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Methamphetamine Detox and Withdrawal

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older woman looking sickly and depressed due to methamphetamine use

Methamphetamine (meth) is a powerful central nervous system stimulant with highly addictive properties. It can be smoked, nasally inhaled, injected and even eaten. No matter how it is used, the effects have a rapid onset followed by a high that can last as long as 12 hours.

Meth abuse is linked to a number of harmful physical effects that, in some cases, may be fatal. In fact, nearly 8.2% of all emergency department visits in 2011 involved methamphetamine use, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Detoxing from meth can be extremely unpleasant and may even result in the development of anxiety and/or depression in some individuals. In some cases, suicidal ideation with the potential for self-injury can occur, making professional or medically supervised detoxification (detox) and treatment services an important aspect of meth abuse recovery.

Signs of Methamphetamine Withdrawal

man suffering from depression due to methamphetamine use

Detoxification (detox) and withdrawal from methamphetamine abuse can involve a number of different distressing symptoms. The most common withdrawal symptoms are:

  • Depression.
  • Anxiety.
  • Extreme exhaustion.
  • Intense cravings.
  • Suicidal thoughts.
  • Severe hunger.

The extent to which an individual has been abusing meth plays a major role in the course of their detox and withdrawal – the more chronic or heavy the abuse was, the more uncomfortable the user may feel.

Users with a higher tolerance may experience a more intense withdrawal period, often necessitating the help of medical professionals.

How Long Does Meth Withdrawal Take?

The timeline for meth withdrawal will vary by individual, depending on amount used and how long the person was abusing meth before seeking treatment. Fortunately, most meth withdrawal symptoms alleviate within a couple weeks.

For most people, the depressive and psychotic symptoms will alleviate within about a week of sobriety. Most users will slowly stop feeling the overhanging sadness that can come with meth withdrawal and begin finding pleasure in day-to-day activities again (Zorick et al., 2010).

Intense drug cravings, one of the more stubborn and long-lasting symptoms, usually begin to dissipate in the second week of abstinence, though some cravings may persist longer – up to five weeks, according to some reports. The methamphetamine withdrawal period can be psychologically taxing. Having a professional staff on hand to help recovering users during this period can make a huge difference in the recovery process.

Why Should I Enter a Meth Detox Program?

One of the most dangerous aspects of meth withdrawal is the risk of developing severe depression, which can not only precipitate relapse, but be accompanied by self-injurious or suicidal thoughts. Users attempting to undergo detox on their own may find the psychological symptoms so distressing that they turn to self-harm or more meth for relief, both of which may bring grave consequences.

Professional detox services can help recovering users rid their body of methamphetamine so that they can begin their recovery path from a point of sobriety. They ensure the patient’s safety and comfort during this potentially turbulent transition. Any medical concerns that arise can also be safely addressed with formal detox treatment.

During professionally-monitored detox and withdrawal, the recovering user may come to find that there are underlying mental health issues contributing to and/or made worse by their meth abuse that are unrelated to the meth withdrawal symptoms. This is known as a dual diagnosis, and a formal treatment program that specializes in dual diagnosis care can help a person work through both diagnoses in a safe and healthy manner.

How to Find a Meth Detox and Treatment Facility

young woman in therapy session as part of treatment for methamphetamine addiction

Meth detox will typically be monitored in a facility, but once detox is complete a patient has the choice to enroll in either an inpatient or outpatient treatment program.

Inpatient treatment involves temporarily living at the treatment facility. This means that the patient will be in an entirely sober environment while they learn how to resist future meth use and examine why they were abusing meth in the first place. Inpatient treatment necessitates a full commitment to the program, which means that a person cannot work during treatment.

Outpatient treatment may be suitable for someone whose pattern of use is less problematic or who has a strong system of support at home. It may also be right for someone who simply cannot take time away from home or work. Outpatient treatment involves periodic weekly check-ins with the treatment facility as well as individual and group therapy.

There is no currently accepted medication to treat methamphetamine withdrawal and addiction. Behavioral therapy is the most effective treatment for meth addiction. This can involve:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy, in which a person examines their own drug use, why they abused meth, and how they can avoid relapse.
  • Contingency management, also known as motivational incentives, which involves the use of rewards to motivate lasting sobriety.
  • Matrix Model, an intensive form of therapy that incorporates many different approaches to treatment with education and regular drug tests.

When searching for a treatment program to help with meth abuse, bear in mind that a program offering supervised detox is the safest option. Meth detox and withdrawal can be a difficult period of time in a recovering user’s life, and professional help can usher you through the struggle safely and leave you better prepared to cope with future temptations to use. To find a program, call us at . We can help you find a program that will restore you or your loved one to a drug-free life.

American Addiction Centers maintains a strong partnership with a large group of insurance companies at our addiction treatment facilities. Start the journey to recovery and find out instantly if your insurance provider may be able to cover all or part of the cost of rehab and associated therapies.

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Lauren Brande, MA, has dedicated her life to psychological research. She started off her career with a scholarship from the Western Psychological Association for her undergraduate work in perceptual processing. In 2014, she achieved her master of arts in psychology from Boston University, harnessing a particular interest in the effects that drugs and trauma have on the functioning brain.

She believes that all research should be accessible and digestible, and her passion fuels her desire to share important scientific findings to improve rehabilitation.

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