Meth Withdrawal

Shlomo Hoffman
Medically Reviewed by
Dr. Jefferey A. Berman MD, DFASAM
Last Updated
April 27, 2023

Part of the complete guide to understanding addiction

Table of Contents
  1. Meth Withdrawal
  2. What is Meth?
  3. How Long Does Meth Withdrawal Last
  4. Meth Withdrawal Symptoms
  5. How to Cope with Withdrawal
  6. Meth Withdrawal Treatment
  7. What Medications Help with Meth Withdrawal
  8. Conclusion
  9. Sources

Meth Withdrawal

Meth causes long-lasting, oft-irreversible damage to the central nervous system. To prevent permanent harm, it is critical that someone fighting meth addiction receives effective treatment as soon as possible. Detox, the process of purging a harmful substance from the body, is the first step towards treating meth addiction . Withdrawal occurs at this stage, and usually brings with it a host of painful symptoms. However, once the body adjusts to the absence of the substance, its natural balance is restored and symptoms will then subside.

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What is Meth?

Meth is a potent stimulant that comes in two forms: crystal meth and methamphetamines. Upon ingestion, meth produces a euphoric high by affecting the brain’s dopamine circuit. This euphoria makes meth a highly addictive drug with a high abuse potential. Meth has many harmful physical and psychological consequences. Prolonged use of meth has been associated with memory loss, psychotic behavior, aggression, and extensive damage to the body.

Meth is also the drug that contributes most to violent crimes, and wreaks havoc on communities where it is abused. According to NSDUH, there are approximately 1.6 million meth users in the USA, and the numbers are continuously rising. However, recovering from meth addiction and achieving sobriety is always possible.

Learn more about meth and amphetamines

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How Long Does Meth Withdrawal Last

The length of withdrawal will depend on the duration and frequency of meth use.

There are typically two phases of withdrawal:

  1. Acute Withdrawal– symptoms typically set in within 24 hours after the last dose was taken, and last for a few days. Symptoms are most severe during this stage.
  2. Subacute Withdrawal– symptoms can last between two to three weeks, and are milder. Some users experience symptoms for a few months, known as post- acute withdrawal syndrome.

Factors That Effect Withdrawal

There are many factors which influence the severity and duration of withdrawal symptoms. Prior physical and mental health issues, quality of meth, history of drug use, and length and frequency of drug abuse can all effect the withdrawal process.

To learn how long methamphetamine stays in your system, and when the withdrawal stage begins, read our online resource on this topic.

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What Are the Withdrawal Symptoms of Meth?

Withdrawal symptoms of meth vary amongst different users.

However, there are some common long-term symptoms:

  • Anxiety– Studies have found rates of anxiety disorders among meth abusers to be as high as 30%.
  • Fatigue and Sleepiness– Feelings of exhaustion, lethargy and sleepiness are all common – the direct opposite of the hyperactivity caused by meth.
  • Depression-Low spirits are normal for the first three weeks, but may continue beyond that for some people.
  • Psychosis– Patients experience hallucinations and delusions- a loss of touch with reality.
  • Meth Cravings– Strong cravings increase the likelihood of relapse, and require close monitoring by professionals . Such cravings may last for three to five weeks.
  • Weight Gain- Meth withdrawal is often accompanied by weight gain.
Signs of Meth Withdrawal

Meth withdrawal brings with it a variety of initial short-term symptoms in addition to the long-term symptoms described above. This includes short-term cognitive decline, leading to deficits in learning, executive function, memory, and processing speed. These symptoms are common but not necessarily experienced by all users.

Can You Die from Meth Withdrawal

While withdrawal does not always carry the risk of fatality, there is an increased risk of suicide associated with withdrawal. Rather than halting meth use cold-turkey, a slow tapering with professional oversight is recommended. Careful withdrawal will stave off craving intensity levels and greatly lower the risk of suicide. It is therefore highly recommended that an addict recovers in a competent rehab program which offers solid treatment and medical symptom management.

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How to Cope with Withdrawal

Although withdrawal symptoms can be painful, there are methods to mitigate their intensity and make them easier to manage. Once again, it is crucial to go through the withdrawal process beneath the guidance of trained professionals. A medical detox center, hospital or rehab all aid in symptom management. In addition, undergoing the withdrawal process with proper care greatly increases the chances of sustaining long-term sobriety.

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Meth Withdrawal Treatment

According to the NIH, the most effective treatments for methamphetamine addiction are behavioral therapies.

Some therapy modalities that alleviate withdrawal symptoms are:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy– CBT helps a meth addict identify problematic thoughts or behavior and gives them skills to maintain abstinence – like recognizing the consequences of addiction, and avoiding high-risk situations.
  • Contingency Treatment– Patients receive rewards and incentives in exchange for abstinence. Research supports that this method is effective in improving treatment outcomes.
  • Matrix Model– This 16-week outpatient program combines elements of group therapy, individual and family counseling, family education and relapse prevention.
  • Twelve Step Programs– Modeled after the Alcoholics Anonymous program, this program focuses on a higher power and twelve steps to recovery. Group meetings and a relationship with a sponsor are both a key part of the program.

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What Medications Help with Meth Withdrawal

The NIDA (National Institute of Drug Abuse) has made researching and developing addiction medications a priority. They are trying to find medications that will counter the physiological consequences of chronic meth use. However, there are currently no effective drugs approved by the FDA to ease meth withdrawal.

Some of the drugs under review as potential treatments are:

  • Dopamine Agonist Treatment– This treatment counters the symptoms of low dopamine levels – a side effect of meth abuse – by mimicking dopamine’s effects on the body.
  • Antidepressants– Meth withdrawal includes depression-like symptoms; understandably, medications used for depression may help combat meth addiction.
  • Opioid system drugs– Meth induces a euphoria similar to that caused by opioids. Drugs used to assist opioid addiction recovery may therefore be helpful as well.
  • Hormones– The hormones chlolecystokinin-8 and oxytocin have proven to reduce damage caused by meth to the reward centers in the brain in animals, and are being studied for their efficacy in humans.
  • GABA and glutamate system medications– Medications which target the disruptions caused by meth in these systems are being researched.
Non-Medical Treatments

Additional treatments are being investigated that may help through altering brain activity patterns. This can potentially enable patients to monitor and control brain activity.

 Examples of such treatments are.

  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation- stimulates the brain using magnetic pulses.
  • Neurofeedback- teaches people how to regulate their own brain function
  • Vaccines and antibodies- help the immune system keep the drug from entering the brain

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Addiction is a lifelong battle whose emotional scars takes challenging work and time to overcome. However, with the proper tools, guidance and support individuals can recover from a meth addiction, get on the road to sobriety and obtain a newfound sense of freedom.

Avenues Recovery’s network of drug rehab centers can help you start your journey back home to sobriety. Reach out today!

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