Methamphetamine Withdrawal and Detox

  1. NotAJediOrSith
    Methamphetamine is widely regarded as the most powerful central nervous system (CNS) stimulant known to man. Not only is it extremely hazardous to the human body, it is also tremendously hazardous to produce. To make matters even more toxic it is notoriously difficult for one to stop using. While many people do go it alone and succesfully stop using methamphetamine, even more people try alone and fail, leaving them exactly where they were when they started, if not worse. Every substance comes with its own unique obstacles when it comes to detoxification and methamphetamine is no different. With that in mind let us first look at what methamphetamine withdrawal is like, along with its stages.

    There are several stages to the withdrawal and detoxifcation of methamphetamines. The immediate juncture is what is commonly called "the crash". This marks the pre-withdrawal stage and is more akin to a hangover. It occurs when someome stops using methamphetamine, it is quite frankly the "low" after the "high". The most common signs of a crash are an abnormally large appetite, irritability, dysphoria, anxiety and excessive amounts of sleep.

    The true withdrawals begin around 2 days or so after someone last used methamphetamine. This stage is highly individual, but it tends to last around 7-10 days. This is known as the acute stage. The symptoms include muscle soreness, rigidity, cognitive issues, trouble sleeping, exhaustion, mood swings, psychosis, extreme agitation and troubles concentrating.

    Following the acute stage withdrawals comes the extinction phase. In this phase the acute symptoms can persist for another few weeks. The depression from withdrawals, however, can continue anywhere forweeks, months or in severe cases years.

    Unfortunately for many this is not the end of the detoxification process. Some users can experience something called post acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). This is where withdrawal symptoms carry on for months.

    What seperates methamphetamine detoxification from many other substances is the persistent cravings. For months and even (in extreme cases) years after stopping the use of methamphetamine users can experience cravings. For users who use the drug intravenously it is common to "taste" it in the back of your throat. It is very common for ex-IV users to occasionally get that same taste out of nowhere. These type of cravings are what make detoxifying so incredibly difficult., as it tries constantly to reel you back in.

    Despite all the tribulations in detoxifying there are medical aids out there. There are no drugs approved to treat meth addiction nor are there substitute medications like there is with heroin/opiods (e.g. methadone). But, there are still medications that can help one through the withdrawal; they treat the symptoms though and not the withdrawal itself:

    Antidepressants: help with insomnia and anedonia (the inability to feel pleasure)

    Antipsychotics: there are sedatives which help with insomnia and psychosis

    Benzodiazepines: can help with agitation and anxiety


    There are also medicines which have been shown to reduce methamphetamine use and cravings (e.g. Buproprion, Modafinil, Dextroamphetamine, Methylphenidate etc.). The only issue with this method of treatment is many healthcare professionals will not prescribe stimulants nor benzodiazepines to someone who is already battling a substance abuse problem. These medicines, when administered in a medical setting, can tremendously help the process be more comfortable.

    Even with the available medication to help ease withdrawal symptoms most people choose to detoxify alone at home. This route works just as well, but it its success lies in the person's will and perseverance to become clean. If you feel you are at risk for severe withdrawal symptoms (e.g. PAWS), have an unstable home enviornment not conducive to rehabilitation or have a comorbid medical/psychiatric disorder you should contact a hospital or medical health professional. There are outpatient and residential withdrawal programs available through most countries.

    During the initial crash phase one is more likely to feel utterly exhausted. It is also common to experience extreme anxiety, panic and even suicidal thoughts. In more severe situations paranoia and halliucinations are possible (psychosis). This stage generally only lasts 24-72 hours before true withdrawal sets in. During your first week without methamphetamines the dangerously strong cravings can and do manifest. Along with them one is prone to feelings of hopelessness, impaired cognition, headaches, muscle weakness and rapid weight gain. During the second week the physical symptoms (e.g. soreness) tend to reside. However, the psychological effects are often still present (e.g. depression and mood swings). Roughly one month after quitting you should start to see improvements all around. Your mood should reconcile and you should find yourself sleeping regularly again. This is all assuming you do not experience PAWS.

    There is also therapy available to help cope with the process. Things such as cognitive behavioral therapy massively reduce relapse rate. Through therapy you can identify what triggers you to relapse, how to best deal with the cravings and find new ways to spend your time that do not involve drug use. The relapse rates are over 50%, but if one can stick with it, it has been proven to help.

    During the 1980's a new treatment method was created called the Matrix Model. It has seen widespread success in clinical settings. It is an integrative treatment that uses several aspects of many different therapeutic styles and orientations. It is an intensive outpatient method and entails several hours of treatment a day, several days a week. But, the client still stay at home. The treatment is highly-structured and engineered with planned topics for each session and each phase of treatment. Like many other rehabilitation programs it is time-limited, intended to last only 16 weeks (can be extended up to a year). The Matrix Model was created for stimulant abuse recovery and it has been proven by multiple studies to show benefit of treatment based on extending recovery and client consistency. The success rate is so great that many organizations support the treatment protocol, including the National Institute On Drug Abuse (NIDA).

    Further Reading On Matrix Model:https://www.drugabuse.gov/publicati...ches-to-drug-addiction-treatment/behavioral-3

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