Methamphetamine abuse floods the brain with an incredibly intense experience. The user may feel more energetic, confident, and focused than is possible under any other substance. However, this is followed by a severe crash characterized by hopelessness and depression.
The extremely intense highs and lows of meth use can make it one of the most difficult addictions to recover from. The brain’s pleasure centers are activated by neurotransmitters, or chemical signals. They can be produced naturally through enjoyable activities, or through physical exercise.
Most drugs flood the brain with higher levels of neurotransmitters than the body is used to receiving naturally, so that over time, the brain becomes less affected by pleasurable experiences, and things in your life can become less enjoyable, a condition known as anhedonia, or the inability to experience pleasure. Meth floods the brain with levels of these neurotransmitters not seen even in other drugs, so the user in sobriety feels a much stronger anhedonia.
A person in recovery from meth addiction may worry they will never be able to experience any kind of euphoria again. Learning how to have good feelings about the world around you is a difficult journey, but an important part of full recovery.
Dr. James A. Peck is a research psychologist who studies addiction issues. His research doing P.E.T. scans on meth users in various stages of recovery has shown that many users do experience significant recovery two years after discontinuing use.
While the variety of ingredients used in making meth mean that various users may have more permanent brain damage, the truth is that even the most severely abused brains have a remarkable ability to heal. It will take a long time, but eventually you will be able to recapture happiness in your life. A lot of good can come out of simply doing what you need to do to make it through the day, and waiting for things to heal.
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Discontinuing meth is not something that can be entered into lightly, and withdrawal can even be dangerous for some people. That is why it is important to not go “cold turkey,” on your own, but look to help from others. The psychological symptoms of withdrawal can be alleviated through both antidepressant medication and therapy, which can help you develop techniques for raising your dopamine levels back to ones that can help you have pleasurable feelings again.
Like many things, finding pleasure in life after the brain has been damaged through meth use is something that may only come with practice. You may not be motivated to care for yourself at first. For example, exercise may very well not be enjoyable to you at all. Yet, if you keep going at it, it will take you to a place where you want to be. Simply keep going, keep exercising, and keep working on trying to find things in your life to be grateful for.You may be surprised by what a difference it makes in the long-term.
It can be compared to someone who has grown used to eating only extremely spicy foods, to the point that normal food as become too bland. It will take a significant amount of time before this eater will be able to taste more subtle flavors, but the palate will adjust. You will find a way to take pleasure in what is real, and in front of you. It make take several months, or even a couple years for the cells in your brain to restore to a point they can receive normal doses neurotransmitters again. But that is a goal that you get closer to with every day of sobriety.