Footprints to Recovery

What Is Meth Detox Like?

Medically Reviewed by David Szarka, MA, LCADC

Methamphetamine, or meth, is an illicit stimulant derived from amphetamines and other chemicals. People can either smoke, snort, or inject meth intravenously. When taken in high doses, meth can cause severe physical and emotional harm and wreak havoc on self-esteem, relationships, work, and physical health. Getting off meth will usually require a detox phase to begin recovery.

It can seem scary, but detox is the first step in recovering from meth use. Here’s what you need to know about meth detox.

What Is Meth Detox Like?

Why You Need Medical Detox for Meth Abuse

Withdrawal from meth isn’t inherently fatal, but it can result in life-threatening complications. For these reasons, health professionals recommend medical supervision while you detox from meth.

Meth withdrawal symptoms can be highly distressing. Withdrawal can lead to strong cravings for meth to make the symptoms stop. This is why people who try to detox from meth on their own are at high risk for relapse. Medical supervision lowers this risk because you’re detoxing under the guidance of experienced professionals and away from the familiar environment where you used meth.

At-home detox can be dangerous if you have co-occurring mental health issues. Withdrawal can exacerbate depression and anxiety symptoms. It can also trigger psychosis. These symptoms increase the risk of suicidal thoughts and dangerous behaviors.

Medical supervision provides ongoing structure and support. If you experience complications, trained staff are available 24/7 to help you. You’re surrounded by people who want you to succeed and know how to handle the struggles many people go through in withdrawal. They can use medications as clinically appropriate to ease discomfort and make sure you’re medically safe.

What Happens During Meth Detox?

Medically supervised detox offers 24/7 monitoring. No two detox experiences are the same, but most people spend several days resting and trying to relax. You may also receive medication during your medical detox.

Medical detox is not like what you’ve seen portrayed in movies. You are not left in a bare room to tough it out on your own. Medical detox centers have private or semi-private rooms with beds, comfortable furnishings, and televisions. There are usually common spaces where you can spend time as you feel up to it. Food and drinks are served, and staff make sure you stay hydrated.

Your detox team will be made up of medical professionals like doctors and nurses who are there 24/7. They’ll monitor your vital signs around the clock and attend to any medical emergencies. If you are in physical pain or experiencing psychological distress, they can provide prescription medications to ease these symptoms. 

Medical Timeline for Meth Detox

Medically supervised meth detox can range anywhere from about three days to a week. After completing detox, many people transition into long-term treatment. Treatment for meth addiction provides effective tools for achieving sustained recovery.

How long it will take you to detox from meth and the severity of meth withdrawal symptoms are based on factors like:

  • How much meth you use
  • How long you’ve been taking meth
  • If you’re using other drugs or alcohol
  • Your individual physical health
  • Co-occurring disorders
  • Medical conditions

Meth withdrawal is broken down into two phases.

Methamphetamine Withdrawal: Phase 1

The worst of meth withdrawal symptoms usually take place within 24 hours of the last time you used meth. Most times, these symptoms will gradually taper off over several days. The first week to 10 days of meth withdrawal are known as post-acute withdrawal. During this time, you may experience:

  • Headaches
  • Drug cravings
  • Shaking and tremors
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Agitation
  • Increased appetite
  • Fatigue and increased sleep

Methamphetamine Withdrawal: Phase 2

After the acute phase of meth withdrawal, most symptoms subside. Some withdrawal symptoms may stick around but at a less severe level. The second phase of meth withdrawal may last at least two weeks. The symptoms you experience will mainly be psychological. This happens as your brain tries to rebalance the chemicals and central nervous system messaging processes that meth abuse disrupted.

While this rebalancing occurs, these functions can be affected:

  • Motivation
  • Mood
  • Self-control
  • Psychological stress
  • Cognitive performance

During the second phase of meth withdrawal, some people experience anhedonia. This is when you are unable to feel pleasure without using meth. These types of issues can continue for weeks or months as your brain works to repair itself.

What Medications Help Meth Detox and Withdrawal?

The FDA hasn’t approved any medications specifically for meth withdrawal, but many detox centers offer medication that can help manage some of the distressing symptoms.

Mirtazapine (Remeron)

Remeron is an antidepressant. It helps balance serotonin and norepinephrine levels. Some preliminary research suggests it can help reduce drug cravings. It also helps with symptoms related to depression and anxiety.

Provigil (Modafinil)

Modafinil is a central nervous stimulant. Even though it’s a stimulant, it’s not nearly as powerful as amphetamine. Modafinil can help with cravings and emotional regulation.

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)

SSRIs ease symptoms related to depression and anxiety. They’re the most widely prescribed antidepressant. SSRIs include:

  • Celexa
  • Lexapro
  • Prozac
  • Paxil
  • Zoloft

Sleep Medications

Meth can severely disrupt your sleep. During withdrawal, many people experience insomnia and nightmares. Prescribed sleep medication can help with these symptoms.

What Happens After Meth Detox?

Detox is the first step in meth treatment, but not the last. To prevent relapse and stay sober you must:

  • Repair the physical and psychological damage from meth.
  • Address the reasons why you abuse drugs and alcohol.
  • Get mental health treatment for psychological conditions like depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder that may contribute to substance abuse.
  • Get help for underlying issues that fuel drug abuse, like trauma, stress, dysfunctional relationships, grief, loss, and poor self-esteem or coping skills.
  • Identify triggers to use drugs and healthy ways to cope with those triggers.
  • Build structure and a sober support system in your life.

An addiction treatment program will help you with all of this.

Meth Addiction Treatment

After meth detox, you’ll transition into inpatient rehab or outpatient treatment. Inpatient meth treatment is necessary for many people. Meth wreaks havoc on your body and brain. Some people recovering from meth addiction need time in a residential treatment center to begin repairing the effects of meth abuse.

Meth addiction treatment may include:

Individual Therapy

One-on-one counseling with a therapist helps you get to the root causes of crystal meth addiction. Your therapist may use proven substance abuse treatment approaches like:

Using these methods, they’ll help you recognize unhealthy and inaccurate thought patterns. You’ll see how thoughts and feelings can fuel destructive behaviors. You’ll uncover your internal motivation to change your life. Individual counseling will teach you healthier ways of thinking and managing emotions.

Group Therapy

Meth treatment will include group therapy sessions. Sharing with others who understand what you’re going through is an important part of the recovery process. A group leader will guide you through topics relevant to addiction and behavioral health. You’ll gain new insights into your problems. You’ll develop better interpersonal skills.

Family Therapy

Methamphetamine abuse affects the entire family. In family therapy, a trained counselor will help you and your loved ones begin repairing strained relationships. They’ll help you talk through difficult topics and emotions, and you’ll learn how to support each other in recovery.

Alternative Approaches

There are some therapies that help you heal beyond talk therapy. These activities can help you process emotions and express yourself in different ways. Alternative approaches in meth addiction treatment may include:

  • Art and music therapy
  • Adventure therapy
  • Psychodrama
  • Mindfulness and meditation

Medication Management

People with substance use disorders sometimes have mental health conditions that contribute to drug addiction. This is known as co-occurring disorders or a dual diagnosis. If you have depression, anxiety, or other issues, you may use meth or alcohol to self-medicate these symptoms. In meth treatment, psychiatrists diagnose and prescribe medications for clients with dual diagnosis issues.

Relapse Prevention

There is a high risk of relapse for meth addicts. Some research shows it may take at least a year for recovering meth users to regain impulse control. This is why relapse prevention is such an important part of meth rehab. You need skills to stay sober in the face of triggers and everyday challenges. In addiction treatment, you’ll learn healthy coping skills like meditation and fitness. You’ll attend support groups like the 12 Steps, where you’ll find peer support and recovery resources. You’ll arm yourself with the tools you need to remain sober during that first critical year of recovery and beyond.

Aftercare Planning

A comprehensive aftercare plan can help you continue working on underlying issues and strengthening meth recovery skills after inpatient treatment. Life after treatment may include:

  • Individual therapy
  • Psychiatrists and physicians
  • 12-step program groups
  • Sober-living residences
  • Alumni meetings and events

Does Insurance Cover Meth Detox and Rehab?

Major insurance plans are required to cover behavioral health care in the same way as they cover medical care. Most insurances consider alcohol or drug detox a medical necessity. They should cover it at all or a portion of the cost. Some form of addiction treatment or drug rehab should be covered under your plan as well. There may be different tiers of coverage for inpatient addiction treatment and outpatient rehab options. You may need to meet a deductible or pay co-insurance or a co-pay for treatment. To determine what type of drug rehab coverage your insurance provides, call our admissions team for a free insurance benefits check.

Looking for Help?

Meth withdrawal can be uncomfortable. It’s normal to feel scared about taking that first step, but overcoming an addiction is a process. Without formal treatment, starting with detox, you risk putting yourself and your loved ones in jeopardy.

Detox is the first step towards making needed changes in your life. Take action today by contacting Footprints to Recovery. We help people move through meth detox and into a life of recovery.

Questions about treatment options?

Our admissions team is available 24/7 to listen to your story and help you get started with the next steps.

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