Methamphetamine (meth, crystal meth, or ice) is a powerful, highly addictive stimulant that has become increasingly popular among drug users in recent decades. Meth is typically found in the form of a crystalline powder or as small, blue or white rocks. It is customarily snorted or smoked, but can also be combined with water and injected.
This drug is often manufactured in small clandestine home labs with simple ingredients that can be obtained at pharmacies and stores that sell common household chemicals, such as paint thinner and ammonia. It has also become increasingly available through large drug cartels, especially from Mexico.
When meth is administered, the drug enters the brain where it initiates the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. These chemicals increase energy, alertness, and sociability. Meth’s effects may persist for up to eight hours, but when the drug begins to wear off, the comedown effects can cause the person to feel very ill.
The process of comedown is somewhat different from withdrawal, but there are a few features and effects that are similar. Meth comedown symptoms include:
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Depression and moodiness
- Muscle weakness
- Decreased appetite
- Loss of motivation
- Erratic sleep patterns
- Jaw clenching
- Muscle pain
The symptoms of comedown may continue for several days after heavy use, especially mental health changes that may have occurred, such as depression or anxiety. If the person refrains from further meth abuse, these symptoms will resolve on their own, no treatment needed. Of note, similar to cocaine, a comedown will likely occur even in non-frequent meth users as an inevitable product of meth use itself.
Withdrawal from Meth
There is a substantial amount of research that has documented withdrawal effects in chronic meth users. The timeline for meth withdrawal is predictable and offers insight into what medical personnel and those in recovery can expect during the process.
Meth withdrawal symptoms are primarily emotional in nature with various related physical effects. Withdrawal from meth is typically less severe than withdrawal from other intoxicating substances, such as alcohol, benzodiazepines, or opioids. Any related symptoms are unlikely to be physically damaging unless the person attempts to detox alone and becomes emotionally volatile, a situation which can lead to self-harm and suicidal ideations and behavior.
Meth has a half-life of around 10 hours and is a fast-acting drug. According to research, the timeline for meth withdrawal is reasonably consistent among users:
- Withdrawal symptoms begin within the first 24 hours of abstinence.
- Symptoms peak within the first 7-10 days following discontinuation of drug use, and there is a consistent decline in the intensity of symptoms following this peak.
- Extended emotional symptoms have an average duration of about two to three weeks, but they most commonly abate after about 14 days.
According to research, the primary symptoms during the withdrawal period usually include the following:
- Dry mouth
- Feelings of fatigue and excessive sleepiness
- Increased appetite
Also, a number of people report feeling depression or apathy, which tends to subside gradually throughout the withdrawal timeline. These depressive symptoms can be severe, however, and may be connected to thoughts of suicide. Intense cravings for meth can also occur during the withdrawal period but also tend to decline over time.
Psychotic symptoms, including delusions, hallucinations, and paranoia, have also occurred for many people. These symptoms require treatment in a medical environment. Research has shown that these psychotic symptoms tend to be the most dangerous symptoms, along with severe depression.
Also, research has suggested that people who engage in meth use for an extended period may exhibit some cognitive deficits in mental processing speed, attention, and memory that may not be fully recovered within six months of abstinence.
Currently, the FDA has not approved any pharmaceutical treatments for use during meth detox. However, there are a number of medications that can help manage some of the symptoms encountered during the process of withdrawal. These medications include the following:
Wellbutrin (bupropion)—An antidepressant that may be useful in reducing some of the symptoms of meth withdrawal, such as drug cravings.
Provigil (modafinil)—A prescription stimulant medication that is commonly used for the treatment of ADHD and narcolepsy. The mild stimulant properties of this drug may reduce disruptive sleep patterns, as well as help those in detox temporarily experience bouts of energy and improved concentration, which may be vital components to moving forward in recovery.
Paxil (paroxetine)—A selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), which is an antidepressant that has been found in some research to reduce cravings in abstinent former meth users undergoing withdrawal.
Remeron (mirtazapine)—An atypical antidepressant that may help prevent relapse during the withdrawal process.
Treatment for Meth Addiction
If a person stops using meth abruptly and encounters intense withdrawal symptoms, this is a hallmark sign of chemical dependence, a significant component of addiction. People who undergo detox in a clinical environment (strongly recommended) or at home are encouraged to enter a comprehensive treatment program at a specialized facility such as Midwood Addiction Treatment.
We employ a highly-skilled team of health professionals and addiction specialists who collaborate to evaluate each client and develop individualized programs. Our evidence-based services include psychotherapy, counseling, peer group support, health and wellness programs, aftercare planning, and more.
If you or someone you love is suffering from an addiction to meth, please contact us as soon as possible. Discover how we help clients free themselves from the grip of addiction and reclaim the healthy and fulfilling lives they deserve!