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Posted on October 13th, 2015

Methamphetamine withdrawal is a big challenge

Methamphetamine withdrawal is a big challenge

That probably won’t be news to anyone who’s spent time around methamphetamine addicts, but meth’s gotten a reputation in some circles that it’s a relatively easy and painless substance to detox from. Ask any heroin addict that got clean, and they’ll tell stories of the purgatory-like ordeal that is heroin withdrawal. Physical and mental agony likely played starring roles in their accounts, and their journey to sobriety was probably a long and difficult one. In fact, heroin withdrawal can be so rough for some users it can make withdrawal from other substances look tame by comparison.

“Tame” is a poor word for methamphetamine withdrawal. “Different” is a better choice.

Assuming withdrawal from any substance is going to be sheer mind over matter is a mistake. Just like how different narcotics have different effects on their users, people withdraw from different narcotics in various ways. Now, heroin is infamous – justifiably so – for the difficulty and length of its withdrawal period. Patients recovering from heroin addiction undergo a period of severe flu-like symptoms along with physical pain as the pain receptors deadened by the flicker back to life. Although much less severe than withdrawal from heroin and opiates, withdrawal from methamphetamine abuse can still be challenging and needs a controlled, clinical environment and support staff to do it safely.

Methamphetamines’ powerful effect on the brain

That’s because of the effects methamphetamine has on the brain. When used, methamphetamine quickly increases the amount of dopamine the brain produces. Dopamine is a chemical involved in how the brain controls and regulates motor function, as well as mental functions like motivation, pleasure and reward. This rapid increase in dopamine production leads to the sensation of euphoria many meth users get from using the drug. And when meth use stops, the levels of dopamine in the brain decrease sharply. Addiction expert Adi Jaffe, M.D. reports in Psychology Today that meth use — especially long-term — decreases the number of dopamine receptors in the brain. Less dopamine and fewer receptors can create a sensation in withdrawing users called anhedonia, an inability to experience pleasure. That lack of sensation can be shattering for anyone; imagine being chemically unable to take pleasure in even small things like a nice sunset or the smile on a friend’s face. Worse, writes Jaffe, it can take as long as two years of being off methamphetamines before the body relearns how to regulate dopamine function again. Prolonged periods of anhedonia lead to depression and many meth users relapse if only to escape what to them seems like a future with no hope of experiencing anything pleasurable again. Coupled with mental symptoms like anxiety, psychosis and paranoia — and physical symptoms like nausea, severe hunger and exhaustion — methamphetamine withdrawal starts looking much less two dimensional.

Treatment options

Unlike heroin, there are no effective medications that can counteract meth’s effects or to assist in recovery. The National Institute on Drug Abuse recommends behavioral therapy, individual, family and group counseling and even 12-Step support as good, effective tools for treating addiction. Some treatment centers offer natural assisted detox programs, including neurotransmitter restoration, NTR, and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, NAD, therapies that can aid in the help addicts’ brains recover after periods of prolonged drug abuse.

Any detox regimen is much harder to do alone. Detoxing in a predictable and customized environment ensures the user is both safe medically and as free as possible from negative influences that could encourage a relapse. Detox of Arizona can recommend safe, appropriate detox programs and methods which will help you or anyone you know struggling with methamphetamine addiction. Please contact our helpline for more information.