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Symptoms of Meth Withdrawal

Meth, which is short for methamphetamine, is a highly addictive, stimulant drug that is often abused recreationally. It causes severe psychological and physical dependence which leads to withdrawal when a person stops taking the drug. Meth withdrawal symptoms can be broken into three stages: crash, intermediate, and late.

Crash Phase

Initially, when a person stops using methamphetamine, he or she will likely experience a crash period. “Following binge use,” this can often come on quickly, and a person might experience this regularly between large doses of meth (CHCE). This crash period is characterized by:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Agitation
  • “Intense drug craving”
  • Inability to concentrate

The meth crash period is experienced by many users on and off before they are able to obtain more of the drug. However, if they are truly going through withdrawal, this will only be the beginning.

Intermediate Withdrawal Phase

meth abuse

Depressive symptoms are common during methamphetamine withdrawal.

The intermediate phase occurs after the initial crash has worn off. People can become very fatigued during this stage. The stimulant effects of the drug have left their systems, and they become very sleepy and drowsy for quite some time. Depressive symptoms persist and sometimes, people become suicidal. The decrease of the “hyperawareness, hypersexuality, [and] hypervigialance” caused by the meth abuse leaves depression in its wake (CHCE). These depressive symptoms often “resolve within one week” (NCBI).

Also occurring during the intermediate phase are psychotic symptoms that stand out during meth withdrawal. These symptoms, like the depressive symptoms, last about a week. According to CESAR, psychotic withdrawal symptoms in chronic meth users may include:

  • Disorientation
  • Lucid dreams that are usually nightmarish
  • Symptoms similar to schizophrenia
    • Paranoia
    • “Picking at the skin”
    • Hallucinations both visual and auditory
    • Violent episodes
    • “Self-absorption”

Because these reactions can be dangerous to the person going through withdrawal as well as the doctors and nurses attempting to treat him or her, special precautions must be taken. It should be strongly considered that someone going through meth withdrawal be put into a 24-hour rehab facility. Here, patients will be less likely to hurt themselves or someone else.

Late Withdrawal Phase

Unfortunately, the final withdrawal stage “lasts at least 5 weeks” (NCBI). This is usually characterized by “brief periods of intense drug craving” which can be very harmful to the individual’s recovery (CHCE). In this stage, everything that the person sees which reminds him or her of meth can be a trigger of strong cravings. This can lead to relapse very quickly which can be highly dangerous and can push back a person’s recovery.

This is another reason why a 24-hour, inpatient facility is very beneficial to someone undergoing extreme meth withdrawal. Here, a person is kept away from many of the triggers that may cause relapse as well as from obtaining more of the drug itself. Inpatient facilities will often create a treatment plan that allows the patient to stay as long as he or she needs to in order to work through the most severe symptoms of withdrawal. A person can also receive behavioral therapy treatment that would go a long way in shaping future reactions to cravings for the better.