By far, meth addictions can be some of the most difficult to break and one of the harshest forms of addiction. Methamphetamines and crystal meth both produce drastic changes in the brain body that can last for years.
More oftentimes than not, meth detox entails a difficult process where addicts come to grips with the drug’s effects on their bodies. Meth detox withdrawal unfolds in stages with some people undergoing a longer process than others.
Most anyone who’s addicted to meth already has an understanding of how meth detox withdrawal symptoms will feel. For people who try to go it on their own, the symptoms alone can quickly drive a person back to using again.
Those who get needed treatment during this time soon realize meth detox is a process that marks the very beginning of the recovery path.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, an estimated 1.2 million Americans used crystal meth in 2012. Methamphetamine, the drug from which crystal meth is derived, exists as a prescription medication that’s commonly used to treat conditions involving ADHD and obesity.
As a Schedule II narcotic, the feelings of euphoria and energy brought on by a meth “high” quickly traps users inside a web of addiction. Meth exerts powerful effects on the brain and central nervous system, which accounts for the intense “high” users experience. Meth’s effects on the body also account for it high addiction potential.
Meth Detox Withdrawal Stages
Repeated meth use causes actual damage to brain and body structures over time. These effects take place over time. Likewise, meth detox withdrawal happens in stages where addicts experience the most intense withdrawal symptoms at the outset.
Meth detox withdrawal may run in two or three stages depending on the severity of a person’s addiction.
- Stage 1 lasts for up to two weeks
- Stage 2 lasts for two to three weeks
- Stage 3 can last for up to six months
While the most intense physical symptoms develop during the first stage, the psychological symptoms experienced during the second and third stages can be just as distressing on an emotional level.
Meth Detox Withdrawal Symptoms
Meth detox withdrawal symptoms can run the gamut in terms of intensity and types of symptoms. In general, the more severe the addiction the more intense the symptoms will be.
Meth detox withdrawal symptoms commonly take the form of:
- Mood swings
- Extreme agitation
- Strong drug cravings
- Crawling sensations under the skin
The Meth Detox Process
Addiction entails both a physical and psychological dependency. Likewise, detoxing from meth must happen on both levels – the physical and psychological – in order to be completely free of the drug’s hold on a person’s life.
Meth detox programs concentrate on helping addicts break the body’s physical dependency, though many programs incorporate a range of psychological treatment interventions during the detox stage. In effect, the sooner a person starts working through addiction’s psychological component the better the chances of a long-term recovery.
Once a meth addiction takes hold, most people require the type of help made available through meth detox treatment programs to overcome the body’s physical cravings for the drug. In effect, meth detox treatment programs offer the types of physical and psychological supports needed to maintain abstinence at the early stages of recovery.
Physical supports may take the form of medication treatments depending on the severity of withdrawal symptoms experienced. Psychological supports center on helping addicts understand the difference between an addiction-based mindset and a drug-free mindset. From there, addicts start the process of developing the skills needed to live a drug-free life.
Meth Detox Treatment Considerations
While everyone’s body reacts to meth abuse in different ways, meth’s is well known for its ability to alter and impair brain and body functions to the point of developing permanent brain damage. According to the Oregon Health & Science University, the damaging effects of meth reach as far as a person’s actual gene structure in terms of how the body’s cells and tissues regenerate from day-to-day.
Add to this the various factors that weaken or protect the body during the course of meth use and it’s easy to see how one person’s treatment needs can differ considerably from another’s. Other factors to consider include:
- A person’s age
- A person’s overall health status
- Body weight
- Pre-existing medical and/or psychological disorders
- Duration of drug use
Ultimately, meth detox treatment should address a person’s specific treatment needs in order to be effective and long-lasting.
For many addicts, the physical and psychological withdrawal effects experienced in meth detox can be so distressing as to warrant medication treatment. Physical symptoms, such as headaches and muscle aches and pains can be relieved through over-the-counter medications, though people experiencing severe physical symptoms may require a prescription remedy.
More oftentimes than not, it’s the psychological symptoms that make meth detox unbearable. Meth’s effects on brain chemical functions leave addicts in a state of emotional turmoil and utter confusion. For these reasons, a meth detox treatment program will likely prescribe one or more of the following drug types:
- Anti-anxiety drugs
- Antipsychotic drugs
In effect, meth detox treatment works to stabilize a person’s physical and psychological state so he or she can take an active role in the recovery process.
Psychological Treatment Interventions
Once a person becomes addicted to meth, he or she has reached a point where only the drug’s effects can provide any sense of contentment or pleasure in everyday life. Addicts may well experience feelings of utter despair once they stop using the drug.
Along with attending to a person’s withdrawal symptoms, meth detox treatment programs provide addicts with a solid foundation in confronting the incredible drug cravings that persist throughout the detox stage. Psychological treatment interventions used may include:
- Relapse prevention training
- 12-Step support group attendance
- Group counseling
- Individual psychotherapy
While the physical cravings may seem like the bulk of a meth addiction problem, it’s actually the psychological dependency that forms during the course of meth abuse that makes ongoing abstinence so difficult to maintain.
While most people know how addictive cocaine can be, not everyone knows the effects from a meth addiction can be considerably more damaging and long-lasting than cocaine. Whereas cocaine “highs” are fairly short-lived, a meth high can last anywhere from four to 16 hours, meaning brain chemical processes undergo meth’s effects for the duration of this time period.
These differences speak to the long-term damage a meth addiction can bring. The likelihood of experiencing a protracted withdrawal period is high for long-term meth users. Couple this with the high relapse potential known to follow meth detox treatment and the need for meth detox aftercare becomes all the more apparent.
For this reason, anyone coming out of detox will want to seriously consider meth detox aftercare if they want to remain drug-free. The types of aftercare treatment needed may vary depending on each person’s individual circumstances.
According to the University of Nebraska, the relapse rate for recovering meth addicts runs as high as 92 percent, meaning 92 percent of people completing detox resume drug use at a later date. Unlike the medication therapies made available for opiate addicts, no medication therapies exist for supporting damaged brain functions when recovering from meth addiction.
This means, people who successfully complete detox must stay plugged into the recovery process in order to maintain abstinence. In the absence of needed meth detox aftercare help addicts remain at the mercy of old habits, old thinking patterns and persistent drug cravings.
Meth detox treatment programs typically run anywhere from 30 to 60 days. This timeframe allows adequate time for helping addicts overcome the body’s physical dependency on the drug. That being so, someone who comes out of detox only to relapse within the first month may actually end up in a worse state than prior to detox treatment.
Protracted withdrawal conditions can last for months or years after detox with symptoms taking the form of:
- Muddled thinking processes
- Memory problems
- Impulse control issues
- Feelings of apathy and detachment
These symptoms can pose a considerable threat to a person’s ability to maintain abstinence.
Ongoing Psychotherapy Treatment
Ongoing psychotherapy treatment becomes especially important in cases where a person develops some form of psychological disorder as a result of chronic meth use. The presence of a psychological condition only aggravates drug cravings and makes it that much harder to maintain a drug-free lifestyle after detox.
As most meth detox programs provide individual psychotherapy as part of treatment, a person would only need to pick up where he or she left off in detox treatment. According to the University of Arizona, in meth detox aftercare treatment, psychotherapy takes the form of behavior modification training where a person develops relapse prevention strategies, some of which include:
- Avoiding the people, places and activities that trigger drug-using thoughts, behaviors and urges
- Learning to associate drug using with unpleasant experiences rather than with the “high” effects of the drug
- Rewarding abstinence behaviors and goals
As with any addiction, the psychological mindset that goes with addiction poses the greatest challenge to a lasting recovery. Getting needed meth detox aftercare treatment can go a long way towards helping a person stay engaged in the recovery process.