Updated: August 3, 2023, at 9:44 a.m.
Meth withdrawal is a serious consequence of meth addiction. When following a binge, or when trying to get sober, users can experience harsh meth withdrawal side effects that can hinder their mental and emotional well-being. The physical and mental symptoms of withdrawal can be debilitating.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there were over 10,000 drug overdose deaths that involved psycho-stimulants in 2017. This is an almost 650% increase from just ten years prior. Psycho-stimulants are a class of drug that includes methamphetamine. Methamphetamine is becoming a more popular drug in the United States, especially since Mexican drug cartels now have a monopoly on the market.
With the increasing popularity and use of the drug, it is important to learn more about the effects that meth can have on users and the problems associated with withdrawals. It is also important to understand that treatment is an option. During treatment, users will go through a medically supervised detoxification process so that they may safely transition pass the withdrawal stages.
Methamphetamine is a highly addictive substance that stimulates the central nervous system. The drug is abused due to its euphoric effects. Due to the addictive nature of the drug, abuse can commonly lead to an addiction, and if the problem is not handled, it can eventually lead to overdose and death.
Along with the dangers of excessive use, users are at risk of many health problems even after they get off the drug. Drug withdrawals are serious and may lead to many behavioral and emotional symptoms.
Withdrawal symptoms are generally the opposite of those effects that users feel when on the drug. For example, meth users become incredibly energetic, won’t sleep, and experience extreme euphoria when on the drug. Meanwhile, following the high that they feel from the drug, users will crash and experience fatigue, crave sleep, experience increased appetite, depression, loss of physical and mental energy, and more. These symptoms generally become more intense over the first 12 to 96 hours after the initial crash.
According to one study, patients experience the worst of the symptoms shortly after sobriety with some symptoms still lingering for additional weeks. Symptoms like paranoia, depression, psychoticism, and more are some symptoms that continue past initial entry and the first week of treatment.
According to one study, there is evidence that methamphetamine withdrawal can be split into two phases: the acute phase and the sub-acute phase.
The acute phase of meth withdrawal is characterized as the lasting seven to 10 days that follow after ending drug use. During this phase symptom severity declines in a linear pattern. Patients experience increased sleeping, eating, and depressive-related symptoms.
The sub-acute phase refers to the two-week period that follows the acute phase. During this time, withdrawal symptoms remain mild and stable.
One thing that many users will go through is severe and persistent depression which can exacerbate and move on to suicidal ideation and even suicide attempts if not treated correctly. Depression is one symptom that remains fairly consistent even after the initial steps of recovery. Suicidal thoughts that stems from depression is a constant threat to methamphetamine users and should be taken into consideration when dealing with methamphetamine-dependent patients.
What Is Methamphetamine?
Methamphetamine is a stimulant drug that comes in the form of a white, bitter-tasting powder or
a pill. Crystal meth is a form of the drug that looks like foggy glass fragments. Meth can be taken by inhaling, smoking, swallowing, snorting, or injecting the drug.
Most of the meth today that is found in the United States was manufactured in “superlabs” in Mexico and trafficked across the border. However, there are still some small production labs that are creating the drug with inexpensive over-the-counter medications such as pseudoephedrine.
These small labs became a major problem across the country and laws were changed to make it harder to obtain these over-the-counter drugs. In response, Mexican drug cartels cornered the market and now control most of the methamphetamine production for the United States.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the high that comes from the drug starts and fades quickly, leading to a pattern characterized by binging and crashing. This binging often leads to users giving up food and sleep while using the drug for multiple hours up to several days.
Effects of Meth
Using methamphetamine increases the amount of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is associated with happiness and euphoria, in the brain. Dopamine is involved in body movement, motivation, and reinforcement of rewarding behaviors. The use of methamphetamine leads to a wide number of short-term and long-term effects that can prove to be hazardous to your health.
Even just small amounts of meth can lead to health effects that are similar to that of other stimulants like cocaine. These effects include increased physical activity, decreased appetite, faster breathing, rapid heart rate, increased blood pressure, and more.
Along with the short-term effects of methamphetamine, using the drug for a period of time can lead to problematic consequences. For example, for users who inject the drug, they are at an increased risk of contracting infection disease such as HIV and hepatitis.
Other long-term issues include:
- Dental problems
- Extreme weight loss
- Violent behavior
Continued use of methamphetamine causes changes in the dopamine and reward system in the brain. According to the NIDA, there are some studies that show that continued meth use leads to reduced coordination and impaired learning and can affect areas in the brain involved with emotion and memory.
While the brain can recover from some of the these problems after not using the drug for a year or more, but some evidence suggests that people use meth have an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.
Along with these effects, overdoses can happen. Overdoses occur when a person uses too much of the drug and has a toxic reaction. This can then lead to a number of life-threatening consequences, in this case, stroke, heart attack, organ problems like kidney failure, overheating, and more. All of these symptoms can eventually lead to death.
Meth overdoses are generally treated by attacking the overdose symptom. For example, restoring blood flow to the brain in the case of stroke and restoring blood flow to heart in the case of a heart attack.
Treatment of Methamphetamine
Methamphetamine is incredibly addictive and can lead to deadly consequences if the problem gets out of control. Luckily, meth addiction is treatable with the help of a treatment center. Behavioral therapy and education are two of the most effective ways that methamphetamine addiction can be treated.
During the very first stages of treatment, patients will go through a medically assisted detox program to help them safely come off the drug while managing withdrawal symptoms.
While detox plays an important role in the recovery process, it is only the first step. There is much more to learn and understand about addiction. One of the ways this is taught is through therapy.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, CBT, is part of the treatment proves that was developed to help patients learn about ways to prevent relapse. These strategies look at the behavioral patterns of substance abuse and identify behaviors that may lead to increased urges and relapse. Learning what triggers a craving or urge is important for understanding how to prevent relapses. By avoiding these triggers, it is a great way to not fall victim and slip back into the clutches of addiction once again.
Meth withdrawal, and other drug withdrawals, are dangerous and, if not handled properly, they can result in serious health consequences that can even be life-threatening. Going to a drug or alcohol treatment center can get you or your loved one the help you need and can offer a way to safely withdrawal through medically supervised detox. Landmark Recovery is one alcohol and drug rehab center that offers patients a safe path toward sobriety. If you are interested in learning more, call 888-448-0302 today to speak to a Patient Navigator.
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