Meth or methamphetamine is a highly addictive drug, commonly used illicitly. While methamphetamine can be prescribed under the name Desoxyn to treat ADHD, it has very limited use.
Meth is known for its highly addictive properties. Once used, it rapidly increases the brain’s levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that reinforces motivation and behavior, giving people pleasurable feelings when doing certain things. High levels of dopamine lead to elevated mood and feelings of euphoria.
After the high, the “comedown” from meth is severely uncomfortable. A person is often left with feelings of depression, paranoia, anxiety and hallucinations. These symptoms begin shortly after the last dose of meth and can last for several days.
Meth, like many other illicit substances, is addictive and can lead to physical dependence on it. Someone who is physically dependent on methamphetamine will likely experience withdrawal symptoms once they stop taking the drug. Meth withdrawal comes with symptoms that can range from mild to severe.
Meth works by increasing the amount of dopamine in the brain. Excess dopamine production over a long period of time is toxic to brain cells. It creates “overactivity” in the exhausted brain cells and can kill them, potentially leading to brain damage. To protect itself, the brain downregulates the receptors that respond to meth. This downregulation is what causes withdrawal symptoms.
One of the first phases of withdrawal is the meth comedown. Whether they’re trying to detox or they’re just coming off a meth binge, a series of uncomfortable symptoms can occur, including mostly emotional and psychological side effects.
Meth withdrawal varies depending on the individual, but it contributes to the drug’s addictive nature. People who use meth may find that taking more of it alleviates withdrawal, rather than suffering through uncomfortable symptoms for days to weeks. To prevent relapse and other complications, the best way to manage meth withdrawal safely and successfully is with the help of a medically-supervised detox program.
The meth withdrawal timeline may vary, but it generally occurs over a few days to a few weeks. However, the person may experience a condition known as anhedonia for up to two years after stopping meth use. This happens when long-term damage is done to the brain’s dopamine receptors, leading to difficulty experiencing pleasure. Fortunately, treatment for anhedonia is possible.
Compared to other substances, physical symptoms of meth withdrawal aren’t typically as severe, but psychological and emotional meth withdrawal side effects can be difficult to cope with. Our 2021 survey reported the following rates of physical withdrawal symptoms:
That same study reported the following rates of psychological withdrawal symptoms:
Other physical meth withdrawal symptoms not addressed in our survey include:
Other psychological symptoms not addressed in our survey include:
Withdrawal symptoms tend to last 7–10 days for most people. There is a high risk of relapse during this time due to the discomfort of withdrawal. At this point, a person may not feel pleasure from doing meth anymore; it just allows the body to function while delaying withdrawal. Addiction treatment is critical during this time because it helps prevent someone from returning to meth use.
The severity and length of methamphetamine withdrawal are mostly related to the length of use, amount of meth used and method of use. Using methamphetamine for longer periods will generally increase the length and severity of withdrawal symptoms. Long periods of exposure also cause more severe impacts on brain cells.
Higher doses of methamphetamine also increase overall drug exposure. Meth is a drug with diminishing returns, meaning higher doses do not necessarily provide more pleasurable effects. During a binge, a person is likely to escalate to higher and higher doses to achieve the same effects, increasing their tolerance for the drug. Someone with a high tolerance will experience worse withdrawal symptoms.
According to our 2021 survey, approximately 51% of people who use meth ingest it via smoking. This is compared to injecting, snorting and taking orally. Smoking is a relatively fast method of administering the drug to the brain. Just like crack is known to be more addictive than cocaine, smoking meth increases the risk of addiction and withdrawal.
The meth withdrawal symptoms timeline varies based on the individual, their level of drug abuse and other factors, but it generally follows the same broad schedule:
During the third or fourth week, most people start to feel better, their mood and sleep patterns stabilize and their energy levels increase. Cravings start to lessen during this period.
Addressing a meth use disorder early is key to finding appropriate treatment and long-term success. The Recovery Village has locations all over the United States, including Palmer Lake, Colorado. Our team of caring addiction professionals helps guide people down the winding road of recovery.
The first stage of treatment includes medical detox, a period of 1–2 weeks where withdrawal symptoms occur under medical supervision. During detox, the drug leaves the body while the brain readjusts to normal dopamine levels. Because the risk of relapse is so high at this time, medical detox is strongly recommended. Medications or other treatments can be offered to help the person experience withdrawal as safely and comfortably as possible.
The mainstay of addiction treatment is behavioral modification. This can happen through group therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), other approaches or a combination of methods. A substance use disorder is a maladaptive set of behaviors that a person is taught to respond to in more healthy ways.
Of the meth users we surveyed about their recovery experience:
Generally, people with a meth use disorder require a higher level of care, which is why most people start in more intensive inpatient programs.
Addiction is a chronic condition that requires lifelong therapy and maintenance. Forty percent of people recovering from methamphetamine addiction report that they relapse within a year of completing treatment. While relapse is a common part of the recovery process, this statistic highlights the need for consistent support after completing a program.
Aftercare maintenance can include:
Undergoing meth withdrawal on your own is more likely to result in relapse. Symptoms can interfere with your personal life and make it challenging to continue fulfilling obligations to family members, friends and work. Withdrawal is extremely uncomfortable, but there are many treatment facilities available to help manage it.
While it is possible for someone to manage withdrawal on their own, the risk of failure is much greater without medical supervision and a structured environment.
The best detox option for meth is a medically supervised program, like the treatment that’s offered at The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake. Our team ensures patients are safe, healthy and comfortable as they navigate meth detox symptoms. Since many of the symptoms of meth detox are psychological, a patient also receives mental health treatment. Patients at our facility can also move directly into inpatient care following their detox, furthering their chances of long-term success.
If you’re in Colorado and suffering from a methamphetamine use disorder, recovery is possible. The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake is 15 minutes from Colorado Springs and 60 miles from Denver, with many other locations around the country.
We are here to help. Call us today to begin your journey toward successful recovery and beyond.
The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.