How to Safely Detox From Meth

Methamphetamine is a triply dangerous drug:

It’s extraordinarily harmful to your body, it’s widely available to buy, and incredibly hazardous to make. But, on top of all that, detoxing safely can be difficult. For this reason, we have put together a guide to detoxing from meth with all precautions in mind, beginning with what to expect.

What is meth withdrawal like?

There are multiple stages to withdrawal and detox. First, the crash comes when someone stops using for a few days. During this time, they may experience excessive amounts of sleep, a large appetite, irritability, anxiousness, and dysphoria. This period is not technically part of withdrawal; rather it is more like a hangover that would come after a night of binge drinking.

Withdrawal truly begins in the acute stage, which peaks 2-3 days after someone last used meth and lasts about 7-10 days in total. In this time, there may be:

  • Aches and pains.
  • Agitation.
  • Anxiety.
  • Depression.
  • Difficulty sleeping and concentrating.
  • Exhaustion.
  • Insomnia.
  • Memory problems.
  • Mood swings.
  • Pyschosis.

After the acute phase comes extinction. In this phase, mood swings, agitation, cravings, and trouble sleeping may continue for another couple of weeks, but depression can last anywhere from multiple weeks, months, or years.

Are there medications to help with meth detox?

No drugs are approved to treat meth addiction, nor are there substitute medications for meth as there are for heroin and other opioids. However, there are medications that can help with the symptoms of withdrawal:

  • Antidepressants can help with insomnia and anhedonia.
  • Antipsychotics can also help with insomnia and psychosis.
  • Benzodiazepines can help calm agitation and anxiety.

There are also medications that have been shown to reduce meth use and cravings:

  • Bupropion, an antidepressant also known as Wellbutrin or Aplenzin,has reduced use in those with less severe addictions.
  • Mirtazapine, an antidepressant, and Modafinil, a stimulant used to treat excessive sleepiness and narcolepsy, reduced use compared to placebo.
  • Dextroamphetamine, a medication used for ADHD and more commonly known as Dexedrine, did reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms when 60mg was taken per day, but it did not reduce meth use.
  • Methylphenidate, a psychostimulant commonly used for ADHD or narcolepsy, reduced meth use as compared to a placebo in a European study of sober people with meth use disorders, but those results were not replicated in other studies, which means

These medications make detox and withdrawal a less taxing experience.

Furthermore, trials of Ibudilast, a phosphodiesterase inhibitor with anti-inflammatory properties in the peripheral immune system and central nervous system, are also being carried out to combat the brain inflammation that occurs as a result of chronic meth use. Phase two of the clinical trials should be completed by June 2017.

Researchers have also looked into using d-cycloserine, a cognitive enhancer, to help eliminate drug memories and suppress the urge to relapse. However, it is recommended to pair the cognitive enhancer with a cognitive behavioral therapy regime.

Can I detox from meth at home?

Most of the time, people do detox from meth at home, though be sure to consider a hospital if you are at risk for severe/extended withdrawal symptoms, if your home is an unstable environment (including if you may be exposed to meth at home), or if you have co-occuring medical or psychiatric diagnoses. If you have extenuating circumstances that make it difficult or impossible to withdraw at home, outpatient withdrawal and residential withdrawal are options available to you.

If you do decide to detox at home, be sure to enlist help from others so that you do not go through it alone. Often home withdrawals are assisted by a doctor, a nurse, and a friend or family member. This is called supported withdrawal and tips for those assisting someone with a meth use disorder can be found below.

How can other people help me in my recovery?

These tips can be helpful in the case of supported withdrawal:

  • If someone has gone through withdrawal before, make sure to note or remember what was helpful/unhelpful in the past.
  • Make sure that the person going through withdrawal always knows what to expect in terms of upcoming symptoms and their potential effect on their life as a whole.
  • Encourage them to eat, drink, and rest as needed/is appropriate. Help them prepare ahead of time by ensuring their home is stocked with nutritious food, taking adequate time off of work, and ensuring there aren’t many visitors.
  • Help them monitor their symptoms of depression, including self-injurious and suicidal thoughts. If the latter occur, seek medical help.
  • Develop a plan to combat cravings before embarking on detox and withdrawal.
  • Make sure all plans and information are written down beforehand; they may have problems with memory and concentration during detox.
  • Seek a doctor’s help if insomnia, agitation, or anxiety continue for more than a week or two. There are medications that can help.
  • Ensure that there is a plan for after detox and withdrawal are finished, to ensure proper follow-up.

If you do decide to detox at home, be sure to enlist help from others so that you do not go through it alone. Often home withdrawals are assisted by a doctor, a nurse, and a friend or family member. This is called supported withdrawal and tips for those assisting someone with a meth use disorder can be found below.

What else can I do to recover from meth abuse?

There are also different types of psychosocial and behavioral groups and therapies you can take part in.

Contingency management focuses on rewarding you with items for continued sobriety. This is the most documented approach to treating meth use disorders.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is either individual or group counseling that focuses on helping you find ways to avoid relapse. Some focuses are:

However, both of these methods have high drop-out rates within the first month and a relapse rate of over 50% 6-19 months after the end of treatment.

The Matrix Model seems to be the most effective approach to treating meth use disorders. This process:

  • Establishes a structure, expectations, and a positive tone of collaboration
  • Provides cognitive behavioral therapy.
  • Gives useful information.
  • Reinforces change for the better.
  • Provides feedback when behavior needs to be corrected.
  • Helps to educate family members about recovery.
  • Combines individual, group, and family therapy.
  • Lasts longer than six months for maximum impact.
  • Increases in intensity over time to provide constant engagement and challenge.

After 1-5 years of follow-up with those that used the Matrix Model in recovery, 80% of people denied using meth.

Whatever you decide, whether it be home, outpatient, or residential detox; contingency management, cognitive behavioral therapy, or the Matrix Model, the important thing is that you detox safely from meth. Make the decisions that best suit you and your new healthy life.

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How to Safely Detox From Meth
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