For decades, substance abuse has been a concern for Americans. Methamphetamine is especially problematic due to the number of damaging side effects associated with the substance. Methamphetamine is a dangerous drug that can cause serious damage to your body, particularly the brain, skin and teeth.

In 2015, the National Drug Threat Assessment Summary reported that methamphetamine was:

  • The greatest drug threat in 33 percent of responding areas
  • Easily accessible in 42.2 percent of responding areas
  • The catalyst of the majority of property damage in 33.4 percent of responding areas

Additionally, according to the National Forensic Laboratory Information System, there had been a 53 percent increase in crystal meth reports since 2009, and seizures caused by meth use increased 20 percent from 2013 to 2014. Because meth is so dangerous, people are concerned with how long the drug stays in their or their loved one’s systems.

Duration of Effects From Meth

Methamphetamine hydrochloride is a powder that ranges in color from white to light brown or a chunky crystal that looks like ice. The street names of meth can include: crank, crystal, glass, ice, meth, rock candy or speed. 

Meth is manufactured in laboratories using either l-ephedrine or d-pseudoephedrine in addition to sodium or lithium in a condensed liquid ammonia, red phosphorus and hydriodic acid. It stimulates the central and sympathetic nervous system.

Meth can be used by smoking it, snorting it or injecting it by a needle. Some people who use meth may also ingest it orally. There are stages of methamphetamine-induced intoxication.

  • 1st Stage: The Rush

    The first stage occurs after you initially ingest meth — whether it’s smoked or injected — and is referred to as “the rush”. This occurrence is a result of a sudden flood of dopamine into the brain. During this time your heart quickens, pupils dilate, blood pressure increases as well as your metabolism. The first stage can last from five minutes up to 30 minutes and does not occur if meth is administered by snorting or ingesting it orally.

  • 2nd Stage: The High

    After the initial rush, you will experience the second stage: the high. The high from meth can last from four to 14 hours and is characterized by hyperactivity and rapid thinking patterns. Other visible side effects of someone who has used meth and is experiencing a high include: aggressive or obsessive-compulsive behavior, confusion or the lack of ability to form coherent sentences.

    It is common for someone who abuse meth to go through the next stage of binging, for several days. Someone with a meth addiction will typically use meth for days at a time to avoid crashing, during which time they often avoid eating. After binging, the next stage, the crash, usually occurs. The crash is when you are coming down from binging or the initial high from methamphetamine. During this time, you may experience extreme exhaustion and long periods of sleep.

  • 3rd Stage: The Crash

    The last stage of meth intoxication, sometimes considered the most dangerous, is tweaking. During this stage, you can become increasingly frustrated, paranoid and unstable due to going several days without sleep. People going through this stage are typically unpredictable and some even develop meth psychosis. The cravings for more meth are very strong but the effects of the drug are less effective due to excessive use.

Metabolizing Meth and Its Half-Life

Almost immediately after you administer meth, your body starts to metabolize the substance as it goes through the bloodstream. During this time, your body may even convert the methamphetamine to amphetamine. After a few hours, meth usually passes through the liver and kidneys and is excreted through urination. Up to 50 percent of the amount of meth ingested can leave your body just as potent as it entered the body. In other words, the meth isn’t metabolized at all.

It can important to know the half-life of methamphetamine if you’re someone who has a meth use disorder and wants to know when you may start experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you enter treatment for your meth addiction. The half-life of meth is relatively long and can range from 10 to 12 hours for most people. In other words, during that 10 to 12 hours, 50 percent of the meth that was ingested would be out of your system. Based on the half-life, meth may show up in your body for nearly three days following the most recent use.

How meth is administered can affect the half-life and how long the drug stays in your body. For example, if someone injects meth intravenously, the half-life will probably be more than 11 hours. If someone smokes or snorts meth, the half-life would be significantly shorter. If someone smokes meth, it is likely that it would be eliminated from their body in about two and half days. If someone combines alcohol or other drugs with meth, it’s more likely to take longer for methamphetamine to be completely eliminated from your body.

The frequency someone uses meth can also affect how long the drug stays in their body. For example, if someone has been using meth for a long period of time, their body may be more adaptive to the effects and take longer for the drug to be eliminated from their system.

Meth Detection Times

There are various ways to detect methamphetamine abuse as well as a number of factors that can determine what a detection test may find.

  • Detection in Urine Tests

    This method is the most common used to detect methamphetamine abuse by employers, drug treatment centers and sports administrations. The person being tested urinates in a cup and the contents are then tested to determine the levels of different substances present in their urine. Meth can be detected as early as two to five hours after ingesting the drug and for up to three to five days after the last use.

  • Detection in Blood Tests

    This method of detection is most commonly used by the police, drug treatment centers and by sports administrations. Blood is taken either via a finger prick or from a needle. Meth can be detected in the blood within one to two hours after administering the drug and for up to one to three days after the last time meth was ingested.

  • Detection in Saliva Tests

    Saliva testing is most commonly used by employers and involves a swab of the mouth or tongue with an absorbent material. Detection time for saliva testing can be as early as 10 minutes after ingestion and can last up to four days after use.

  • Detection in Hair Tests

    Hair tests are most often used by the justice system and sports administrations. About 40-50 strands of hair are used for testing that can detect meth use for up to 90 days.

Factors That Influence Detection Times

These detection factors vary from person to person, some common detection factors may include, but are not limited to, amount used, age and health.

The quantity and frequency of methamphetamine use influence the length of time the drug remains in your body. If someone uses meth often and in large amounts, it will take their body a longer period of time to eliminate the drug from its system.

Your age can have a role in how meth is processed by your body. Typically when you’re younger, your body has a faster metabolism resulting in it being able to eliminate toxins faster. As you get older, your metabolism naturally slows and as a result, it may take longer for substances to be eliminated.

Having a good overall health can influence your body’s ability to rid itself of substances. If you’re an overall healthy person, your organs and body systems will work more efficiently so the elimination of toxins will occur at a faster rate than someone who is unhealthy.

Getting Help For Meth Addiction

Knowing what to expect when you detox from a meth addiction can be somewhat of a relief. Now that you know what to expect, seeking treatment for a meth use disorder is the next step. If you or someone you know struggles with a methamphetamine use disorder, help is available. At The Recovery Village, our staff of professionals offers a number of treatment programs that fit your individual needs. Contact us to learn more about what treatment program could work for you.

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    “Drugs of Abuse Home Use Test.” Products and Medical Procedures. U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 5 June 2014. 5 December 2016.

    “FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQs).” Resources. ExperTox, 2016. 5 December 2016.

    Hanes, Tracii. “Effects of Alcohol & Crystal Meth.” Substance Abuse. Livestrong, 10 October 2015. 5 December 2016.

    “How long do drugs stay in your system?” Drugs Info. Drug and Alcohol Information and Support. 5 December 2016.

    “Methamphetamine.” Publications. National Institute on Drug Abuse, September 2013. 5 December 2016.

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    “Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition).” Publications. National Institute on Drug Abuse, December 2012. 5 December 2016.

    “Saliva Drug Test.” Home Health Testing, 2016. 5 December 2016.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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