In 2017 alone, over 10,000 people died as a result of a psychostimulant overdose. One of the most dangerous substances included in this class of drugs is methamphetamine.
Known as meth or crystal meth, this synthetic drug is a powerful stimulant that creates a euphoric rush. Meth is highly addictive and presents an extremely dangerous and uncomfortable withdrawal for those who are addicted and trying to get clean.
Methamphetamine was widely popular in the 1990s but its use had diminished considerably until a few years ago when it began to see a resurgence. Many believe meth is popular again because of its connection to the opioid epidemic.
In fact, opioid and meth use together nearly doubled from 19% of opioid users in 2011 to 34% in 2017, especially on the west coast. Hospitals and treatment centers have seen a noticeable uptick in patients who are now addicted to both drugs.
With meth use on the rise, it’s important for users and medical responders to recognize the symptoms and risks of using the drug.
One of the most frequently asked questions about methamphetamine, is, “How long does meth stay in your system?” Many users thinking about recovery also want to know what’s involved in the withdrawal process.
How Long Does Meth Stay in Your System?
Like any other drug addiction, once the substance is out of the system, the body starts to go through withdrawals. Before this process starts, it’s extremely important to seek professional treatment for detox to avoid uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.
With regard to methamphetamine, the drug exits the body quite quickly. In fact, as soon as it’s consumed, the body begins to metabolize it.
The half-life for methamphetamine is usually around 10 hours. This means that within this time period, half the meth that was consumed is already out of the system. The rest of the drug may remain in the body for up to several days.
It’s important to note that the method used to consume meth affects how long it remains in the system. When injected, the half-life is much longer than when snorted or smoked.
If other drugs are used in combination with meth, there’s a good chance it will remain in the body even longer.
After meth exits the body completely, withdrawal sets in.
5 Facts About Meth Withdrawal
1. Meth Withdrawal Can Last Up To a Year
Depending on the length of the addiction, a person may experience meth withdrawal symptoms for up to a year. This involves a combination of physical and psychological withdrawal.
The first phase is the meth crash. This is the beginning of physical withdrawal and is accompanied by depression and fatigue. Many addicts will sleep for long periods of time and eat large amounts of food.
The second phase begins around day three and is the most difficult period of physical withdrawal. This stage involves extreme cravings for meth. Relapse is a serious threat, as a recovering addict will often start to panic at the thought of not having the drug.
After the physical withdrawal symptoms are over, post-acute withdrawal symptoms start to occur. This happens around ten weeks after a person stops taking meth. Depression, anxiety, cravings, and a short attention span are all symptoms of this stage.
If a person is recovering from a long-term meth addiction, post-acute withdrawal symptoms can continue for anywhere from six months to a year.
2. Physical Side Effects of Withdrawal
When it comes to the physical side effects of methamphetamine withdrawal, everyone is different. Some people can cope with these withdrawal symptoms much better than others, although most users find them very difficult.
However, there’s a wide range of possible physical symptoms. The severity of these symptoms is directly related to the duration of the addiction and how frequently a person used meth. People who injected meth will feel the most severe physical symptoms of withdrawal.
Some common meth side effects include:
- An increase in appetite
- Stomach cramps
- Itchy eyes
- Respiratory issues
- Mood swings
All these side effects are possible during the first week of the withdrawal process. If a person goes through detox in a treatment center, a doctor can administer medication to ease these symptoms.
However, there are also psychological side effects of withdrawal that can present a bigger challenge to recovering addicts.
3. Psychological Side Effects of Withdrawal From Meth
During withdrawal from meth, some recovering addicts experience stimulant-induced psychosis. This involves a number of symptoms including:
All of these symptoms can be either visual or auditory.
In severe cases, a person may feel the experience they’re going through isn’t happening. Or, they may believe their hallucinations are real.
People with a meth addiction can even have these psychotic symptoms while using meth, and they are often the result of sleep deprivation.
Due to the dangerous nature of these side effects, it’s critical for a person to seek professional help.
4. Severe Depression is a Serious Health Risk
Meth withdrawal often brings on severe depression. This can happen at any or all stages in the withdrawal process.
Depression presents two primary dangers for a person recovering from methamphetamine addiction.
First, it increases the chance of relapse because the user feels the depression can be relieved by using the drug again.
Second, it could lead to self-harm or even suicide if the depression becomes so overwhelming.
It’s important to understand that depression could last for months or even years after a person has stopped using meth. If ongoing depression occurs, a person needs to engage in mental health counseling to help cope with life without meth.
If a person already suffered from depression before developing a meth addiction, there’s a good chance withdrawal will exacerbate the issue.
In this case, a person should seek counseling for co-occurring disorders at a dual diagnosis treatment center. This involves treating both the substance addiction and the pre-existing depression at the same time.
5. Behavioral Therapy is a Common Treatment Plan
Those in recovery for meth addiction will benefit from engaging in behavioral therapy after the detox stage. This type of therapy can help make psychological withdrawal much easier.
Many drug addiction counselors use cognitive behavioral therapy in their approach. This involves teaching those with an addiction ways to cope with triggers that could lead to relapse. It helps a person recognize what situations could cause cravings and how to avoid them.
Dialectical behavior therapy is similar to cognitive behavioral therapy and has been shown to be very effective for many types of addiction.
Another type of behavioral therapy used is called contingency management intervention. This involves providing a person with incentives in exchange for remaining clean.
Those recovering from addiction may also engage in behavior modification therapy. This type of counseling shows them how to avoid past behavior or lifestyle habits that could trigger a relapse.
Getting Treatment for Meth Addiction
Methamphetamine withdrawal isn’t something a person should ever try to go through alone. Without medical assistance, there’s a much greater chance of relapse or serious injury.
Professional detox treatment is crucial for getting through the withdrawal stage and after that has been completed, a residential addiction treatment program is necessary for learning cognitive therapies and other relapse prevention techniques.
Recovery is possible, even if addiction involves a dependence to multiple substances like opioids and meth. Beginning treatment early usually offers the best chance for success.