How Long Does Withdrawal From Methamphetamine Last?

In This Article

Meth withdrawal is a natural but uncomfortable process that begins immediately after someone discontinues taking methamphetamine, also known as crystal meth.

Overview

Withdrawal involves a predictable set of symptoms, that gradually wear off as the body adjusts to the drug no longer being present. Withdrawal involves physical symptoms like fatigue and psychiatric symptoms like depression or psychosis. While the physical symptoms go away, the psychological symptoms like anxiety can last a long time.

In the first 24 hours following meth use, people may begin to experience initial withdrawal symptoms which can include fatigue and increased appetite. You may feel irritable, anxious, and depressed.

Meth withdrawal timeline
Verywell / JR Bee

Duration and Severity

Research shows that meth withdrawal consists of two phases. The first phase is most intense during the first 24 hours after last using meth and gradually gets less intense over the next week. There is often a "subacute" phase lasting another couple of weeks.

The severity of meth withdrawal will depend on a number of different factors, such as how long and how much meth the individual has been using, and how dependent the person is on meth.

How Long Will Withdrawal Last?

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

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).

Other factors that can play a role in the duration and severity of meth withdrawal symptoms include:

  • A person's mental and physical health before and during meth use
  • The quality of the meth the individual was using
  • History of other drug use, including alcohol

Some research suggests that withdrawal severity declined from an initial peak within the first 24 hours after the last drug use, reducing over the first week.

Signs & Symptoms

The experience of meth withdrawal is different for everyone, but there are certain signs and symptoms that tend to be common.

If your symptoms feel severe, seek help as soon as possible and be sure to tell your doctor 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%.

Fatigue and Sleepiness

When using meth, people often feel hyperactive and like they do not need to sleep. During meth withdrawal, they often feel exactly the opposite. Especially during the first week of withdrawal, people are 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).

It is not uncommon to experience vivid dreams, but these will usually subside during the first week or so.

Depression

Having a low, flat, or depressed mood is normal while going through meth withdrawal. For about two-thirds of people with meth addiction, 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.

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 but that aren't actually true in reality. These symptoms can also occur when people are high on meth.

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 addictive substances.

Increased Appetite

While on meth, people often experience a lack of appetite for food. That changes during meth withdrawal, during which people are 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.

Coping & Relief

Meth withdrawal can be difficult, but there are some things that you can do to cope with your symptoms and make the process easier.

  • Exercise: Exercise and medication may help with anxiety, although further research is needed to confirm this.
  • Distract yourself: Although these cravings start out quite intense, the frequency and intensity of drug cravings gradually subside over two to five weeks. The best thing to do is to try to cope with the cravings until they abate. Find ways to keep busy and distracted so you don't focus on these cravings.
  • Avoid triggers: If there are certain situations or people that tend to trigger your cravings, be careful to avoid them during your withdrawal period in order to minimize the risk of a relapse.
  • Eat a healthy diet: Your appetite for food may return during withdrawal, but it's important to try to keep everything in moderation. Try not to eat more than you normally would have before taking meth, as you may develop a substitute addiction to food.

If symptoms of depression continue following the discontinuation of meth, see your doctor. Medications are often useful in treating these symptoms.

Warnings

It is often best to go through the meth detox and withdrawal process under the supervision of trained professionals. 

Although it may seem daunting, the best place to go if you're having severe symptoms 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, such as psychosis, on their own.

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

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.

Long-Term Treatment

The National Institute on Drug Abuse suggests that behavioral therapy is one of the most effective long-term treatments currently available for methamphetamine addiction. Two of the main types that may be used are cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and contingency management (CM).

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy focuses on changing the underlying thoughts and beliefs that contribute to maladaptive behaviors.
  • Contingency management utilizes operant conditioning to encourage meth abstinence. People receive incentives, such as vouchers, for passing drug tests.

Other approaches that may also be used include family education, individual counseling, and 12-step support groups.

Resources

If you or a loved one is ready to quit meth, talk to your doctor for advice. Your doctor can assess your health and refer you to treatment centers in your area. 

You should also seek medical assistance if you are having severe or worrisome withdrawal symptoms such as depression, paranoia, or psychosis.

You can also contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) national helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for treatment referral and information. Or you can use their online treatment locator to find addictions services in your area.

A Word From Verywell

While meth withdrawal can be difficult, addiction is treatable and recovery is possible. Taking care of yourself during this time is vital. Practice effective relapse prevention techniques and be kind to yourself. Most importantly, don't be afraid to reach out to friends, family, support groups, or treatment professionals if you need help.

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