Overcoming the Terror of Crystal Meth Addiction & Getting the Help You Need

Few drugs on the street today compare to the intensity of crystal meth. And fewer still are quite as terrifying as this deadly substance.

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But despite just how much damage this drug can do to your health, your relationships, your reputation, and to your life as a whole, an alarming number of people still struggle with a crystal meth addiction.

And for many of these people, they may want to finally recover, but simply don't know how to kick their addiction to the curb for good.

That's why it's so critical to educate yourself about the ins and outs of methamphetamine addiction and - most importantly - where to turn to for help.

It may not seem like it right now, but if you're struggling with an addiction to meth, sobriety is possible. All it takes is getting the right kind of help.

What Is Crystal Meth?

Crystal meth is an extremely powerful and potent stimulant and is one of the most commonly abused drugs in the United States.

Like other stimulants, abusing meth produces excitation, euphoria, and seemingly limitless amounts of energy. Addicts will often stay up for days at a time, binging on more and more of the drug in order to maintain the high. This is what's known as a "meth run."

All of this energy and excitation comes from the way that meth interacts with the brain's primary pleasure chemical known as dopamine. It's this chemical that automatically reinforces certain behaviors so that we're more likely to perform those actions again. And it's also this chemical that is partially responsible for developing an addiction.

To explain, every time you feel good about something you've done, those feelings are caused by a burst of dopamine. Achieving a goal at work, eating a great meal, sexual release, and more all produce this kind of chemical rush.

However, crystal meth hijacks this pleasure system and supercharges it to extreme levels. To put it into perspective, abusing this drug actually releases about 12 times as much dopamine as an orgasm. As you can imagine, the rush of a crystal meth high can be quite overpowering.

Not only is crystal meth incredibly potent, but it's also quite easy to make on your own. With just a few household chemicals and a little bit of knowledge about the process, nearly anyone can make meth in almost any location.

The spread of methamphetamine abuse has led to a crackdown on some of the most common ingredients used in methamphetamine production - most notably pseudoephedrine and ephedrine.

But even still, abusers are finding ways to continue producing this dangerous drug.

Some of the most common street names people use to refer to crystal meth include:

  • Meth
  • Speed
  • Crystal
  • Glass
  • Ice
  • Crank
  • Yaba
  • Blade
  • Shards
  • Quick
Crystal Meth Addiction Information

How Is Methamphetamine Abused?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), meth is abused in a couple of different ways.

In most cases, meth comes in the form of a white crystalline powder. In this form, the drug is either snorted or ingested orally. Users might also dissolve this powder into a liquid and inject it directly into their veins as well.

Meth also comes in a purer, more potent form that resembles larger shards. This is what's known as "crystal meth" due to its similarity to small crystals. This version of the drug is usually smoked rather than snorted or ingested.

Due to the only difference between the two being purity and intensity, this guide will use crystal meth and methamphetamine interchangeably.

These varying methods of abuse affect the body in different ways. Smoking and injecting meth causes the drug to enter the bloodstream almost instantly. Snorting produces effects at around 3 to 5 minutes and ingesting it takes anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes.

Statistics About Meth Addiction

Crystal meth addiction in the United States is bad. But how bad is it?

Sometimes it can be hard to understand the true scope of a problem without having some numbers to give it some perspective. Have a look at the statistics below to get a better understanding of how meth addiction is impacting the country.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse:

  • About 1.2 million people in the U.S. reported using methamphetamine in the past year.
  • Around 440,000 adults used it in the past month.
  • About 1% of 8th, 10th, and 12th graders had used meth within the past year.
  • Crystal meth accounted for around 103,000 emergency department visits in 2011. It was the fourth most mentioned illicit drug.
  • Treatment rates of methamphetamine abuse have actually dropped by almost 3% from 2005 to 2011.
  • The American Southwest is particularly struck with crystal meth abuse. In the first half of 2012, meth was the number one cause of drug treatment admissions in Hawaii and San Diego, second in San Francisco, and third in Denver and Phoenix.

Additionally, according to a report from the Rand Corporation from 2005, the economic burden of methamphetamine use (including the burden of addiction, premature death, drug treatment, etc.) was around $23 billion per year.

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How Is Meth Made?

One of the most dangerous aspects of crystal meth is the fact that, it can actually be made using store-bought chemicals.

Other illicit drugs like heroin and cocaine, on the other hand, require access to illegal plants that are much harder to come by.

As a result, some abusers will take producing meth into their own hands by creating makeshift laboratories. These laboratories can be almost anywhere - residential homes, industrial parks, in the back of stores, and even in RVs as popularized by the hit show Breaking Bad.

This versatility in meth production can be dangerous for a couple of reasons. First, it is much harder to find a meth lab than other drug operations since they happen on such a small scale and can pop up almost anywhere.

In fact, crystal meth addicts have even taken to cooking up this drug in their cars while they're on the move. Besides the obvious benefit of being able to avoid police detection, these illegal chemists often simply toss the materials used to make the drug right out the window. And given that some of these materials are still explosive or dangerously acidic, they're risking the lives of anyone who happens to walk by that trash.

This highly-mobile meth production is due in part to what's known as the "shake-n-bake" or "one-pot" method. Using a variety of simple household cleaners and products, meth users can essentially create the drug using just one container.

The common household ingredients used here include:

  • Ammonium nitrate
  • Lye
  • Lighter fluid
  • Lithium strips from batteries
  • Solvents
  • Salt
  • Sulfuric acid (often found in drain cleaner
  • Denatured alcohol
  • Pseudoephedrine

It's important to remember that while it is possible to make meth using ingredients you can pick up in the store, the wrong combination can lead to deadly fumes, scorching burns, and life-threatening explosions.

Simply put, do not ever attempt to make crystal meth.

While the ingredients used in making crystal meth can be sourced from local stores, they can still be quite volatile, especially when mixed together.

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, there were over 142,000 dangerous incidents involving makeshift meth labs from 2004 to 2014. And these labs can pop up practically anywhere.

Part of the problem comes from the fact that making methamphetamine is relatively simple to do. And yet, the consequences of doing it improperly can be deadly. Fires and explosions, inhalation of toxic fumes, severe chemical burns, and accidental ingestion are just some of the dangers associated with meth labs.

And it isn't just the people using the labs that are in danger. Neighbors can suffer from health problems caused by inhaling fumes seeping from the lab. Passersby can accidentally come in contact with toxic materials discarded in the yard. And of course, any fires or explosions can end up damaging surrounding property and even killing anyone nearby.

Below are some of the most obvious signs of a crystal meth lab to be on the lookout for according to the U.S. Department of Justice:

  • Unusual odors (ether, ammonia, acetone, or other chemicals)
  • Excessive amounts of trash, particularly chemical containers, coffee filters or pieces of cloth that are stained red, and duct tape rolls
  • Curtains always drawn or windows covered with aluminum foil or blackened on residences, garages, sheds, or other structures
  • Evidence of chemical waste or dumping
  • Frequent visitors, particularly at unusual times
  • Extensive security measures or attempts to ensure privacy (no trespassing or beware of dog signs, fences, large trees or shrubs)
  • Secretive or unfriendly occupants

What Is A Meth High Like?

The high from crystal meth can be extremely overpowering. It often lasts from six to eight hours, and it instills false confidence and euphoria in the user. You'll likely feel smarter, more optimistic, and even physically stronger and more capable than before.

Of course, these are all just feelings. While your mind might be racing faster than ever, it doesn't mean that you're actually capable of more intelligent thinking. In that same vein, you might feel more energetic, but it doesn't mean your body is any more powerful than it was before using.

Like other drugs, meth just changes how you perceive the world - it doesn't change what you can do inside of it.

When you use crystal meth, you'll also likely experience a burst of energy and may become hyperactive. These characteristics make it a very popular drug in the club scene. In fact, some studies have shown that certain nightclub hub locations like New York had over 15% of their customers using crystal meth at some point in their lives.

This can be especially dangerous because often these venues also support using multiple drugs alongside meth like alcohol, ecstasy, and LSD. And these combinations can make the risk of fatal overdose even more likely.

Chronic crystal meth addiction may also entail using this drug in a cycle of binging behaviors known as a "meth run." This cycle is characterized by seven separate stages: The Rush, The High, The Binge, Tweaking, The Crash, The Hangover, and Withdrawal.

  1. The Rush - The crystal meth rush is one of the most pleasurable parts of the meth run. It involves an intense burst of euphoria, an uptick in heart rate and blood pressure, and a surge of confidence and energy.

  2. The High - After the initial rush has subsided, a crystal meth abuser will feel extremely active and motivated to complete certain tasks. They may feel smarter and more capable. Past abusers describe the feeling as almost superhuman. However, these tasks can be particularly trivial and may include, for instance, cleaning a single area for hours at a time.

  3. The Binge - The Binge occurs after the meth addict has started coming down several hours after using. They may feel sluggish, less confident, and less energized and so, they use again in order to maintain the high.

    As this cycle continues, the pleasurable effects of the Rush and the High start diminishing. Eventually, using more crystal meth only causes more mania, delusions, and paranoia without the added effect of euphoria that they're chasing.

    This stage can last for days at a time, and throughout that period, basic needs like food, sleep, and personal hygiene often go unattended.

  4. Tweaking - After the meth user can no longer achieve euphoria from using crystal, they go through a stage of intense mania, frustration, unpredictability, and bouts of near psychosis called tweaking.

    This is often the stage of the meth run where people start obsessing about delusions like bugs under their skin (known as "meth mites") and conspiracies. This is also when crystal abusers may commit violent crimes.

  5. The Crash - Eventually, the mania of tweaking comes to an end. It's then that an addict will sleep for several days so that their body can recover from the drastic effects of the binge. Lethargy and fatigue will be quite severe during the crash and users may find it near impossible to do almost anything at all during this stage.

  6. The Hangover - Once a crystal meth addict has woken up from their crash, they'll often go through a particularly severe hangover from the experience. Depression, malnutrition, and fatigue are all part of this stage of the meth run.

    Added to that, abusers may find it impossible to experience any sort of emotional or mental pleasure or satisfaction. This effect is partially due to the extreme depletion of dopamine caused by the binge.

    Often times, these feeling will cause users to abuse even more methamphetamine in order to feel some sort of pleasure again, starting the cycle over.

  7. Withdrawal - If a crystal meth user doesn't give into the temptation to abuse more methamphetamine during their hangover phase, they'll usually start up again during the withdrawal phase.

    This stage of the meth run is marked by a host of uncomfortable symptoms such as severe depression, anxiety, fatigue, and especially overwhelming cravings as well. The absolute best way to break this cycle is by partnering with a professional crystal meth treatment center to help you get through these withdrawals.

What Are the Visible Signs of Meth Use?

Meth is infamous for the startling physical changes that can come about from abusing this drug. Before and after mugshots of crystal meth addicts have even gone viral in the past, garnering global attention just because of how drastic these transformations can be.

And while all forms of substance abuse can deteriorate your looks, crystal meth abuse stands out as one of the most dramatic.

As a result, spotting the signs of someone who is addicted to methamphetamine isn't hard to do.

  • The most noticeable signs of crystal meth abuse are:
  • Severe dental problems (a.k.a. "meth mouth")
  • Numerous scabs all over their body (caused by "meth mites")
  • Constant itching
  • Extremely gaunt appearance
  • Wide, darting eyes
  • Paranoia
  • Violent behavior
  • Quick and erratic movements
  • Hallucinations
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Emotional volatility
  • Increased talking speed
  • Unusual self-confidence

How to Help A Crystal Meth Addict

If you've noticed the signs of meth addiction in a friend or loved one, it's important that they get the professional help they need to recover. And unfortunately, due to the power of denial, they may be unwilling or unable to take that step on their own.

And that might mean that you'll feel compelled to help.

But as with any other compulsive problem, confronting someone about their addiction to crystal meth can be incredibly hard to do. Maybe you're afraid that they're going to lash out at you. Or perhaps you're worried they'll cut off all ties rather than getting the help they need.

These are all very real and very reasonable concerns, especially considering how erratic a meth addict's mood can be.

But there are a few things that can make this confrontation easier.

  • Make Sure They're Sober - First off, you'll want to ensure that your friend or loved one is not high at the time. If they are currently under the influence of crystal meth, they'll not only be less likely to think clearly and rationally, they might also have an especially aggressive reaction to your concerns.

    And that can put both you and the addict in danger.
  • Come from A Place of Love - Second, be sure to communicate that you're coming from a place of love and concern rather than judgment and disappointment. Remember that addiction is a disease, not a choice and that quitting their substance abuse isn't just a matter of willpower.
  • Use an Expert Intervention Specialist - And third, consider using a professional intervention service to help you navigate particularly troublesome confrontations. These experts can help reduce the likelihood of emotional outbursts and make it even more likely that your friend or loved one will actually check into crystal meth treatment in the end.

Am I Addicted to Ice?

While it might be easy to spot the signs of an addiction to crystal meth in a friend or loved one, it can be incredibly hard to see the signs you are in serious denial about your substance abuse.

In fact, according to data from a national survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 6 million Americans met the clinical criteria for needing professional treatment for illicit drug use but didn't get it. An astounding 93.3% of them (5.6 million) failed to do so simply because they didn't think they had a drug problem at all.

Denial and drug abuse, then, often go hand in hand.

However, there are a few different methods you can use to determine if you're suffering from an addiction to crystal meth. We've listed the best four below to make your journey towards recovery even easier.

Crystal Meth Online Addiction Quiz - Sometimes all it takes to recognize that you're struggling with an addiction is to start looking at your behaviors objectively (which can be quite hard for a drug addict). This short online addiction quiz helps you do just that.

It consists of just 15 true/false questions about your crystal meth abuse and doesn't take more than just a few minutes to complete. It's a great start to finally realizing that you need professional help for your substance use disorder.

Clinical Guidelines of the DSM-V (provided by NIDA) - The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is one of the most trusted and widely used catalogs of mental disorders today. The guidelines in this manual are so extensive that it's actually used by licensed and practicing physicians and psychiatrists to diagnose their patients' problems.

This manual contains 11 scenarios that indicate what is clinically considered to be a substance use disorder. If you've experienced at least two of these scenarios in the past 12 months, you're likely suffering from a substance use disorder and should find help.

NIDA's Self-Assessment Tools - NIDA, the drug abuse department of the National Institutes of Health, have put together a collection of evidence-based self-assessment tools you can use to help you determine the severity of your addiction to crystal meth.

These tools range in complexity from tests with just a few questions to much deeper dives into your addictive behaviors. There's a tool for everyone here, no matter how far into the weeds you want to go.

A Free Addiction Assessment - You can also contact a crystal meth treatment center directly in order to schedule a free addiction assessment. These consultations usually happen right over the phone and typically don't take longer than 20 to 30 minutes.

Plus, these assessments can actually help you determine what kinds of treatment you need for your unique situation. It's without a doubt the most personalized method of determining your level of addiction to methamphetamine.

What Are the Side Effects of Meth Addiction?

As you continue to abuse meth more and more, you may notice some side effects starting to develop.

You may, for instance, experience:

  • A decrease in memory capabilities
  • More frequent aggressive behaviors
  • A decrease in your appetite
  • Feeling irritable or angry
  • Stomach issues, including being nauseous

These are just some of the ways an addiction to crystal meth can start impacting the body over time.

And as your addiction continues to progress, these side effects of meth will grow even worse. You may experience delusions or have convulsions. You might experience damage to your heart, brain, liver or kidneys. You may also lose an extreme amount of weight or suffer from frequent bouts of psychosis.

Let's take a closer look at some of these short- and long-term side effects of crystal meth addiction.

Crystal meth is an incredibly toxic drug. And as a result, it can have some pretty devastating short-term side effects that impact both your mind and your body.

According to the Center for Substance Abuse and Research (CESAR), some of the most common methamphetamine short-term side effects are:

  • Brief rush, euphoria, surge of energy
  • Increased physical activity
  • Increased blood pressure and breathing rate
  • Dangerously elevated body temperature
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sleeplessness
  • Paranoia, irritability
  • Unpredictable behavior
  • Performing repetitive, meaningless tasks
  • Dilated pupils
  • Heavy sweating
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Tremors
  • Dry mouth, bad breath
  • Headache
  • Uncontrollable jaw clenching
  • Seizures, sudden death

Beyond these effects, crystal meth abuse also often leads to two unique side effects: the sensation of bugs crawling on your skin (also known as formication) and the risk of developing a type of psychosis.

  • Formication - Also known as meth mites, crank bugs, and ice mites, just to name a few slang terms, the condition known as formication is the incredibly unnerving sensation of having bugs crawling over and under your skin.

    Of course, these sensations are just hallucinations brought on by a combination of meth-laced sweat and dehydration, but to the addict experiencing it, these meth mites are very real.

    In fact, meth mites/formication is part of the reason why so many crystal meth abusers develop scabs all over their body - they just can't help themselves from picking at these imaginary creatures.

    Eventually, these open sores may become infected and cause further complications down the line.
  • Psychosis - Methamphetamine abuse also carries the risk of developing meth-induced psychosis. The extreme personality changes, severe delusions, restless paranoia, and unwavering self-confidence all add up to a terrifying disconnect from reality.

    Added to that, addiction to crystal meth and continual abuse can also cause extremely convincing hallucinations that can affect each and every one of the five senses.

    And when you combine all of these factors at once for hours at a time, it can lead to a break in your everyday sanity.

    Horror stories of bad crystal meth trips involve everything from incoherent babbling and confusing behaviors to violent aggression and extreme self-harm (like one woman who gouged her own eyes out while on methamphetamine).

While the short-term side effects of methamphetamine are terrifying on their own, the long-term effects can be just as scary. These side effects may occur after continued abuse of the drug or may happen after just a few doses.

According to CESAR, the most common symptoms you may experience are:

  • Damaged nerve terminals in the brain
  • Brain damage similar to Parkinson's or Alzheimer's Diseases
  • High blood pressure
  • Prolonged anxiety, paranoia, insomnia
  • Psychotic behavior, violence, auditory hallucinations and delusions
  • Homicidal or suicidal thoughts
  • Weakened immune system
  • Cracked teeth
  • Sores, skin infections, acne
  • Strokes, heart infections, lung disease, kidney damage, liver damage
  • Increased risk behavior, especially if the drug is injected
  • When used by a pregnant woman, premature birth; babies suffer cardiac defects, cleft palate, and other birth defects
  • Death

As NIDA notes, one of the most frightening aspects of crystal meth addiction and chronic abuse is that these symptoms can end up lasting for months or even years after they've quit. They may constantly present over the course of this time, or they might be triggered by stressful events - it just depends.

And while some of these side effects might be temporary, others may end up sticking with you for the rest of your life. In the end, the sooner you get help for your addiction to crystal, the less likely it will be for you to develop symptoms.

What Is Withdrawal from Crystal Meth Like?

A crystal meth addiction is one of the most difficult addictions to overcome, and this is mostly due to the intensity of the withdrawal symptoms you're likely to experience. These symptoms are caused by your body and mind readjusting to functioning without methamphetamine in your system.

While it may be difficult to recover when you're battling an addiction to crystal meth, when you have the right kind of support, it's not impossible.

It's common for people to try quitting their use of drugs on their own first, and ultimately end up relapsing. Crystal meth is no exception to that rule.

If you try to quit cold turkey, you may become excessively depressed, and this is likely to lead to thoughts of suicide. You may also feel hopeless and overwhelmed, and as though you have no motivation or energy at all.

Most people who try to quit using crystal meth on their own without professional help and support find that they're just not able to. That's because the addiction itself is incredibly powerful, and in an effort to find relief from withdrawal, most addicts are compelled to go right back to using.

And when you see just what kinds of withdrawal symptoms are involved in overcoming your crystal meth addiction, you probably won't be too surprised that most people can't quit on their own.

The list of withdrawals here is a long one, and it's easy to see why so many people need the support of professional crystal meth treatment.

And when you add the fact that meth withdrawal can last for about 20 days according to some studies, you can imagine that the process can be a bit tough to bear.

According to Mental Health Daily, some of the most common withdrawals are:

  • Anhedonia (inability to experience pleasure)
  • Anger
  • Appetite changes
  • Cravings
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Lethargy
  • Muscle weakness
  • Psychosis
  • Suicidal thinking
  • Weight gain
  • Sweating
  • Sleepiness
  • Paranoia
  • Low energy
  • Irritability
  • Fever
  • Dizziness
  • Delusions
  • Concentration problems
  • Anxiety
  • Aggression

The symptoms of meth withdrawal are not directly life-threatening.

In fact, the vast majority of drugs don't have deadly symptoms. The only ones that do are alcohol, benzodiazepines, and, to a certain extent, opioids.

However, that doesn't mean that you aren't in any danger during withdrawal from crystal meth. Part of the danger comes from possible complications that you might experience along the way.

For instance, while the withdrawals from this drug aren't usually physical in nature, they can be absolutely overwhelming psychologically. Extreme delusions, overwhelming anxiety, and severe paranoia can lead some meth addicts to behaviors that they might not expect.

The threat of self-harm and even suicide are very real as a result. And without the expertise and oversight of a professional methamphetamine treatment center, you may fall down the rabbit hole of delusional thinking and put your own safety at risk.

In the end, going through crystal withdrawal can be deadly because often these addicts are actually a threat to themselves.

And that means at-home crystal meth withdrawal should never be an option. Only a professional program will do here.

What Is Crystal Meth Treatment Like?

When it comes to treating your methamphetamine addiction, the absolute best way to do it is by checking into a professional treatment program. And that means going through two distinct phases of recovery: detoxification and rehabilitation.

Detox is the very first stage of your crystal meth treatment. The aim of detoxification is to keep you as safe and comfortable as possible as you progress through your withdrawals. These programs typically offer around-the-clock medical care, a variety of amenities to put you more at ease, and may even provide certain medications to help you deal with specific symptoms.

Medicated programs treat your symptoms using only powerful medications. This can undoubtedly be helpful, but these drugs may have a host of nasty side effects and may even be quite addictive on their own.

Others, called holistic programs, use nutrition-rich meal plans and exercise to help your body get rid of the built-up toxins naturally - no uncomfortable side effects of lingering addictions necessary.

But no matter what kind of program you choose, a professional meth detox facility can help you manage your symptoms far more effectively and keep you from relapsing when times get especially rough.

How Does Meth Rehab Work?

After detox comes rehabilitation. While the prior treatment type helps your body overcome physical dependency, rehab focuses on healing the mind.

That's because while being physically dependent on a substance can undoubtedly make it harder to give it up, it's really the compulsive behaviors behind addiction that often lead to relapse.

And in order to change those behaviors permanently, it takes time, and it takes treatment.

There are two main types of crystal meth treatment programs for rehabilitation: inpatient programs and outpatient programs.

With an inpatient program, you'll be confined to the campus grounds at all times. That means your meals, lodging, and daily activities will all take place within the facility.

There are two main benefits to an inpatient rehab program. First, it physically prevents you from turning back to meth abuse unless you break out of the campus. And second, it gives you access to 24/7 medical care in case your symptoms of withdrawal become particularly dangerous.

With an outpatient program, you'll trade the immersive care found in inpatient programs for increased flexibility. With outpatient treatment, you simply attend several sessions a week that are usually only a few hours long and held in the evenings.

This lets you get treatment without having to take any time off of work or schooling.

No matter what kind of program you choose though, you'll likely go through numerous types of therapies to help you recover such as individual counseling, group talk, and behavioral therapy.

And with the help of these programs, you can be sure you'll have the very best shot at recovering from your addiction to crystal meth.

Northpoint Recovery: The Best Treatment for Meth Addiction

A crystal meth addiction is so dangerous, and whether you're the person addicted, or you're close to someone who is, knowing where to turn for help is so vital to both recovery and to safety.

But finding the right facility to meet your needs is easier said than done. Figuring out what kind of program to enroll in, the amenities you'll need during recovery, and what kind of treatment philosophy you believe in takes some serious work.

If you're looking for high-quality care, a high staff-to-patient ratio, and evidence-based programs though, Northpoint Recovery is the perfect option for you.

Here at Northpoint Recovery, we'd love to help you along every step of the way of your recovery journey. We offer some of the best inpatient detox and rehabilitation services in the area, and our comfortable, modern facilities use the most effective recovery strategies available today.

But more than that, we're actually passionate about providing the safest crystal meth treatments with the absolute best rates of success. Just have a look at some of our real-life customer testimonials.

So if you're struggling with an addiction to crystal meth, know that recovery is possible. And with Northpoint Recovery, your chances are better than ever.

Call us today to get started.

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