Meth Withdrawal Symptoms

Meth is a powerful central nervous system stimulant that, while introduced as a more potent form of amphetamine to treat conditions such as asthma, obesity, or attention deficit disorder, it serves limited medical purposes, today, because of its dangerous risks. The abuse of meth, generally, results from the illegal productions made in clandestine laboratories with volatile, toxic, and many unknown or non-specific variants that add to its dangers.

Meth withdrawal symptoms are as unpredictable as every dose used and some symptoms can last for years after the last dose, causing those who have become addicted to meth a poor chance of remaining abstinent without appropriate treatment.

Meth Intoxication Effects

Meth works similar to cocaine to speed up bodily systems like breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature, also increasing alertness, wakefulness, and energy that can last for hours. It produces an intense euphoria that is magnified by the dosages and routes of administration which are usually by snorting, smoking, or intravenous injection. Other side effects of meth intoxication include:

  • Hyper-excitability
  • Extreme nervousness or agitation
  • Sweating
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion and other cognitive difficulties
  • Tooth grinding or unusual mouth movements
  • Psychosis – paranoia, hallucinations, bizarre, erratic, schizophrenic-like, obsessive, or neurotic behaviors
  • Incessant talking
  • Increased senses of empowerment
  • Aggressive, violent, or harmful behaviors
  • Sexual Arousal

What Causes Meth Withdrawals?

meth addiction

Meth withdrawal occurs after intoxication.

Meth withdrawals are the opposite of the intoxication and desired effects because meth interferes with the brain and central nervous system’s natural abilities to control thoughts, senses, emotions, feelings, cognition, behaviors, and motor functions. It is a neurotoxin that, not only damages neurological systems, but, also according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, ” Within these brain circuits, MA has been shown to reduce the number of nerve fibers, impair normal physiological functioning, and destroy both axons and axon terminals.”

Dopamine is the primary neurotransmitter chemical in the brain that influences the reward pathway centers to cause the euphoria that meth produces. Conditioned responses to increased dopamine from meth use depletes natural productions, damages receptors that respond to dopamine, and results in the cravings for more meth. Without it, negative withdrawal symptoms of cravings increase along with other neurological upheavals.

Another neurotransmitter that meth profoundly affects is serotonin. Depletion and destruction of serotonin functions and the nerve cells that respond to it can cause severe depression, anxiety, and many of the psychological disorders that meth addicts present. During withdrawals, these disorders become more pronounced and cause a chain reaction of other meth withdrawal symptoms that can become life-threatening.

Withdrawal Severity and Influences

Because meth tolerance develops rapidly to the desired euphoric effects, users almost always escalate their dose sizes and frequency of use in pursuit of the “rush” they initially achieve with the first dose. Over time, those who consume it orally or via intranasal routes, tend to switch to smoking or intravenous administration which produces a more rapid and intense response. The more euphoric the dose, the more often used, and the longer the durations have an influence on the meth withdrawal symptom that occur and their severity.

Beyond the patterns of use and the neurological damages described before, are the toxic chemicals used in the processing of meth which can further deteriorate the person’s physical and mental health. Because every dose is unpredictable in potency and the variant chemicals used in its manufacturing, withdrawal reactions will also be different in everyone. Chronic abusers are often poly-substance abusers, suffer from poor health, and have mental health disorders that can be exacerbated by the withdrawals adding to their durations and severity.

Acute Meth Withdrawal Symptoms

After repeated over-stimulation of meth use, it takes the brain a while to recuperate and get back to normal stability. The acute phase of withdrawal can begin within hours after last dose and generally begins with anxiety, dysphoria, and agitation followed by intense cravings for more meth that often leads to recidivism. With repeat cycles of withdrawals and intoxication, every withdrawal can be worse than the last which is a primary reason chronic addicts will return to use during this initial phase knowing what is to follow may be unendurable.

Symptoms during the acute phase can last days or weeks and may include:

  • Intense meth cravings
  • Irritability and restlessness
  • Anxiety, agitation
  • Panic or mania
  • Mood swings and emotional instability
  • Depression, dysphoria, and melancholy
  • Insomnia, nightmares, or other sleep disturbances
  • Psychosis –paranoid delusions, auditory or visual hallucinations,
  • Fatigue, extreme energy loss, weakness, and excessive sleepiness
  • Confusion, racing thoughts, and inability to focus
  • Aches and pains
  • Elevated or fluctuating heart rate
  • Chest pains or difficulty breathing
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Anger, aggression, violent tendencies
  • Suicidal or harmful ideations and tendencies

Protracted Meth Withdrawal Symptoms

Chronic use of meth, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, “can significantly reduce brain dopamine levels for up to 6 months after last use, with less significant reductions persisting for up to 4 years.” The protracted withdrawal phase of meth is a major concern for users because the cravings, depression, and mental health problems can last considerably longer than some meth withdrawals symptoms. This can lead to increase risks of suicide or relapse potentials.

At any time, meth cravings can reemerge with the same intensity as the acute phase which increases relapse risks and overdose potentials if the user resumes doses they were used to before.