Methamphetamine is highly addictive stimulant drug that affects the brain’s system for reward by flooding the brain with dopamine and creating a sense of euphoria. Stimulant drugs increase heart rate, blood pressure, energy, and concentration. Methamphetamine has a high potential for abuse and chronic abuse causes serious withdrawal symptoms.
Chronic abuse can also cause amphetamine psychosis, which resembles schizophrenia and is generally resistant to typical treatments. Amphetamine psychosis can persist for up to six months after drug use is discontinued. Constantly flooding the brain with dopamine corrupts the body’s natural mechanisms for reward and pleasure, which causes abusers to feel depressed when drug use is discontinued.
In addition to serious psychological withdrawal symptoms, methamphetamine withdrawal causes physical problems. Methamphetamine abuse causes the health problems such as extreme weight loss and dental problems. Due to the severity of methamphetamine withdrawal, detox from the drug is emotionally and physically painful and should be done under supervision of heath care professionals.
Immediate Withdrawal Symptoms – Physical Detox
Immediate withdrawal from methamphetamine causes severe distress. Generally, detox centers administer medication to ease some of these painful emotional and physical withdrawal symptoms.
Typically, detox centers use a combination of medication and talk therapy to ease immediate withdrawal symptoms and emotional discomfort. Patients are encouraged to express feelings of anxiety, depression and angry so they may work through these emotions and begin to feel some relief.
Physical Symptoms Include:
- Flu like symptoms
- Extreme depression
- Suicidal thoughts
There is often no way to manage physical withdrawal symptoms other than medication. Often, detox centers administer anti-anxiety medication such as benzodiazepines or non-addictive alternative medications.
To help with nausea and vomiting, which typically occur in the first few days of the withdrawal process, treatment centers will administer powerful anti-nausea medication such a Zophran to ease discomfort. Due to the extreme weight loss methamphetamine addicts endure, during the detox process they may have to have vitamins and nutrients administered intravenously to insure they receive proper nutrition.
Prolonged Withdrawal Symptoms – Amphetamine Psychosis
Methamphetamine abuse can cause amphetamine psychosis, which resembles schizophrenia; this psychosis can last for up to six months after drug use has stopped. Symptoms of amphetamine psychosis are paranoid delusions, physical delusions, visual and audio hallucinations, and delusions of grandeur. Paranoid delusions include thoughts that people are trying to rob or kill you; the general thought, “Everyone is out to get you.”
Physical delusions are physical sensations produced by the brain without actual physical causes. A common physical delusion for detoxing methamphetamine addicts is that bugs are crawling underneath their skin. Audio and visual hallucinations include hearing voices and seeing images. Delusions of grandeur are beliefs that the person is extremely important; a common delusion of grandeur is the belief that the individual is Jesus Christ or other religious figures.
Although these are all symptoms of schizophrenia generally treatment for schizophrenia is not helpful in treating amphetamine psychosis. Since there are few medications that treat amphetamine psychosis, the best way to treat it is to keep the detoxing individual under constant supervision and make sure they are not a danger to themselves or others.
Long-term Withdrawal Symptoms – Post-acute Withdrawal
Methamphetamine withdrawal can cause post-acute withdrawal symptoms. Post-acute withdrawal is withdrawal from the drug that lasts for up to a year after drug use continues.
Post-acute Withdrawal Symptoms May Include:
- Chronic fatigue
- Increased appetite
When detoxing off the drug it is often necessary that medication be administered to ease long-term withdrawal symptoms.
Due to post-acute withdrawal methamphetamine detox is a long process, which should be monitored for up to a year after drug use is discontinued. Common treatments to ease withdrawal symptoms are anti-depressants such as SSRIs or SNRIs. These medications help stabilize the brains mechanisms of pleasure and reward, and ease depression and suicidal thoughts.