Methamphetamine, or meth, is known for its quick rush and long-lasting highs. People who seek use of the drug may binge on it for several days, streaming a continuous high. But what happens when they develop tolerance and can’t feel the effects? What happens if they no longer have access to methamphetamine?
Withdrawal happens. Withdrawal, or the comedown, from any substance can be intense, but with meth can cause some adverse symptoms. Methamphetamine withdrawal symptoms can include:
- Appetite increase
- Extreme drowsiness
- Inability to concentrate
- Slowed reaction time
- Strong cravings/urges for the drug
What Is Withdrawal Like?
If abusing meth is a definite high, coming off it (withdrawal) is an extreme low. In fact, the high is often what gets people addicted to meth; the low may be what keeps them from quitting. What makes withdrawal so intense?
The American Academy of Family Physicians explains, “Methamphetamine withdrawal is associated with more severe and prolonged depression than is cocaine withdrawal.” The depression can lead to suicidal thoughts and actions, so withdrawal should be monitored closely.
If that weren’t enough, withdrawal can also cause cravings for meth so intense that a person begins to become irritable to the point of violence. This may be uncharacteristic behavior for those abusing meth.
When people become addicted to meth, they may be able to go without sleep or food for an extended period of time. This can lead to paranoia and psychosis—contributing to the violent or erratic behavior.
Though it’s true that meth withdrawal may not be as dangerous as that of other illegal drugs, it is still damaging to health. Symptoms of withdrawal can make people do things they may not otherwise do. If someone you know is undergoing meth withdrawal, be cautious in approaching them and seek help.
Why Do People Abuse Meth?
If withdrawal is intense, even detrimental to health, why do people still abuse meth? The answer lies with addiction.
Addiction is a tricky disease. From the first use of meth, when people experience the intense surge of euphoria, followed by a long-lasting high characterized by excitement and energy, people are hooked. This is more than just people enjoying the feeling in their body when they abuse meth—the brain enjoys it as well.
The brain enjoys it so much, in fact, that it changes the way it responds to pleasure. Once a person’s brain experiences the effects of meth, it convinces people they want to experience this feeling again and again. Chronic abuse may unfortunately lead to tolerance, further agitating the symptoms of withdrawal.
What Is Tolerance?
Tolerance is what people experience when they no longer feel the effects of a drug. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) explains, “as is the case with many drugs, tolerance to methamphetamine’s pleasurable effects develops when it is taken repeatedly.” Because meth is so addictive, and can quickly lead to binges, tolerance may develop quickly.
As addicted individuals realize they have developed tolerance, the need to achieve the meth high may become urgent. To that end, people abusing meth may take more frequent or higher doses. They may also try a different route of administration. Smoking or injecting meth results in a quicker high than taking it orally.
What Are The Long-Term Effects Of Methamphetamine Abuse?
After a time, even with increased use, those abusing meth may not feel the effects of it at all. That is when withdrawal can become overwhelming, and lead to psychosis. The body is so overcome with the need for meth that it becomes convinced it has other issues.
Examples of this common to meth abuse is the feeling of bugs crawling under the skin, or seeing or hearing things that aren’t there (hallucinations and delusions). Even after a person has quit meth abuse, and has overcome the worst of withdrawal symptoms, psychotic symptoms can persist. That’s why it’s best to seek treatment for meth abuse right away.
Other long-term effects can be damaging to a person’s health, and may include:
- Being easily distracted
- Brain changes: function, structure
- Impairment to motor skills
- Loss of memory
- “Meth mouth” (severe tooth decay and other mouth issues)
- Mood changes
- Thinking gaps
- Violent behavior
- Weight loss
Do You Know Someone Addicted To Meth?
When people begin using meth regularly, they may be able to function normally: eating regularly, sleeping, even showing up for work on time. Meth is a stimulant, which means it stimulates certain chemicals in the brain. Some may even find that the increased energy and hyperactivity can work for them—for a time.
It is when use stops or addiction starts that meth abuse can become dangerous. Once a person becomes addicted, he or she will change in pursuit of the drug. Withdrawal can reduce a person to the, at times, crippling symptoms of depression, anxiety, paranoia, and psychosis.
Here are some signs to look for if you suspect someone you know is addicted to meth:
- Does the person have to take more or higher doses to achieve the same high?
- Does the person experience intense withdrawal symptoms, like depression or irritability, when not taking meth?
- Does the person continue using meth to avoid the withdrawal process?
- Inability to stop:
- Can the person not stop use, or stop seeking meth, even if he or she wants to?
- Life changes:
- Once addicted, a person often rearranges life to align with drug use, such as shirking responsibilities, missing school or work, seeking the drug at any cost, etc.
- Behavior changes:
- You know this person wouldn’t normally commit a crime to obtain meth (or in general), or engage in violent behavior, but lately the person’s behavior is out of control
If someone close to you is exhibiting these symptoms, he or she may be addicted to meth. With the severity of withdrawal and the adverse long-term effects, treatment is the best solution to meth addiction.
Who Is Affected By Meth Abuse?
Meth abuse is a problem, yes, but perhaps you’re wondering just how far this problem reaches. The NIDA reports that in 2012 1.2 million people reported use of meth in the past year, with 440,000 having reported use in the past month.
Though these numbers are down from the 2006 survey, they are not low enough. The average age of those abusing meth was 19.7 years. The report included meth use among eighth, tenth and twelfth grade students as well. Typically, meth has been a substance of issue in rural areas, but is gaining popularity in urban areas.
How To Find Treatment Today
A supervised medical detoxification may be required if methamphetamine is abused along with alcohol, benzodiazepines, or opiates. The licensed medical staff at our inpatient rehab centers provides necessary support and care to help with this process.
Inpatient treatment allows addicted individuals to heal while receiving quality care, mental and emotional support of peers, and evidenced-based approaches to treatment. Many of our rehab centers also offer gender-based treatment, dual diagnosis to target any and all disorders, and an individualized treatment plan.
If someone you know is struggling with meth abuse, we can help. Contact us today at DrugRehab.org to learn more about methamphetamine withdrawal, our rehab centers, and treatment options.
For More Information Related to “Methamphetamine Withdrawal Symptoms” Be Sure To Check Out These Additional Resources From DrugRehab.org:
- How Long Does Methamphetamine Stay In Your System?
- Environmental Risk Factors for Developing an Addiction
- Signs Of Methamphetamine Psychosis
- Meth Drug Rehab – Treatment For Methamphetamine Addiction
- Addiction to Methamphetamine: Signs of Abuse, Health Risks
American Academy Of Family Physicians—Methamphetamine Abuse
Center For Abuse Substance Research—Methamphetamine
National Institute On Drug Abuse—What Are The Long-Term Effects Of Methamphetamine Abuse?