Making the decision to stop taking meth is an incredibly brave first step towards a healthier life. However, it’s important to note that it’s not all downhill from there because withdrawing from meth comes with its own side effects. Anticipating and preparing for those stages will go a long way in ensuring that you successfully kick the habit. Here’s what you should know:
The crash starts as soon as you stop taking meth and is at its most intense during the first 24 hours. However, the phase itself can last from several days to weeks depending on how long the person has been taking meth. As a rule, the symptoms of the crash are more severe in those who have been using meth for longer periods.
During the first few hours, the physical symptoms are most prevalent. Individuals may start to sweat excessively and their body temperature will spike. This only lasts for a few hours but time is often distorted in the mind of the patient, making it seem as though they’ve been suffering for days instead of overnight. It’s important to distract patients during the Crash Stage, perhaps through exercise or some other activity that engages the mind. Note that intense hunger for carbohydrates is also likely.
Psychological symptoms of the crash are characterized by anxiety, depression, fatigue, and sleepiness. These symptoms can last for days and even weeks – sometimes overlapping with the second stage which is Cravings.
This particular stage can last up to 10 weeks. Cravings start off as incredibly high and then start to peter down into lower levels. Again, time distortion plays a part in here so that it seems as though the patient has been deprived of drugs far longer than the actual hours. During the craving period, anxiety levels can be high and the patient will start to look for any possible source of the drug. They may go through the house, literally moving the furniture and searching through pockets in order to find even a small portion of meth.
With most meth-dependents hiding their drugs in multiple places to secure a ready supply, it’s not surprising to find them going through all their hiding places. Not being able to find any supply can make them more desperate, anxious, irritable, and perhaps even violent. This is also the stage where the patient rationalizes his drug use – perhaps telling himself that he’ll only use a small amount so that he’s not really cheating.
As time passes, the cravings start to subside and the anxiety levels slow down to levels that would allow the person to become more functional. Note though that during this stage, certain symptoms of the Crash Stage may still be present. That is, there could be feelings of depression, fatigue, and insomnia as the body gets used to the lack of meth in the system.
To remain firm during the Cravings Stage, patients are made to avoid triggers. Places, food, people, music, and other elements which can trigger the cravings are kept away from the patient so that they are less likely to think about the substance. Distractions and a healthy diet are also encouraged to help patients through this phase.
Finally, there’s the Recovery Stage where the cravings are less intense and therefore easier to ignore or distract yourself from. While there are still moments of cravings, this is the point where an individual is in a better position to exercise control over their decisions. Recovery is an ongoing process and is the longest of all three stages – lasting up to 30 weeks or more.
The Recovery Stage is the best time for patients to grab opportunities that will allow them to steer clear of meth use. This is the perfect time to establish new routines and habits with a view towards a healthier lifestyle. Activities such as fishing and gardening are encouraged to focus the mind, decrease anxiety, and encourage socialization with helpful people.
Most users have such a hard time with the Craving Stage that they often give up before even reaching Recovery. This is why it’s important to extend a helping hand through each Stage of the process, thereby giving patients the best chance of moving through the tunnel and into the better and sober future on the other side.