Meth Withdrawal Symptoms, Timeline, Causes And Treatment

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What is Meth? Are There Withdrawals from Meth Use?

Meth—more formally known as methamphetamine—is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant.

While it has limited medical uses (ADHD treatment, rarely), it is frequently abused.

What is Meth? Are There Withdrawals from Meth Use?

Causes, Signs and Symptoms of Meth Withdrawal

Meth is a Schedule II drug in the US, which means that it has a high potential for abuse, and the potential to cause severe physical and psychological dependence.

When people abuse meth, they develop a tolerance that can, over time, lead the user to require an increasingly large amount of meth to achieve the desired effects.

They may also develop a marked physiologic dependence to the drug, which is what precipitates the withdrawal symptoms upon cessation or reduction of meth use.

Generally speaking, meth increases the release of

monoamine neurotransmitters and, additionally, prevents neuronal reuptake throughout certain areas of the central nervous system.

The euphoric effects of meth are produced by its effect on the neurotransmitter dopamine.

Over time, the continued use of increasingly higher doses of meth produces changes in the brain of the user (both structural and chemical changes).

The brain adapts to functioning with these high levels of meth, and when the drug is no longer available, the body is in a state of unbalance, leading to withdrawal.


Symptoms of Meth Withdrawal

Meth is a stimulant; therefore, withdrawal symptoms often manifest as the opposite of a stimulating effect. Meth withdrawal symptoms may include (but are not limited to):

Woman with withdrawals
  • Anxiety.
  • Irritation.
  • Depression.
  • Fatigue.
  • Increased appetite.
  • Lack of motivation.
  • Insomnia.
  • Vivid dreams.

Intense cravings for meth accompany withdrawal symptoms, and may lead to relapse during the withdrawal period to alleviate the unpleasant symptoms. Although rare, seizures are possible with meth withdrawal.

Meth abusers are also at risk for more severe depression during withdrawal than with other stimulants and suicidal ideation is possible. The user should be monitored for such changes and medical attention should be sought immediately if suicidal ideation is present.

Please don’t wait until these symptoms appear to seek help! Please call one of our treatment support specialists today at 1-888-993-3112Who Answers? to get information about addiction treatment options in your area.


Severity of Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms may not begin immediately and may last longer compared to withdrawal from other stimulants.

Because meth takes a long time to metabolize in the body, withdrawal symptoms may not begin immediately and may last for quite a bit longer than withdrawal for other stimulants (such as cocaine, which is metabolized quickly).

Withdrawal symptoms are more severe in users who have been using meth:

  • For a long period.
  • Very frequently.
  • At high doses.

Meth withdrawal may be complicated by poly-substance abuse and if a user is withdrawing from several substances at once, then withdrawal symptoms may be more severe and more varied than what may be considered ‘typical’ for meth withdrawal.


Treatment for Meth Withdrawal

Currently, there is no pharmacotherapy to treat meth withdrawal or dependence (though some medications are being evaluated by the FDA and analyzed for clinical trials).

Only medications that help control the symptoms of meth withdrawal are available. It is recommended that users get medical attention

prior to deciding to stop using meth so that health care professionals can monitor their withdrawal and medications may be prescribed as needed for symptoms.

Effective management of unpleasant withdrawal symptoms may make all the difference to help bolster one’s resolve to quit using.


Inpatient vs. Outpatient Treatment

  • Inpatient

    Inpatient withdrawal may be recommended for severely addicted meth users, or for those with co-occurring medical or mental health disorders.

    Poly-substance abusers may also require inpatient treatment for withdrawal, as seizures may be more likely in these cases.

    Inpatient treatment, though more expensive than outpatient treatment, provides the user with round-the-clock care and monitoring, as well as a neutral environment—free from cues that may induce cravings and ultimately precipitate relapse.

  • Outpatient

    People who wish to minimally disrupt their lives and continue commitments such as school or work during treatment often choose outpatient treatment options.

    However, outpatient treatment does not mean that the user’s symptoms are not controlled.

    Prescription medications to manage any new or pre-existing mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety will be available from health care professionals who monitor progress during meth withdrawal.

If you are considering meth treatment for yourself or a loved one, please call 1-888-993-3112Who Answers? today to speak with one of our treatment specialists.

We will help you find the right treatment options for you or your loved one.


Helping Someone Through Withdrawal

Support IconWhile meth withdrawal is not typically life threatening, it is quite uncomfortable. A little supportive care at home can greatly improve the severity of the withdrawal symptoms.

Nutrition and hydration are very important during withdrawal, as it is easy to become dehydrated during long periods of sleep.

However, many meth users report increased appetite during withdrawal and therefore, eat more calories than normal. In many cases, this shouldn’t be problematic, as the weight gains associated with meth withdrawal will often reverse themselves once a new “normal” has been established, and the body’s metabolism stabilizes.

Simple considerations, such as providing transportation to and from doctor or therapy visits may also be needed (as well as to the pharmacy to pick up prescriptions), as the user may not feel like driving.

Giving your loved one support, a helping hand, and a listening ear during his/her time of need is very important and greatly improve the chances of making a full recovery.


References

  • http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/methamphetamine/letter-director
  • http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/methamphetamine.html
  • Winslow, B. T., Voorhees, K. I., & Pehl, K. A. (2007). Methamphetamine abuse. American family physician, 76(8), pp. 1169-1174.