10 Tips for Overcoming Post Meth Depression
Methamphetamine is a highly addictive drug that is not easy to quit. Meth users also frequently suffer co-occurring mental health issues that require dual diagnosis treatment. Some people may have started using drugs to self-medicate pre-existing depression, but meth withdrawal is also notorious for causing depression. In order to achieve long-term health, you need to address your post meth depression through cognitive behavioral therapy, antidepressants, and/or lifestyle changes like improved sleep, good nutrition, and physical activity.
Read on to learn about what causes post meth depression, 10 ways to overcome depressive symptoms, and when and how to find professional treatment.
Why Does Post Meth Depression Occur?
Meth is a stimulant drug that revs up the central nervous system and releases unnatural amounts of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with motivation, reward, and pleasure. Too much dopamine creates a euphoric rush, and when repeated, also causes the brain to react by decreasing the amount of dopamine produced and shutting down a number of dopamine receptors. This creates an ongoing low mood that can only be relieved by increasingly larger doses of meth—or long-term abstinence.
These brain changes can be healed, but it is a slow process that is usually accompanied by ongoing post meth depression, and other symptoms of post-acute withdrawal syndrome, or PAWS. PAWS is experienced by 75% of people recovering from stimulant drug addiction, so if you are in meth addiction recovery, odds are, you will be dealing with fluctuating, ongoing meth withdrawal symptoms such as insomnia, depression, anxiety, and impulsivity.
Post meth depression will last however long it takes your brain to repair the structural changes and chemical imbalances caused by your addiction. Your fluctuating brain chemistry during this time may make you feel on top of the world one day, and down the next. You may experience a constant state of low mood and energy for months or years after initiating meth withdrawal. Protect your health by recognizing that things will get better, and by taking action to improve depressive symptoms and prevent relapse.
10 Ways to Overcome Post Meth Depression
1. Get Enough Sleep
Insomnia is common during meth withdrawal, and sleep deprivation can contribute greatly to depression. Sleep is also the time when your brain does most of its healing, so you need adequate rest to restore your normal brain chemistry and heal post meth depression. Avoid taking sleeping pills, both prescription and over the counter, as these will only slow down your brain’s healing, while also making you vulnerable to developing a new addiction.
The best way to ensure you get enough rest is to develop habits that encourage quality sleep. If you wake up at the same time every day and go to bed as soon as you start feeling tired, you will soon figure out how much sleep you need to be at your best. If you find yourself becoming agitated when you lie down and close your eyes, keep a notebook by your bed and write down your worries and hopes, telling yourself that sleep is the answer.
Try not to eat or smoke right before bed, avoid late-day caffeine, and shut off all screens two hours before bedtime. If you find this too difficult, make sure to sit far back from the television, and switch your phone to a “warm” or “night shift” setting, which will reduce the blue light that keeps your brain on alert. If you still need additional help, try taking a homeopathic sleep medicine or a very low dose of melatonin, but don’t get in the habit of using it nightly.
2. Exercise Regularly
Scientific research has proven that exercise can reduce post meth depression. First off, physical activity improves your health, and better physical health results in improved mood. Furthermore, exercise improves circulation, which will speed your healing process. Exercise also releases dopamine, giving you a small, healthy hit of the same pleasure you once got from drug use, and over time, exercise increases the overall production of both dopamine and serotonin, a neurotransmitter that relieves depression. Regular physical activity also allows you to experience improvements in strength, speed, endurance, and flexibility that increase your sense of self-mastery. Feeling confident in your ability to influence and improve your own life will motivate your meth addiction recovery, and increase your general life satisfaction.
3. Practice Mindfulness Meditation
Meditation and the practice of mindfulness—focusing on the present moment instead of getting carried away by thoughts, emotions, and anxiety—can greatly improve post meth depression symptoms. Mindfulness and meditation are healthy ways to respond to uncomfortable emotional states, helping you avoid the automatic response of drug cravings. You may discover that you take to meditation right away, but most people will need lots of practice to be able to clear their minds. Other people may never get the hang of it—for them, mindfulness training is more appropriate. Pouring as much attention as you can into your breathing, or whatever you’re doing in the moment, whether it’s putting together a piece of furniture or riding a bike, can relieve tension and improve mood. Mindfulness will also help to prevent the negative thought patterns that contribute to depressive symptoms.
4. Monitor Your Diet
Making sure that you eat enough without overeating, and consume nutrient dense foods like whole grains, fruits, nuts, and vegetables, will go a long way towards reducing symptoms of post meth depression. Your body needs quality nutrition and a regular influx of fuel to be able to heal, and fatigue and depression are side effects of a range of different vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Supplements can be helpful, but eating a wide variety of types and colors of fresh, unprocessed foods is the best way to give your body the building blocks it needs. A healthy gut is also essential for happiness. You can fight depression by eating probiotic-rich foods such as kefir, yogurt, and sauerkraut.
5. Spend Time Outside Every Day
There is growing scientific evidence for the mental health benefits of regularly getting out into nature. Exposure to the natural world can lower stress levels, improve concentration, and relieve depression. The calming stimulation of nature is also the perfect antidote for the constant, excessive influx of information, distractions, and stress found in our modern world. If you live in a rural area, getting into nature could be as easy as stepping through your back door. If you live in an urban area, you may need to seek out a planned green space such as a public park or botanical garden. Even the trees and lawns of a suburban neighborhood can be therapeutic, allowing you to step outside your everyday life for a while if you pay attention. Whether you camp out in a national forest, or sit on a bench in a rooftop garden, what’s important is to immerse your senses in some part of the natural world for at least a few minutes every day.
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6. Reach Out to Your Support Network
An important part of meth addiction recovery is creating a positive support network, but you have to reach out to friends and family to actually benefit from that network. Some depressed people isolate themselves, but isolation only makes depressive symptoms worse. Even the most introverted person needs some degree of social interaction for their mental health. Having someone to talk to about your feelings, or just spending time with someone that you care about can do a lot to relieve post meth depression. A hug, a smile, a kind word, and shared laughter aren’t just momentary pleasures, they are individual drops of positivity that will slowly but surely fill up the emptiness that tends to come with depression.
7. Try Supplements
Saffron, magnesium, Sam-E, 5-HTP, St. John’s Wort, folate, and other over-the-counter supplements may be able to reduce your post meth depression. It’s important, however, to do your research and speak to your doctor about the safety of some of these natural depression remedies, especially when it comes to drug interactions. Sam-E, for example, should not be taken with prescription antidepressants, and St. John’s Wort interacts with a wide array of prescription medications, including birth control pills, blood thinners, and chemotherapy drugs. If you are taking any kind of prescription, or have any chronic medical problems, consult your doctor before taking a new supplement.
8. Consider Holistic Therapies
Holistic therapies like acupuncture, massage, yoga, and art and music therapy can be great treatments for post meth depression. Some emotions are difficult to express or process through words. Listening to music, spending time with an animal, or getting a massage can allow you to work through feelings you may not even fully understand. Holistic therapies also foster the healing of the body, mind, and spirit in ways that can’t always be addressed by traditional counseling. Most holistic therapies are ways of coping that you can continue to use after treatment, to sustain your recovery progress and continue to grow in health and happiness.
9. Attend Psychotherapy
Talk therapy may not be the only way to improve mental health, but it is the foundation for any meth addiction recovery. A therapist can help diagnose any psychological issues that need to be treated and guide you as you process the overwhelming range of emotions that accompany addiction treatment. Therapists can help in practical ways, by teaching you effective communication skills, and helping you set and plan for goals; and in spiritual ways, by helping you heal wounds that may be hidden under the surface. Group therapy is also helpful for post meth depression. Not only can you learn from the experiences of others, an environment of mutual support can help you release negative emotions and build and increase positive ones.
10. Have a Discussion with your Doctor about Antidepressants
You may be hesitant to take any kind of drug during meth addiction recovery, but if other forms of therapy and lifestyle changes are not enough to relieve your post meth depression, you should consider trying an antidepressant. Sometimes a chemical imbalance in the brain is too severe to be corrected naturally, especially if you experienced depression even before your addiction to meth. If you have concerns, ask plenty of questions. Also, make sure to see a psychiatrist instead of a general practitioner. A trained psychiatrist has a level of expertise in these kinds of medications that can only come from specializing in mental health.
When is Meth Rehab Necessary?
Meth withdrawal is one of the worst stimulant withdrawal syndromes, with depression, panic attacks, and suicidal thoughts often appearing in the first 24 hours. A professional medical detox is the safest and most comfortable way to experience meth withdrawal, and detox should always be followed by an addiction treatment program, to ensure that you don’t return to using before you’ve had the chance to really change your life.
If you’ve been off drugs for a while, but feel like a relapse is looming, you may need meth rehab. Here are signs that you may be vulnerable to relapse:
- You aren’t taking good care of yourself
- You’ve stopped attending counseling sessions or 12-step meetings
- You’re thinking about ways to obtain meth
- You’re glamorizing what it was like to use drugs
- You try to justify using by telling yourself you could do it just once, or that it’s okay to use on vacation
You should also turn to professional treatment if your depression is severe. Signs of severe depression include:
- Feeling unable to get out of bed
- Lacking the energy to shower or care for yourself
- Missing school or work
- Feelings of rage or hopelessness
- Thoughts of death or suicide
- Simply feeling like you can’t bear to be depressed any longer