Meth Withdrawal: Symptoms, Timeline & Detox

A Guide to Methamphetamine Withdrawal

Methamphetamine is a strong and highly addictive stimulant. The drug is often smoked and can be injected directly into the veins, swallowed, or snorted up the nose. Meth’s effects are powerful enough to produce a sense of euphoria that can last for hours and intensify sexual pleasure. It is a mood-enhancing stimulant with addictive qualities that increases alertness and inhibits fatigue by increasing dopamine levels.

Meth Withdrawal

What Is Meth Withdrawal?

When you become addicted to meth, you stop being able to experience normal feelings of pleasure and happiness. The more you use meth, the more the brain is used to having a certain amount of dopamine in circulation. When individuals stop using the drug, they will experience some withdrawal symptoms. The brain attempts to make up for any deficit by pumping out extra dopamine, which can cause uncomfortable side effects. It is possible to experience withdrawal symptoms even after just a single use of methamphetamine.

Symptoms of Methamphetamine Withdrawal

At about two weeks, methamphetamine withdrawal symptoms start to appear, and they progress to their peak at around four weeks. The most severe symptoms, including severe depression and fatigue, occur at the peak of the withdrawal. The following are the most common symptoms associated with the withdrawal in the short run:

• Intense cravings – Craving meth is one of the most common symptoms of methamphetamine withdrawal. However, you must understand that you are in withdrawal, and cravings will subside with time.

• Psychosis – You may undergo psychosis during withdrawal from meth, especially if you have been addicted for a long time. You can also get paranoid and start believing in conspiracy theories and delusions. This symptom of withdrawal is quite common because when people begin taking meth, they become different people altogether.

• Fatigue – This is the most common symptom of withdrawal. The body naturally needs to recover from the drug and any other damage it inflicts on the body. The urge to sleep is quite intense and challenging to resist since the body will be healing from the effects of meth addiction, such as overstimulation, sleep disturbance, and deprivation.

• Anxiety – This is another common symptom of withdrawal because it has been observed that anxiety is most often associated with methamphetamine use. A person using meth may develop panic attacks and severe anxiety when trying to come off the drug.

• Insomnia – Insomnia is a prevalent symptom experienced by meth users within a few days of quitting. You can hardly sleep and wake up at odd hours. Also, you may find it difficult to sleep even for a few minutes. At the peak of methamphetamine withdrawal, it may be difficult for you to get any sleep.

• Dehydration – This is another common symptom during methamphetamine withdrawal. You will begin experiencing intense thirst, and you will be drinking more water and fluids than usual to quench your thirst.

• Headaches – Headaches occur in the early stages of the withdrawal when you cannot sleep due to anxiety or restlessness.

• Muscle pain and spasms – Many people also report joint and muscle pain.

• Appetite changes – You may feel that you cannot get enough to eat when you may be eating more than usual, or you may lose your appetite altogether.

The following are the symptoms of methamphetamine withdrawal in the long term:

• Depression – This is the biggest issue for those quitting meth. Meth users will experience depression, lasting anywhere from three months to a year. They will feel lethargic and may have some physical pain. The depression induced by methamphetamine withdrawal can be complicated and distort the person’s lifestyle as they try to quit using.

• Brain zaps or brain shivers – After a few days of abstinence, you may begin experiencing brain zaps and brain shivers. These symptoms result from no more dopamine being released into your brain.

• Migraines – You may experience migraines for a few days or weeks. If you have persistent migraines, you should seek medical attention right away.

• Irregular sleep – You may also experience phases of difficulty sleeping and develop insomnia, followed by stages during which you feel incredibly restless and cannot sleep.

• Cravings – Users may also experience cravings for meth at nearly every moment of the day or night, even during the peak of their withdrawal symptoms.

• Anxiety – You may also experience anxiety that makes it hard to sleep and eat. Users may feel anxious and irritable.

• Cognitive issues – This symptom of withdrawal is quite common among people during the later stages of withdrawal. They suffer from cognitive issues, including short-term memory loss, lack of concentration, and unclear thoughts. It gets worse with time, which is why it is considered the “final stage” of withdrawal.

Meth Withdrawal Timeline

If you are wondering about the withdrawal timeline, you should know that it is pretty long and can be painful. Still, it is necessary to clean your system from meth. It is also important to note that you cannot quit using meth just once and get rid of the symptoms altogether. You will need to be very determined and strong to deal with the withdrawal symptoms. When it comes to the withdrawal timeline, there is no set time when a person can completely get rid of all of the symptoms. However, there are three phases of methamphetamine withdrawal.

Phase 1

This is the crash period, which lasts for the first three to 10 days. The crash period is the first phase of the withdrawal, during which you are practically incapacitated. You will wake up at all hours due to insomnia, you’ll try to sleep for short periods, and you’ll experience severe depression. During the crash period, you may also experience:

• Violent mood swings
• Rage attacks
• Hallucinations
• Paranoia

Phase 2

This is called the “rebound” period. During this phase, you may feel that all you have to do is take another hit, and everything will be okay again. Unfortunately, this is not true. A lot has changed by now; you have begun waking up earlier than before, and you may have managed to get some good night’s sleep now that the drug has left your system. This period can take up to 10 weeks and is associated with:

• Irritability
• Restlessness
• Depression

Phase 3

This is the long-term recovery period. During this time, you may experience irritability, anger, and other mood problems. These can persist for 30 weeks or much longer, depending upon the severity of the withdrawal symptoms. You may also feel tired by this time and may not be able to function normally anymore. Due to memory-loss problems, you might have trouble concentrating on everyday tasks and may be easily distracted.

Methamphetamine Withdrawal Symptoms Treatment

Treatment for the withdrawal symptoms depends on the severity of the symptoms you are experiencing at any given moment. Medications for methamphetamine withdrawal include:

• Antidepressants – Antidepressants (SSRIs) can be used to treat depression during methamphetamine withdrawal. They are used by clients who want to cease taking all drugs during the detox stage.

• Anticonvulsants – People who suffer from mood or memory issues, anxiety and depression, and attention deficit disorder may experience relief from these disorders with the use of anticonvulsants.

• Antihistamines – Antihistamines help you cope with withdrawal symptoms, such as headaches, fatigue, nausea, and craving. Antihistamines are available as over-the-counter medications, which you can take during recovery.

• Tranquilizers – Tranquilizers, such as diazepam or alprazolam, can be used to help you regulate your mood and sleep during withdrawal.

• Oxycodone – Opiate analgesics can help suppress the painful symptoms of meth withdrawal.

• Acupuncture – This is an alternative treatment method that can be used to treat the withdrawal symptoms. Acupuncture helps balance the flow of Qi or vital energy in the body, thereby reducing stress levels, depression, and anxiety in the mind. With a more balanced Qi flow, a person will be able to experience less intense symptoms of withdrawal from meth.

Meth Detox

Meth detox is a process that involves detoxification and physical withdrawal from meth drugs. There are three phases of the detox process:

1. Pre-detox phase – During this phase, you may experience the following symptoms: mood swings, fatigue, headaches, and above all, depression. Most clients find it challenging to cope with this phase because they cannot sleep well or eat properly; their minds are filled with many negative thoughts.

2. Physical withdrawal phase – As the liver metabolizes the meth drug, it leaves the body in urine and stool. To get rid of these toxins completely, you must undergo physical detoxification. The period during which this occurs varies depending on how long meth was being used.

3. Post-detox phase – After the detox comes the period after which you are free from any meth withdrawal symptoms. During this phase, you will be better able to cope with your depression, anxiety, and insomnia symptoms.

Meth detoxification can take around eight weeks to recover fully. It is best to undergo detox under medical supervision. During detox, medications for the following symptoms might be provided by your doctor or a rehabilitation center:

• Anxiety and irritation – Benzodiazepines like alprazolam can be used to treat withdrawal symptoms. These drugs will help to reduce anxiety levels and control extreme agitation.

• Depression – Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are used to treat depression during and after withdrawal in adults and adolescents.

• Insomnia – Modafinil drug can help you sleep better at night. You will wake up feeling refreshed the next day and start the recovery process properly.

• Cravings – Medications such as bupropion or the nicotine patch can be used to reduce the intensity of cravings for meth during the meth detoxification process.

• Psychosis – Antipsychotic drugs and sedatives can be used to control psychotic symptoms during detoxification.

• Cognitive abilities – modafinil, bupropion, and topiramate can increase cognitive abilities during this process.

• Mood and memory problems – Antidepressants such as tricyclics, SSRIs, and monoamine oxidase inhibitors can treat depression, anxiety, and memory problems.

• Physical withdrawal symptoms – Benzodiazepines treat physical symptoms such as muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and dizziness. Commonly prescribed benzodiazepines for detox include alprazolam, diazepam, and lorazepam.

One of the detox programs that clients consider are the 12-step program. This is a systematic program that helps people with all kinds of addictions and substance abuse issues, including those who are suffering from meth. This type of addiction treatment makes clients evaluate their thought processes and self-image, thereby making it easier to quit drugs forever.

Coping and Relief

Withdrawing from meth can be challenging. However, you can do the following to cope with the symptoms:

• Avoid triggers – Once you have physically reached detox and the withdrawal stage, make sure that the triggers of meth abuse are kept away from you. These triggers may include places, people, situations, and objects that remind you of your addiction. The more you stay away from meth abuse triggers, the easier it will be for you to recover from your addiction.

• Stay busy – The human mind is a strange thing. It tends to dwell on something far too much when left to its devices. Thoughts can be overwhelming when one has just come out of an addiction. Thus, staying busy helps prevent such negative thoughts from creeping into one’s mind.

• Exercise – Exercise will help you sweat out toxins and stay awake so that you are less likely to feel stressed and restless.

• Support – Tell your friends, family members, and co-workers how you are doing and let them support you in your recovery process. You can also make mental health appointments with a therapist to gain insight into your addiction and learn strategies or techniques to deal with it in the future.

• Eat healthy – Your appetite may come back during withdrawal, but try to eat the required quantity and a balanced diet.

Your Journey to Sobriety Is Just a Phone Call Away

Meth is a highly addictive drug to abuse, and it can cause immense harm to your health if you abuse it for years. The symptoms of withdrawal are severe, but there is hope for successful withdrawal. You need to be medically supervised for meth detoxification to help in the process of recovery. Call us at American Addiction Centers today to get started on your journey to sobriety.

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Reviewed By:

Dr. John Elgin Wilkaitis

Dr. John Elgin Wilkaitis completed medical school at The University of Mississippi Medical Center and residency in general psychiatry in 2003. He completed a fellowship in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in 2005. Following this, he served as Chief Medical Officer for 10 years of Brentwood Behavioral Healthcare a private health system including a 105-bed hospital, residential treatment, and intensive outpatient services.

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