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Methamphetamine Withdrawal Symptoms – Meth Withdrawal Timeline

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

Methamphetamine withdrawal can produce subtle and uncomfortable symptoms. Inpatient addiction treatment is an individual's best chance of avoiding relapse.

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Methamphetamine, or meth for short, is an extremely potent central nervous system stimulant that can produce a wide range of symptoms. Methamphetamine is a legal substance, known as Desoxyn, which is often used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The drug is abused far more in its man-made, illicit form—a powder crushed from the pill, or a rock-like substance also known as crystal meth.

Due to the drug’s extreme potency, it can be difficult to stop using methamphetamine. Once someone does cease methamphetamine use, they may experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.

Possible methamphetamine withdrawal symptoms include:

  • fatigue
  • agitation
  • insomnia
  • hypersomnia
  • meth cravings
  • red, itchy eyes
  • dysphoric mood
  • suicidal thoughts
  • increased appetite
  • mild to severe paranoia
  • psychomotor impairment
  • vivid, unpleasant dreams

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Meth Withdrawal Timeline

Usually, withdrawal from methamphetamine lasts one to three weeks. In some cases though, meth withdrawal may last a month or more. The amount of time it takes to withdrawal from meth will depend on an individual’s frequency of use and how large a dose they are used to taking. Typically, the more severe the addiction, the longer the withdrawal will take.

Withdrawing from methamphetamine will be a different experience for each individual, however, meth withdrawal can generally be broken into two stages: acute withdrawal and subacute withdrawal. Acute withdrawal lasts between seven to 10 days, and subacute withdrawal lasts at least another two weeks afterward.

The initial withdrawal period from meth typically peaks about 24 hours after the last dose and declines in severity from then on. The first seven to 10 days after stopping the use of methamphetamine, individuals usually experience symptoms such as increased sleep and appetite and a cluster of mood-related symptoms, including depression, anxiety, and cravings for the drug.

Physical symptoms tend to resolve during the acute withdrawal phase, but psychological symptoms, such as cravings, may last for months and are often the biggest obstacle to staying substance-free for an extended period of time.

Some individuals who chronically abuse methamphetamine may also experience post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS) which can include anxiety, cravings, depression and mood swings. These prolonged symptoms can last up to six months or more, so it is best to seek medical assistance during early withdrawal from methamphetamine in order to receive proper emotional support.

Addictioncampuses.com Methamphetamine Withdrawal Symptoms withdrawal timeline

What Causes Methamphetamine Withdrawal?

Individuals who abuse methamphetamine habitually can easily develop a physical dependence on the drug. This occurs when the body adapts to the constant presence of the drug in its system. Once a physical dependence is established, tolerance to the drug typically follows, which means that the individual will need larger and more frequent doses of methamphetamine to feel the same effects a smaller dose once created.

Although the effects of methamphetamine can be felt quickly, the drug leaves the body in a rapid fashion, which can lead to a “crash.” When someone repeatedly takes large doses of meth one after the other in a short period to avoid this crash, it can speed up the development of physical dependence and tolerance.

If someone suddenly stops using the drug, they will likely experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Even though methamphetamine withdrawal symptoms can persist and affect someone’s mood, it is important to know that there are many treatment programs available to help.

Methamphetamine Effects On The Individual

In addition to being physically addictive, methamphetamine also has the potential to become psychologically addictive, according to the Center for Substance Abuse Research (CESAR). While under the influence of the drug, some people may go hours or days without food or sleep.

Possibly the most dangerous stage of methamphetamine abuse happens when someone has not slept for three to 15 days and becomes irritable and paranoid. This behavior is often referred to as “tweaking” and can cause an individual to have strong cravings for meth. As it becomes more and more difficult to achieve the original high, the individual can become very frustrated and exhibit erratic behavior, including violence, domestic disputes, and spur-of-the-moment crimes.

Potential Risks Of Methamphetamine Withdrawal

In most cases, withdrawing from methamphetamine is not life-threatening, however, there are a handful of potentially dangerous side effects individuals may experience during meth withdrawal. These symptoms may include:

  • depression and anxiety
  • stimulant-induced psychosis
  • changes to various brain structures

Depression And Anxiety

Individuals may become depressed and potentially suicidal during methamphetamine withdrawal. This symptom is particularly dangerous because it is not always noticeable to others. The risk of severe depression is often the reason it is recommended for individuals to attend an inpatient treatment program when quitting the drug so they can be monitored and kept safe during the process.

Stimulant-Induced Psychosis

stimulant-induced psychosis occurs when people display a number of psychotic features throughout the methamphetamine withdrawal process, including paranoia, visual and auditory hallucinations and delusions. Depression and stimulant-induced psychosis, in combination with intense cravings for the drug, can make it difficult to avoid relapse and begin abusing meth again.

Changes To Brain Structures

Neuroimaging studies of the effects of methamphetamine on the brain have indicated that increased dopamine activity caused by the drug is associated with reduced motor speed and impaired verbal learning. These changes in the brain can take some time for a person’s body to adjust to. While in an inpatient addiction treatment program, individuals will have access to the proper care necessary to adjust to a new way of doing everyday activities.

Addictioncampuses.com Methamphetamine Withdrawal Symptoms A List Of Psychotic Features

Treatment For Methamphetamine Withdrawal

There are currently no medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to help treat methamphetamine withdrawal, but there are several medications that can be used to ease the resulting withdrawal symptoms. These medications include antidepressants to help ease depression and less potent stimulants to ease sporadic sleep patterns.

Most treatment will begin with some level of detoxification, which is a process whereby the drug is removed from someone’s body. For meth addiction, there is no single program that works for everyone, as treatment should be customized to each individual. It is best to consult an addiction treatment specialist when considering quitting any substance in order to find a treatment program that meets an individual’s specific care needs.

For more information on methamphetamine withdrawal and addiction treatment, contact us today.

National Center for Biotechnology Information: PubMed - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16128721

National Institute on Drug Abuse - https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/methamphetamine/what-are-long-term-effects-methamphetamine-abuse

The University of Maryland, Center for Substance Abuse Research - http://www.cesar.umd.edu/cesar/drugs/meth.asp

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC
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