Methamphetamine (also known as “crystal meth”) is an extremely addictive drug. If a person uses it more than once or twice, they have a high chance of developing an addiction. Once a person becomes dependent, the body will go into withdrawal if they try to quit. Meth withdrawal symptoms may manifest during or after detox, which is the process of the body metabolizing and removing it.
Meth withdrawal and detox are often uncomfortable experiences, and they are typically a significant reason people cannot quit meth on their own. Not only is withdrawal unpleasant, but the symptoms can be dangerous to a person’s health. Medical detox makes the process safe because patients detox under the supervision of a doctor.
Meth withdrawal symptoms can be physical, mental or behavioral. They can be intense, lasting for days or even weeks. Many factors determine the length of withdrawal symptoms, including the amount of time the person has been addicted.
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Meth Withdrawal Symptoms & Timeline
Methamphetamine withdrawal is usually an unpleasant experience. Symptoms begin around 24 hours after the last dose. Fatigue may set in first, followed by overwhelming feelings of depression. Many people also experience paranoia, hallucinations, anxiety and insomnia.
Meth works by increasing the amount of dopamine — the neurotransmitter that controls feelings of pleasure — in the brain. When the drug is removed, dopamine drops below natural levels, and the resulting loss of enjoyment is distressing.
- Common signs of methamphetamine withdrawal may include:
- Extreme hunger
- Fatigue or extreme tiredness
- Hallucinations, or seeing or hearing things that are not there
- Loss of pleasure
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
Long-term meth use may decrease the number of dopamine receptors in brain cells, making it difficult for the individual to experience pleasure, even if normal dopamine levels return. Many people who quit using meth experience this condition, called anhedonia. Anhedonia can continue for up to two years after a person stops the drug.
For many, it is physiological symptoms — anhedonia and the resultant depression — that causes relapse as they seek relief from the emotional distress. The psychological dependence resulting from prolonged meth use is powerful, so the person in withdrawal will often experience an intense craving for the drug.
The primary physical symptoms of meth withdrawal are fatigue and lethargy, along with painful headaches. Meth suppresses both appetite and sleep. During initial withdrawal, people may spend most of their time catching up on food and sleep. People may gain a significant amount of weight at this time. Appetite and sleep patterns usually return to normal after a few months without meth.
Meth Withdrawal Timeline
How long does meth withdrawal last? The three main portions of withdrawal are the crash, cravings and recovery. Methamphetamine withdrawal is a slow, difficult, but enormously valuable process. It may last up to 40 weeks.
The Three Phases of Meth Withdrawal
- Phase 1:
The first 3–10 days of withdrawal is the “crash” period. This period includes a sharp decline in energy and cognitive function. Depression is common during this phase. In some cases, people will experience hallucinations, paranoia and anxiety. Cravings are typically low at this time because a person usually spends a lot of time sleeping during the crash phase.
- Phase 2:
The second phase begins with intense cravings. Having gotten through the initial crash, many people in the early stages of recovery start to desire the intense high that meth provides. Due to the euphoria that the drug offers, consumption is a continuous temptation. Many people feel powerless after they stop using the drug, and will seek to use it again to regain the feeling. This phase can last up to 10 weeks and often includes depression and insomnia.
- Phase 3:
The third stage of meth withdrawal is when meth cravings begin to fade, becoming less frequent and less potent, forming an ideal opportunity to begin recovery. It is best to maintain in an environment where you are safe and have others around to help hold you accountable. This phase can last for 30 weeks and, in some cases, much longer. As a general rule, the longer it has been since you have used meth, the easier it will be for you to stay sober.
Many factors affect the withdrawal experience. First, those who have taken meth for longer periods of time will usually withdraw for longer. Higher regular doses of meth affect the length of withdrawal in the same way.
Personal physiology and environment are also important factors for meth withdrawal. People with substance use disorder (or family history) are likely to experience more challenges in withdrawing from methamphetamine. Attempting to quit alone or within an environment with addictive triggers can also make the process more challenging.
It is also difficult to quit meth all at once. This method of withdrawal is referred to as cold turkey. Many people choose to taper instead of going cold turkey, which can be safer and more comfortable. Tapering is the process of lowering the dosage slowly over time.
Can You Die From Meth Withdrawal?
Withdrawal symptoms are usually not fatal. Methamphetamine withdrawal can be a dangerous process for some, but this is primarily due to dehydration. As long as the person stays hydrated and eats a balanced diet, they can combat this, especially with medical help.
Medical detox is helpful for nutritional and hydration support. With trained eyes on your progress around the clock, you will be able to largely avoid any dangerous complications.
Is It Possible to Stop Meth Use Without Rehab?
Stopping meth is a challenge, and there are many risks. When quitting meth, there are usually two options: quitting alone or seeking the help of a medical professional or treatment center. The second option is usually safer and more effective.
Though it’s not impossible to stop using meth on your own, it is often more challenging. There are also medical risks to quitting meth without medical care, depending on the level and length of addiction. Another thing to consider is the support system you have at home. Are there people at home who can be your accountability partners as you recover? Consider your surroundings. Is there a chance you’ll relapse? If you choose to get off meth without rehab, consult with your doctor or a medical professional and ensure that you have the resources and support necessary to maintain sobriety while going through withdrawal symptoms.
Detoxification is a natural process by which the body rids itself of harmful substances. Methamphetamine detox takes about 50 hours, depending on the half-life of the drug. Some of the most common symptoms are fatigue, depression, anxiety and increased appetite. These are all signs that the body is ridding itself of the methamphetamine, flushing out the toxin and returning to a state of health.
Some people who use methamphetamine undergo the detox process at home. If the home environment is a triggering space, particularly one in which meth was or is highly prevalent, it is not advisable to attempt detox at home. It is also not advisable to try home detox if you have a dual diagnosis or co-occurring mental condition.
Additionally, there should be a doctor, nurse, friend or family member present for the withdrawal process. Supported withdrawal reduces the risk of complications.
Dehydration often accompanies the withdrawal process, which can be dangerous. For this reason, medically supervised detox can be a crucial part of a care plan. Detox centers and rehabilitation facilities provide around-the-clock medical supervision to those undergoing detoxification. Nurses and doctors on staff will ensure you are adequately hydrated and have the proper nutrients, allowing you to detox healthily and safely.
The first stage of rehabilitation is an evaluation by trained clinical staff. If the patient is still acutely intoxicated, they will undergo detoxification. This process may serve as a personal milestone for those who complete the experience. After some time, a patient’s body will stabilize and they can move onto the next stage of rehabilitation.
After the initial withdrawal process is complete, creating a plan for further treatment is vital. Detoxification is one major step toward rehabilitation, but the journey to health and wellness continues long after this phase. Many addiction professionals believe recovery is never truly finished. Instead, it is a continuous, lifelong process. The Recovery Village helps clients develop a personalized plan to address individual symptoms, underlying issues and life circumstances for long-term recovery.
Treatment For Withdrawal Symptoms
Each facility of The Recovery Village is staffed with a team of experienced professionals who understand the risks associated with meth withdrawal. Although not everyone experiences the same symptoms in the same way, there is typically some discomfort associated with the detox process. The good news is, our team offers treatment options to provide relief from the meth withdrawal symptoms.
Meth Withdrawal Medication
Medications that treat methamphetamine dependence should accomplish at least one of the following:
- Repair damage caused by meth use
- Reduce rush of meth pleasure
- Reduce cravings that follow abstinence from meth
Unfortunately, while medications like this exist for other drugs (opioid pain medications, for example), there are no FDA-approved prescriptions for stimulants like methamphetamine.
Since there are no approved medications for meth dependence, treatment during medical detox is supportive. Addiction specialists may instead use medication to provide relief of withdrawal symptoms from meth. Treatment may ease the mood symptoms and prevent short-term physical symptoms like tremors, nausea or vomiting.
DailyMed. “Methamphetamine Package Insert.” 2019. Accessed September 26, 2019.
DrugBank. “Metamfetamine – DrugBank.” 2010. Accessed September 26, 2019.
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). “What Are the Long-term Effects of Methamphetamine Abuse?”. April 2019. Accessed September 26, 2019.
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.