Drug overdose deaths across the country are rising. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) found that overdose deaths from meth between 2011 and 2018 rose from 1.8 to 10.1 per 100,000 men and from 0.8 to 4.5 per 100,000 women — a five-fold increase. The bulk of meth users are between the ages of 25 and 54. The most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that overdose deaths increased once again between 2019 and 2020.
Stopping overdose deaths is vital, but to stop using the drug, individuals need to undergo detoxification and withdrawal. Meth withdrawal can be difficult, and, if not done with medical help, potentially dangerous and life-threatening. Trained professionals can help manage the symptoms of withdrawal and ensure the person’s well-being and safety during the process.
What is Meth?
Methamphetamine, or meth, has been around for more than 100 years. The drug was derived from amphetamine and was originally used in nasal decongestants and bronchial inhalers. Both methamphetamine and amphetamine are stimulants that cause a person to experience a sense of well-being or euphoria, in addition to increased activity and talkativeness. Both drugs decrease a person’s appetite.
Meth is very addictive and generally comes in two forms: a pill or white-colored powder. The powder form can be snorted or dissolved in water and injected. Another variety, known as crystal meth, is smoked in a pipe, is typically pale blue, and resembles fragments of rock or glass.
Stages of Meth Withdrawal
Meth withdrawal includes physical and psychiatric symptoms. Both are somewhat predictable and follow a timeline as the body adjusts to the drug’s absence. While the physical effects fade as meth leaves the body, the psychiatric symptoms may linger. Typically, the longer someone has been taking meth, the longer and more intensely they will experience withdrawal symptoms.
Research has shown that there are two phases to methamphetamine withdrawal. The first phase is the most intense and takes place during the first 24 hours after the person stops using meth. The intensity of this phase fades over the next week. The second phase can last for several weeks. In some cases, people may experience ongoing withdrawal symptoms. This is referred to as post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS).
Symptoms of Meth Withdrawal
Different people may experience different symptoms when they try to stop using meth. The severity of symptoms will also vary from person to person. The major signs of meth withdrawal include:
- Increased appetite
While many of these symptoms can be managed, psychosis, in particular, can be very dangerous without the help of a trained professional. A medically managed detox experience can help. For instance, medical professionals can administer medications to treat any psychiatric symptoms individuals may experience during withdrawal.
Undergoing detox in a supervised facility also removes the person from the environment where they typically did meth and were easily able to obtain the drug. This is another major advantage to supervised detox.
Withdrawal from methamphetamine — or any addictive drug — is a highly personal experience that will vary depending on an individual’s history of drug use, overall health, and life experiences. Yet withdrawal remains dangerous for everyone. That’s why most addiction treatment providers recommend individuals undergo withdrawal under the care of medical professionals who can monitor their wellbeing and resolve any medical complications.
What You Need During Withdrawal
During the withdrawal process, the person undergoing detoxification needs support. This can include being allowed to sleep — often for several days — because meth withdrawal can be physically exhausting. Individuals should also try to drink lots of fluids and eat a healthy diet.
On the mental and emotional side of recovery, individuals withdrawing from methamphetamine need to be reminded that it takes time for their body and brain to heal. They will need help to live without meth. Withdrawal is hard and can be painful. Providing encouragement and support lets the person know that their decision to quit is a good one. It takes courage to stop using meth.
After Detoxing from Meth
After the initial detox period, the person in recovery should seek out long-term treatment options to maintain their sobriety. These can include treatment programs that use cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and other evidence-based approaches.
CBT is a form of therapy that helps the person address the underlying thought processes and motivations that have contributed to their drug use. Other evidence-based treatment approaches include Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and motivational interviewing.
Additionally, treatment programs may include support groups, 12-step programs, and other counseling options. There are currently several medications under review that may also help lessen meth addiction, but they are still in clinical trials.
Avoiding Meth Relapse
Meth addiction is treatable, and certain steps can decrease a person’s risk of relapse. These include:
- Avoiding the people and places associated with their meth addiction
- Building a support network of friends, family, and health care providers
- Participating in work or other meaningful activities
- Adopting a healthier lifestyle that includes exercise, regular sleep, and a balanced diet
- Caring for their mental health
- Developing a more positive self-image
If an individual does relapse, it is important to remember that recovery is a process and addiction is a chronic condition. If the person feels the urge to use again, they should immediately ask for help. If they do take meth, they should seek medical assistance quickly to avoid a full-blown relapse.
At Bridges of Hope, our treatment philosophy is based on a comprehensive and integrated approach to addressing substance use and mental health disorders. Utilizing therapeutically proven, evidence-based clinical practices, we provide superior patient care in Indiana through our all-inclusive treatment services.