If you’ve ever tried to detox from meth, you know the process is difficult and laced with intense cravings. Meth withdrawal runs through several stages. Hours after using meth, the user undergoes a “crash,” which begins with a rapid drop in mood, fatigue, and intense craving for meth. This craving usually subsides within a few hours, followed by increased fatigue and need for sleep. At this point, some people who are not in treatment often use alcohol, anti-anxiety drugs, sedatives, opiates, or marijuana—just to get some sleep.
In treatment, these symptoms can be managed with electro-chemically balanced nutrition, certain natural supplements, exercise, and the occasional use of nonaddicting, mildly sedating medications, such as sedating mood-stabilizing antidepressants. Detoxing from meth requires direction from a medical professional to ensure your safety, comfort, and the effectiveness of the meth detox.
After the Crash
Once the meth user gets past the acute fatigue and need for sleep, most of the “crash” symptoms disappear. The short- and long-term effects of meth usually depend on whether the drug was snorted, smoked, injected, or swallowed (i.e., snorting damages nasal passages, smoking affects the lungs, etc).
A pronounced cognitive issue in meth withdrawal is anhedonia—an inability to feel pleasure or enjoyment. Meth experts say that the most common complaint of chronic meth users is boredom, because they don’t know the word anhedonia. The state can be described as an empty subjective existence, and during anhedonia the meth user may feel the pull toward meth-induced euphoria most strongly.
This is a major danger period during which many meth users return to the old cycle: high-crash-anhedonia-craving-use-high, and so on. But during treatment, with abstinence and with medical and psychological support, the anhedonia disappears—usually within two to ten weeks.
Quality treatment programs also have the great advantage of protecting the meth user against “cues” or reminders of past euphoria that make return to meth so tempting during the period of boredom. Detoxing from meth just removes the substance from your system, it doesn’t protect you from the psychological symptoms that can linger and may prompt a relapse— these obstacles will be overcome by continuing your addiction treatment.
Cravings and Triggers
Even after the worst is over, there can be moments of intense meth craving. Meth users seem to have remarkably poor memories of the bad effects of their habit—physical, emotional, and social—and remarkably strong memories of the “highs.” The bad memories, which make returning to meth less appealing, do seem to return after the craving period is over. Part of the treatment is helping you learn to survive the craving and reinforce the reasons you needed to quit.
Compared to cravings for other chemicals, craving for meth seems more strongly linked to such influences as your mood, scenes, particular people or events, times of the year, problems with other people, or various objects associated with meth use.
For the majority of users, these associations are not glamorous: driving past an old nightspot, bumping into the neighborhood dealer, even watching an actor use meth in a movie can trigger powerful craving. For this reason, therapy for meth dependence deals intensely with techniques to reduce the power of these triggering factors.
Recovering from Meth
It’s important to know all stages of recovering from meth addiction. Most importantly, the meth abuser has entered the gates of recovery. And the truth about recovery is this: there are millions of people in the world who have been alcohol and drug dependent, who now live full and satisfying lives without wanting drugs or drink, without for one moment wishing they could go back to it, without for one moment feeling sorry for themselves because they’re “not like other people” when it comes to chemicals. This includes a lot of people who had hit bottom so deeply that no one could imagine they could ever get up. It can include you. And this is the truth: it will take time-and work. There will be moments when it may not seem worth it. There will be pain. But there was so much more pain when you were dependent, when even drugs or alcohol didn’t seem worth it, either—but at that time there wasn’t anything you could see that was better. And if you did glimpse it, you didn’t know how to get there. You can soon see that recovery is not just better, it’s living.