What to Expect From Meth Withdrawal

Recovery From Methamphetamine Addiction

Meth withdrawal is a natural, but uncomfortable process that occurs immediately after someone discontinues taking the drug, methamphetamine, or crystal meth. It involves a predictable set of symptoms, which gradually wear off as the body adjusts to the drug no longer being present. Withdrawal involves physical and psychological symptoms; while the physical symptoms go away, the psychological symptoms can last a long time.

Duration and Severity

Research shows that meth withdrawal consists of two phases. The first phase is most intense during the first 24 hours after you last use meth and gradually gets less intense over the course of about two weeks.

The second phase is less intense and lasts for about another two to three weeks. Sometimes meth users experience withdrawal symptoms for months, known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS).

The severity of meth withdrawal will depend on a number of different factors, such as how long and how much meth you've been using, and how dependent you are on meth.

As a general rule of thumb, the longer you have been on meth, the worse the withdrawal symptoms will be. The same applies to age, with older people typically experiencing worse symptoms than younger ones.

Your mental and physical health before and during your meth use, the quality of the meth you were using, your history of other drug use—including alcohol—and the reason you were using meth and other drugs in the first place can also have an impact.

Symptoms

Everyone’s experience of meth withdrawal is different, but there are certain common features, outlined below. If your symptoms feel severe, see your doctor as soon as possible, and tell him/her that you are withdrawing from meth.

Anxiety

Anxiety is very common among people who are going through meth withdrawal, and studies show that rates of anxiety disorders among individuals who use methamphetamine are estimated to be as high as 30 percent.

Exercise and medication may help with anxiety, although further research is needed to confirm this. People who use meth are often impulsive before they start taking the drug, and many report increased feelings of impulsivity after they quit.

Fatigue and Sleepiness

You may have been hyperactive and felt like you didn't need sleep when you were on meth; during meth withdrawal, you'll probably feel the opposite. Especially during the first week of withdrawal, you're likely to feel very inactive, tired, and sleepy.

Symptoms of fatigue usually peak around the fifth day of withdrawal, during which people will sleep an average of 11 hours per day (a phenomenon known as hypersomnia).

You may also experience vivid dreams, but these will usually subside during the first week or so.

Meth Cravings

Most people who are withdrawing from meth experience a strong desire to actually take more; they are experiencing cravings, which are common among people withdrawing from many addictive substances.

Although these cravings start out quite intense, the frequency and intensity of the cravings will subside over the next two to five weeks, and the best thing you can do is ride them out.

Carbohydrate Cravings

While you were on meth, you probably didn't have much of an appetite for food. That changes when you experience meth withdrawal, during which you're likely to have strong cravings for carbohydrates—sugary or starchy foods—especially at the beginning of withdrawal, and usually lasting into the second and third weeks.

Although eating carbohydrate-rich foods probably won't harm you, it's important to keep everything in moderation. So don't eat more than you normally would have before taking meth, as you may develop a substitute addiction to food.

Depression

Having a low, flat, or depressed mood is normal while going through meth withdrawal. For about two-thirds of meth addicts, this will subside by the end of the second week of abstinence from the drug. For most others, it will be gone by the end of the third week, although depression can continue for a small proportion of people coming off meth.

If depression continues for more than three weeks following the discontinuation of meth, see your doctor. Medications are often useful in treating the symptoms of depression.

Psychosis

Psychosis can be a symptom of meth withdrawal and consists primarily of hallucinations: seeing, hearing, and feeling things that aren't there. It may also involve delusions, in which ideas that seem true to you aren't actually true in reality. These symptoms can also occur when you are high on meth.

Although it may seem daunting, the best place to go if you're having symptoms of psychosis is a hospital or medically managed detox center. While symptoms will usually go away after the first week of withdrawal, people can run into serious difficulties trying to cope with symptoms of psychosis on their own.

If you or someone you know is experiencing psychosis either during meth intoxication or meth withdrawal, call 911 and inform the paramedics about the drug use.

Antipsychotic drugs may be prescribed along with other medications to treat the psychiatric symptoms.

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