According to the 2014 National Survey of Drug Use and Health, about 569,000 people were current users of methamphetamine. Meth is a highly addictive, stimulant drug. One type of methamphetamine is crystal meth, a crystalized form of the drug designed to be smoked for a very fast, intense reaction.
Crystal meth can be extremely damaging to a person’s physical and psychological health and to the wellbeing of others in that person’s life. For those reasons among others, a person struggling with crystal meth abuse or addiction may want to stop taking the drug, but concerns about the symptoms of withdrawal from the drug can be discouraging.
While some symptoms of withdrawal from crystal meth can be uncomfortable and even frightening, they can be managed, and it is possible to effectively recover from meth addiction. Knowing more about what to expect from detox and withdrawal can make it easier to take the important step of getting treatment for crystal meth abuse.
Difficulty in Stopping Use of Crystal Meth
People who have tried to stop using crystal meth can attest to the challenge that this step creates. Because of the way the drug acts in the brain, a person who has been using meth for an extended period or who has binged on the drug can have extreme cravings that make it difficult to carry through the full detox period. In addition, some of the psychological symptoms of withdrawal can make the person feel that it’s nearly impossible to function without the drug. In turn, it can take years of non-use for the brain’s functions to return to normal, making relapse likely even after years of abstinence.
The numbers can be frustrating. According to a presentation from the Office of National Drug Control Policy, long-term recovery rates for methamphetamine users may be less than 10 percent. According to an article in the journal CMAJ, relapse to use of crystal meth is a risk even in the long-term because of these challenges, and the risk of relapse is heightened if the person forgoes professional help.
Nevertheless, recovery from methamphetamine use is possible. Research-based addiction treatment can be vital to achieving and maintaining recovery.
According to the publication Treatment for Stimulant Use Disorders, withdrawal symptoms for methamphetamine in general begin about 12-24 hours after last use. Cravings during withdrawal are intense and can last for more than a month. Intense symptoms of anxiety and depression last for between one and two weeks. During this period, anxiety and depression create a high risk of self-harm or suicide attempts.
According to Psychology Today, however, it can take months or even years of staying clean for the person’s pleasure response to return to normal, meaning that the person can have some feelings of depression or anxiety beyond the detox period. This is another reason that it’s important for a person who is in recovery from addiction to crystal meth to avoid relapse for as long as possible. Until this happens, the person can experience feelings that may trigger a desire to use meth again.
Why Medical Detox Is Recommended
While there are no specific medications that can prevent or manage crystal meth cravings or addiction, medical detox can help a person manage the symptoms of withdrawal safely and in a way that can lead to better treatment outcomes.
Particularly in the case of crystal meth use with other drugs, medical detox can manage symptoms that may become dangerous. For example, an article from the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence demonstrates that alcohol and meth are often implicated in polydrug addictions. However, withdrawal from both at the same time, as well as withdrawing from meth but not from alcohol, can create a higher risk of dangerous withdrawal symptoms. In addition, the risk of relapse is compounded.
Because of these issues, medically supported detox followed by intensive inpatient treatment is the method most likely to result in long-term recovery. Comprehensive care can be found in treatment centers that offer an integrated approach to treatment.