Crystal meth is a powerful stimulant drug that was first synthesized in 1893. It is a methamphetamine, which is a drug that stimulates or excites the nervous system. Meth is also known by other names, including crystal, ice, and chalk. These days, crystal meth is often made in home labs or drug “super labs” from a concoction of ingredients, including nasal decongestants and cough medicine, among others. When combined, these ingredients are not only harmful to your health, but even explosive.
While it may produce a powerful high, meth is extremely dangerous to your physical health, including your brain and cognitive ability. It can easily result in addiction and even death. Once addicted, crystal meth withdrawal can be difficult and painful. Read more below to find out how to get help withdrawing safely from crystal meth.
Like withdrawing from other stimulants, crystal meth withdrawal signs and symptoms may include:
When someone stops using a stimulant drug like crystal meth, they experience a “crash.” These symptoms can last anywhere from five days to three or more weeks. The crash typically includes four phases: early crash phase, middle crash phase, late crash phase, and protracted withdrawal.
Within a few hours to a few days after last taking crystal meth, the following stimulant withdrawal symptoms usually begin:
The next phase is known as the middle crash phase. These middle crash symptoms may include:
The late crash phase hits after the long period of sleep at the end of the middle crash phase. This phase is marked by “intense hunger.”
Some of the symptoms of crystal meth withdrawal such as anhedonia and dysphoria may last for six to 18 weeks. This can be a challenging time in the withdrawal process because cravings may come back.
Because of the intensity of crystal meth withdrawal symptoms, going “cold turkey” or detoxing on your own can be dangerous. It’s important to go through a medical detox process that is part of a professional treatment program. Plus, an addiction treatment program also improves your chances for a lasting recovery because of the structured medical and emotional support provided.
It takes about 10 days to medically detox from crystal meth. But for some people, post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) may occur due to the changes in brain chemistry caused by the drug. PAWS may make the crystal meth withdrawal period longer and more difficult. This is another reason why it’s important to find a medical detox program.
While there are different formats and levels of intensity of treatment for crystal meth addiction available, following a full continuum of treatment provides the most comprehensive approach. A full continuum of treatment starts with the highest and most intense level of care during the detox phase. It then continues through less intense levels of treatment.
Completing a full continuum of treatment program will position you better to be successful in your recovery. The stages of treatment usually include detox, residential, partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient, and alumni or aftercare.
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Detox is the first stage of crystal meth withdrawal treatment. The goal during this first stage of addiction treatment is medical stabilization.
When you arrive at the treatment center, you will receive a complete medical assessment to determine your level of addiction and any additional medical needs you may have. This careful assessment will include a medical exam and urine or blood tests to screen for drugs.
You may also require additional testing such as additional blood tests including a CBC (complete blood count), a chest X-ray, an ECG (electrocardiogram), and testing for other diseases.
Once the doctor has reviewed your results, he or she will design a detox plan for you. Then you will start the detox process under the care of your medical team. This team will include doctors, nurses, and support staff.
Often people who are addicted to stimulant drugs are also using or addicted to other substances, including alcohol, opioids, or other substances. Withdrawing from these substances can be very difficult and even life-threatening. Because of this, a personalized treatment plan may also include medical intervention to help you withdraw from these other substances if needed.
Your treatment plan will also include behavioral therapy and emotional support in addition to medical care. In addition, you will be under clinical surveillance 24/7 because often people going through stimulant withdrawal experience deep depression and suicidal ideation.
After you complete the detox phase of treatment, you will then continue treatment in a residential facility or in a partial hospitalization program. Your doctor will determine which path is right for you based on the severity of your addiction plus whether or not you have any other addictions or co-occurring medical or psychological conditions.
A residential program allows you to focus exclusively on your psychological and emotional recovery during a residential treatment stay. You’ll stay at the residential treatment center full-time. During this time, you will participate in a supportive and structured treatment program at least five days a week.
This rigorous program will address your emotional and mental health needs to help you begin the process of returning to your life outside the treatment center. These important life skills will help to prepare you for a successful long-term recovery.
After you have completed the medical detox phase of crystal meth withdrawal, the next stage is to continue treatment in a partial hospitalization program (PHP). During PHP, you’ll live at a transitional living facility. While you’re there, you will participate in a highly structured treatment program. The treatment sessions are typically held daily during the week for six hours each day. A combination of individual, group, and family therapy programs will be available to meet your emotional and mental health needs.
During this period learning positive life skills, coping mechanisms, and techniques to help prevent relapse will be your goal. These important skills and techniques will help you to be better prepared for long-term recovery as you begin the process of going back to your life outside the treatment center.
The full continuum of treatment is set up to help you slowly adjust to life outside the rehab facility while you build the skills and resources you need to cope and avoid relapsing. Once you have completed the medical detox and inpatient phases of stimulant withdrawal treatment, the next stage is to continue your treatment in an intensive outpatient program (IOP).
During the IOP stage of treatment, you will still attend intensive therapy sessions. These sessions will be up to about 20 hours per week.
The intention at this stage of treatment is to help you continue to be accountable for your recovery. This stage also includes periodic weekly drug testing. As always, the main focus is to help you continue to build coping skills and prevent relapse.
After you complete the treatment program, you will have the opportunity to join other treatment center alumni during weekly support groups and social events. Meeting other program graduates at these events can help you develop new friendships. Building social support with others who understand the recovery process can be a vital resource to help you grow as you continue to adjust to life after the treatment program and take on new responsibilities.
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(2004, April) The Amphetamine Withdrawal Syndrome. In Models of Intervention and Care for Psychostimulant Users, 2nd Edition, Monograph Series No. 51. Retrieved from http://www.health.gov.au/internet/publications/publishing.nsf
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