Meth Withdrawal and Detox Process
Methamphetamine is a potent and addictive stimulant drug that impacts the central nervous system (CNS), leading to a sense of euphoria.1 Methamphetamine is misused in several ways including smoking, snorting, injecting, or taking orally resulting in increased activity and talkativeness, decreased appetite, and a pleasurable sense of well-being or euphoria.1
Meth addiction, categorized as a stimulant use disorder, is a serious issue in the United States, and in 2020, around 1.5 million people aged 12 or older had a methamphetamine use disorder in the past year.1
In this article, you can learn more about meth withdrawal and detox, as well as where to get help if you or your loved one is struggling with meth use.
Dependence is when a person’s body has adapted to the presence of the drug and is characterized by withdrawal symptoms after a person stops taking it or significantly reduces the amount they take.3 The discomfort of withdrawal symptoms, which include depression, anxiety, fatigue, and cravings, may also fuel further use to avoid unpleasant symptoms.2 With methamphetamine, these withdrawal symptoms can start within a few hours to several days after the last use and can continue for weeks.2
Meth Withdrawal Symptoms
Stimulant withdrawal symptoms can include:1, 4
- Depressed mood.
- Sleep disturbances (sleeping too little and sleeping too much).
- Vivid, unpleasant dreams (sometimes featuring drug use).
- Increased appetite.
- Drug cravings.
- Slowing down physical movements or mental abilities (e.g., difficulty concentrating).
- Restless, anxious, and repetitive movements.
- Poor concentration.
Meth may be used in binges (short periods of high-dose use followed by periods of withdrawal) while others use it chronically in high doses. For people who follow a binge pattern of high-dose use, meth withdrawal tends to be the most intense in the first several days after ceasing use, with the following less intense symptoms lasting 1 to 3 weeks:2
- Depressed mood.
- Drug cravings.
- Difficulty concentrating.
For chronic high-dose use, meth withdrawal may not begin for 2 to 4 days and lasts 2 to 4 weeks. In addition to experiencing cravings and feeling depressed and anxious, withdrawal may also manifest itself physiologically including:2
- Increased heart rate.
- Muscle or joint aches.
Fatigue and sleepiness, occasionally with insomnia, may follow and a person may also experience prolonged sleep. Upon waking, the person is hungry and experiences depression accompanied by a lack of ability to feel pleasure. Paranoia and agitation can also be experienced.2
Depressive symptoms and the inability to feel pleasure (anhedonia) that can occur during and after meth withdrawal can be serious and concerning, with a high level of suicidal ideation present in some people. During the initial, acute withdrawal phase, intense cravings, frustration, agitated paranoia, and aggressive behavior are often more intense than those seen with other types of stimulant withdrawal and can result in violence.2
Factors That Affect Methamphetamine Withdrawal
Many factors can impact the duration and severity of meth withdrawal, such as:2
- Severity and duration of meth use.
- Route of administration (i.e., smoking, snorting, injecting, swallowing, etc.).
- The pattern of meth use (e.g., chronic long-term use vs. binge use).
- General health, particularly a person’s eating or sleeping habits.
- Pre-existing mental health conditions (particularly depression) or medical conditions.
- The use of other substances and severity and duration of their use (e.g., alcohol, benzodiazepines, and opioids are frequently used to self-medicate withdrawal symptoms).
How Long Does Meth Withdrawal Last?
Meth withdrawal duration will vary from person to person, primarily based on the severity (i.e., dosage, route of administration) and overall duration and pattern of meth use.2
Acute withdrawal symptoms typically subside or are resolved in 2 to 10 days after stopping meth, but some people may experience protracted withdrawal symptoms for 2 to 4 weeks or more.2
Crystal Meth Withdrawal Timeline
The withdrawal timeline for crystal meth is like that of methamphetamine as they are the same substance. Like meth, various factors can affect the crystal meth withdrawal timeline.
Meth Detox Programs
Detoxification is the elimination of toxins from the body of someone who is intoxicated or dependent on alcohol or drugs.4
The presence or risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors during meth withdrawal will indicate the level of supervision and emotional support required from professionals during detox.2
There are no medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat stimulant withdrawal or stimulant use disorder (like one might find for opioid withdrawal or opioid use disorder).4 However, a medical detox program may provide supportive medications to help treat certain symptoms so that you feel more comfortable in addition to monitoring symptoms of depression and suicidality.2
Continuing Care After Meth Detox
Detox alone is typically not a sufficient treatment to support long-term abstinence; rather, it helps to stabilize a person by managing the acute and potentially dangerous physiological effects of stopping drug use. Additional drug rehab treatment can address the psychological, social, and behavioral problems associated with addiction.3, 4 Individualized treatment that addresses these issues are an important component of effective treatment for meth addiction and other substance use disorders.3
Behavioral therapy can be effective at helping people overcome addiction, stay engaged in the recovery process, and prevent relapse.3 Examples of behavioral therapy include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), contingency management (CM, and motivational interviewing (MI).2