A Guide to Meth Detox & Withdrawal
When meth is used, it causes the release of excess amounts of dopamine, causing an extreme high, instead of returning to the brain to be recycled for future use, the high levels of dopamine remain in your body until you ‘crash’ or withdraw from using.
The withdrawal of meth from your body may cause severe physical & emotional symptoms, leaving you feeling flat, drained from all energy, with no will to do anything, and experiencing depression and anxiety.
The craving for meth can be overwhelming & if you are not in a safe and supervised detox facility, you may return to using meth. Through this article, we will explore the symptoms, timeline, and treatment options available to you when you choose to detox.
What is a Meth Detox?
Methamphetamine detoxification or detox is the first step in a treatment process designed to eliminate toxins from your body safely, the detoxifying end to your relationship with meth is a necessary start to your journey to recovery.
Once meth and its toxic effects are no longer available to your body, the withdrawal will set in. A regimented detox programme followed by therapy is the most effective way to recover from meth addiction.
What is Meth Withdrawal?
Withdrawal symptoms from a stimulant such as meth may tend to be less severe (and certainly less dangerous) than an opiate or even alcohol withdrawal, making it seem easier to try detoxing at home, but the long term use of methamphetamine can cause a dopamine deficiency which once withdrawn, can cause the following symptoms amongst others:
- Intense cravings – which may drive you back to using
- Fatigue – other users have noted that the ‘crash’ is so mentally & physically draining that they sleep for hours and sometimes days during the detox process.
- Dehydration – lack of fluid intake as well as any nausea during your detox can quickly lead to dehydration
- Hallucinations – Some long-term heavy users experience hallucinations and paranoia, known as meth psychosis, and will need long-term treatment to effectively recover.
You are also at risk for more severe depression during withdrawal than with other stimulants and suicidal ideation is possible. You should be monitored for such changes and medical attention should be sought immediately if you are exhibiting extreme signs of depression.
Meth Withdrawal Symptoms & Timeline
Methamphetamine withdrawal symptoms occur over 2 phases:
1.The Acute Phase (the first week to 10 days)
- Symptoms such as fatigue may set in within 24hrs of the last dose, this can be quickly followed by an overwhelming feeling of depression.
- Other symptoms that are prevalent during the acute detox phase are:
- Intense drug cravings
- Mood swings
- Sleeping problems
- An inability to concentrate
- Aches and pain
2.The Protracted Phase (for many weeks or months after the completion of the acute phase) can leave you with the following common symptoms
- Cravings – decreases at about 2 weeks post-detox but is present for at least 5 weeks
- Problems with thinking and memory
- Sleeping problems
Chronic meth use causes neurotoxicity (brain damage). This brain damage can take a long time to heal and this is one reason why you may experience some meth withdrawal symptoms like thinking problems, depression, and cravings, and can persist for a long time after you quit. The initial detox will make you feel better but once you add cravings, an inability to get much enjoyment or pleasure from life during the protracted phase as well as a low impulse control your chance of relapse can grow, these feelings will go away in time, but until they do, you’ll always feel temptation and you’ll always feel that a little meth will make you feel better.
Meth withdrawal symptoms may not begin immediately and may last longer compared to withdrawal from other stimulants.
How Long Does Meth Stay in Your System?
Whilst meth is not metabolised by your body as fast as other stimulants say cocaine, it is still detectable for up to 6 days in your urine, your hair can (depending on length) show evidence for months after the last use.
How to Undergo Meth Detox?
A complete detox from Meth is the first step towards overcoming your addiction. You will need to completely stop taking meth and once it’s no longer detectable in your body can you begin to recover from the other symptoms you are experiencing, although detoxing from meth is best performed in a residential rehab, a home detox in conjunction with support from a medical professional (GP) can also be considered.
Meth Detox at Home
Due to the previously discussed, less intense withdrawal symptoms you may expect to encounter, you may be looking at a home detox or it may have even been a recommendation from your doctor based on the severity and longevity of your addiction to meth.
There are also private home detox services here in the UK, which provide a medically managed home detox service coupled with online therapy and support.
You may be able to successfully detox at home (on an outpatient basis) if:
- Your doctor does not expect you to suffer from withdrawal complications
- You have no co-occurring medical conditions that would require close observation during this stressful period – such as existing mental health issues (dual diagnosis)
- You have no psychiatric illnesses and methamphetamine associated psychiatric problems, like psychosis and depression, are mild (for example, mild paranoia, sadness, inability to feel joy)
- You have a sober social support network of family and/or friends who are ready and willing to help you through this period
- 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 meth.
- You have never previously tried and failed with a home detox
- You are motivated to succeed
The Pros and Cons of Detoxing from Meth at Home
- You can carry on with your ‘normal’ life – child care, work, home, etc
- Cheaper than private care
- Being around your loved ones
- Higher risk of relapse due to environmental triggers or inadequate social support
- Medical assistance for withdrawal symptoms not as readily available
Medically Assisted Meth Detox
Round-the-clock supervision, assistance, and support provided in a private facility will increase the likelihood of a successful recovery.
A medically supervised meth detox can be performed within a residential setting in combination with therapy, or a drug detox clinic.
Coping with Meth Withdrawal
Within the first week or two you will have made it through the acute phase of withdrawal, its the second more protracted phase that will need your hard work and motivation to get through – staying involved in a treatment programme through an outpatient or residential setting for up to a year, greatly increases your odds of making it through this phase.
Take Time Off Work
If possible, after the initial detox and rehab, try to take some time away from work, the protracted phase can leave you feeling moody, fatigued, and depressed so having time to take care of yourself as your body and brain heal is beneficial.
Remove Meth Paraphernalia
No matter your preferred manner of using meth, not having the evidence around you is crucial. This can include triggers such as bath salts that look like crystals, pipes for smoking, etc.
Stay Away from Weekend Benders
Since meth abuse generally starts in a social setting, steering clear of hangouts or social situations where there could be meth available is vital to your continued sobriety.
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 meth.
Eat Healthy & Exercise
The better you start to feel healthwise and the more your appearance starts to improve, the better you will feel mentally and consistently choosing a healthier option will keep you from relapsing or falling back into the unhealthy choices of your past.
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
Keep in mind the reasons that led you to give up the meth lifestyle, the health implications of using meth, the loss of your identity, loved ones, and the life you dreamed of having. Remind yourself every day that you are worthy of a greater life without meth.
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
A methamphetamine relapse happens when you start using the drug after a period of staying off it, detoxification is only the first step in recovery, treatment is available to help you with the symptoms of withdrawal, but once you have completed your detox and are well into the protracted phase of recovery, you will need to understand what led you to become addicted in the first place.
Treating the Underlying Causes of Meth Dependency
The underlying psychological causes for your addiction – childhood trauma, dual diagnosis, etc – can be treated with ongoing therapy, either within a group setting (CMA or other mutual aid organisations) or a one on one environment with your psychologist or psychiatrist.
A residential meth rehab programme is a private service where you would remain in residence for the duration of your treatment without access to the outside world.
Delivered in a supportive and holistic environment, residential inpatient rehab aims to identify the underlying triggers or psychological reasons for your addiction with therapy.
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.
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 individualised healthcare that aims to restore your physical, mental, and spiritual connection.
Outpatient services & support groups
You may want to consider becoming involved in a wider addiction treatment program in conjunction with your preferred treatment plan.
- Individual & group motivational therapy
- Relapse prevention therapy
- Support groups such as Crystal Meth Anonymous – CMA (https://www.crystalmeth.org.uk/online)
The Frank website (talktofrank.com) is a collaboration between the British Department of Health and the Home Office, established in 2003 to educate teenagers and adolescents about the effects of drugs.
The informative staff on call at the FRANK office can also help with any questions you have regarding treatment support and services to help you. Their number is 0300 123 6600
There is an increasing recognition that drug misuse affects the entire family and the communities in which these families live. Residential rehabs tend to offer family support workshops to help your loved ones understand and deal with your addiction and adjust to your life of sobriety.
There has been a growth in carer organisations, most notably Adfam and Families Anonymous
The Adfam website (https://adfam.org.uk/help-for-families/useful-organisations) is very useful and has a list of different organisations that you can contact for support for your family through treatment.
Families Anonymous (http://famanon.org.uk/) is a self-help service based on the 12-steps plan and is aimed at helping families affected by drug use and behavioural problems.