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Methamphetamine Detox and Withdrawal

Methamphetamine is an illicit and powerful, highly addictive stimulant that has long-lasting and harmful effects on the central nervous and cardiovascular systems.1

Methamphetamine use has a host of negative impacts on the person who uses the drug, such as memory loss, psychotic behavior, malnutrition, and severe dental concerns.1

This article will discuss methamphetamine dependence, withdrawal symptoms, the safety and dangers of methamphetamine detox, and how to access treatment for meth addiction.

What Is Meth Detox?

Detox is a set of specific interventions designed to manage acute intoxication and withdrawal from a substance to keep the person safe and to help stabilize their physical condition.2 Detoxification can take place in a variety of settings, with different levels of intensity, depending on the needs of the patient.2

To understand the importance of detox, it is important to understand the relationship between dependence and withdrawal and this relates to detox. Dependence is a physiological adaptation of the body to a substance, wherein the body becomes so used to the drug being present in the system that when the individual cuts back on their use or quits, withdrawal symptoms emerge. In other words, a person feels like they need this drug to feel and function normally. With significant levels of physiological dependence, a person may continue to compulsively drink or use drugs to avoid unwanted withdrawal symptoms.

There are currently no effective medications specifically to treat for methamphetamine withdrawal. However, medications can be given in help reduce unwanted generalized symptoms associated with withdrawal, even though these symptoms are not necessarily specific to methamphetamine withdrawal. In the outpatient setting, the emphasis is on establishing a period of abstinence until withdrawal symptoms have subsided.2 It is important to utilize outpatient treatment at this stage, to ensure that progress is monitored by a medical professional.

Once withdrawal symptoms have eased, it is best to continue with a treatment program that provides behavioral therapies and individualized treatment, and that can monitor and address any physical issues that may emerge as the result of meth use.2 The cognitive, physical, and emotional effects of methamphetamine use can complicate the treatment process.4 It is a good idea, when possible, to consult a medical or treatment professional to develop the best plan for treatment.4

Ongoing treatment can also be helpful in preventing relapse. Detox alone is rarely enough to help someone resist the urge to return to drug use. Treatment support can be vital in preventing meth addiction relapse.

Meth Withdrawal Symptoms

While withdrawal from methamphetamine doesn’t generally pose a medical danger or cause severe physical discomfort, there are some common withdrawal symptoms. These include:2

  • Depression.
  • Negative thoughts and feelings.
  • Anhedonia (lack of enjoyment).
  • Excessive sleeping.
  • Fatigue.
  • Anxiety.
  • Irritability.
  • Poor concentration.
  • Psychomotor retardation.
  • Increased appetite.
  • Paranoia.
  • Cravings.

These symptoms may not create immediate physical concerns, but they can make the withdrawal process difficult to manage, and depending on the severity of symptoms, they can make remaining abstinent very difficult.2 The symptoms of depression, negative thoughts and feelings, and anhedonia can lead to serious psychological crisis, which may include suicidal thoughts or actions.2 The intensity and persistence of withdrawal symptoms are an important part of determining the most appropriate level of care when deciding on a treatment program.2

Meth Detox Timeline

The overall process of withdrawing from methamphetamine generally lasts for a few days, however, some symptoms can persist over the course of a few weeks.2 It is important to note, however, that an individual’s experience with detox and withdrawal will vary based on their specific situation.

The first phase of methamphetamine withdrawal is the acute phase. This generally lasts between 2–10 days, depending on the length of methamphetamine use, amount used, and any possible physical complications.3

The second phase of withdrawal is post-acute withdrawal. This phase may last up to 2 weeks and includes extreme fatigue, excessive sleeping, mood swings, and increased appetite.3

Protracted withdrawal is the third phase of withdrawal. The length of this phase correlates to the duration and intensity of methamphetamine use. This phase includes symptoms of depression, fatigue, and general loss of interest in activities.3

The post-crash euphoric phase is the longest phase and generally occurs at around the one-month mark after detox is complete. This phase is characterized by positive feelings and a strong sense of positive self-esteem. This experience doesn’t last long, however, and the recovering person tends to fall into a depressive state sometime between the 3- and 6-month point.3 This can be a particularly vulnerable time for relapse.3

Is Meth Detox Dangerous?

Detox from methamphetamine is generally not dangerous.2 However, because of the psychological discomfort and intense cravings, meth detox can be difficult to get through alone. Studies also show that the detox process alone is not enough to help people be successful in recovery. Connecting to a treatment program will help provide needed support and skills for success.

Participation in treatment services also provides psychological support to help mitigate the impact of symptoms such as depression, negative thoughts and feelings, and suicidal thoughts or attempts that can be present during withdrawal from meth.2 The intense experience of depression and suicidal thoughts are the most dangerous part of methamphetamine detox and withdrawal.2 Monitoring for these symptoms and support can be crucial to mitigating the risks.2

Engagement in treatment can help continue the recovery process and avoid methamphetamine relapse. There are evidence-based, behavioral therapy approaches designed to help prevent meth addiction relapse.3

While the detox process poses little danger to someone who is withdrawing from methamphetamine, there are a number of dangerous effects of using meth that will need to be assessed. Primarily, impacts on the cardiovascular system, kidneys, and dental issues can be of particular importance in returning to healthy functioning.2

Medical Detox for Meth Addiction

While there are specific medications to assist with detox and withdrawal for some substances, there are currently no medical interventions approved specifically for methamphetamine withdrawal.2

Many treatment facilities don’t provide detox services for methamphetamine detox outside of offering medications to ease discomfort, providing a safe place to sleep, and providing healthy food.2 Due to the low risk side effects associated with meth detox, services for methamphetamine detox are usually not covered by health insurance.2

If you or someone you love are dealing with polysubstance use, or the use of other substances in addition to methamphetamine (such as cocaine), medical detox may be appropriate.2 The detox process for substances such as alcohol and opioids can be dangerous, so more intensive detox should be considered.2

Start Your Meth Addiction Recovery Today

If you or someone you love are looking for a way to stop using methamphetamine and begin the recovery process, there are many treatment programs to choose from. Research shows that people recovering from stimulant use disorders, including methamphetamine, are particularly responsive to evidence-based treatments such as contingency management, cognitive behavioral therapy, and the community reinforcement approach.3

Although a detox program may not be the place to begin, formal treatment offers social support, skills for dealing with cravings, and motivation to help keep you going, among many other benefits.5 You can take the first step toward recovery by verifying your insurance coverage to find out if you can use health insurance for rehab, or by contacting our admissions team at . You can also locate a drug and alcohol rehab center using the directory here.

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