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Detox From Meth


ARTICLE OVERVIEW: Meth is extremely harmful to your body. And detoxing safely can be difficult. This article reviews what you can expect during meth withdrawal and how to safely manage symptoms under medical supervision.


ESTIMATED READING TIME: 7 minutes.


TABLE OF CONTENTS:


What Happens To Your Brain

Methamphetamine increases the amount of the natural chemical dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is involved in body movement, motivation, pleasure, and reward (pleasure from natural behaviors such as eating). The drug’s ability to release high levels of dopamine rapidly in reward areas of the brain produces the “rush” (euphoria) or “flash” that many people experience.

However, continued methamphetamine use causes changes in the brain’s dopamine system that are associated with multiple functions such as learning or cognition. Cognitive problems are those involved with thinking, understanding, learning, and remembering.

In studies of people who used meth long term, changes also affected areas of the brain involved with emotion and memory. This may explain many of the emotional and cognitive problems observed in those who use the drug. Although some of these brain changes may reverse after being off the drug for a year or more, other changes may not recover even after a long period of abstinence.

Methamphetamine use can also alter judgment and decision-making leading to risky behaviors, such as unprotected sex, which also increases risk for infection. Another study suggested that people who used methamphetamine have an increased the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, a disorder of the nerves that affects movement.

What Happens To Your Body

Methamphetamine is a Schedule II synthetic stimulant. It is highly addictive. People often take repeated doses in a binge-and-crash pattern. If a person uses it daily, their body becomes dependent quickly. Once the body becomes dependent, you will go into withdrawal if you stop dosing.

The withdrawal symptoms of meth can be painful. Many people continue using to delay the withdrawal process. However, doing this may lead to a downward spiral of repeated Meth use, which can develop into an addiction.

Taking even small amounts of methamphetamine can result in:

  • Decreased appetite.
  • Faster breathing.
  • Increased blood pressure and body temperature.
  • Increased wakefulness and physical activity.
  • Rapid and/or irregular heartbeat.

Long-term methamphetamine use has many other negative consequences like:

  • Anxiety.
  • Confusion.
  • Extreme weight loss.
  • Hallucinations (sensations and images that seem real though they are not).
  • Intense itching, leading to skin sores from scratching.
  • Paranoia (extreme and unreasonable distrust of others).
  • Severe dental problems (“Meth mouth”).
  • Sleeping problems.
  • Violent behavior.

Methamphetamine use may also worsen the progression of HIV/AIDS and its consequences. HIV causes more injury to nerve cells and more cognitive problems in people who have HIV and use Methamphetamine than it does in people who have HIV and do not use the drug.


Meth detox is different for everyone. Call us to learn more about the safest way to quit under medical supervision.


Duration

Although the time it takes to detox from meth varies from person-to-person, the acute phase of withdrawal can peak around day 4 after last use and generally begins to ease after a week to 10 days later.

Low-grade symptoms including mood swings and agitation, cravings, and sleep disturbance can last for a further couple of weeks; however, for some persons, depression can last from weeks to many months or even a year in severe cases.

Timeline

Is important to know that the timeline can vary from person to person. Factors that play into the severity and length of your time in detox can include:

  • Your age, gender, or weight
  • Your history of substance use
  • Your individual metabolism

24 hours after last dose: Within a few hours after the last dose, depressed mood may begin to set in as the drug wears off. After the first 24 hours, withdrawal symptoms begin when the person has quit using for roughly twenty-four hours. Symptoms may begin as early as a few hours after the last dose and may gradually worsen over the next few days before beginning to improve.

Days 1-3 after last dose: During this time, you will usually experience extreme fatigue and sleep more than is normal. Depression and suicidal thinking are also common, which is one of the main reasons people need to seek medical help during detox. This period is extremely critical and can lay the foundation for a meth-free life.

Weeks 1-2 after last dose: The acute withdrawal symptoms of meth detox last about 1–2 weeks, on average.  Between four to ten days withdrawal symptoms peak, causing the person to experience strong cravings, mood swings, and difficulty concentrating. This is when they are most likely to consider a return to meth use, especially if they experience severe withdrawal symptoms like paranoia, hallucinations, and extreme anxiety.

Weeks 3-4 after last dose: Eleven to thirty days after quitting, the person usually continues to struggle with strong cravings and feelings of depression. This is further compounded by their struggles with insomnia.

Month 1 after last dose: After a month, withdrawal symptoms begin to lift, allowing the person to finally start feeling a bit better. However, the person continues to require close support, as cravings and some feelings of depression can persist.

Dangers

If you or someone you know use meth, you may be at risk of:

  • Blood-borne virus (bbv) transmission.
  • Brain haemorrhage
  • Heart attack
  • Heart infection (endocarditis)
  • Lung and skin infections.
  • Poor nutrition.
  • Poor oral health including tooth decay and gum disease.
  • Psychosis and other mental health problems.
  • Social, occupational and legal problems.
  • Vein infections from injecting.

Can You Detox Yourself?

Detoxing off meth on your own isn’t recommended, because the withdrawal symptoms can drive you to relapse. Additionally, many are uncomfortable. While detox is usually not be life threatening, some people can experience hallucinations, paranoia, or self-harm thinking.

Detoxing alone, without support, can also be dangerous if you experience depression and anxiety so severe that it leads to harming yourself or others or precipitates the onset of suicidal ideation.

If you’re ready for meth detox, it helps to have medical support. You need to know that someone cares for you and respects you. Additionally, medical intervention may be required.  Close family members and friends can also be included, giving support when appropriate.


Always seek medical help when you want to come off meth. Unpredictable symptoms can be treated medically.


Where To Detox?

The best place to detox from a stimulant drug like meth is in a detox clinic. Drug detox clinics employ doctors, nurses, and technicians who are trained in specific detox protocols. The clinics use different models of treatment that can include social and medical therapies, and can refer you to a huge variety of outpatient or residential programs upon completion.

In fact, treatment is often a long-term process that includes detox followed by behavioral and psychological treatment. Meth detox is the beginning of this process that is designed to manage acute withdrawal and intoxication.

The most successful method for coming off meth for good involves 100% abstinence from taking the drug completely, or a method known as “cold turkey”. This is because tapered use proves unhelpful, given the long duration of meth’s action on the central nervous system. Cold turkey  detox involves an immediate and abrupt cessation of meth, and due to the physical effects that this entails, medical and specialist support is important.

Medications

While research is under way, there are currently no government-approved medications to treat methamphetamine dependence or addiction. Supportive medications, however, are meant to be used alongside therapy to help ease the intensity of the detoxification process, which typically includes a range of symptom-related therapies.

Research has been starting to show some specific medications that may become approved by the FDA in the near future for their abilities to help treat meth problems. Trial studies have been performed with many medications believed to possibly enhance long-term recovery success. However, more studies will be needed to confirm drug efficacy in the treatment of meth addiction, and each person’s response to a given medication may somewhat vary.

To reduce meth use, these medications might help:

  • Bupropion may help reduce use in light users only.
  • Modafinil when combined with cognitive-behavioral therapy, may help reduce meth use. Other studies have not shown a lot of promise for this drug.
  • Naltrexone has the potential for reducing use and increasing abstinence of methamphetamine.
  • Mirtazapine was associated with significant reductions in meth use among a sample of men who have sex with men.
  • Topiramate may help reduce overall Meth use. Total abstinence was not observed in conjunction with taking topiramate, however.

To reduce meth cravings, these medications might help:

  • Dextroamphetamine has been shown to help reduce meth cravings. Dextroamphetamine is itself an addictive stimulant, but is available as a prescription tablet, potentially facilitating closer medical vigilance and safer dosing while mitigate cravings.
  • Rivastigmine might help reduce the desire for meth.
  • Bupropion has been correlated with reduced meth cravings.
  • Nicotine administration during Meth withdrawal has show to reduce meth-seeking behavior in some persons.
  • Naltrexone have appeared to reduce meth-seeking behavior a possible indicator of its ability to reduce Meth cravings.

Immunological Treatment

Along with these promising medications, some researchers have also been working steadily on immunological treatments. This kind of treatment involves engineering antibodies to target methamphetamine in the bloodstream and bond to the molecules that make up meth. Researchers hope that this method could help halt overdose and other dangerous effects meth has on the brain and other organs. It would also negate the pleasurable rush of the drug.

Treating Depression

Depression is the symptom that most commonly occurs when a person is in meth detox. Prolonged use of meth changes your brain chemistry, destroying the wiring in the brain’s pleasure centers and making it increasingly impossible to experience any pleasure at all. Indeed, depression and drug addiction are well-known to overlap. In recent years, both the mental health and recovery communities have come to acknowledge just how interwoven the two often are.

So how can you address depression AND go through detox?

Here are some therapies that experts suggest.

NOTE HERE: If you are planning to go through detoxification from meth and you are depressed, the best way to treat it is to consult with a doctor to evaluate your condition. S/He can indicate the best medical treatment for your particular case.

1. Antidepressants: As we said above, there are currently no specific withdrawal or relapse prevention medications currently in use. SSRI antidepressants are not only inefficacious for dependence, but also produce a number of side effects. Plus, they have no effect on the secondary depression experienced during methamphetamine withdrawal.  However, studies have shown that Wellbutrin, an antidepressant that acts as a norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitor, may aid in creating chemical equilibrium in the brain. Some physicians are also investigating the potential of Adderall and Ritalin to alleviate depression.

2. Behavioral Interventions: Mindfulness meditation is increasingly being integrated into mental health and addiction treatment programs. Meditation practice is a promising new treatment for substance use disorders. Meditation’s mechanisms of action indicate a potential role in facilitating cue extinction, attenuating cravings, improving depression, reducing maladaptive and compulsive behaviors, and promoting healthier and more resilient choices.

3. Talk Therapy: Psychotherapy, particularly Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), has been found to reduce cravings and relapse rates as well as decrease the frequency and intensity of depressive symptoms.

4. Physical Therapy: Exercise is one of the simplest yet most effective things we can do to promote good physical and mental health. Several epidemiological studies have shown that exercise (EX) and physical activity (PA) can prevent or delay the onset of different mental disorders, and have therapeutic benefits when used as sole or adjunct treatment in mental disorders.

Do You Have Questions?

Did we answer most of your questions about meth detox? We hope so. If you have additional concerns about the detox process, please share them in the comments section below. We will do our best to respond to you as soon as possible.

Additional Reference Sources:
NCJRS: Methamphetamine treatment: A practitioner’s reference
NCBI: A systematic review of cognitive and/or behavioural therapies for methamphetamine dependence
NCBI: CMAJ: Pharmacologic mechanisms of crystal meth
NCBI: Detoxification and substance abuse treatment
NCBI: Methamphetamine
NCBI: The development of antibody-based immunotherapy for methamphetamine abuse: Immunization and virus-mediated gene transfer approaches.
NCBI: Treatment of methamphetamine abuse: an antibody-based immunotherapy approach
NCBI: Withdrawal symptoms in abstinent methamphetamine-dependent subjects
NIH: Withdrawal symptoms in abstinent methamphetaminedependent subjects
SAMHSA: Detoxification and substance abuse treatment
US Department of Justice: Fast facts: Crystal methamphetamine

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