Medically Reviewed by Dr. Francine Mends, MD on August 13, 2020
Anyone who has an addiction to meth could experience withdrawal, and probably already has.
This uncomfortable syndrome happens when you stop using meth after you’ve developed a dependency on it.
It’s marked by side effects that include mood changes, fatigue, and a lack of interest in what’s around you. A meth withdrawal episode can look a lot like severe major depression.
In 2017, nearly a million people had methamphetamine use disorder (MUD), and every one of them has experienced withdrawal. It’s the most common side effect of meth addiction.
What is Meth Withdrawal?
Meth withdrawal is a collection of side effects that happen when you stop using meth after long-term or heavy use.
Addiction to meth sets in fast. Within a few uses, one can find themselves hooked. Once you’ve developed an addiction, withdrawal sets in any time your most recent meth dose wears off.
When you use meth, it makes your body release all of its dopamine at once. This leads to its characteristic euphoric and energetic effects. When you’re withdrawing from meth, your dopamine levels suddenly fall significantly.
Because dopamine is a chemical that affects the mood and energy levels, the result is a withdrawal that has similar symptoms to a major depressive episode.
People experiencing meth withdrawal experience low energy levels, a desire to eat all the time, mood changes that include sadness or anxiety, and a lack of interest in their lives.
Is Meth Withdrawal Dangerous?
The biggest danger in meth withdrawal is that it can trigger a relapse or an overdose.
When you’re feeling low during meth withdrawal, you’re much more likely to experience a relapse.
There are no reports of death or serious injury from meth withdrawal as of 2020. Meth withdrawal probably isn’t dangerous on its own, but it’s very unpleasant and it can be dangerous by making you want to relapse.
You’re much more likely to overdose on meth (or other drugs) right after you experience withdrawal. If you relapse during withdrawal, you may dose more than your body can tolerate, leading to an overdose and potentially death.
Call 911 immediately if someone near you is experiencing a meth overdose. The signs include:
- Agitation, fear, or panic
- Chest pain
- Fast or irregular heart rate
- Psychosis, including delusions or hallucinations
- Trouble breathing
What Are the Signs of Meth Withdrawal?
You may be experiencing meth withdrawal if you have any of the following signs:
- Excessive need to sleep
- Panic attacks
Meth withdrawal doesn’t usually cause physical symptoms like pain or seizures the way some other drugs can.
Even though meth has a comparatively easy withdrawal, it can still be a difficult ride. Most people who stop using meth report success controlling their symptoms at a medical detox program.
How Long Does Meth Withdrawal Last?
The worst symptoms of meth withdrawal usually happen during the first 24 hours after the last time you used. The entire process can last up to a month.
You should expect:
- Intense symptoms to last for 24 hours
- Moderate symptoms to last for 7 days
- Mild symptoms to last for 2-4 weeks
The length of meth withdrawal depends on:
- Your typical dose
- Your age
- Your physical and mental health
- How long you’ve been using
- Whether you use other drugs with meth, especially stimulants or prescriptions like Vyvanse
Your detox may be longer than expected if you’re older, have health problems, or have a history of heavy or long-term meth use.
Rarely, some people experience post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) when stopping meth use. This syndrome can cause your withdrawal symptoms to persist for months.
What is Meth Detox?
A meth detox program can help keep you safe and comfortable while you’re going through detox symptoms. These programs provide 24/7 medical support in the form of monitoring and care.
If your symptoms are hard to manage on your own, medical detox can keep you comfortable enough to focus on getting through withdrawal and into an inpatient program.
Meth withdrawal is surprisingly hard to get through without medical support, and most inpatient programs request that you’ve finished withdrawing before you start. Medical detox programs help you complete the withdrawal process and prepare for inpatient or outpatient treatment.
What Happens in Meth Detox?
At meth detox, you’ll go through the process of withdrawing from meth, but in the safety of an inpatient facility.
Your care team at medical detox will help you by:
- Monitoring your symptoms and vitals
- Providing medication to control symptoms, such as antidepressants or medications to control panic attacks
- Giving nutritional support to begin healing underlying malnutrition from meth use
- Offering IV fluids to maintain hydration
An added benefit of meth detox is that you don’t have to worry about outside temptation. If you’re withdrawing from meth at home, it’s easy to relapse. When you’re in a safe recovery-focused environment, temptations are the last thing on your mind.
How Long Does Meth Detox Last?
Most people who go to meth detox can complete a 3- to 5-day program. If you’re at risk for PAWS, consider looking for a longer meth detox program in the 1- to 4-week range. Longer programs can help reduce your risk of relapse.
Your care team will help you choose the meth detox program that’s right for you. It’s important to stay in your detox program long enough. Leaving detox prematurely can affect your risk of relapse and make it harder to maintain recovery.
What Are the Signs You Need Meth Detox?
You need to attend meth detox if you:
- Have a meth addiction or physical dependence
- Have intrusive thoughts about getting and using meth
- Experience withdrawal when you stop using meth
- Can’t stop using meth on your own without relapsing
Any of these factors is enough to make meth detox important.
You shouldn’t underestimate meth withdrawal just because it’s not physically dangerous like alcohol withdrawal. Meth is very psychologically addictive. The cravings alone can be strong enough to lead to relapse.
If you’re serious about stopping meth use and beginning recovery, then meth detox followed by addiction treatment should be part of your future.
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