Crystal Meth & Sex Addiction
By Terry Gatewood MSW, SR Addiction Specialist and Robert Weiss, LSCW, CSAT-S
Studies have shown that 74 percent of crystal meth addicts surveyed said the number one reason they relapse is sex. For many of these addicts, the thought of sober sex is terrifying and frankly incomprehensible. Many report that they can’t remember the last time they had sex without using some kind of mind-altering substance to enhance the experience.
The desire to have “uninhibited” sex is a common reason given for crystal meth use. This begs the question: What is it about the kind of sex the person desires that is creating the inhibition in the first place? What purpose and meaning does this kind of sex have for this person? The answers to these questions may be diverse, but the outcome is the same. This is where we believe the process may begin to defuse these two addictions and create the possibility of integrating healthy sex back into a person’s life.
But first, in order to get there, both the drug use and sexual acting out must be stopped. It’s not hard to explain to someone why abstaining from using crystal meth is in their best interest, but abstaining from sex (even temporarily) is another matter. Many drug users have not gone a day without some kind of sexual stimulation. They also often say that sex without crystal just isn’t the same, and they’re absolutely right!
This problem all has to do with that wonderful little neurotransmitter called dopamine. Dopamine affects how the brain processes pleasure, among other things. Crystal meth floods the brain with dopamine at such a level that cannot be duplicated naturally or even by drugs like cocaine. Sexual activity also causes an explosion of dopamine. This is why sex and crystal meth are such a “pleasurable combo.”
The problem is that studies have shown that repeated use of crystal meth can actually cause prolonged decrease in dopamine levels, as well as a reduced number of dopamine uptake sites in the brain. So the very thing you think is giving you pleasure is, over time, making it nearly impossible for you to experience pleasure in any endeavor, including sex.
There is hope, however, and addicts need to understand that the brain can recover its ability to produce and process dopamine after six to eight months of abstaining from meth. Encouraging the addict to abstain from sex for a period of time in early recovery not only helps him or her learn new ways of coping, but also increases the chances of recovery from meth as well. This makes it possible for the individual to experience pleasurable healthy sex once again.
During this abstinence from sex, crystal meth addicts should consider how, where, and when they will have sex when they return to it so they don’t end up seeking sex in the same places or with the same people that will lead them back to drug use.