Meth detox is the process where a person stops taking meth and removes the drug from their system. By completing withdrawal, the person can start an addiction treatment program sober. Withdrawal during a meth detox requires medical oversight at an inpatient or outpatient treatment program.
When patients first enter treatment, many are living inside a state of emotional turmoil. This can cloud their sense of purpose and direction. Meth detox is the first step towards breaking addiction’s hold.
The Initial Assessment
The beginning of a meth detox program requires an initial assessment. During this stage, an intake specialist will determine which program is best for the patient. A nurse or addiction counselor will ask the prospective patient about their history of drug use. Some patients will require a higher level of care.
The majority of people seeking a meth detox have failed to quit on their own a few times. The history and patterns of methamphetamine use will determine the support levels and treatments needed to keep the person in recovery comfortable. The goal of the assessment is to find the ideal strategy and length of program for success. Most will continue into a treatment program post detox, with strategies applied for aftercare.
Methamphetamine detox can occur in different treatment centers – inpatient, outpatient, and detox centers. Inpatient detox programs provide 24/7 medical oversight and allow patients to move from detox to treatment. Outpatient programs require patients to detox at home with reduced medical intervention. Detox centers are inpatient centers specific to detox that provide options of aftercare. Side effects from meth withdrawal can be difficult to withstand. Most people will require the extra support inpatient treatment provides.
Who Needs Higher Levels of Care in a Meth Detox?
Methamphetamine has a profound effect on the brain and central nervous system, creating serious structural, chemical, and functional changes that can lead to profound cognitive and emotional problems for chronic meth users.
Long-term meth use can cause serious structural, chemical, and functional changes to the brain. This means certain patients are at a higher risk of experiencing dangerous side effects. Certain factors increase the level of care required during treatment, including:
- Poor physical health status, or co-existing medical conditions
- Conditions requiring close observation and access to medical equipment. For example signs of malnutrition, dehydration, injuries, pregnancy, or IV use
- Patients suffering from infectious diseases like AIDs, or hepatitis
- Poor Mental health status including psychotic symptoms
- Any present hallucinations, psychosis, delirium, or schizophrenic-like behaviors.
- Violent or suicidal tendencies, the risk of harm to the patient or others, and any co-occurring mental health issues
- Lack of social support
- Lack of safety, or a safe home environment e.g. homeless or a victims of domestic violence
- Co-existing substance abuse (e.g. withdrawing from multiple substances)
- Long-term addictions, and severity of substance abuse
- Unwillingness to succeed
- Patients put into treatment against their will, or those in denial
Meth Detox Help for Psychological Effects
The potential of medical complications can make a DIY detox dangerous. Detox programs place a heavy emphasis on helping a person through the psychological and physical aspects of withdrawal. The psychological effects from withdrawal can be the most distressing part of the meth detox process.
Meth withdrawal creates brain chemical imbalances, leaving a person unable to experience any pleasure. Severe depression can set in as brain chemistry attempts to return to normal. Increased rates of depression and anxiety account for why so many people resume drug use to gain relief.
The initial month after quitting meth tends to be the most difficult. During the acute phase of withdrawal (2-1o days) side effects become severe. Long-term meth use damages the central nervous system, affecting every organ in the body.
Common withdrawal symptoms include:
- Intense cravings
- Physical aches and pains
- Severe anxiety
- Sleep disturbances
More disturbing symptoms include:
- Violent or harmful tendencies
- Suicidal tendencies
- Psychotic behaviors
Meth detox provides close monitoring and assistance for the safety, comfort, and stabilization of the patient as they eliminate the drugs from their system. Medications can be used to minimize many of the distressing symptoms of methamphetamine withdrawal.
Medications used by doctors or nurses in methamphetamine detox may include:
- Anxiolytics or sedatives to reduce the severity of overstimulation of the central nervous system and help to alleviate anxiety, hypertension, nervousness, insomnia, and agitation.
- Antidepressants may be prescribed to help ease depression. Some patients will have elevated risk of suicidal tendencies during their withdrawal.
- Antipsychotics help manage symptoms of psychosis such as schizophrenic-like behaviors that can be harmful to the patient or others.
- Adjunct Medications to reduce pain and digestive disorders or to lower levels of anxiety and insomnia
Successful completion of a detox program will create the foundation for further addiction treatment. This is the first step toward a healthy, clean life, and long-term recovery.