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Crystal Meth Withdrawal Symptoms & Crystal Meth Withdrawal Timeline

Methamphetamine, commonly called meth, is a highly addictive drug usually in the form of an odorless, white powder.1 People dependent on meth may experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms when use is decreased or discontinued altogether.1 The duration of withdrawal symptoms can vary, with acute withdrawal symptoms lasting several days and, in some cases, protracted withdrawal symptoms possibly lasting for weeks or several months.2 Medical detox can help manage the symptoms of withdrawal and is often the first step in getting help to quit using meth and recovering from the effects of chronic meth use.3


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What Is Crystal Meth?

When meth is in a crystalline or rock-like form, it’s referred to as crystal meth.4 People use meth either by snorting, swallowing, injecting, or smoking the substance.1 The method of ingestion can affect the onset and intensity of effects.1

Methamphetamine is a stimulant that works on the central nervous system (CNS) by enhancing the activity of certain neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine.2 Effects of meth use can include but are not limited to:2

  • Elevated mood.
  • Increased alertness.
  • Amplified focus or concentration.
  • More energy.
  • Diminished appetite, which can lead to weight loss.
  • Increased libido.
  • Fluctuations in mood.
  • Increased anxiety and paranoia.
  • Hallucinations and/or delusions.
  • Seizures.

It’s hard to deny the abuse potential and risks involved with meth use. In 2020, an estimated 2.5 million Americans aged 12 or older used meth in the past year, and that same year there was a record number of 23,837 people who died from a psychostimulant overdose, including methamphetamine.1,5 The rise in the number of meth overdose deaths is driven largely by illicitly manufactured fentanyl, as more than half of the 2020 meth overdose deaths involved synthetic opioids other than methadone. This is likely due to an increase in co-ingestion of both substances, which may be done knowingly or without the user’s knowledge; federal drug seizure data indicates the increasing prevalence of fentanyl in illicit supplies of methamphetamine and other stimulant drugs.6

As with other stimulants, methamphetamine can be addictive and users of the drug risk developing a stimulant use disorder, the clinical diagnosis for a meth addiction.1


What Is Crystal Meth Withdrawal?

After prolonged use, people who regularly use meth may experience withdrawal symptoms when they discontinue or decrease their dose or frequency of meth use.1 Withdrawal from meth can result in unpleasant physical and psychological symptoms.4


Crystal Meth Withdrawal Symptoms

Symptoms of withdrawal from methamphetamine are quite different from other substances such as opioids, benzodiazepines, or alcohol.4 Meth withdrawal typically does not present with the same potential for health risks or medical complications.4

Symptoms of meth withdrawal can range from mild to severe, with withdrawal symptom severity influenced by a number of factors, including how long a person used meth, the dose they regularly take, as well as other individual factors.4 Some potential crystal meth withdrawal symptoms include:4

  • Sad or depressed mood.
  • Sleeping too much or too little.
  • Anxiety.
  • Increased irritability.
  • Difficulty maintaining focus.
  • Increased physical movements such as pacing, tapping, or fidgeting.
  • Having more of an appetite.
  • Paranoia.
  • Intense cravings.

The depression associated with stimulant withdrawal, and particularly with methamphetamine, can be severe, and is associated with an increased risk of suicide.7 Warning signs that depression has become emergent are suicidal thoughts, plans, and/or attempts.

Long-term or high-dose meth use can lead to psychosis, including paranoia and hallucinations, and in some cases can persist for many months after stopping the drug.1 Medical detox can provide a safe, comfortable, and drug-free environment where a person can be monitored for signs of severe depression and symptoms of psychosis may be appropriately managed.


Crystal Meth Withdrawal Timeline

Commonly seen in people who use crystal meth is a pattern of binge use, where the drug is used repeatedly, sometimes for several days, followed by a “crash,” when a person experiences withdrawal symptoms and typically ends up sleeping for several hours and sometimes days.4,7 Following acute withdrawal, certain withdrawal symptoms such as cravings and depression may and linger, sometimes for weeks or months or even years after quitting meth.1

Initial and Peak Crystal Meth Withdrawal

Acute withdrawal symptoms can begin anywhere from a few hours to a couple of days after decreasing or stopping crystal meth use.8 During acute withdrawal, symptoms can feel intense, and feelings of depression or suicidal ideation may set in.8

Some common symptoms of crystal meth withdrawal in 24-36 hours may include:4

  • Fatigue and long periods of sleep.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Anxiety.
  • Depression.
  • Drug craving.
  • Irritability.
  • Increased hunger and appetite.

Post-Peak Crystal Meth Withdrawal

Strong drug cravings during meth withdrawal can contribute to relapse.7 In a 2010 study, researchers found that cravings for crystal meth decreased significantly when participants were abstinent for 2 weeks or longer.9 Acute symptoms of methamphetamine withdrawal tend to subside after a few days; however, they can last up to 4 weeks.4 Depressive symptoms can also persist after 2 weeks of abstinence, and treatment may be beneficial to help reduce these.9

Psychotic symptoms are more common in people who use meth long term.1,9 psychopathology and psychotic symptoms in MA withdrawal and abstinence, 2nd paragraph, 1st sentence Due to structural changes in the brain from long-term meth use, symptoms like paranoia, hallucinations, and delusions may continue to be present for months or years after quitting.1 Severe psychotic symptoms are also associated with hostility or increased psychological distress.9

Symptoms that last weeks or months after discontinuing the drug are called post-acute withdrawal symptoms or protracted withdrawal.10 Along with depression, which can last for weeks to months and years after quitting meth, comes symptoms of dysphoria (i.e., general feelings of dissatisfaction with life) and anhedonia (i.e., the inability to feel pleasure even from things someone once enjoyed).10 These symptoms can take up to 24 months to resolve and can challenge sobriety during that time, as they can also contribute to relapse.10

Getting Help for Crystal Meth Withdrawal

There are a few different levels of care when it comes to detox.4 Less intensive levels of care can be provided on an outpatient basis, such as through a physician’s office or home health care service while higher levels of care include residential treatment or 24-hour inpatient in a hospital or treatment center setting.4

To determine the level of detox that’s appropriate for you, your provider might assess the following:4

  • Potential for withdrawal and/or recent intoxication
  • Medical conditions and complications
  • Mental health concerns or complications including behavioral and cognitive conditions
  • Readiness to change
  • Relapse and continued use potential
  • Recovery and living environment

Even if withdrawal symptoms are mild, a detox program can be beneficial as a way to encourage participation in rehab treatment.4 Establishing a trusting relationship with your treatment provider can help increase your motivation for change.4 Withdrawal and detox are often the first step to recovery and many people can benefit from additional drug addiction treatment.3 Seeking help through an outpatient program or a medically monitored inpatient detox program can help you navigate withdrawal and recovery.4

Recovery from crystal meth addiction is possible. After detox, crystal meth rehab will help address the underlying issues that contributed to addiction.3 Within substance use treatment there are different types of programs like:3

  • Long-term residential treatment usually lasts for several months and requires participants to live at the facility for the designated time.
  • Short-term residential inpatient treatment generally includes at least 3-6 weeks in a hospital or rehab facility.
  • Outpatient treatment programs vary depending on your individual needs. Participants attend treatment at designated times and days while being able to return home at night.

Rehab includes treatment such as:3

  • Individualized drug counseling consists of behavioral therapies to help treat addiction.
  • Group counseling can provide social support and encouragement from others going through similar experiences.
  • Education about the effects of drugs of alcohol.
  • Support services for those needing vocational or legal assistance.

Both in crystal meth detox and in some substance abuse treatment programs, supportive medications may be used to help treat specific withdrawal symptoms or co-occurring mental health concerns, such as depression.4 Medications like diphenhydramine can help encourage sleep, and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) and other medications to treat depression, may be prescribed during or after detox from meth.4 Non-pharmacological treatments primarily consist of behavioral therapies and are currently the standard of care for methamphetamine addiction.1


Sources

  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (October). Methamphetamine research report.
  2. Yasaei, R. & Saadabadi, A. (2021). Methamphetamine. StatPearls.
  3. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). Principles of effective treatment.
  4. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. (2006). Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment. Treatment improvement protocol (TIP) Series, No. 45. HHS Publication No. (SMA) 15-4131.
  5. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2022). Overdose Death Rates.
  6. Jones, C.M., Bekheet, F., Park, J.N., Alexander, G.C. (2020). The Evolving Overdose Epidemic: Synthetic Opioids and Rising Stimulant-Related Harms. Epidemiologic Review, 42(1): 154-166.
  7. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Treatment for Stimulant Use Disorders. Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series 33. SAMHSA Publication No. PEP21-02-01- 004. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2021.
  8. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
  9. Zorick, T., Nestor, L., Miotto, K., Sugar, C., Hellemann, G., Scanlon, G., Rawson, R., & London, E. D. (2010). Withdrawal symptoms in abstinent methamphetamine-dependent subjects. Addiction (Abingdon, England), 105(10), 1809–1818.
  10. Melemis, S. M. (2015). Relapse prevention and the five rules of recovery. The Yale journal of biology and medicine, 88(3), 325–332. 

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