Methamphetamine, commonly known as meth, is a potent stimulant drug. It falls under Schedule II in the Controlled Substances Act, which means it has a high potential for abuse despite having legitimate medical uses. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), there is only one methamphetamine-based drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Its brand name is Desoxyn, and it is used to treat some cases of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and obesity.
Meth has various street names, including:
A common form of meth is called crystal meth, so called for its crystalline appearance. It resembles shards of broken glass when crushed.
Users of meth may take it through swallowing, snorting, or direct injection into the bloodstream. Taking high doses is common to enhance the high. Taking meth several times in one day is also typical.
When you take meth – even just a little of it – the drug makes your body feel more alive and alert. Here are some typical effects that you will experience right away:
- Being more physically active
- Feeling more awake
- Feeling less hungry
- Fast breathing
- Fast heartbeat
- High blood pressure
- Overheating of the body
If you take excessive doses of meth, you can suffer possibly life-threatening conditions, such as:
- Dangerously high body temperatures
- Heart failure
Other effects include:
- Memory loss
- Problems with your teeth
- Severe anorexia (an eating disorder that causes you to starve yourself)
If you become addicted to meth, chances are you cannot live life normally without taking the drug. At that point, you will need meth detox to live sober again. But there are side effects.
Read on to find out how to detox safely from meth.
Why is meth addictive?
Meth acts strongly on your central nervous system (CNS), stimulating brain activity. Most users like the feeling of increased wakefulness and alertness, as well as the heightened level of physical activity.
You can get high pretty quickly after taking meth, but it does not last long. The short-lived high may tempt you to take a lot of it in a brief span of time. Alternatively, you could also be tempted to take higher doses to get a stronger high.
Pretty soon, your brain will be used to the stimulating effects of meth. When you stop using it, you will feel uncomfortable because your brain will keep “looking for” the stimulation. This is called withdrawal, which has the following symptoms:
- Muscle spasms
- Drastic changes in your appetite
- Intense cravings for meth
- Insomnia (difficulty or inability to sleep)
- Psychosis (losing touch with reality)
These withdrawal symptoms can get so severe that your only way out is to take more meth. Otherwise, you will become too uncomfortable to function normally. For that reason, you can easily develop an addiction to meth.
What does meth detox do?
Meth detox is part of a comprehensive treatment program for meth addiction. During detox, the goal is to help your body get used to not taking the drug. The entire process can take 20 to 50 hours, depending on how well your body responds.
Meth detox should be supervised by medical professionals to ensure its safety. They will make sure that the process is as safe for you as possible. To deal with any discomfort that may arise, they may give you certain medications.
Commonly, you may experience the following conditions while detoxing from meth:
- Muscle pains
Specific medications may be given to you to counteract the negative effects. These include:
- Benzodiazepines (e.g. alprazolam, diazepam, lorazepam) to calm down any feelings of irritation or anxiety (they are not often prescribed because benzodiazepines can also cause addiction)
- Sedatives or antipsychotic medications (e.g. risperidone, olanzapine) to deal with psychotic symptoms
- Acetaminophen or ibuprofen for body aches and muscle pain
By the end of detox, your body should be able to tolerate the complete absence of meth. But detox is no guarantee that you will be totally free from any withdrawal symptoms in the future.
Dealing with withdrawal in the long term
After detox, you may still experience a few withdrawal symptoms, especially if you have been using meth for a long time. These symptoms include:
- Meth cravings
- Sleep problems
- Issues with concentration, thought processes, and memory
Your doctor may give you more medications to deal with these symptoms. Commonly used medicines at this stage are:
- Modafinil to help reduce cravings and help you sleep well
- Fluoxetine, bupropion, imipramine, or mirtazapine to ease feelings of depression
- Topiramate to help restore cognitive functions impaired by meth use (modafinil and bupropion can also aid cognitive improvement)
How do I ensure the safety of the detox process?
Detoxing can be a challenging process, and for that reason should only be done under the care of medical professionals. Detoxing at home is possible, but it is risky.
Any time you experience severe discomfort or any medical emergencies during the course of detox, you will need immediate medical attention. At home, you most likely do not have medical staff standing by to help right away. But in a formal detox setting, a medical team is always at the ready to help you at any time.
Additionally, when you detox on your own, you will not have a doctor close to you. In a medically-assisted detox facility, a doctor can readily prescribe medications when you experience serious withdrawal symptoms. If your body does not respond well to the medications, the doctor can switch your prescription right away as well.
Will I be clean after detox?
Once detox is finished, you will be able to live without taking any meth at all. However, you may still experience lingering psychological effects.
The next stage of treatment is going through behavioral therapies to undo the mental damage done by meth. Usually, you will be subjected to these methods:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Family therapy
- Support groups
- Recreational activities (e.g. sports, art)