Methamphetamine, commonly referred to as “Meth,” is a potent psychostimulant of both the amphetamine and phenethylamine classes that is used to treat both ADHD and obesity. This stimulant is also used on a recreational basis in the form of Crystal Meth or “crystallized” form. Many people use it simply to achieve a high, party, and/or to boost sexual performance. It is considered a Schedule II controlled substance in the United States – meaning it has a high potential for both abuse and dependence.
There are a variety of people that take meth – for various types of purposes. Some people take it to get high, others take it to treat their ADHD or reduce their obesity. The major problem associated with methamphetamine usage is that it can damage dopamine and serotonin neurons in the central nervous system. In general terms, this means that it can kill brain cells and possibly lead to brain damage over the long term.
For this reason, many people that take it end up going through with a withdrawal process. Since it is a potent stimulant, the withdrawal process may be difficult – especially if you have used the drug for an extended period of time. While on the drug you may have experienced a boosted mood, increases in energy levels, and improved focus – you feel great. However this is a drug-induced state that isn’t sustainable for the long term. When coming off the drug, you may feel the polar opposite – very depressed, fatigued, and unfocused.
Factors that may influence Meth withdrawal include
There are many factors that play a role in determining how easily you are able to stop using meth. These include things like: time you’ve taken meth, the amount you’ve taken, whether you are dependent upon the drug for everyday functioning, and how gradually you taper from the drug. Most people have a pretty difficult time coming off of meth because they get addicted to the experience of taking it.
1. Time Span
How long were you taking Meth? If you have used this substance for an extended period of time, this could have an impact on withdrawal. Any drug that is used over the long term becomes a way for us to cope with our environment and reality. The longer you are on this particular drug, the lazier your brain becomes because it is constantly getting fed a stimulant.
If you were only on Meth for the short term, you should have an easier time withdrawing. People that have used Meth daily for years are going to have a significantly more difficult time withdrawing.
2. Dosage (Tolerance)
Typically the higher dosage you are taking of methamphetamine, the greater tolerance you will develop. People become tolerant to lower doses of this drug pretty quickly, and thus continuously have to increase the dosage. It should be easier to come off of the drug if you weren’t on a super high dose. Generally the more tolerant you become to this particular substance, the greater the difficulty you are going to have with the withdrawal process.
3. Personal factors
Your individual physiology as well as environment are going to play a huge role in determining how difficult the withdrawal process is. If you go to a rehab clinic, you are going to have all the support you need and aren’t going to have any major triggers around that could lead to relapse.
Some people have an easier time coming off of various substances like meth than others – it all depends on the person. Someone with an addictive personality may demonstrate significant difficulty coming off of meth, whereas another person may be able to quit with relatively little hardship.
4. Cold turkey vs. tapering
In most cases, people that quit this particular drug do so by stopping “cold turkey.” In other words, they quit from whatever dose they were currently taking and never look back. Obviously it is probably more favorable to taper off of any substance like methamphetamine, so if you can afford to take the time to gradually taper yourself off, it will probably be easier.
With that said, some people cannot handle the “tapering” method because it becomes too tempting to use more of the drug during the process – many people cannot control themselves. If you don’t think you can handle a “taper” down from your high dose, make sure you are braced to really feel the effects of quitting cold turkey.
Among individuals that were using methamphetamine to help treat a condition such as ADHD, they should know that there are safer options available. Standard “amphetamines” aren’t associated with the long term detrimental effects of methamphetamine. Additionally, there is a high potential for both abuse and addiction with this particular drug.
If you have become dependent on this drug for daily functioning and have developed a high tolerance, the withdrawal process may be more difficult. Although there are some individuals that have used this drug and successfully stopped without becoming addicted, the effects are so potent that many become dependent on the Meth.
Meth Withdrawal Symptoms: List of Possibilities
Below are a list of possible symptoms that you may experience when you first stop using Meth. It is important to recognize that you may not experience all of the symptoms listed below. These are just a collective of what you could possibly experience. Most individuals that withdraw from this drug experience stages of: low energy, cravings, and depression.
- Anhedonia: A person coming off of methamphetamine may experience anhedonia or the inability to feel or experience pleasure. This is related to the fact that their consistent meth use has depleted their brain’s natural stores of dopamine. In order for the person to experience pleasure in the future, they need to give their brain an extended period of time to naturally replenish the dopamine. This is similar to the negative symptoms of schizophrenia.
- Aggression: A person may become very aggressive now that they don’t have their methamphetamine to help them keep their cool. This is a drug that acts on dopamine which does have a stimulating effect, but can also help people utilize self control.
- Anger: The individual coming down from meth may experience significant anger. This is due to the fact that their cognition has slowed and they cannot think as quickly. This may be frustrating and little things may make the individual angry or even “rage.”
- Anxiety: It is common for people to feel increasingly anxious when they stop using methamphetamine. If they have used the drug for a long term, many of their neurotransmitter stores have been depleted – which is thought to lead to anxiety. Additionally the individual may be anxious about the fact that they cannot maintain the same euphoric “high” that they did while on the drug.
- Appetite changes: When using meth people tend to experience a decreased appetite. When the person finally comes off of it, they experience the exact opposite – an increased appetite. The increase in appetite may be significant due to the fact that they are able to “sense” when their body is hungry.
- Concentration problems: Since Meth works well for addressing ADHD symptoms by increasing arousal and brain activity, a person will experience the opposite when they withdraw. It may be extremely difficult to focus on various tasks and get work done during the withdrawal process. Your focus should return over a period of time as your neurotransmitters are restored.
- Cravings: You may have intense cravings to use meth again during the withdrawal process. These are usually most intense following the initial “crash” stage. These may be experienced for months after you have discontinued the drug, but will get easier with time. Do your best to avoid triggers and keep yourself as busy as possible to avoid temptation.
- Delusions: Some people experience delusions or think that people are out to get them. Delusions are false beliefs that aren’t based in reality. These may persist for a couple weeks, but will eventually subside as you sober up.
- Depression: Individuals coming off of Meth tend to experience severe depression. This is a result of the brain’s inability to experience pleasure as a result of depletion. As your brain builds up stores of dopamine and serotonin again, your mood should improve. Recovering from meth-induced depression can take years – so don’t expect to feel better overnight.
- Dizziness: Some people report feelings of dizziness during their withdrawal. This is a pretty general symptom, but one that many people experience.
- Fatigue: While you are on methamphetamine, your body and brain become highly stimulated and aroused. When you stop taking them, you may become excessively fatigued and tired. This may be discouraging, but don’t let it get the best of you. Recognize that it is merely withdrawal and that your energy will be restored.
- Fever: You may experience changes in body temperature and possibly a fever during your withdrawal. Some people report feelings of “chills” in combination with a fever. This should not last for an extended period of time once the drugs have stopped.
- Headaches: Some people end up having to deal with headaches when they come off of Meth. The best way to combat these headaches is to make sure you are staying hydrated, getting plenty of rest, and consider over-the-counter headache relief.
- Irritability: If you feel irritable when you quit using this drug, you are not alone. Most people will feel very grouchy and uncomfortable when they stop using.
- Lethargy: It may be a huge effort for you to complete basic tasks such as getting out of bed, showering, and eating. This is because you feel so lethargic, weak, and as though you are constantly tired.
- Low energy: It is common to have extremely low energy when you first stop using the drug. You may be in a low energy state of functioning for an extended period of time, but your energy levels will eventually return to normal.
- Muscle weakness: As a result of having no energy, some people feel very weak. During their time spent using Meth, they may not notice the fact that they may have lost some muscle strength and eaten poorly. Initially the weakness may be pretty significant, but as your diet improves and time passes, strength will return.
- Paranoia: During the first couple weeks of Meth withdrawal, you may exhibit signs of paranoia. In other words, you may become suspicious of others and very paranoid that people are watching you or are out to get you. If you are able to take a step back and recognize what’s going on in your head, it will be easier to cope with.
- Psychosis: Withdrawing from any stimulant can end up leading to symptoms of psychosis. Typically when a person experiences psychosis as a result of meth withdrawal, it consists of hallucinations and delusions. The person may hear voices and see things that aren’t based in reality. Additionally they may experience delusions or false beliefs that others are out to get them. These are similar to the positive symptoms of schizophrenia. Unlike schizophrenia, these symptoms subside as the individual continues through withdrawal.
- Sleepiness: This is an extremely common symptom to experience during the initial “crash” phase, but may last significantly longer than you would expect. Consistent Meth use can zap anyone of energy long after they stop using the drug. You may sleep for days on end and feel sleepy for weeks – it is difficult to deal with, but it’s your body’s natural way of healing itself.
- Suicidal thinking: It is extremely common to feel suicidal when coming off of Meth. Your drug use may have used up most of the “feel good” neurotransmitters in your brain. This may cause you to feel like dying. It is important that if you feel especially down, make sure you seek some sort of psychological help. This suicidal thinking will eventually pass.
- Sweating: You may notice that your body is sweating excessively throughout the day. You may also notice that you have major “night sweats” while you sleep. You may wake up in a pool of sweat – this is common during withdrawal.
- Weight gain: Most people lose a lot of weight when they use Meth, but when they stop, they get their appetites back and their metabolism slows. This causes people to eat more and pack back on the weight that they initially lost. You may experience pretty significant weight gain if you lost a lot while on this drug.
Meth Withdrawal Timeline: How long does it last?
There is no set time-frame for the withdrawal process – it varies depending on the person. In general though, there are two major phases that a person goes through after they stop using meth. The first stage is the most intense and usually lasts about a day or two after you last used meth. The second stage is less intense, but lasts for an extended period of time. In some cases, people experience PAWS (Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome) which involves experiencing symptoms for a longer period of time than expected.
Phase One: “Crash” (First Few Days)
During this initial “crash” phase you may experience significant reductions in energy and ability to function. You may not crave Meth at all during this phase, but you may sleep excessively and eat a lot of food. This phase is characterized by extremely low energy, depression, and slowed cognition. It will be difficult to deal with the excessive exhaustion that you are experiencing. When you stop using, meth stays in your system for nearly 3 days – which is when the “crash” may become most noticeable.
Phase Two: “Craving” (Up to 10 Weeks)
When people have gotten through the initial “crash” from first stopping Meth, they will then enter what is known as the “craving” phase. This involves having increased cravings to use Meth again. This is perhaps the most difficult phase to get through because people know that their functioning was enhanced with the drug. Due to the euphoria and reward system getting constantly stimulated by the drug, the person has a really difficult time staying clean. People typically have their most intense cravings for up to 10 weeks following the day that they quit.
Phase Three: “Extinction” (Up to 30 Weeks)
Following the phase of intense “cravings” people eventually enter what is known as an “extinction” period. During this particular phase, people may experience some cravings to use methamphetamine, but they are sporadic. In other words, the person may go a few days without any sort of craving and then experience a craving at random. The best way to set yourself up for success during this phase is to hang around with individuals that maintain a clean lifestyle, are supportive, and will not trigger usage. Generally the more time that passes, the easier it should be for you to stay clean.
During Meth withdrawal: Stay as healthy as possible.
During the withdrawal process, it is important to make sure that you are doing everything you can to increase your success and general well-being. You may want to work with a therapist or counselor to address the painful emotions that come up during withdrawal. Additionally, you may want to even consider working with a psychiatrist in case you need a medication to help minimize some of the withdrawal symptoms.
Take time to get yourself outside, exercise, stay as productive as you can throughout the day, and stay as social as possible. All of these activities are thought to help increase your body’s natural ability to heal and increase levels of various neurotransmitters (e.g. serotonin and dopamine). Make sure you are eating as healthy as you can, try to get adequate sleep, and take things one day at a time.
The withdrawal process may seem like a marathon, but do what you can to focus on the present moment and realize that you will eventually get better. Many people have gone through complete withdrawal and returned to their normal functioning. It can take up to 2 years before a meth user’s brain to restore the depleted dopamine levels. You got yourself in a bad situation by using this drug, and you can certainly put your energy towards staying clean.