ARTICLE OVERVIEW: Quitting meth can be very difficult, but it is not impossible. Symptoms often include extreme fatigue, depression, and suicidal thinking. Learn how medical detox can help.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Psychoactive Properties
- Why Withdrawal Occurs
- Common Symptoms
- Duration of Symptoms
- Withdrawal Treatment
- Treating Severe Symptoms
- Post-Acute Withdrawal
- Medical Detox
- Ask Your Questions
Methamphetamine (meth) is a powerful central nervous system stimulant with highly addictive properties. It works as a psychoactive drug by increasing 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.
This drug 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. Still, 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 highlights taken from the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) Report. 
Why Withdrawal Occurs
In order to understand why meth withdrawal symptoms occur, you must first understand homeostasis, which is the process that helps keep all of the body’s functions balanced. After regular use of meth, the body’s functions actually begin to change in order to compensate for the extreme changes brought on by the drug. The body has trouble functioning properly with extreme dopamine rushes that occur with meth use. So, it compensates by “slowing down” some processes to accommodate for the extra chemical stimulant.
When a person stops taking meth, the body is still trying to function at this altered homeostasis. It is this disruption of the internal environment that causes meth withdrawal symptoms. They are actually a manifestation of the “slowing down” processes. It takes time for these “rebound” symptoms of hunger, fatigue, and mood to even out. This time of evening out is what we call “withdrawal.”
Signs and symptoms of withdrawal can include a range of feelings from general dysphoria through to significant, clinical depression. According to research people will experience extreme fatigue, and may even sleep for a couple of days without stop. Other common symptoms of meth withdrawal include:
- Aches and pains.
- Cravings to use methamphetamine.
- Decreased energy or even exhaustion.
- Inability to experience pleasure (anhedonia).
- Irritability or anger.
- Mood swings.
- Poor concentration and memory.
- Sleep disturbance and insomnia.
NOTE HERE: Meth detox should always be medically supervised. Drug dependence can bring on drug induced psychosis, which makes users a danger to their selves or others. Sometimes, suicidal ideation or violence can occur.
Furthermore, some drug dependent methamphetamine users will experience a full-blown withdrawal syndrome when they stop using. Others may experience less severe side effects. The course of any case of withdrawal is unique, however. The severity of withdrawal depends on three main factors:
- The person’s severity of methamphetamine dependence
- How long they used meth.
- How often the person used meth (frequency of use).
Other factors include the presence of other physical or mental health problems and other mitigating factors, such as the setting in which withdrawal is undertaken and expectations and fears about the course of withdrawal.
Duration of Symptoms
Although this varies between individuals, the acute phase of withdrawal can peak around day two or three after last use and generally begins to ease after a week to 10 days. Low-grade symptoms including mood swings and agitation, cravings, and sleep disturbance can last for a further couple of weeks; however, for some individuals, depression can last from weeks to many months or even a year in severe cases.
Meth withdrawal symptoms can be managed symptomatically with 24-7 medical supervision. Patients should drink at least 2-3 liters of water per day during stimulant withdrawal. Multivitamin supplements containing B group vitamins and vitamin C are recommended. Symptomatic medications should be offered as required for aches, anxiety and other symptoms. Because of the depression during meth withdrawal, some individuals may also benefit from antidepressants as well as mental health counseling.
Because the mainstay of treatment for stimulant withdrawal is symptomatic medication and supportive care, no withdrawal scale is currently in use.
Treating Severe or Dangerous Symptoms
A minority of people withdrawing from stimulants may become significantly distressed or agitated, presenting a danger to themselves or others. In some cases, using anti-psychotic medications is necessary and delusional symptoms will usually resolve within a week of ceasing stimulant use.
In fact, all people withdrawing from stimulants should be monitored regularly. During withdrawal, a person’s mental state should be monitored to detect complications such as psychosis, depression and anxiety. Those who exhibit severe psychiatric symptoms should be referred to a hospital for appropriate assessment and treatment.
In these instances, medical professionals may attempt behavioral management strategies (as shown below). If this does not adequately calm a person, it may be necessary to sedate him or her using diazepam. Medical observation during sedation is required and no more diazepam given if signs of respiratory depression are observed. If agitation persists and someone cannot be adequately sedated with oral diazepam, doctors usually transfer the patient to a hospital setting for psychiatric care. 
Acute stimulant withdrawal is followed by a protracted withdrawal phase of 1-2 months duration, characterized by lethargy, anxiety, unstable emotions, erratic sleep patterns and strong cravings for stimulant drugs. These symptoms may complicate a person’s involvement in treatment and should be taken into account when planning more longer-term addiction treatment.
Withdrawal is often undertaken at home. Still, the best way to get meth withdrawal symptom treatment is to withdraw under medical supervision. For many, it is very difficult to quit without professional help. A medical detox facility help individuals detox from this drug safely. Why?
Meth withdrawal can be an uncomfortable experience; it is often a major reason people are unsuccessful in quitting meth on their own. In addition to being unpleasant, these experiences can prove dangerous to a person’s health. This is why so many people opt to go through detox at a trusted facility. At a medical detox you can expect:
- A thorough assessment of your physical and mental health.
- Mental and emotional support.
- Round-the-clock care and supervision.
- Treatment of symptoms as they occur.
It is important for meth users to go through the process of withdrawal under the supervision of a doctor. Once the body has been detoxified, the rehabilitation process can begin.
In fact, treating side effects that arise can be made easier with appropriate care that makes quitting the drug feel as safe and comfortable as possible. The preferred treatment for includes psychological therapy that focuses on providing people with skills to reduce the risk of relapse. Sometimes, knowing that you are not alone can go a long way. Moreover, medical detox can help lower chances of relapse and increase your likeliness of long-term sobriety.
Do not fear! You are not alone. While his process is not easy, it is not impossible, either. Surround yourself with your loved ones and with specialized help and you will be able to quit safely.
Still have questions about what to expect?
If you have any questions about detox, do not hesitate to ask. We are here to give you all the information you need to overcome addiction. Please leave your question in the comments section below. We will respond in a personalized manner and in the shortest possible time; if we do not know the answer, we will refer you to someone who can give it to you.
REFERENCE SOURCES :  NCBI: The CBHSQ Report
 NCBI: Withdrawal Management
NIDA: Methamphetamine Abuse and Addiction
PUBMED: The nature, time course and severity of methamphetamine withdrawal
ILLINOIS ATTORNEY GENERAL: Treatment for Meth Addiction
SAMHSA Tip 45: Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment
NIH: National Institute on Drug abuse – Methamphetamine
All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a licensed medical professional.