Withdrawal from stimulants, especially one as intense as methamphetamine, can take a long time. In fact, a person may experience symptoms related to meth withdrawal a long time after the initial symptoms have cooled. If you are planning to stop abusing meth and are unsure about the effects and the timeline of meth withdrawal, it is important to do as much research as you can and to be patient with yourself through this difficult time.
What is Meth Withdrawal Like?
Meth withdrawal is more psychological, as is withdrawal from most other stimulants. As the NLM states, “The level of craving, irritability, delayed depression, and other symptoms produced by cocaine withdrawal rivals or exceeds that felt with other withdrawal syndromes.” Being a stimulant, meth causes similarly high levels of these issues when a person who has been abusing it for some time suddenly stops.
Meth withdrawal causes symptoms like:
- Severe depression
- Sleep disturbances
- Excessive tiredness
- Weight gain
- Intense cravings
Psychosis is also common during meth withdrawal as a result of high levels of meth use over time. This can include paranoia, hallucinations, violent tendencies, and delirium. In many cases, an individual will need inpatient treatment in the beginning of their meth withdrawal. However, these issues come in stages which usually last a certain amount of time.
- The Initial Period
- Characterized by excessive sleepiness, depression, and anxiety, the initial period usually lasts a few days. This is also known as the crash phase. Psychosis commonly occurs during this phase.
- The Intermediate Period
- According to the CHCE, During the intermediate withdrawal phase, individuals may experience fatigue, a loss of physical and mental energy, and decreased interest in the surrounding environment. This time is also punctuated by strong cravings which can be extremely difficult to resist. It can usually last around ten weeks or so.
- The Late Period
- The final period can last for months and sometimes even up to a year or so. It is characterized by cravings which come and go more sporadically than in the intermediate period but can cause a person to feel that their withdrawal is dragging on.
Why Does Meth Withdrawal Seem to Take So Long?
There are many reasons why meth withdrawal seems to take so long. For one, the cravings for meth can last anywhere from several weeks to a year or more. This can cause the process to seem very long and make an individual dealing with meth withdrawal extremely frustrated.
Another issue that persists during meth withdrawal is the possibility of cognitive problems which occur after an individual goes off meth. In a study from the University of Florida, it was found that rats that were taken off meth experienced cognitive and short-term memory problems as a part of their withdrawal from the drug. In humans, these problems can also occur and can sometimes last for a year or more.
Because of these issues, meth withdrawal can seem extremely drawn out and long for the user. But these are not the only factors that affect the meth withdrawal timeline.
Factors that Influence the Timeline of Meth Withdrawal
The factors that influence the timeline of meth withdrawal include:
- How long the individual was abusing meth
- How high the individual’s tolerance was for meth (i.e. did the person abuse extremely high doses of the drug)
- The person’s particular physiology as well as whether or not they have had experience withdrawing from a drug in the past
- Whether or not they have chosen medically-assisted withdrawal
- If a person takes medication to help them through the difficult symptoms of withdrawal, they may feel that withdrawal is taking longer than if they quit the drug without the use of medication.
- This second option can often be dangerous though and possibly lead to relapse.
- Whether or not they are attending any kind of meth addiction treatment
- Though a person’s cravings and other issues caused by meth withdrawal may remain long after they stop abusing the drug, attending treatment can give them more tools to deal with these issues. Especially with behavioral therapy, patients can learn to better handle their cravings and other withdrawal symptoms.
Any of these factors may cause an individual’s meth withdrawal timeline to become shorter or longer based on the specifics of their experience with the drug. Someone who was abusing high doses of meth or abusing the drug for a long time will likely have a harder time getting over withdrawal than someone who just started. The effects of their withdrawal syndrome may be stronger as well as more drawn out. Depending on your unique situation, you should consider what you may experience during your meth withdrawal syndrome.
When Will Meth Withdrawal End?
Meth withdrawal can often last a long time. This is because the syndrome itself changes and the effects, though they become less intense over time, linger in the individual’s life.
According to a study on meth withdrawal from the NCBI, “While depressive and psychotic symptoms largely resolved within a week of abstinence, craving did not decrease significantly form the time of initiating abstinence until the second week, and then continued at a reduced level to the fifth week.” The study was helpful in showing that the effects of meth withdrawal lessen over time and that the more intense symptoms fall away, but a “limitation is that the current study did not extend beyond 5 weeks of continuous abstinence.”
Meth withdrawal will end, but it is one of the longer withdrawal syndromes. Like that of cocaine, amphetamine, and other stimulants, cravings for meth are intense and can linger after a long period of abstinence. And because the severe “brain changes” like cognitive functioning and memory may “persist long after methamphetamine use is stopped,” it may seem even more like the effects of the drug are continuing on without letting up.
For most individuals, meth withdrawal is a long struggle than can last for over a year. But there are ways you can make this time easier and more bearable: attend treatment, ask for help from your friends and family, take care of yourself mentally and physically, and take each day one at a time.