Crystal meth is a rock-like form of methamphetamine, which is a powerful stimulant drug that is most often smoked but users may choose to snort or inject it 1. Chronic crystal meth abuse can lead to addiction, which is characterized by an inability to control use and can cause significant impairment in psychological, physical, occupational, and social functioning. Withdrawing from crystal meth is typically not life-threatening, however unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, intense cravings, and lowered impulse control resulting from chronic use can all contribute to relapse 3. Seeking the help of trained professionals can greatly reduce the uncomfortable symptoms of withdrawal and promote the recovery process.
The information about crystal meth covered in this article includes:
- Crystal meth withdrawal syndrome.
- The length of withdrawal.
- Protracted withdrawal symptoms.
- Crystal meth withdrawal treatment.
- Detox medications.
- Aftercare planning.
Crystal Meth Withdrawal Syndrome
A person who uses crystal meth for an extended period of time has an increased chance of developing a physiological dependence to the drug 1. Dependence is the body’s adaptation to the presence of a substance, which in this case is crystal meth. If someone is dependent on crystal meth, they essentially require the drug in order to function normally. A sudden discontinuation of crystal meth will serve to disrupt a number of physiological processes, resulting in crystal meth withdrawal syndrome. This withdrawal syndrome is characterized by a number of unpleasant symptoms and severe cravings.
While withdrawing from crystal meth is rarely associated with life-threatening complications, the symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable and lead some people to relapse. Some common symptoms associated with crystal meth withdrawal syndrome include 5,6:
- Repetitive and uncontrollable body movements.
- Slowed movements and thought.
- Increased appetite and associated weight gain.
- Slowed heart rate.
- Aches and pains.
- Insomnia, or an inability to fall or stay asleep.
- Hypersomnia, or excessive daytime sleepiness.
- Vivid and unpleasant dreams.
- Dysphoric mood.
- Irritability or agitation.
- Anhedonia, or an inability to feel pleasure.
- Suicidal thoughts or behaviors.
- Severe meth cravings.
Oftentimes, acute meth withdrawal symptoms are referred to as a “crash” and are commonly encountered by those who use crystal meth in a binging pattern. Crystal meth is often used repeatedly in a short period of time to avoid the withdrawal symptoms or the “come-down” off of the stimulant. The crashes that follow are extreme and the user may often sleep for days at a time to recover 6.
If you or someone you love is using crystal meth and needs help quitting, contact one of our treatment support representatives today at [phone] to learn more about addiction treatment and detox options.
How Long Does Withdrawal Last?
The onset of crystal meth withdrawal symptoms, their severity, and the length of time a person will experience crystal meth withdrawal syndrome will depend upon several factors including:
- The length of time a person has used crystal meth.
- The amount of crystal meth a person was using.
- The presence of other drugs (polysubstance abuse).
- The presence of any psychological or physical ailments that may complicate withdrawal.
- Biological factors, such as gender, age, weight, and genes.
Generally, the acute stage of crystal meth withdrawal will occur within 36 hours of the last use 2,5. These symptoms may last anywhere from several days to a few weeks, depending on the above factors 5. For heavier and more chronic users of crystal meth, symptoms can remain for up to a year; these symptoms are referred to as post-acute, or protracted, withdrawal symptoms2,5.
Protracted Withdrawal Symptoms
Some withdrawal symptoms may persist for weeks, months, or even a year after acute crystal meth withdrawal has been resolved. These persisting withdrawal symptoms are referred to as post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS) or protracted withdrawal 2. The existence of a protracted withdrawal syndrome is theorized, in part, to be due to the damage chronic crystal meth use causes to various parts of the brain and the time it takes to recover from this damage 3.
Some symptoms associated with crystal meth protracted withdrawal may include 2,3:
- Problems with attention and a decline in inhibition, working memory, problem-solving, reasoning, and planning abilities.
- Mood swings.
- Decreased sex drive.
- Crystal meth cravings.
Unfortunately, protracted withdrawal symptoms can cause someone in recovery for a crystal meth addiction to relapse. If you or someone you know needs help staying clean, call [phone] to speak to a treatment representative about recovery options.
Treatment for Crystal Meth Withdrawal
Due to the significant changes in brain chemistry associated with the long-term use of crystal meth, quitting alone may be more difficult than a person may think 3. A person may be tempted to use again to alleviate the uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms or crystal meth cravings. A formal detox program provides a short-term option for you to withdraw from crystal meth in a controlled setting, while receiving medical and mental health care attention, should it be necessary. Once you complete a detox program, it can be beneficial to transition into a crystal meth addiction treatment program, since detox doesn’t address the underlying issues motivating maladaptive drug use. A treatment program will provide you with the tools you need to remain sober in the long-term.
There are many types of recovery programs and the one that you choose largely depends on your individual needs, beliefs, and crystal meth abuse. Examples of different types of substance abuse treatment include:
- Inpatient Treatment: This level of care usually begins at 28 days but can last for months if necessary. These facilities provide comprehensive care, beginning with an intake evaluation and treatment planning, and including individual therapy, group counseling, around-the-clock medical and psychiatric care, and oftentimes, family counseling or education. Each inpatient or residential program may be structured around slightly different treatment philosophies and utilize a unique variety of interventions. Some may integrate 12-step meetings while others may have a holistic approach, for example.
- Partial Hospitalization (PHP)/Intensive Outpatient (IOP): Though they can be sought as a primary treatment intervention, in other cases, these levels of care offer a “step down” or transition from inpatient care, and are relatively more intensive than many standard outpatient programs. PHP is an all-day program consisting of group counseling that can also provide medication, if needed. Though time commitments will vary somewhat, IOP is frequently more of a half-day program also consisting of group therapy, and in most cases, will not administer or monitor an existing medication schedule. Both programs offer family and individual therapy on an as-needed basis and can last anywhere from 4-6 weeks or longer. In both programs, the patient does not live at the facility; instead, they return home at the end of the day.
- Outpatient Treatment: The patient attends a treatment facility one to a few times per week for 1-2 hours at a time. This provides people with the freedom to continue working, attending school, or fulfilling household obligations while recovering from a crystal meth addiction. This relatively-flexible option may be less appropriate for those with a polydrug addiction, a co-occurring mental health disorder, or unstable support system.
- Luxury Treatment: These facilities more closely resemble a resort and offer patients upscale amenities, such as spa treatment, massage therapy, and gourmet meals.
- Executive Treatment: These facilities cater to working professionals, such as CEOs, and allow them to receive addiction treatment while continuing to work.
- Holistic Treatment: These programs aim to heal the whole person: the mind, body, and spirit. Traditional modalities, such as psychotherapy, are often combined with alternative methods, such as meditation, yoga, and creative arts therapy.
- Population-specific Treatment: Some treatment programs have extensive experience in treating a certain population who present with unique problems and needs. Some examples include men-only, women-only, LGBT, teens, and veterans.
Medications Used in Detox
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved any medications that specifically treat withdrawal from crystal meth. If you seek the help of a facility or physician, the course of treatment will vary depending upon their discretion but may include medications that target the different troublesome physical and psychological symptoms of crystal meth withdrawal. Studies have demonstrated that a medication called Modafinil may drastically improve the cognitive deficiencies associated with long-term crystal meth abuse, such as attention, impulsiveness, and memory, that can interfere with a person’s ability to engage in therapy and maintain sobriety long term 3.
It is estimated that nearly 50% of people in recovery for a stimulant addiction will relapse within the first year of quitting 3. The high relapse incidence is one reason that ongoing treatment and support is so vital to a person’s long-term sobriety. Many crystal meth addiction treatment programs will create an aftercare or relapse prevention plan for you to follow once you complete your initial treatment program. Aftercare options, which can help solidify and build upon the coping skills a patient learned in rehab, include any level of treatment or support that occurs post-treatment.
- Sober Living Homes: For people who do not have a supportive environment to return to after completing detox or addiction treatment, sober living homes are an invaluable resource. Often, these homes operate as group homes where everyone is expected to pay rent, take on the responsibility of shared household chores, and engage in therapy. These homes also often provide social workers, who can assist residents in getting vocational training and connect them to jobs and services in the community.
- 12-step Programs: Fellowship programs, such as Crystal Meth Anonymous, are free to join. Many people benefit from the supportive and encouraging environment, as well as the sponsor program.
- Non-12-step Programs: For those who want an alternative to 12-step meetings, there are evidence-based groups, such as SMART Recovery, which focuses on self-empowerment and utilizes research surrounding addiction and mental health to guide the meetings.
- Individual Therapy: Psychotherapy can help to address the underlying problems or motivating factors associated with crystal meth abuse. The therapist can also help you to build upon the coping skills you developed during treatment.
- Group Counseling: Facilitated by a mental health professional, group counseling sessions can provide you with the opportunity to practice sober social skills and learn from others who have had similar experiences.
Get Help Today
If you or a loved one is addicted to crystal meth, help is available. Contact us today at 1-888-241-8971 to find out how you can begin on the road to recovery.
1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014). Drugfacts-Methamphetamine.
2. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration. (2010). Protracted Withdrawal. Substance Abuse Treatment Advisory, 9(1), 2-5.
3. Baicy, K., & London, E. D. (2007). Corticolimbic dysregulation and chronic methamphetamine abuse. Addiction, 102(Suppl 1), 5–15.
4. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2007). The Neurobiology of Drug Addiction.
5. Australian Government Department of Health. (2004). The amphetamine withdrawal syndrome.
6. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.).
7. Knowledge Application Program. (2013). Detoxification and substance abuse treatment: A treatment improvement protocol TIP. Rockville, MD: U.S Department of Health and Human Services.