Methamphetamine Withdrawal | Symptoms, Timelines, & Treatments

The severity of Methamphetamine withdrawal symptoms tends to decline sharply after the first 24 hours of abstinence from the drug. Currently, the only treatment available is behavioral therapy at inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation clinics.

Methamphetamine

Methamphetamine (Meth) is a highly addictive substance that is difficult to recover from. From 2011 to 2016  the number of drug overdose deaths involving meth increased from 1,887 to 6,762 deaths. That is almost an increase of 1,000 deaths from meth overdose every year. Meth belongs to a family of drugs known as stimulants that speed up a body’s system. This can lead to increased heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and respiratory rate. Prolonged use of meth can lead to mood swings, delusions, anxiety, insomnia, paranoia, confusion, aggression, and visual and auditory hallucinations.

How Long Does Withdrawal From Methamphetamine Last?

Pinpointing the exact length of meth withdrawal can be very hard. Each person’s withdrawal process varies in length and severity. For example, a person who abused meth for 10 years will most likely have stronger withdrawal symptoms than someone who only abused the substance for 2 or 3 months.

According to a recent study published in Addictions Journal, the first withdrawal stage, known as the acute phase, begins when a person first stops using meth. This stage can last anywhere from 7 to 10 days. During these 7 to 10 days of abstaining, a person might experience intense cravings for meth, excessive hunger, and depression. The severity of these symptoms tends to decline after 24 hours of abstinence from the drug. The second withdrawal stage, known as the subacute phase, happens at the end of the 7 to 10 days and lasts another 2 weeks. In this stage patients’ symptoms generally remain stable.

One might think that after the first month of abstinence from meth that they are in clear and fully recovered. That is simply not that case. A study published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs mentioned that meth use has been associated with a variety of cognitive deficits. The study highlighted the importance of a greater length of absence than just one month in order to fully improve cognitive function in individuals who were addicted to meth. This points to meth withdrawal lasting longer than just a month to get all of the drugs out of a person’s body and have them return to normalcy.

Signs & Symptoms

Meth withdrawal symptoms often include anxiety, fatigue, severe depression, psychosis, and strong meth cravings. Other crystal meth withdrawal symptoms are paranoid ideation (thinking that people are talking about you), red/itchy eyes, sleep difficulties, lack of motivation, memory problems, exhaustion, low energy, decreased sexual pleasure, and increased appetite. When first abstaining from meth the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and paranoia that withdrawing individuals may experience are caused by the brain adjusting to the lack of the stimulant drug. These symptoms are generally temporary.

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Coping & Relief

A meth detox can be excruciating. Without knowing methods to cope with withdrawal symptoms for meth it can be easy to give in to the temptation and use again to relieve the pain. There are a few things people can do to help relieve painful meth withdrawal symptoms. Proper nutrition can help a person feel some sort of relief from meth withdrawal. This is because meth affects the body and causes maladaptive behaviors like irregular eating, lack of exercise, and a poor diet. Nutrients from healthy eating help give people energy and help to build and maintain a healthy body. Other things people can do to help cope and relieve withdrawal symptoms are getting physical exercise, enough rest, reducing caffeine intake, seeking help from counselors or support groups regularly, and taking vitamins and supplements as directed by a doctor.

Warnings

It is important to seek the guidance and support of medical professionals before going through withdrawal. Relapse is not unheard of. According to a study published in the Drug and Alcohol Dependence Journal, 61 percent of people who used meth relapse within 1 year after treatment discharge and 25 percent during the second through fifth years of being meth free. This makes aftercare necessary because when a person uses meth it alters their brain structure and function. An altered brain structure results in changes that persist long after the individual who uses meth has discontinued use. It also leads to an individual who is addicted to drugs being at risk for relapse long after periods of abstinence. With relapse comes the potential to overdose because a person’s body does not have the tolerance for the drug that it used to. This can be fatal.

Long-Term Treatment

The long-term treatment options that are available for meth users are inpatient hospitalization for serious cases of long-term meth addiction and outpatient clinics that use behavioral therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy, contingency management, and the matrix model.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy challenges a person’s thoughts towards meth or other drugs and helps improve their ability to regulate their emotions. One cognitive-behavioral technique is learning coping strategies. Coping strategies help people learn healthy ways to deal with stressful situations. An example of a coping strategy is getting physical exercise like walking.

Contingency management uses motivational incentives and tangible rewards to help a person abstain from drug or alcohol use. Drug urine tests are often used to hold recovering individuals accountable. If the recovering individual passes the drug test they receive a reward. This reinforces recovering meth users for abstaining from using meth by giving them a reward that promotes a healthy lifestyle. The use of rewards triggers the release of dopamine in the brain similar to what meth does.

The matrix model provides structure to an outpatient treatment center by combining behavioral, educational, and 12-step counseling techniques. It also provides a variety of groups like relapse prevention and social support. Individual and family or group counseling and urine and breath testing are also provided in the matrix model. Individuals who participate in the matrix model program should plan to attend 3 times a week for 6 months in order to get the most out of their treatment.

There are currently no medications that have been proven to be effective in treating this disease. However, a recent study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology gives hope that there will be medications available to help overcome this debilitating addiction in the future. The antidepressant drug Bupropion is currently being used as a treatment to help people overcome their smoking addiction. Bupropion could be an effective medication in relieving withdrawal symptoms and cognitive deficits in early meth abstinence helping individuals reduce their meth use. The study also mentioned that the drug Dextroamphetamine releases dopamine and serotonin in the brain. This drug was found to be a potentially effective treatment for meth addiction as well.

Finding a Meth Rehab

With the right treatment plan recovery is possible. If you or someone you know is suffering from a meth addiction finding a high-quality rehabilitation clinic can help. No one should tackle this monster alone.

References

Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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