Methamphetamine withdrawal does not cause the tremors associated with alcohol dependence, nor the pain opioid addicts experience. However, its signs and symptoms can be extremely intense even though other people may not be able to recognize them. Methamphetamine is a stimulant, and the stimulant withdrawal syndrome is generally associated with psychological symptoms.
The methamphetamine withdrawal syndrome can still become dangerous for the user (and for others). It is important for friends and family members of meth users to know what signs to look for and to be prepared to get the individual into treatment as soon as possible.
According to CESAR, “Withdrawal from high doses [of methamphetamine] generally leads to severe depression.” Although this symptom is not always noticeable to others, depression can be extremely problematic, especially for someone who’s never experienced it before. As a stimulant, methamphetamine causes a person to feel euphoric, energetic, and excited. It can also cause paranoia, nervousness, and unpredictable behavior.
However, once the drug leaves the individual’s system, the person crashes, and their emotions, as well as their energy, plummets. In the beginning of the withdrawal syndrome, they will often sleep for a long period of time, but the depressive symptoms will linger even after the individual’s initial fatigue wears off. Because the depression can be so severe, many individuals experience suicidal thoughts which can lead to dangerous actions. This is one reason why methamphetamine abusers are often told to attend treatment in an inpatient facility where they can receive 24-hour surveillance in a controlled environment.
Another issue that often occurs as part of the meth withdrawal syndrome is stimulant-induced psychosis. According to the NIDA, users “may display a number of psychotic features, including paranoia, visual and auditory hallucinations, and delusions (for example, the sensation of insects creeping under the skin).” This is a result of long-term methamphetamine abuse that leads to severe emotional and psychological issues which mimic those of schizophrenia.
It can be very dangerous if someone experiencing this type of psychosis is not taken to a treatment facility where they can be monitored at all times. Many individuals become extremely hostile and even violent, displaying both suicidal and homicidal tendencies. In addition, the psychosis is often triggered when an individual suddenly stops using meth, which makes the signs of withdrawal very unpredictable.
Dangerous and Long-lasting Symptoms
In addition, “psychotic symptoms can sometimes last for months or years after a person has quit abusing methamphetamine, and stress has been shown to precipitate spontaneous recurrence of methamphetamine psychosis in formerly psychotic methamphetamine abusers.” This is still, unfortunately, associated with methamphetamine withdrawal, as other signs and symptoms can last a year or more.
Like in the case of long-term cocaine abuse, “the craving and depression can last for months following cessation of long-term heavy use” (NLM). Long-term methamphetamine abuse makes severe changes to the brain, and these may continue for as long as a year after the individual’s last usage.
The signs of meth withdrawal can be dangerous, especially the more intense they are. Because they are mostly psychological and behavioral in nature, it is very important to monitor an individual who is going through meth withdrawal to stop harmful actions before they occur.