Meth Withdrawal and Detox: What to Expect

For many people, the fear of withdrawal is one of the main reasons they don’t get help for meth addiction. Although difficult, the detox and treatment process should not be feared. It is ultimately the path to freedom and living a whole life again. Therefore, knowing what to expect can help people suffering from meth addiction take the first step toward recovery.

What is Meth?

Methamphetamine is known by many names such as meth, crystal, crank, speed, glass, ice, or dope. It’s a highly addictive stimulant or “upper.” It’s most common form is a white, odorless, crystalline powder, and can be found everywhere around the world.

Unlike other illicit substances, meth has no organic base and is entirely fabricated. It is often produced in make-shift labs, sometimes in people’s homes. Because its chemical compounds are fairly easy to formulate, the drug can be manufactured easily by most amateurs.

But because of its straightforward formulation, many amateur meth labs are at a high risk for human error. These errors may lead to fires, explosions, or worse situations when such chemicals are mishandled.

Meth is used by smoking, snorting, or injecting the substance, after which the user will experience an immediate and intense “rush.” This is because the potent drug absorbs quickly into the bloodstream. The euphoria or rush is very short-lived—usually only several minutes at a time—which leaves the user immediately craving more in order to keep their high.

Effects of Meth Addiction

Physiologically, meth directly impacts the central nervous system (CNS). In comparison to other uppers or stimulants like cocaine, meth stays in the body for a much longer period of time.

Being an “upper,” it literally “stimulates” the CNS and results in a number of both short-term and long-term side effects

Short-Term Effects of Meth

The short-terms effects of meth first increases heart rate. After this, the following symptoms usually ensue:

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Suppressed appetite
  • Increased activity and wakefulness
  • Chronic insomnia that can continue for days or weeks at a time

In addition the short-term physiological effects, meth also often causes its user to experience a variety of mood and behaviorally related symptoms. These can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Paranoia
  • Mood swings
  • Erratic behavior
  • Violent outbursts

Even after a person has stopped using meth, many individuals still experience these behavioral symptoms for months or even years. Therefore, many short-term effects can turn into long-term ones.

Long-Term Effects of Meth

Many other harmful effects of meth are a result of continued or long-term use. For example, meth’s high acidity causes excessive tooth rot, infection, and decay. Because it’s so common among meth users, the condition is referred to as “meth mouth.”

Meth users also experience epidermal lesions—that is, open sores all over their skin. Even worse, meth often causes the sensation of crawling skin, which leads people to obsessively pick at their skin while using the substance.

One recent study in the journal of Basic and Clinical Neuroscience shows that meth use causes a significant decline in a person’s executive functions. Executive function includes both cognitive and behavioral systems, and can express in the following arenas:

  • Verbal reasoning
  • Problem solving
  • Planning
  • Sequencing
  • Focusing
  • Multi-tasking
  • Cognitive flexibility
  • Handling new situations

Moreover, the study shows that damage to these faculties can persist even after long periods of abstinence from the drug.

Basics of Meth Withdrawal

At the outset, it’s important to know that any withdrawal from a toxic substance won’t be easy. But if you seek help for your withdrawal symptoms and detox process, you’re more likely to make it through.

Many people get stuck in a cycle of abuse with meth because they use more of the drug to avoid withdrawal symptoms. But if you have assistance, you can be certain that the pain and discomfort of detox is temporary—and worth it.

In fact, meth is one of the drugs where professional medically-assisted detox is highly recommended. If you try to deal with withdrawal symptoms on your own, it can put you in a dangerous situation, both physically and mentally. Professional treatment, for example, provides you with 24-hour medical care in a private setting.

It’s key to get involved with a treatment center as early as possible in your recovery. And because those struggling with meth addiction have such a high risk of relapse, it’s important to stay involved. According to the Journal of Addictions and Offender Counseling, there’s a 69% rate of relapse for meth addicts in 12-week recovery programs. Moreover, studies are still being done to determine what makes sobriety sustainable for meth users in recovery.

What’s the Timeline for Meth Detox?

The timeline for meth withdrawal and detox varies from person to person, but generally follows a basic pattern:

  • Days 1-2: Since your body is used to the effects of meth, you’ll begin to experience decreased energy without the substance in the first 48 hours. In this phase, it’s also common to have intense bouts of cramping, sweating, and nausea.
  • Days 3-10: This phase is usually the most intense of the detox. You can expect anxiety, depression, and fatigue, as well as a strong craving for meth.
  • Days 11-20: In this phase, your physical symptoms will begin to fade. But your cravings for meth will still continue.
  • 21 days and over: Although the worst meth withdrawal symptoms are over by this time, meth can have a lasting psychological impact. Depression and anxiety may persist for months, which is why it’s key to stay connected to your support network and treatment center.

All in all, you don’t have to walk your recovery journey alone. Especially with meth detox, it’s important to have medical and psychological support as you make a life-changing decision. To learn more about how to start your healing journey at Impact Recovery, get in touch with a member of our team here