Methamphetamine withdrawal is the term used to describe a wide range of symptoms that occur after a methamphetamine user suddenly stops using the drug or dramatically reduces their use. Methamphetamine is a central nervous system stimulant drug that has a high potential for abuse. The drug works by increasing the release and blocking the reuptake of the brain chemical (or neurotransmitter) dopamine. This in turn leads to high levels of dopamine in the brain which is involved in reward, motivation, the experience of pleasure, and motor function. Methamphetamine's ability to release dopamine rapidly in reward regions of the brain produces the intense euphoria that many users experience after snorting, smoking, or injecting the drug. By activating this psychological reward system in the brain, methamphetamine has high potential for abuse and addiction.
Methamphetamine use results in many of the same physical effects as other stimulants, such as cocaine or amphetamines. This may include increased wakefulness, increased physical activity, decreased appetite, increased respiration, rapid heart rate, irregular heartbeat, increased blood pressure, and hyperthermia. Long-term methamphetamine abuse can have severe health consequences including extreme weight loss, severe dental problems, anxiety, confusion, insomnia, mood disturbances, and violent behavior. Chronic methamphetamine abusers tend to experience bouts of paranoia, visual and auditory hallucinations, and delusions (for example, the sensation of insects crawling under the skin).
Methamphetamine addiction results in compulsive drug seeking and use, and if the individual does not seek out and use more of the drug they will begin to experience methamphetamine withdrawal. Although methamphetamine withdrawal is not typically life-threatening, it can be uncomfortable. It can be so uncomfortable that people will begin using the drug again in order to relieve the symptoms.
Abrupt cessation of chronic methamphetamine use results in withdrawal symptoms in almost 90% of the cases.
Methamphetamine withdrawal can result in fatigue, depression anxiety, irritability, headaches, agitation, an inability to remain still, excessive sleeping, vivid or lucid dreams, deep REM sleep and suicidal ideation and an increased appetite. These symptoms may last for days, or weeks or months for chronic methamphetamine users. The mental depression associated with methamphetamine withdrawal lasts longer and is more severe than that of cocaine withdrawal. Pregnant woman who use methamphetamine put their baby at risk of having meth withdrawal symptoms after it is born.
Chronic methamphetamine abuse significantly changes how the brain functions, with imaging studies showing alterations in the area of the brain that is associated with motor skills and verbal learning. Studies have also revealed severe structural and functional changes in areas of the brain associated with emotion and memory, which explains many of the emotional and cognitive problems observed in chronic methamphetamine abusers. Methamphetamine addicts may experience a psychosis resembling schizophrenia which can persist as long as six months post-methamphetamine use.
Methamphetamine users and addicts are also at risk of tooth loss and decay, commonly known as "meth mouth". Meth mouth is likely caused by a combination of drug-induced psychological and physiological changes resulting in dry mouth, extended periods of poor oral hygiene, frequent consumption of high-calorie, carbonated beverages and bruxism (teeth grinding and clenching). It is also speculated that the caustic nature of the drug is a contributing factor, as batches of meth often contain such things as battery acid, antifreeze, lantern fuel and drain cleaner.
Someone going through methamphetamine withdrawal is always at risk of overdose if they decide to seek out and continue to use the drug to ease the symptoms. A toxic reaction (or overdose) can occur at relatively low levels, as metabolic rates vary from person to person. Additionally, the strength of meth varies from batch to batch, so there is no way of gauging a safe amount to use. When someone overdoses on meth they may experience a high fever, convulsions and cardiovascular collapse may precede death.
Methamphetamine use can alter the user's judgment and can lead to unsafe behavior such as risky sexual behavior. Among abusers who inject methamphetamine, HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases can be spread through contaminated needles, syringes, and other injection equipment that is used by more than one person. Additionally, methamphetamine abusers who are HIV-positive show greater neuronal injury and cognitive impairment as compared to HIV-positive people who do not use the drug.
Methamphetamine addiction is one of the most difficult forms of addictions to treat. Willpower alone will not cure methamphetamine addiction, and individuals seeking addiction help that works will need to take part in an inpatient treatment program with sufficient detox and treatment as a priority. There is a way out for meth addicts, and the answer is at an inpatient treatment and rehab facility. Get the help you need today.