Meth Withdrawal Symptoms

Learn more about meth withdrawal and the symptoms of the withdrawal process in this following article.

Understanding Meth Withdrawal

Meth withdrawal is a condition that can occur when the body begins to detox. It can be an uncomfortable period with a series of psychological and physical symptoms. However, the first step to understanding meth withdrawal is understanding meth addiction itself.

Meth Withdrawal Symptoms

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What is Meth?

Meth, or methamphetamine, is a central nervous system stimulant that impacts how the brain interacts with certain chemicals, like dopamine. It’s a controlled substance due to its elevated risk for abuse and addiction. However, as of 2020, at least 2.6 million people aged twelve and older reported abusing meth.1 This is compared to 2016, which saw only 1.6 million individuals.2

How is Meth Used?

Methamphetamine can be received through a prescription. In this form, it’s referred to as methamphetamine hydrochloride, and it can be used to treat a variety of conditions.

However, meth is also commonly abused in the United States and throughout the rest of the world. Meth abuse is often associated with misuse, occurring in multiple ways.3
One of the most common methods of misuse is snorting. Snorting meth involves crushing the substance into a fine powder and inhaling. This may result in additional side effects and health risks, although other methods of use and abuse may pose greater risks.
Injection, for instance, can increase the risk of infections, heart failure, and the spread of bloodborne illnesses. With intravenous administration, meth is dissolved in water and injected directly into the bloodstream using a syringe.

The third method of abuse, smoking, is more common for crystal meth. Crystal meth is chemically identical to the powder form of meth many are familiar with. However, with this form, the powder is condensed into a single rock-like structure that can be broken into fragments. Smoking meth can increase the risk of respiratory damage.

Why Does Meth Withdrawal Happen?

Withdrawal occurs when the body begins to go into detox after meth is no longer used.4 It’s when the body metabolizes and eliminates the remaining traces of the substance to allow the body to revert to its natural chemistry. Since this can result in chemical changes, such as reduced dopamine, it can cause several symptoms, like depression.

Signs and Symptoms of Meth Withdrawal

As meth withdrawal occurs, there may be several signs and symptoms experienced. The experience of meth withdrawal can cause discomfort and is one of the main reasons why withdrawal is best conducted under medical guidance rather than at home. At-home detoxes and withdrawal can be dangerous as it poses a risk for higher levels of substance abuse in response to the intense cravings, increasing the severity of meth abuse effects and the risk for overdose.

Aside from intense cravings, other meth withdrawal symptoms include:
  • Unpleasant dreams
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Psychosis
  • Meth cravings
  • Agitation
  • Increased appetite
  • Paranoia
  • Loss of coordination

Coping and Relief for Withdrawal Symptoms

While meth withdrawal symptoms can be uncomfortable, there are steps to coping and finding relief during this transitionary time. Many mechanisms or techniques can be done with no other resources, allowing for greater accessibility to relief.

Exercise

Exercise increases the rate at which the body processes waste. It can also trigger the release of endorphins, which are natural “feel good” chemicals in the brain that increase positive emotions and even reduce the perception of pain.

Avoid Triggers

Especially during the first days of withdrawal, it’s important to avoid triggers that could cause relapse. This is why many individuals choose to undergo withdrawal in a rehabilitation or medical facility which provides a safe, secure environment.

Eat a Healthy Diet

It’s essential to provide the body and the brain with the nutrients they need during this transitionary time. Eating a healthy diet allows for this while also providing a method of distraction for those able to cook.

Meth Withdrawal Timeline

Withdrawal can be a long process, with some symptoms lingering for weeks. However, most meth withdrawal symptoms can fade within two weeks. While the exact timeline may vary based on the individual, an overall average meth withdrawal timeline is expected.
Meth Withdrawal Timeline

First Few Hours

The first 48 hours tend to be the beginning of withdrawal symptoms. The most common symptoms are a decrease in energy and aches. This period is known as the “crash.”

1–3 Days

The first few days following the last dose of meth are when symptoms peak and reach their most severe state. This period is when care is the most significant, as cravings will also peak and pose a greater risk for overdose.

Around Day 4

Symptoms will have peaked by day four and will typically reach a plateau. Both physical and psychological symptoms are common during this time.

Between Days 7–14

At the end of the second week, many physical symptoms will have begun to subside. However, psychological symptoms, such as anxiety or cravings, may persist for as many as three more weeks.

How to Help Someone Going Through Meth Withdrawal?

One of the best ways to assist someone going through meth withdrawal and recovery from a substance use disorder is to provide a healthy support system without sacrificing personal needs. Providing a support system involves many factors and can include activities such as:

Making Sure the Person Sleeps Well

Meth withdrawal can cause sleep-related symptoms such as nightmares and insomnia. However, rest is also an essential part of recovery as it allows the body to heal and metabolize as needed. To help someone with withdrawal, check-in and make sure they’re getting enough sleep.

Making Sure the Person Drinks Lots of Fluids

Proper hydration can increase the rate at which the body eliminates and expels waste products, reducing the duration of meth withdrawal. It’s also significant to maintain health, especially while the body is recovering.

Giving the Person Healthy Food

It’s also important to help provide a healthy diet when possible, especially if the individual can’t cook for themselves due to the severity of symptoms or other external factors. The body needs nutrition to maintain health, and a proper diet provides many of the required vitamins and minerals.

Acknowledge That Withdrawal Is Very Hard and Painful

Compassion is one of the most important traits to demonstrate. Addiction stems from substance use disorders, which, like other mental disorders, can be challenging to manage. Acknowledging the difficulty and pain involved doesn’t just create a safe place but can help strengthen the value of a support system.

Encourage the Person

In knowing that withdrawal is hard, encouragement can always be helpful. Encouragement can appear in different ways, from verbal acknowledgment to celebrations of the smaller milestones.
It’s also important to remind the person that the brain and body need time to heal and no sobriety journey looks the same.

Encourage the Person to Connect with An Addictions Counselor

One person can only provide so much help and support without risking their own well-being and mental health. If you know someone going through meth withdrawal, encourage them to connect with a counselor or therapist. This will provide professional support and guidance from an individual with trained experience in substance use disorders and withdrawal.