A Guide to Amphetamine Detox & Withdrawal
Addiction to amphetamines is never intended, unfortunately, the effects of amphetamines, including methamphetamine, on the way your brain focuses, the speed at which it reacts to stimuli, and the increased levels of dopamine in the rewards centre of your brain encourage you to keep using amphetamines.
This guide explains the process of amphetamine detox and the different options for withdrawing from amphetamines safely.
What is an Amphetamine Detox
Detoxification is the process by which your body rids itself of the toxins from amphetamines, the withdrawal management options you have during detox are dependent on:
- The dosage you use
- The length of time you have been using or abusing amphetamines
- Your physiological makeup – Do you have additional health or mental issues that need to be treated at the same time (this is known as a Dual Diagnosis)
Whilst detoxing from amphetamines is usually not life-threatening, the severity of withdrawal symptoms you may experience, as well the discomfort during detox may trigger a relapse. Detoxing under the supervision of medically trained professionals may reduce the likelihood of relapse. If you choose to detox at home, please inform your doctor so that they can assist you safely.
If the amphetamines you have become dependent on were originally prescribed to you, the dosage may be adjusted and slowly reduced over weeks or even months. This helps minimise withdrawal symptoms and gives your body time to acclimatise to life without amphetamines.
If you are abusing amphetamines illicitly or illegally, medical detox will be able to assist you with supportive treatment to ease withdrawal symptoms, as a slow reduction in use can not be done.
What is Amphetamine Withdrawal?
Amphetamines work by boosting the levels of dopamine, a key role player in keeping you focused and attentive to tasks. Dopamine also plays a role in how we feel pleasure, so when the usage of amphetamines is abruptly stopped, these dopamine levels drop and your body and mind need to adjust to the change. As your body and mind begin their withdrawal, the dopamine levels fall, resulting in withdrawal symptoms. (https://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/adderall-withdrawal)
Understanding the symptoms and the general timeline of onset can help prepare you so that you aren’t likely to relapse during this phase.
Amphetamine Withdrawal Symptoms & Timeline
When you have been using amphetamines for a long time or at higher doses, you will likely experience withdrawal symptoms within 24 hours once you cease use:
- Trouble staying focused
- Suicidal adulation or acute depression
- Muscular twitches
- Aches and pains physically
- Physically sluggish with delayed reactions and slow movement
Your initial detox “crash” generally lasts 1-2 days and then you may experience a long period of withdrawal symptoms that can last anywhere from five days to several weeks:
- 1-2 days – symptoms can begin within 36 hours of the last use and can include the increased need for sleep, depression, increased appetite, and cravings.
- 5 days to several weeks – The progression of withdrawal symptoms may now include mood swings, irritability, aches and pains, depression, cravings, trouble sleeping, and fatigue.
- 2 weeks to a year – Some withdrawal effects can last up to a year if a person experiences protracted symptoms from long-term amphetamine use.
When withdrawal symptoms last longer than 2 weeks, they are considered protracted or post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS). Your medical provider may prescribe supportive medications to help manage these symptoms, and assist you with remaining sober and preventing a relapse
Some of the signs and symptoms of PAWS include (https://www.smartrecovery.org/am-i-going-crazy/) :
- Problems with short-term memory
- Impaired ability to focus, concentrate, or maintain attention
- Lack of self-control
- Depression with or without suicidal ideation/behaviors
- Inability to experience pleasure (anhedonia)
- Sleep problems
- Physical complaints with no medical origin
How Long Does Amphetamine Stay in Your System?
Amphetamines are generally detectable in your urine from about 2 hours to between 2 and 5 days (https://www.alcolizer.com/faq/how-long-can-drugs-be-detected-in-the-body-with-a-drug-test/)
This is how long it takes your liver and kidneys to filter the medication before it is eventually expelled into your urine.
- Blood: Detectable up to 46 hours after use.
- Urine: Detectable for 72 hours after use.
- Saliva: Detectable for 20 to 50 hours after use.
- Hair: Can be detected up to 3 months after use.
How to Undergo an Amphetamine Detox?
Once you have decided to quit using amphetamines, your first step, before quitting cold turkey, is to seek medical advice, you can contact your current GP or a treatment centre near you. You are also welcome to contact us and we can advise you of the options available to help you detox safely.
Home Amphetamine Detox
Detoxing from amphetamine at home is relatively safe, but a GP’s advice should be sought first especially where amphetamines have been prescribed (typically for ADHD). Detoxing from amphetamines may result in a return of ADHD symptoms in addition to other uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, which may need to be monitored.
If you have spoken to your GP and they are in agreement that a home detox and complete outpatient treatment programme will suit you then please follow their guidelines to ensure that your detox is as safe as possible.
If at any time you are worried about the withdrawal symptoms you are experiencing please contact your GP or nearest treatment centre.
The Pros and Cons of Detoxing from Amphetamine at Home
- Cheaper than private facilities
- Less time off work
- Recovery in a familiar environment
- Loved ones can provide care for you
- You are not restricted by rules, such as TV allowance time, smoke breaks, etc
- No immediate medical assistance in case of an emergency
- Lower success rate due to relapse
- Lack of medications means limited help with withdrawal symptom relief
- Possible harm to relationships with family and loved ones during the discomfort of withdrawal
Although you may feel you have a safe and stable drug-free home environment with minimal triggers – Detoxing away from home may be necessary to remove you from the environment in which you were using amphetamines
Detox should only be the first phase in a recovery program, since addiction and dependence are not only physical but also mental, addressing the underlying causes for your addiction through outpatient therapy or free resources like support groups, community, and faith-based programmes are important to prevent a relapse.
Medically Assisted Amphetamine Detox
Detoxing away from home may be necessary to remove you from the environment in which you have access to or were using amphetamines in::
A residential rehab programme is a private service where you would remain in residence for the duration of your treatment without triggers or the stress of day-to-day responsibilities.
Delivered in a supportive and holistic environment, residential inpatient rehab aims to identify the underlying triggers or psychological reasons for your addiction.
This is where you will meet with a therapist on a daily or weekly basis, during these sessions, the practitioner will help you look at the nature of your addiction and assess whether pre-existing mental health conditions, hereditary factors, or trauma is contributing to your dependence.
The Benefits of a Medically Assisted Amphetamine Detox:
- No waiting periods for receiving treatment within a private facility
- Alleviating physical suffering.
- Ensuring your body’s safe transition to a toxin-free state
- Reducing mental and physical withdrawal symptoms.
- providing extra nutrients and vitamins to supplement your body
- 24/7 assistance through the detox process as well as supportive care during and after your stay to help you maintain your sobriety.
- Teaching you coping strategies to minimize and manage your cravings
- Keeping you motivated
- Getting your loved ones involved in family therapy sessions that strengthen the whole family as a tool against relapse
- Introducing you to the 12 steps programme and a community support group
A holistic treatment plan where you are considered as a whole is developed with beneficial health-oriented activities incorporated, such as, balanced diets, exercise including yoga, medication, and individualized healthcare that aims to restore your physical, mental, and spiritual connection.
How to Cope with Amphetamine Withdrawal
There are no FDA-approved medications currently to treat amphetamine withdrawal, but there are certain medications that can help with the relief of withdrawal symptoms.
These medications are best administered during a supervised medical detox, with a maintenance prescription for when you are back home.
There are other steps you can take to help alleviate the strain you are going through
Take Time Off Work
Whether you decide to try detoxing at home or an inpatient facility, having some time away from work during and after your detox will be beneficial, as initially, you may be feeling moody, fatigued, and depressed so take some time to take care of yourself as your body and brain heal.
Remove Amphetamine Paraphernalia
Staying away from any triggers that may influence your relapse is crucial, start by removing any evidence of your addiction, get rid of any leftover packaging/packets, etc to limit the need to re-use and relapse.
Stay Away from Weekend Benders
Part of your recovery will be to stay away from the environments that were conducive to your use, don’t associate with the ‘friends’ you used to medicate with, or the parties or social events you used to frequent.
Try and remember what used to bring you joy, try out new hobbies, anything that can keep you occupied and your mind too occupied to think about amphetamines.
Eat Healthy & Exercise
The better you start to feel healthwise, as your body recovers and the more your appearance starts to improve, the better you will feel mentally and consistently choosing healthier options will keep you from relapsing or falling back into unhealthy habits.
Talk to Friends & Family
One of the biggest losses during any addiction is the loss of trust, support, and love from family and friends, yet this is the very best support base you can have during your recovery. Nurture those relationships now, show your family and friends that you are consistently committed to your recovery.
Remind Yourself Daily the Reasons You’re Quitting
Staying sober is a daily commitment, try keeping a diary to help remind yourself of all you have accomplished each day without amphetamines, and also to re-affirm your commitment to staying sober.
Ensure you receive adequate sleep to allow your body to recover physically as well as giving yourself a chance to recover mentally from your addiction.
If you are battling to sleep, speak to your treatment centre or medical professional for help.
Preventing a Relapse
Your addiction treatment will include relapse prevention therapy, a relapse refers to a recurrence of using the medication you are addicted to during the recovery period or even once you have been drug-free for a while, generally, the craving physically & mentally will drive you towards relapse especially without advanced preparation to anticipate triggers that are likely to provoke a relapse.
Therapy during and after detoxification plays an important role in the treatment of amphetamine abuse to help with recovery and prevent relapse.
Treating the Underlying Causes of Amphetamine Dependency
Detox can never be the only step in the recovery process, your chances of beating an amphetamine addiction are better with long-term maintenance therapy that includes supportive medications, if needed, along with some form of counseling or behavioural therapy. This is known as medication-assisted treatment (MAT).
Starting with a medically assisted detox in residential rehab is recommended due to the highly addictive properties of amphetamines and the uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms you may experience.
During residential treatment, you will have access to a therapist daily or weekly. The therapist will help you look at the nature of your addiction and assess whether pre-existing mental health conditions, hereditary factors, or trauma are contributing to your dependence.
You will also be allowed the opportunity to receive treatment holistically where your treatment plan is developed around you as a whole, help change the habits you have formed into new more beneficial ones for once you have left rehab.
- Individual Therapy with a counsellor, which includes practical therapies like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to prevent relapse.
- Mutual aid (support groups) such as Narcotics Anonymous (https://ukna.org/)
Whilst the NHS has options in every local area that can help you with free support during treatment, there are often waiting lists for admission to an NHS funded treatment centre and even some charity centres, so if you require immediate admission please reach out to us on 0333 4444 432 and we will assist with finding you a private treatment facility in your area.
The underlying psychological causes for your addiction – childhood trauma, dual diagnosis, etc – can be treated with ongoing therapy, and there is a benefit to sharing your journey within a group setting – NA or other mutual aid(support group) organisations – The UK Public Health has issued guidelines detailing the benefits -(https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/669047/Mutual-aid-briefing.pdf)
SMART Recovery UK, is a free, nonprofit, Self Management and Recovery Training programme available to help assist in the recovery process of addiction.
The SMART Recovery approach to recovery is summarised in the Four-Point program.
SMART Recovery teaches how to:
- Enhance and maintain motivation to abstain
- Cope with urges
- Manage thoughts, feelings, and behaviors
- Balance momentary and enduring satisfactions
Urine: Detectable for 72 hours after use.
Saliva: Detectable for 20 to 50 hours after use.
Hair: Can be detected up to 3 months after use.
In some cases withdrawal symptoms last longer than 2 weeks, they are considered protracted or post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS).