Meth Withdrawal Symptoms & Treatment Options: What You Need to Know

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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 toward treating meth addiction. At this stage, meth withdrawal occurs, usually bringing with it a host of painful symptoms. However once the body adjusts to the absence of the substance, its natural balance is restored and meth withdrawal symptoms will subside.

What is Meth?

Meth is a potent stimulant drug that comes in two forms: crystal meth and methamphetamines. Street names for meth include crank, crystal, ice, speed, and jib. Upon ingestion, meth produces a euphoric high, 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 
  • Paranoia
  • Feelings of confusion
  • Muscle spasms
  • Aggression 
  • 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 [1], 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 for the future is always possible.

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Meth Withdrawal Symptoms

Symptoms of meth withdrawal vary amongst different users. Usually, addiction withdrawal symptoms are the opposite of the original drug effects. The length of meth withdrawal will depend on the duration and frequency of the drug use. There are typically two phases when experiencing meth withdrawal symptoms, acute and post-acute. 

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Acute Meth Withdrawal Symptoms

Short-term meth withdrawal symptoms typically set in within 24 hours after the last dose was taken, and last for a few days. Symptoms are at their most severe during this stage. Some commonly seen symptoms of meth withdrawal are:

  • Disrupted sleep and tiredness
  • Dehydration
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Muscle spasms
  • Dry mouth
  • Fatigue
  • Chills
  • Isolation from others
  • Drug cravings
  • Nausea
  • Sweating

Additionally, short-term cognitive decline can also occur as a result of meth withdrawal. This leads to deficits in learning, executive function, memory, and processing speed. These symptoms are common but not necessarily experienced by all users.

Post-Acute Meth Withdrawal Symptoms

Post-acute symptoms are long term, lasting for a few weeks or a few months. It is important to receive professional help when one is experiencing these symptoms. Below are some common long-term symptoms after meth withdrawal:

  • 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. These are the direct opposite of the hyperactivity caused by meth.
  • Suicidal thoughts: When undergoing meth withdrawal, individuals can experience suicidal thoughts.
  • 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 and heightened appetite: Meth withdrawal is often accompanied by a larger appetite and weight gain.

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How Long Does it Take to Withdraw From Meth?

The amount of time it takes to withdraw from meth is dependent on a variety of factors. Meth withdrawal symptoms can span from after 24 hours of not taking the drug until weeks or months later. Medical help is extremely beneficial in helping individuals manage their meth withdrawal symptoms. 

Stages of Meth Withdrawal

When experiencing meth withdrawal, there are various phases to go through. Below is a rundown of the stages of meth withdrawal.

  • Stage One: The first 48 hours mark the first stage of meth withdrawal. Physical symptoms will be the most unpleasant at this stage. A person’s energy levels and cognitive ability will decline, along with intense cramping, nausea, and sweating.
  • Stage Two: Symptoms of meth withdrawal will peak between days three to ten. The individual will experience physical as well as emotional symptoms. Emotional symptoms include drug cravings, anxiety, and depression. Physical symptoms include shaking and muscle aches.
  • Stage Three: This phase usually takes place between weeks three to four. At this point, physical meth withdrawal symptoms will not be as intense but drug cravings will ensue and one may undergo symptoms of fatigue and depression.
  • Stage Four: After about one month of methamphetamine withdrawal, most symptoms will have subsided. One will be able to focus and work towards recovery and fighting addiction urges at this stage. Anxiety and depression may still exist, and proper care and treatment are extremely beneficial.

Factors That Affect Meth Withdrawal

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

To learn more about the half-life of meth read our online resource on this topic.

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 methamphetamine withdrawal. Rather than halting meth use cold turkey, a slow tapering under 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 detox drug rehab which offers solid treatment and medical symptom management.

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How to Cope with Meth Withdrawal Symptoms

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 under the guidance of trained professionals and receive meth rehab. A medical detox center, hospital, or rehab all aid in symptom management. In addition, undergoing the meth withdrawal process with proper supervision and care greatly increases the chances of sustaining long-term sobriety.

Meth Withdrawal Treatment

According to the NIH [2], the most effective treatments for methamphetamine addiction are behavioral therapies.

Some therapy modalities that alleviate meth withdrawal symptoms are:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy CBT for addiction helps a meth addict to identify problematic thoughts or behavior and gives them skills to maintain abstinence – like recognizing the consequences of addiction and learning to avoid 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, the 12-step workshop program focuses on a higher power and twelve steps to recovery. Group meetings and a relationship with a sponsor are both key parts of the program.


Medications For Treating Methamphetamine Withdrawal

The NIDA (National Institute of Drug Abuse) has prioritized researching and developing addiction medications. 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 [3] to ease meth withdrawal symptoms.

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. Consequently, medications used to treat depression may also help to 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 cholecystokinin-8 and oxytocin have been proven to reduce damage caused by meth to the reward centers in the brains of animals, and are now being studied for their efficacy in humans.

GABA and glutamate system medications – Medications that target the disruptions caused by meth in the GABA and glutamate systems are being researched.

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Non-Medication Treatments for Meth Withdrawal Symptoms

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

 Examples of non-medication 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

How to Be There for Someone Who is Experiencing Meth Withdrawal Symptoms

Meth withdrawal can be frightening to watch. If someone you know is going through meth withdrawal symptoms, your support can mean a lot to them. Although you cannot provide them with professional treatment, here are some of the things that you can do:

  • Validate them by acknowledging that withdrawal is not easy and can be very painful.
  • Let them know that recovery is a gradual process and it takes time to properly heal.
  • Provide them with healthy foods and make sure they drink a lot.
  • Keep them busy and occupied so they focus less on the unpleasant feelings.
  • Provide positive encouragement and express your pride that they are abstaining from methamphetamine. 
  • Be there for them and help manage their stress when they become frustrated.
  • Encourage them to seek and receive professional help and counseling for their meth withdrawal  symptoms.

Avenues Recovery can Help with Meth Withdrawal Symptoms

Addiction is a lifelong battle whose emotional scars takes challenging work and time to overcome. With the proper tools, guidance, and support individuals can recover from meth addiction, continuing on the road to sobriety with a newfound sense of freedom for their future and life ahead. Avenues Recovery’s network of drug rehab centers can help you start your journey back home to sobriety. We offer a variety of treatment programs and resources to help you get back to your best self. Reach out today and have our professionals guide you on your journey!

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