Methamphetamine or “meth” is a street drug commonly used by those struggling with addiction. If you are using meth or have a loved one that is, it can seem very daunting to think about how to transition from active meth misuse all the way to long-term recovery.
Recovery from substances, including meth, does not happen immediately but is possible. With the added help of a support system (family, friends, others in recovery) and addiction treatment, recovery can become more of a reality than a far-off wish or dream.
It may or may not surprise you to learn that recovery from meth is not an immediate process. A person may still be having withdrawal symptoms after stopping meth for almost a month.
Read on to learn more about meth, how meth is used, the short- and long-term effects of meth, the process of recovery from meth, and meth addiction treatment at Shadow Mountain Recovery.
What Is Meth?
Methamphetamine, or “meth” for short, is a powerful stimulant that affects the central nervous system. Meth is a white, odorless, bitter-tasting crystalline powder that easily dissolves when in water or in alcohol. “Crystal” meth comes in the form of crystal-like chunks.
How Does Meth’s Effect on the Brain Affect Length of Time to Recovery?
Meth creates more dopamine (a type of neurotransmitter or chemical messenger) in your brain. Dopamine is involved in helping us feel pleasure as part of the brain’s reward system.
Meth is a highly addictive drug because it changes the way your brain works over time. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), meth rapidly releases high levels of dopamine into the reward areas of the brain, which makes people want to continue to use meth.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), people who take meth for a long time may develop difficulty feeling any pleasure other than that provided by meth, which fuels further use and could lengthen recovery time.
Short- and Long-Term Effects of Meth Misuse on the Brain and Body
Short-Term Effects of Meth
According to NIDA, the short-term effects of meth misuse that can last up to 12 hours may include:
- increased attention
- decreased fatigue (tiredness)
- increased activity and wakefulness or more energy
- decreased appetite (not feeling hungry)
- euphoria (happiness) and a “rush”
- increased respiration (breathing)
- rapid/irregular heartbeat (fast heart rate)
- hyperthermia (overheated body, high body temperature)
How Long Does It Take to Recover From the Short-Term Effects of Meth?
Immediately after smoking or injecting meth, there is a sensation of extreme pleasure or “rush” that can last up to 20 minutes. This rush leads to feelings of being powerful, clever, smart, and funny. These feelings can persist for 18 to 24 hours.
If the person continues to inject or smoke meth in an effort to feel the initial rush again, they will experience smaller euphoric rushes with every use until eventually there is no rush and there is no high. This process of continuing to use in an effort to feel the initial rush could last for a few days to a couple of weeks.
Long-Term Effects of Meth
According to NIDA, the long-term effects of meth misuse may include:
- psychosis (disconnection from reality), including:
- paranoia (unrealistic distrust of others or a feeling of being persecuted or mistreated)
- hallucinations (seeing, hearing, tasting, feeling, or smelling people, places, or things that are not there in real life)
- repetitive motor activity
- changes in brain structure and function
- deficits in thinking and motor skills
- increased distractibility
- memory loss
- aggressive or violent behavior
- mood disturbances
- severe dental problems
- high rates of dental decay, cavities, and gum disease
- rotting teeth
- extreme weight loss
How Long Does It Take to Recover From the Long-Term Effects of Meth?
Prolonged use of meth is associated with violent and antisocial behavior. There may be delusions (false beliefs that do not align with reality) that insects are crawling under the skin. This long-term effects time period concludes when the person using meth can no longer stay awake and goes into a deep sleep for 1 to 3 days.
How Long Does It Take to Recover From Meth?
To recover from meth misuse, the first step is stopping meth. Stopping meth use will result in having withdrawal symptoms (the effects of stopping or reducing use). Meth withdrawal happens in a 21- to 24- day time period.
The safest way to manage withdrawal symptoms from methamphetamine and other substances is to seek safe, medical detox treatment. Detox is a type of inpatient addiction treatment that allows patients to have 24/7 care while getting medical care and guidance.
There are no specific medications recommended for detox from meth. However, medications can be prescribed to lessen the intensity of withdrawal symptoms. This will help the person to feel comfortable and continue on in treatment.
We will first discuss the withdrawal symptoms that happen when meth is reduced or stopped as well as the time period in which these withdrawal symptoms happen.
Methamphetamine Withdrawal Happens in a 21- to 24-Day Time Period
According to a research study, methamphetamine withdrawal can be broken down into two phases: acute (7- to 10-day time period) and subacute phase (an additional 14-day time period).
Acute Phase of Methamphetamine Withdrawal
The acute phase lasts 7 to 10 days following the cessation of methamphetamine use. The severity of withdrawal symptoms declines from an initial high peak. During the acute phase, patients getting an inpatient level of care had withdrawal symptoms such as increased sleeping and eating.
Patients in withdrawal also had depression-related symptoms. A type of self-report test (a test taken directly by the patient) called the Beck’s Depression Inventory was given to patients to evaluate them for depressive symptoms such as sad mood, hopelessness, crying more than usual, irritability, trouble sleeping, etc.
On average, patients first admitted to treatment had moderate depression. By weeks two and three, patients had progressed to having minimal depression. Patients had improved mood over time.
In withdrawal, anxiety and craving-related symptoms were present but less severe than sleeping, eating, and depression-related symptoms.
Oversleeping occurred during the acute phase. It is interesting to note that despite a reduction in sleep quality during the acute phase, there was not a period of insomnia (difficulty with falling or staying asleep, poor quality of sleep) during the subacute phase (time period after acute phase).
Subacute Phase of Methamphetamine Withdrawal
The subacute phase lasts at least two weeks following the end of the acute phase. With both acute and subacute phase time periods combined, withdrawal from meth can take about 21 to 24 days.
During the subacute phase, most withdrawal symptoms remain relatively mild and stable. Older, more dependent patients who had been using methamphetamine longer had a more severe withdrawal course.
Your Brain Off of Meth
How long will it take your brain chemistry to return to normal after stopping meth misuse? According to researchers from the University of California, Davis, it takes at least one year for a person that previously used methamphetamine to gain improved cognitive processes such as impulse control and attention.
The NIDA reports some of the effects on the brain from chronic meth misuse appear to be at least partially reversible, but it can take over a year or more to reach recovery from meth.
There is also a drug that may help. Quetiapine, a type of antipsychotic medicine, can be taken as part of treatment for meth addiction. Research findings suggest that quetiapine can reverse memory impairment (forgetfulness, confusion, difficulty concentrating) caused by meth.
How Common Is Meth-Involved Overdose in New Mexico?
The New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) reports overall drug overdose deaths among New Mexico residents increased from 491 in 2017 to 537 in 2018. This is an increase of 9%. It is notable that this increase is largely due to methamphetamine overdose deaths.
Sadly, the 537 overdose deaths in 2018 was the second-largest number of drug overdose deaths recorded for New Mexico. The largest number of drug overdose deaths was 540 in 2014.
According to the NMDOH, methamphetamine use was the main reason for the increased drug overdose death rates in 2018. In 2018, 36% of overdose deaths involved methamphetamine, which is an increase from 31% of overdose deaths involving methamphetamine in 2017 and 12% of overdose deaths involving methamphetamine in 2012.
Meth Addiction Treatment at Shadow Mountain Recovery
Shadow Mountain Recovery offers meth addiction treatment. As we discussed, meth withdrawal (the effects of stopping or reducing use) can be very difficult for a person.
Withdrawal can be so difficult that a person resorts to using the substance again to feel a sense of relief. To help prevent relapse, the first step in meth addiction treatment is safe, medical detox. Detox is 24/7 inpatient care with the support and guidance of medical staff.
After detox, there are other addiction treatment options available such as residential (rehab) treatment and outpatient treatment. Inpatient rehab includes individual therapy, group therapy, and life skills training. While in rehab, our therapists use evidence-based treatment approaches such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
In outpatient treatment, you or your loved one has the opportunity to continue therapy but return to the comfort of home each night and enjoy the familiarity of nearby family and friends.
Call Shadow Mountain Recovery to Begin Addiction Treatment
Now that you have read more about meth, you understand how hard addiction to it can be and the pathway to recovery from meth, which includes going through withdrawal, seeking detox to better manage withdrawal symptoms, and continuing care at the rehab or outpatient level.
It can be hard to know where to begin to gain relief when struggling with addiction. If you or your loved one is misusing methamphetamine or other substances, please contact Shadow Mountain Recovery to begin your addiction treatment journey today. We are ready to assist you at (855) 596-0196.