Methamphetamine (meth) is an addictive, illicit central nervous system stimulant. Meth use triggers the release of multiple neurotransmitters in the brain, most significantly dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, resulting in increased energy, a perception of improved mental alertness and rapid mood swings. Meth use also elevates heart rate, increases blood pressure and disrupts cognitive processes including learning and memory.
Meth withdrawal is an incredibly uncomfortable process that can vary in severity and duration, depending on the degree of dependence and addiction. Several other factors contribute to the withdrawal timeline. Unfortunately, there is no universal answer to how long meth withdrawal will last, but meth withdrawal symptoms are relatively predictable and consistent. Withdrawal duration can vary from several days to several weeks, depending on the severity of dependence. The presence of persistent withdrawal symptoms following the initial withdrawal phase is not uncommon.
Factors Affecting the Meth Withdrawal Timeline
The most significant factor that will affect the meth withdrawal timeline is the degree of dependence and addiction, which is typically correlated with the amount and duration of use.
Factors that contribute to the meth withdrawal timeline include:
- Withdrawal Factors
Amount and duration of meth use
Use of other substances
The presence of an emotional support system
The Stages and Symptoms Of Meth Withdrawal
Clinically, meth withdrawal has an acute phase and a subacute phase, which describe the first weeks of withdrawal. A third recovery phase describes the post-acute withdrawal experience.
Acute symptoms of meth withdrawal occur in the first week of abstinence and include:
- Acute Withdrawal Symptoms
Dysphoria (a general uneasiness or dissatisfaction)
Anhedonia (inability to experience pleasure)
In some cases, psychosis
Hypersomnia (excessive sleeping)
Intense cravings for meth
Subacute symptoms of meth withdrawal occur in the two weeks following the acute phase and include:
- Subacute Withdrawal Symptoms
Psychomotor agitation (purposeless, repetitive motions like pacing or toe-tapping)
Psychomotor retardation (pronounced reductions in activity or emotion)
Vivid dreams or nightmares
Some people may experience post-acute symptoms of meth withdrawal in the weeks or months following the subacute phase. Symptoms often include:
- Post-Acute Withdrawal Symptoms
The first 24 hours after stopping use will be characterized by exhaustion, fatigue, lack of energy and depression. If people are able to sleep at all, it will be poor quality and unsatisfying. Mental states are often foggy and depression is common. Although not everyone will experience cravings, they may be present. For many people, symptom severity peaks around 24 hours after quitting.
Crash and Peak of Symptoms
The “crash” describes the acute phase of withdrawal, and typically lasts for up to seven days, although some cases may have acute symptoms that persist for up to 10 days. This phase is characterized by increased appetite, long periods of poor-quality sleep, low energy, intense cravings, depression, anhedonia, restlessness, and insomnia. Other symptoms may include anxiety, irritability, vivid dreams or nightmares, and poor concentration.
Following the crash, subacute symptoms may persist for up to five weeks, although most people report that their symptoms resolve during the two weeks following acute withdrawal. Increased appetite and sleep are the most significant symptoms of subacute meth withdrawal, and acute symptoms like depression, dysphoria, psychomotor agitation or retardation gradually subside during this phase.
Unfortunately, many people in recovery from meth use experience persistent symptoms that are considered post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). PAWS is a frustrating component of recovery for many people. PAWS symptoms can be physical and psychological and tend to be milder versions of acute and subacute symptoms. In extreme cases, PAWS may be experienced for months, even years, after quitting. It is important to understand that the presence of PAWS is normal, and experiencing symptoms and cravings for months after quitting does not mean that recovery has failed. These uncomfortable symptoms gradually subside over time.
Meth treatment does not have any shortcuts to overcoming withdrawal symptoms. No medications have been validated as effective therapeutic agents. It can be difficult to resist cravings in the first days and weeks of recovery, so professional treatment for meth withdrawal is often the most effective way to overcome the early challenges associated with addiction and maximize long-term success in recovery.
People who are facing a meth use disorder should seek an evaluation with a rehab professional who is experienced in treating meth use. In many cases, medically supervised detox will be appropriate. Medical detox provides 24/7 care and supervision over the first several days of recovery, after which clients can transition into a residential or outpatient rehab program.
Meth addiction has a powerful psychological component, and residential rehab addresses this by providing individual and group therapy sessions that are geared towards clarifying why someone used meth and why sobriety is important, along with identifying short- and long-term goals for recovery. The most effective rehab programs include traditional therapy as well as newer methods like motivational interviewing and cognitive behavioral therapy. In addition, therapeutic methods like equine therapy and yoga have proven to be effective for many people.
Following residential care, outpatient and aftercare programs aim to provide people in recovery with the tools and techniques they need to successfully reintegrate into their new, sober lives. In most cases, recovery is a life-long pursuit that requires regular maintenance. Being proactive about participating in healthy new activities and developing a strong support network are often crucial components of long-term success.
How to Find Help for Meth Detox in Florida
There are a number of rehab facilities in Florida, but they are not all alike. When you are evaluating a rehab center for a methamphetamine use disorder, look for comprehensive programs that can provide care for every stage of recovery, not just the detox period. Many people find that consistent care between detox and subsequent residential or outpatient programs is beneficial. Look for programs that provide multidisciplinary teams that are experienced in helping people overcome meth use disorders.
If you or a loved one struggle with meth use, contact The Recovery Village Palm Beach at Baptist Health to speak with a representative about how professional addiction treatment can help. Take the first step toward addressing the substance use disorder, call today.
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McGregor, Catherine; et al. “The nature, time course and severity of methamphetamine withdrawal.” Society for the Study of Addiction, March 2005. Accessed September 14, 2019.
Science Daily. “How exercise could reduce relapse during meth withdrawal.” November 2014. Accessed September 14, 2019.
Colino, Stacey. “Running (or Walking Briskly) Away From Addiction.” U.S. News Health, June 2018. Accessed September 14, 2019.
Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village 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.