Stopping meth abuse can be difficult and dangerous. Medical detox is a safe and effective method to begin meth addiction treatment.
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.
During detox, meth withdrawal symptoms 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 treatment 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 and, in some cases, weeks. Many factors determine the length of withdrawal symptoms, including the amount of time the person has been addicted.
Article at a Glance:
- The symptoms of meth withdrawal begin about 24 hours after the last usage.
- Meth withdrawal symptoms include anxiety, hallucinations, paranoia and insomnia.
- Although meth withdrawal symptoms aren’t usually fatal, they can be dangerous due to dehydration.
- Stopping meth on your own without medical rehab is very challenging.
- Meth detox takes about 50 hours and is best accomplished under the supervision of a professional.
How To Quit Meth
Methamphetamine is a notoriously hard-to-quit substance. Withdrawal symptoms are uncomfortable even if a person has only used meth for a short time. Withdrawal symptoms are more likely to occur based on how long and how much of the substance has been used. It usually does not matter whether the drug has been snorted, smoked or injected because of how profoundly meth affects the brain.
There are generally two methods of quitting methamphetamine: “cold turkey” and a treatment program. Quitting “cold turkey” and suddenly stopping use is challenging and can have a low success rate. Alternatively, a person can enter a meth addiction treatment program for access to peer support, therapy, management of co-occurring disorders and long-term maintenance treatment. Treatment programs are typically more successful than “cold turkey” methods.
Beyond seeking professional treatment, these additional tips can help a person quit meth:
- Be honest with friends and family and build a support network.
- Get rid of all methamphetamine and paraphernalia available to you.
- Start exercising regularly and engage in other healthy behaviors.
- Build hobbies and other interests that you can do when you start having cravings.
Meth Withdrawal Symptoms
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 meth withdrawal symptoms 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
- Related Topic: Signs of drug use
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 years after a person stops the drug.
For many, it is physiological symptoms — anhedonia and the resultant depression — that cause 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 sleep problems 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 that may last several days or weeks.
- 24–48 Hours: The first one to two days of withdrawal is the “crash” period. This period includes a sharp decline in energy and cognitive function. Depression is common during this phase, and in some cases, people will experience hallucinations, paranoia and anxiety. Cravings are typically high but may be suppressed at this time because a person usually spends a lot of time sleeping during the crash phase.
- 3–5 Days: Withdrawal symptoms should begin to subside during this period. However, this is when cravings intensify, and the risk of relapse is extremely high. As the person starts to feel better and gain more energy, they will now feel good enough to start using meth again.
- 2–4 Weeks: Cravings begin to lessen, but psychiatric problems may begin to manifest or become uncovered by the absence of methamphetamine. Severe psychiatric symptoms of psychosis, depression and anxiety may need to be managed with specialized psychiatric care.
- 1–2 Months: Protracted withdrawal or post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) can happen in the months following acute withdrawal, especially in people with a history of severe meth abuse. Symptoms usually include anxiety, unstable emotions, lethargy, sleep problems and stimulant cravings.
What Factors Affect Meth Withdrawal?
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.
The Recovery Village surveyed 2,135 American adults who formerly or currently use methamphetamine. Of those surveyed, 1,784 respondents had undergone a detox from meth. Overall, respondents who had detoxed from meth reported the following withdrawal symptoms:
- 2 in 3 participants reported headaches (63%)
- 1 in 2 participants reported fatigue (57%)
- 1 in 2 participants reported sleep problems (52%)
- 1 in 3 participants reported appetite issues (36%)
- 1 in 4 participants reported high body temperature (24%)
- 2 in 5 participants reported depression (41%)
- 2 in 5 participants reported anxiety (41%)
- 1 in 5 participants reported paranoia (20%)
- 1 in 4 participants reported aggression (27%)
- 1 in 6 participants reported hallucinations (16%)
- 1 in 10 participants reported anhedonia (11%)
Additionally, The Recovery Village asked participants about their meth withdrawal timeline. The vast majority (95%) of all participants experienced meth cravings for up to seven weeks after beginning withdrawal.
Medication For Meth Withdrawal
Unfortunately, while medications like this exist for other drugs (opioid pain medications, for example), there are no FDA-approved prescriptions for stimulants like methamphetamine.
However, the goal of this type of medication for methamphetamine dependence should be to 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
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.
Can You Die From Meth Withdrawal?
Withdrawal symptoms from meth 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 Detox From Meth 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 20–25 hours, based on the half-life of the drug. Drugs are cleared from the body after five half-lives.
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 on to 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 Meth 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 that our team offers treatment options to provide relief from the meth withdrawal symptoms.
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The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with 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 providers.