Crystal Meth Withdrawal Symptoms, Timeline, and Effects
Crystal methamphetamine, also referred to as crystal meth, is a potent psychostimulant that produces feelings of euphoria, increased alertness, loss of appetite, and increased attention and energy. Regular users build a tolerance to crystal meth and require more of the drug to achieve the same effect, which can lead to dependence and withdrawal.1
Crystal meth withdrawal signs and symptoms include fatigue, long periods of sleep, depression, increased appetite, and paranoia. The withdrawal timeline begins a few hours after the last use and can last for up to 2 weeks.
Stimulant withdrawal is typically less physically dangerous than withdrawal from some other substances, such as alcohol, opiates, and sedatives. However, methamphetamine withdrawal can produce seizures in some people. Other potential dangers include suicidal ideation and the risk of overdose upon relapse. 1,5
Signs, Symptoms, and Effects of Crystal Meth
Methamphetamine alters the function of a number of neurotransmitters in the brain. Abrupt discontinuation of the substance can result in an array of withdrawal symptoms. Crystal meth withdrawal effects will occur in approximately 87% of long-term users.1
The most commonly reported crystal meth withdrawal signs and symptoms include:
- Extreme fatigue and exhaustion.
- Energy loss.
- Long periods of sleep.
- Lack of motivation.
- Difficulty concentrating.
- Intense drug cravings.
- Increased appetite.
- Decreased sexual pleasure.
- Anhedonia (inability to feel pleasure).
- Psychomotor retardation.
- Vivid, unpleasant dreams.
Crystal meth withdrawal signs and symptoms can vary from person to person. Many factors can affect the severity of symptoms. Some of these factors include:
- Duration of addiction.
- Amount used (higher doses typically produce more intense withdrawal symptoms).
- Polysubstance abuse (ex., abusing crystal meth with alcohol or heroin).
- Individual physiology.
- Co-occurring mental health or medical conditions.
Post-Acute Withdrawal Symptoms
Withdrawal symptoms include fatigue, depression, cravings, and long periods of sleep. Post-acute withdrawal syndrome also referred to as PAWS or protracted withdrawal occurs when withdrawal symptoms persist longer than the initial withdrawal period. Acute withdrawal for psychostimulants such as methamphetamine typically only lasts around 1–2 weeks. But post-acute withdrawal symptoms may last much longer.
A research study conducted in 2007 showed that deficits in working memory, attention, problem-solving, planning, and other cognitive tasks were present well into methamphetamine addiction recovery, long after the initial withdrawal period had passed.4 Other human and animal studies have indicated the existence of protracted crystal meth withdrawal symptoms.
Mood disturbances may last up to a year, and those who have had methamphetamine-related psychosis in the past are at risk for further psychotic episodes even after quitting crystal meth.5
Crystal Meth Withdrawal Timeline
The crystal meth withdrawal timeline can vary from person to person. But the acute withdrawal symptoms last about 1–2 weeks, on average.4 Symptoms may begin as early as a few hours after the last dose and may gradually worsen over the next few days before beginning to improve.
- Within a few hours after the last dose:
- A depressed mood may begin to set in as the drug wears off.
- Approximately 1–3 days after the last dose:
- A person may begin to experience what’s called “the crash.” Symptoms of this include excessive sleepiness, irritability, and an increasingly negative mood or even depression, which typically lasts around 3–5 days. Other symptoms that may begin to appear during the first few days include increased appetite, drug cravings, psychomotor retardation or agitation, and vivid, unpleasant dreams.
- Around day 4:
- other symptoms of withdrawal may begin to occur, such as paranoia, inability to feel pleasure, and decreased sexual satisfaction.
- Between days 7–14:
- Typically, symptoms will gradually lessen and improve .2,4,5
The main concerns when detoxing from crystal meth depression, relapse, and overdose. Most of the physical effects of crystal meth withdrawal are usually mild. Even though they may be uncomfortable, they are bearable and typically pose little risk, especially if detox is completed under medical supervision. The main concerns with crystal meth withdrawal are relapse, overdose, and depression.
Possible medical complications and risks may include:
- Risk of overdose upon relapse. Upon relapse, many people take their usual dose that was taken while using, which may be too high and cause an accidental overdose.
- Suicidal ideas.
- Dangerous behavior due to psychosis or paranoia.
- Driving impairment due to psychomotor retardation or agitation.
- Protracted withdrawal symptoms.1–5
Treatment Options for Crystal Meth
Reputable drug treatment facilities will not help you taper off of crystal meth due to the drug’s illicit nature. Additionally, Trying to taper off crystal meth is dangerous and can lead to relapse and even overdose. As a result, the most common method of treating crystal meth withdrawal and withdrawal from other stimulant medications is abstinence.2
There are a variety of treatment options, some of the most common are listed below:
- Medical detox centers – Medical professionals supervise detox, monitor symptoms, and prescribe supportive medications, if necessary.
- Short-term inpatient treatment – Treatment begins with medically supervised detox at a facility and continues with different forms of addiction therapy and activities for up to 30 days. Luxury and executive options are also available for people who want a high level of comfort or need to stay connected to their jobs.
- Long-term inpatient treatment – Treatment begins with medically supervised detox at a facility and continues with different forms of addiction therapy and activities for 30 days to 18 months.
- Partial hospitalization or day treatment – The user reports to a hospital setting 5-7 days a week for 4-8 hours per day. Most programs provide individual and group counseling. Nurses and physicians are available to provide clinical care, including medically supervised withdrawal.
- Intensive outpatient – The person reports to a treatment facility for 2-5 days per week for 2-4 hours per day for group therapy, though they may also attend individual counseling. These programs may provide medical care, but they may refer you to another facility for detox before beginning the program.
- Standard outpatient – These programs include attending therapy sessions 1-2 days per week for 1-2 hours per day. They may not offer medically supervised withdrawal, and they may require you to be detoxed before you start the program.
Though it’s nice to know the types of potential treatment options available. The treatment that’ll be recommended for you by a treatment provider depends on your own individual needs.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), no medications are approved for crystal meth withdrawal.2 Preliminary research in a small-scale study showed that the antidepressant medication mirtazapine (Remeron) may help reduce crystal meth withdrawal symptoms. But these findings have yet to be replicated, and Remeron is not approved for crystal meth withdrawal treatment.2
During treatment, a physician or mental health professional may prescribe common medications to help manage withdrawal symptoms. For example, many treatment facilities will prescribe diphenhydramine (Benadryl), trazodone, or other mild drugs for people with insomnia.2 Antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors may be prescribed if the user becomes depressed during withdrawal. 2
Detoxing Cold Turkey at Home
Intense cravings combined with depression are likely to lead to relapse unless the user is in a supervised detox facility.
Going cold turkey (abruptly stopping the use of the drug) is the most common form of recovery from crystal meth. However, in cases of significant methamphetamine dependence, or if the person has had medical complications in the past, going cold turkey and detoxing at home may not be the safest way to proceed.
Most users feel intense cravings after they stop using the drug, and crystal meth withdrawal is associated with some potentially dangerous side effects, including depression and, in rare cases, seizures. 4
People who want to quit crystal meth should strongly consider going through detox and withdrawal in a drug rehab recovery center that offers medical supervision.2 Professional help gives users the best chance of sustainable recovery.
. U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2016). Methamphetamine.
. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services. (2010). TIP 45: Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment.
. Barr, A. M., Panenka, W. J., MacEwan, G. W., Thornton, A. E., Lang, D. J., Honer, W. G., & Lecomte, T. (2006). The need for speed: An update on methamphetamine addiction. Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, 31(5), 301-313.
. Winslow, B.T., Voorhees, K.I., & Pehl, K.A. (2007). Methamphetamine Abuse. American Family Physician, 76 (8): 1169–1174.