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Crystal Meth Detox Symptoms And Timeline

Dr. Richard Foster, LICDC-CS

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Richard Foster, LICDC-CS

March 19, 2019

Addiction to crystal meth can lead to withdrawal symptoms within 12 hours after the last dose. An effective way to detox from crystal meth is to undergo medical detox, which provides around-the-clock supervision and may reduce a person’s risk for relapse.

Crystal methamphetamine, or crystal meth, is a potent stimulant that can produce an intense rush when used.

Even a single dose of crystal meth can be addictive and may lead to repeated or chronic use of the drug. People who attempt to reduce their meth use or stop using meth altogether may experience withdrawal symptoms within hours after their last dose. This can make it more difficult for a person to stop.

Withdrawal from crystal meth can feature a range of moderate to severe symptoms, causing both physical and psychological distress. Although stimulant withdrawal is rarely life-threatening, the stress it can have on a person can often lead them to relapse, if only to relieve withdrawal symptoms.

The safest and most effective way to detox from meth is to enter a medical detox program.

Crystal Meth Detox Symptoms

Meth withdrawal may involve a range of symptoms that affect the brain and body, beginning within hours after the last use of the drug. This includes agitation, increased appetite, and fatigue.

The process of withdrawal can vary from person to person based on how long they have been using meth and other personal factors.

The most common symptoms experienced during crystal meth detox include:

  • fatigue
  • insomnia
  • hypersomnia
  • increased appetite
  • red, itchy eyes
  • low mood
  • agitation
  • paranoia
  • slowed reaction time
  • suicidal thoughts

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Timeline For Meth Detox And Withdrawal

The timeline for crystal meth detox generally involves two distinct stages of withdrawal. The acute phase, during which most detox symptoms peak and decline, can last between 7 to 10 days. The subacute phase of withdrawal may last up to 30 days.

Nearly all symptoms are gone within a month after a person has stopped their use of meth. In some cases, certain symptoms — such as drug cravings and depression — may continue. This is known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). Post-acute withdrawal syndrome tends to be most common in those who have severe drug dependence or had abused meth for an extended period of time.

Additional factors that can affect the withdrawal timeline and severity of symptoms:

  • age
  • polydrug use (abusing more than one drug or substance)
  • method of use (i.e. snorting, smoking, injection, oral)
  • body weight or size
  • co-occurring mental health disorders

Acute Phase of Withdrawal (7 — 10 days)

Initial withdrawal symptoms can set in within 12 hours after a person has last used meth. The severity of a person’s symptoms may depend on dosage amount and the length of meth use. Long-term use of meth may cause more severe symptoms, and may also result in a longer withdrawal process.

Symptoms will heighten and decline over the first week of withdrawal. Sleep disturbances, including both increased and decreased sleep, and severe depression may occur during this time. Drug cravings can also be high within this phase and increase the risk for relapse in those who attempt to detox alone.

Most physical symptoms of withdrawal will decline or stop within the first 10 days of detox.

Subacute Phase of Withdrawal (up to 30 days)

While most physical symptoms tend to lessen significantly in the acute phase, symptoms affecting mood and cravings may continue. This includes moderate to severe depression, some anxiety, and disturbed sleeping patterns.

Most people tend to notice improvements in a depression within 30 days after they have stopped using meth. However, in some cases, depression and drug cravings may continue for some months. This may indicate post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). People who continue feeling depressed or have other persisting symptoms beyond the first month should speak to a doctor to discuss additional treatment options.

Potential Dangers Of Detoxing From Meth

Unlike opioid or alcohol withdrawal, detoxing from meth does not often put a person in serious physical danger. However, the psychological symptoms that can occur during meth detox can become severe, and are important to be aware of during this process.

Severe Depression

Some people who undergo meth withdrawal may experience suicidal thoughts. While thinking about suicide does not always lead to a suicide attempt, it is still considered a serious concern. One of the dangers of suicidal ideation in withdrawal is the inability to always see when a person is struggling.

There are no medications currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat meth withdrawal. However, if severe depression continues beyond the acute withdrawal phase, additional treatment may be provided for symptom relief. This may include the combined use of an antidepressant as prescribed, and behavioral therapy.

Psychotic Symptoms

In some cases, people who undergo meth detox may experience symptoms of psychosis. This includes hallucinations and delusions. Delusions are false beliefs that can range from extreme paranoia about others, to delusions about their own identity (e.g. believing they are God, or believing they are being followed, etc.)

Psychotic symptoms will most often cease after the acute phase of withdrawal. If symptoms continue, individuals may be treated with an antipsychotic or be referred to specialized providers for dual-diagnosis treatment.

Risk For Relapse

Relapse is a serious concern for people who are in the early stages of recovery from meth. This includes the withdrawal phase, when drug cravings may be more overwhelming.

Inpatient treatment programs are the best option for successfully detoxing from meth and preventing relapse. These programs provide medical care to help patients ease withdrawal discomfort and achieve stability. After, medical specialists may offer recommendations for additional treatment to help patients achieve a successful recovery. Most often, this involves treatment within a residential rehab program.

Crystal Meth Abuse And Addiction

The intense short-term effects of crystal meth can quickly become addictive. Methamphetamine use is linked to effects on the brain chemical dopamine, which plays a role in mood, pleasure, and the brain’s reward system. Meth is known to trigger certain parts of the brain that reinforce behavior, driving a person to repeatedly use meth for continued drug effects.

Chronic meth use can rapidly lead to tolerance. This requires a person to take higher or multiple doses to feel the same effects. Taking crystal meth more frequently and in higher doses can quicken the time it takes to become dependent. This can lead a person to experience moderate to severe discomfort within hours after their last dose, indicating drug withdrawal.

Crystal meth can have serious effects on a person’s body and lead to changes in brain structure and function. Long-term use of crystal meth can also impact memory, lead to violent behavior, and cause severe psychotic symptoms.

Addiction is a serious disease that may require integrated, multi-faceted care for comprehensive recovery. Detoxification, also known as detox, is a process of removing meth from your system and is the first step in healing from addiction.

How To Safely Detox From Meth

People who are addicted to meth must undergo some form of detoxification, or detox, to fully remove the drug from their body. This is commonly done within a hospital or inpatient drug rehab facility.

Withdrawal from stimulants can be a distressing process, and dangerous when attempted alone. Meth withdrawal rarely leads to fatal consequences, but its symptoms can cause significant stress on the body and mind. In some cases, it may cause seizures or suicidal thoughts.

Medically-supervised detox programs offer the most effective way to remove the drug from a person’s system. This involves 24-hour supervision by trained medical specialists who can help manage and treat discomfort caused by withdrawal symptoms.

Additional treatment within an inpatient rehab program may also be needed to address all aspects of addiction after detox. These programs often offer treatments such as certain behavioral therapies, which can be effective in treating meth addiction. Individual counseling can also help a person learn to manage their drug cravings, and reduce the risk of relapse.

For more information on meth detox and treatment options for overcoming addiction, contact one of our specialists today.

American Academy of Family Physicians - Methamphetamine Abuse

U.S. National Library of Medicine - The burden and management of crystal meth use; The nature, time course and severity of methamphetamine withdrawal

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