Abstaining from amphetamines after long-term use results in negative psychological and physiological effects referred to as withdrawal symptoms. Amphetamine withdrawal symptoms are often responsible for sobriety setbacks, making it beneficial to enroll in a detox clinic to begin a healthy recovery process.
What Causes Withdrawal?
Repeated drug use often leads to the development of drug dependence due to the brain and body adapting to the presence of the drug. Drug dependence refers to the condition where a person needs to use the drug to function normally. Persistent amphetamine use causes changes in the brain, including in the brain reward system involving the neurotransmitter dopamine. Abstinence from drug use after the adaptation of the brain reward system to repeated drug use is thought to result in a negative emotional state involving stress, anxiety and dysphoria (a state of unease). Abstaining from drug use after amphetamine dependence or addiction results in withdrawal symptoms.
Diagnosing Amphetamine Withdrawal
The primary criteria for the diagnosis of amphetamine withdrawal syndrome involve cessation or reduction of amphetamine use after prolonged use. Other criteria for diagnosis include the manifestation of depression, increased appetite, unpleasant dreams, sleep disturbances (hypersomnia or insomnia) and agitation. To be diagnosed with amphetamine withdrawal syndrome requires impairment of social and occupational functioning.
Amphetamine Withdrawal Symptoms
The withdrawal symptoms resulting from repeated amphetamine abuse vary from person to person depending on their metabolism and the duration and pattern of drug use. Most of the effects of amphetamine withdrawal are not life-threatening. However, depression is one of the most persistent symptoms of amphetamine withdrawal and may lead to suicide.
Physical Symptoms of Withdrawal
Physical symptoms of amphetamine withdrawal include:
- Sleep disturbances like insomnia and hypersomnia
- Appetite disturbances
- Aches and pains
- Nausea and vomiting
Psychological Symptoms of Withdrawal
Psychological symptoms of amphetamine withdrawal generally involve mood disturbances. These include:
- Lack of concentration
- Intense drug cravings that may last up to five weeks
- Psychomotor agitation: restlessness accompanied by non-specific movements
- Psychotic symptoms that may last up to a week, such as delusions, hallucinations, agitation and vivid dreams
Amphetamine Withdrawal Timeline
The time required for detoxification from amphetamines varies from person to person. The withdrawal symptoms are generally observed for between five days to three weeks. The initial three days after abstinence are marked by fatigue, excessive sleep, increased appetite, nausea, abdominal cramps, dizziness and headaches.
The following three or four days are characterized by mood disturbances such as depression, anxiety, anhedonia, intense drug cravings and increased irritability as the body reacts to the absence of the drug. Some of the symptoms observed during the first three days, including insomnia and increased appetite, tend to persist during this period.
Following this initial week of abstinence, most of these symptoms gradually subside over the following two weeks. Insomnia and some mood and appetite disturbances tend to persist into the second and third week with a possibility of unpleasant, vivid dreams. Intense cravings for drug use may persist for at least five weeks.
Factors Affecting Withdrawal Duration
The duration and symptoms of amphetamine withdrawal vary from person to person. The duration, intensity and presentation of symptoms may depend on multiple factors, including the dose and frequency of drug use, the duration of drug dependence and the metabolism of the individual. Although most symptoms of amphetamine withdrawal last for approximately three weeks, some symptoms, like intense cravings for the drug, may last longer.
Amphetamine Detox and Withdrawal Treatment
Detoxification is the first step toward recovery from amphetamine addiction, but detox is often complicated by severe withdrawal symptoms. Many people choose to pursue detox at a professional detox center to help ease withdrawal symptoms. Treatment of the symptoms of amphetamine withdrawal at a detox center may involve behavioral therapy and medications.
Although there are no approved medications that have been demonstrated to be consistently effective in the treatment of amphetamine withdrawal, certain medications may be useful in the reduction of some of the symptoms. There are certain studies that show promising results with drugs like modafinil, bupropion and naltrexone in reducing amphetamine and methamphetamine use. Medications may involve antipsychotics to treat symptoms of psychosis, benzodiazepines for anxiety and certain antidepressants, like imipramine, may be used. Most serotonin reuptake inhibitor antidepressants are ineffective in the treatment of amphetamine withdrawal symptoms.
The medical staff at a medical detox facility are trained to provide the necessary supportive care in the form of behavioral therapy and pharmacological treatments to help individuals cope with the withdrawal symptoms. Trained medical professionals can provide clients with effective care involving medications for amphetamine withdrawal symptoms.
Outpatient detox does not require residence at a detox facility and allows the person to continue with daily activities, including work and education. The therapy provided at an outpatient detox is similar to that at a medical detox involving behavioral therapy and prescription medications for the management of amphetamine withdrawal symptoms. However, since the care is not provided around the clock, this form of detoxification may be more suitable for individuals with low-intensity withdrawal symptoms.
Since the withdrawal symptoms of amphetamine addiction are not generally life-threatening, it may be possible to undergo detoxification at home. However, the mood disturbances and intense cravings characteristic of the withdrawal symptoms may cause a resumption of substance use to relieve the symptoms. Additionally, using medications to treat some of these withdrawal symptoms without appropriate medical supervision may have its own dangers. Seeking drug detox at a professional treatment center can benefit people seeking long-term sobriety.
Dangers of Quitting Cold-Turkey
Besides experiencing a higher chance of relapse, while detoxing at home there is also a danger of people choosing to quit the drug cold turkey. Quitting cold-turkey involves stopping drug intake altogether and such a quick amphetamine detoxification process is associated with more severe symptoms, including depression. The severe withdrawal symptoms and intense cravings resulting from quitting cold-turkey can lead to a setback. It is recommended by medical professionals that the amphetamine dose is gradually tapered or lowered to reduce the severity of symptoms.
Finding a Detox Center
Although many detox centers provide similar treatments, it is essential to consider various factors, including the experience and training of the medical staff in the treatment of individuals with withdrawal symptoms occurring after amphetamine use and the specific kind of treatment provided. Other factors in choosing a detox center may include:
- Location: It may be better to choose a detox center closer to home, especially if opting for outpatient detox. Even for inpatient detox, a detox center in the home city may facilitate family visits and provide emotional support during the detoxification process.
- Cost: The cost of detox programs depends on various factors such as whether treatment involves medications or behavioral therapy, the types of medications used, the amenities provided (basic versus luxury), the quality of care, and the length of stay. Medications and the number of staff involved can largely influence the cost of treatment. Treatment at detox centers can be expensive and it is essential to ensure that the detox center and the treatment is covered under the insurance plan.
- Effectiveness: The detox clinic must specialize in treating withdrawal symptoms of drug addiction with licensed medical professionals to provide the necessary treatment. Detox centers that provide individualized treatment are more effective since the presentation of amphetamine withdrawal symptoms varies from individual to individual.
How Detox Helps
Detox is the first step toward recovery from drug addiction and living a sober life. Detox helps individuals cope with the withdrawal symptoms following amphetamine use in a safe and supportive environment. Enrolling in a rehab program following the detoxification treatment can help address the psychological problems underlying the addiction and set the individual on the path for long-term recovery.
Key Points: Understanding Amphetamines Withdrawal and Detox
Keep the following key points in mind when considering amphetamine withdrawal and detox:
- Amphetamine withdrawal is generally characterized by depression, anxiety, insomnia and intense cravings that may last three weeks after abstinence began
- The adverse symptoms can cause setbacks in sobriety and enrollment in either an inpatient or an intensive outpatient detox is recommended to cope with these symptoms
- If detoxifying at home, then abstaining from the drug all at once must be avoided and the intake of the drug should be gradually decreased
- There are no pharmacological drugs approved for the treatment of amphetamine withdrawal symptoms, but certain medications may help alleviate the symptoms
- Both inpatient and outpatient detox can be effective in helping individuals cope with amphetamine withdrawal symptoms. Inpatient detox is more intensive and hence effective, however outpatient rehab is generally less expensive.
If you or a loved one struggle with amphetamine addiction, contact The Recovery Village Palm Beach at Baptist Health to speak with a representative about how professional detox sets people up for long-term sobriety. You deserve a healthier future, call today.
Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village Palm Beach at Baptist Health aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.