucinations make a person hear, see, or feel things that don’t exist.
- Meth paranoia: A person becomes extremely suspicious of those around them and may even believe that people are out to get them.
This can result in very strained relationships with their fellow people in the recovery centre.
How long can these signs remain?
It is usually dependent on the physical characteristics of the individual as well as their level of mental health, and severity of drug use.
Meth psychosis may last several hours, and on average, a person typically recovers from it in one week. However, psychosis sometimes lasts for months and even years after a person stops using. Spontaneous flashback psychotic episodes may also be triggered by stress or by using the drug again.
The Treatment processes
Individuals experiencing meth psychosis may need some form of stabilisation in specialised health care facilities before coming to rehab.
At Crossroads we apply the combination of the 12-step programme as well as the traditional Crossroads treatment methodology, which involves group therapy, family support and individual counselling .
Individuals with a dual diagnosis and co-occurring mental health disorders, such as schizophrenia, may be better served in an inpatient or residential treatment program until they are stable.
Stories of Recovery
- The encouragement, love and support from the team at Crossroads allowed me to eventually see that I was worth something - that my life could be turned around and that I could accomplish the things that had long been a forgotten dream.Oliver VGRead more
- On the last day of my stint at Crossroads I could only express gratitude towards all who works there. A wise councillor once commented on my question when one is ready for rehab by explaining that when one is ready for rehab, rehab is ready for you.Johan BRead more
- I was lost and my soul was broken until I ended up at Crossroads and was introduced to the Twelve Steps. With the help of their excellent staff and amazing support I have recently been clean for 18 months, I could not have done it without them!Carla SRead more
- "Just for today I am more than three years in recovery. I have Cross Roads to thank for this wonderful gift. Cross Roads helped me to set a firm foundation in my recovery on which I can continue to build."Angelique JRead more