Crystal methamphetamine—called crystal meth for short—is a highly addictive human-made psychostimulant that affects the nervous system.
Crystal meth is called by a variety of nicknames, including “blade,” “crank,” “crystal,” “ice,” “speed,” “Tina,” or “glass.” The substance, which can come in an odorless, crystalline powder form or rocks that are either brown, white, pink, or yellow, is made illegally in secret laboratories or sometimes in people’s homes. Smoking is the most popular way to use the substance, but users can swallow, snort, or inject it intravenously.
Crystal meth gives people a quick, euphoric high that elevates their motivation and stamina. Those who want to increase their alertness or confidence, boost their brain function or enhance their sexual performance turn to the drug.
Crystal meth users are at risk of overdose as they seek out and take higher doses to reach the same peaks they did when they first started using the drug. Quitting crystal meth abruptly typically brings on uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms for long-term or frequent users. They include:
Symptoms such as seizures, psychosis, and suicidal thoughts are life-threatening to the user and others around the person. If you or someone you know uses crystal meth and experiences these symptoms, call 911 for immediate medical help or go to an emergency room or urgent care center for medical attention.
Though meth withdrawal symptoms aren’t known to be life-threatening, they can be extremely uncomfortable. However, there are no approved medications that can be used to replace meth like there is for opioid addiction. That means, to reach sobriety, you’ll have to go through withdrawal. The specific withdrawal symptoms you experience will depend on your history with the drug. In some cases, withdrawal symptoms can be comparatively mild, while some experience severe symptoms.
Crystal meth withdrawal will vary from person to person, depending on several factors, including:
Here is a general overview of what happens when a crystal meth user stops taking the drug.
Crystal meth withdrawal can begin within the first 24 hours after last use. It can last up to a month or longer, depending on the factors listed above.
1-3 days: Users are in the “crash” phase, which is when they have low energy and limited cognitive functioning. In this stage, users may eat and/or sleep more because they are exhausted and experience emotional highs and lows, including depression and anxiety.
4-10 days: Intense meth cravings make it difficult for users to feel motivated, concentrate, or sleep. They may lack energy and experience headaches and other aches and pains, as well as an increased appetite during this period. Frequent crystal meth users may have paranoia, hallucinations, or severe anxiety. Users may also see an increase in appetite.
After several weeks: Physical withdrawal symptoms may begin to calm down at this stage, but users may still have trouble relaxing or sleeping. Drug cravings may linger as well as psychological symptoms like depression. At this point, users are vulnerable to relapse, so professional drug treatment is recommended to help users avoid a return to crystal meth use.
30 days and beyond: Recovering crystal meth users may finally start to feel a physical recovery as most symptoms fade by this point. However, post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) can continue for several more weeks or even months at intermittent, unpredictable periods. These include depression, irritability, short-term memory loss, anxiety, cravings for crystal meth, other drugs and alcohol, and loss of a sex drive. Recovering crystal meth users should consider continuing a treatment program to manage this rough period.
Ready to get Help?
We’re here 24/7. Pick up the phone.
Crystal meth is notorious for being a hard and dangerous drug. But how does it compare to its bad reputation? Meth is a powerful stimulant that floods the brain with dopamine to create a short-lived but intense state of euphoria. The nature of the high often encourages people to take multiple successive doses in one sitting. As soon as the euphoria starts to wear off, and the negative symptoms of a comedown begin, users may take another hit to avoid negative effects. This can sometimes last for days in what’s called a meth binge.
Meth is a powerful stimulant that blocks the reuptake of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, which creates a short-term but intense state of euphoria. The short nature of the high often encourages people to take multiple consecutive doses. As soon as the state of euphoria starts to wear off, and the negative symptoms of withdrawal begin, users may take another hit to avoid those adverse effects. The binge can last for days.
Meth can also cause some long-term health problems like “meth mouth” or severe dental problems. In some cases, these problems can lead to severe infections. Meth can also cause extreme weight loss and skin sores.
Meth can also have several long-term psychological and cognitive effects, including psychosis, changes in the brain structure, difficulty focusing, memory problems, mood problems, and problems with cognition. Meth can also flood the dopamine receptors to the point of damaging them. This can weaken the rewarding response to normal everyday activities. This can lead to a condition called anhedonia, which is the inability to feel pleasure. In most cases, this symptom goes away over time as the brain heals after meth addiction.
Quitting drugs cold turkey may sound like a good idea, but it can be difficult, painful, and dangerous. In some cases, it can be dangerous and even deadly.
Given the difficult physical symptoms, withdrawing on your own without professional medical help can be very challenging. It’s important to find a professional, medically assisted detox program to support you during the process of crystal meth withdrawal.
Doing this will ensure that you are carefully monitored in a safe environment while your body goes through the difficult detoxification process. Participating in an addiction treatment program also gives you a better chance at lasting recovery as a result of the structured medical and emotional support you will receive.
A full continuum of treatment ensures the best opportunity for a successful recovery. Following a full continuum of treatment means starting with the medical detox process and then progressing gradually from an inpatient status to outpatient treatment. You will then have the opportunity to participate in an alumni program after the formal treatment program is completed. The stages of addiction treatment include:
The primary goal is medical stabilization during the first stage of withdrawal treatment, which is known as detox. Expect the detox stage to last from a few days up to a week. When you arrive, your medical team, which will include doctors, nurses, and support staff will complete your comprehensive medical assessment, which will help determine your level of addiction and additional medical needs you may have. The assessment includes a medical exam plus a urine screening for drugs.
Your medical team will monitor you 24/7 to help manage uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms and prevent dangerous crystal meth withdrawal symptoms.
Many people also experience anxiety, depression, and other emotional and psychological challenges during the detox period. Your treatment plan will also include comprehensive support to help you with these symptoms. A longer-term treatment plan will be put into place for you once you are medically stabilized.
The next stage is the intensive outpatient program (IOP). An IOP allows you to live at home while also attending counseling and programs to help support your recovery. Depending on your treatment plan, you will participate in about nine or more hours of clinical therapy several times each week.
Intensive outpatient therapy will help you to continue learning new ways to manage cravings, stress, and other challenging issues that may arise once you live on your own again. After you complete the IOP stage, you will transition into the Outpatient and Alumni programs, which is also known as aftercare.
You will have the opportunity to meet other treatment center alumni during weekly support groups and social events after you complete the formal treatment program. These aftercare opportunities spent with other alumni members can help you develop new friendships and build social support with others who understand the recovery process.
Being a part of this supportive network can help you grow while focusing on your recovery and adjusting to life after the treatment program. It can also be a safe space to share relapse prevention strategies, new experiences, and techniques for stress management. Most of all, it can be a way to enjoy time with new friends.
Addiction is a chronic disease that can slowly get worse over time if it isn’t treated. As a progressive disease, addiction can start to take over different parts of your life the longer it goes unaddressed. Even if you feel like you have it under control, addiction can start to affect your health, relationships, and obligation before you even realize it. In the worst cases, meth addiction can cause serious long-term health concerns, including both mental and biological health issues.
Getting the help you need early can allow you to avoid some of the most dangerous consequences of addiction. But no matter where you are in the disease of addiction, it’s possible to reach lasting sobriety with treatment. If you or someone you know is struggling with a substance use disorder that’s related to meth addiction, learn more about your treatment options and start your road to recovery today.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019, May). Methamphetamine. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/methamphetamine
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019, April). What are the long-term effects of methamphetamine misuse? Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/methamphetamine/what-are-long-term-effects-methamphetamine-misuse
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018, January). Principles of Effective Treatment. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/principles-effective-treatment
Psychology Today. (n.d.). Dopamine. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/dopamine