meth abuse facts

Withdrawal symptoms  |  Withdrawal timeline  |  Detox |  Back to top

Methamphetamine is known by a variety of slang terms, including “glass”, “blade”, “crystal”, “quartz” and “ice” amongst others. From the early 20th century, it was developed from amphetamine (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2013). Pharmaceutical methamphetamine is used in medicines that treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) as well as obesity or narcolepsy. When prescribed, it is classified as a Schedule II stimulant.

Crystal meth is a heavily concentrated, crystallized form of methamphetamine that can be smoked or injected intravenously. It is manufactured illegally in “laboratories” from ephedrine or pseudo-ephedrine. Both of these aforementioned substances are usually prescribed in drugs aimed at decongestion (Ciccarone, 2011).

According to statistics from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (2013):

  • In 2012, approximately 1.2 million people reported using methamphetamine in the past year
  • It was the fourth most common illegal drug regarding emergency department visits
  • It shows regional variation in the United States. For example, it ranked first in drug-related treatment admissions in Hawaii and San Diego, second in San Franciso and third in Phoenix and Denver.

Methamphetamines is a powerful stimulant. Unlike cocaine, which is a short-acting drug, methamphetamines produce a long-lasting high. It increases dopamine release in the brain and, like cocaine, blocks dopamine re-uptake (Gouzoulis-Mayfrank et al., 2017). The net effect is euphoria or a “high.” People abusing this drug may display the following behavior (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2013):

  • Dilated pupils
  • Anxiety or panic
  • Violence
  • Paranoia
  • Seizures
  • Euphoria
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Increased blood pressure, body temperature and heart rate

Long-term use of methamphetamines is what the news often shows pictures of. These addicts suffer from weight loss, severe tooth decay and tooth loss (infamous “meth mouth”) as well as jaw clenching. These unsightly signs and symptoms are caused by a combination of poor nutrition, poor dental hygiene as well as teeth grinding. Long-term sufferers may also experience psychosis with hallucinations (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2013).

symptoms of meth withdrawal

Abuse facts  |  Withdrawal timeline  |  Detox |  Back to top

Whilst cocaine’s effects may only last for roughly 30 minutes, methamphetamine’s effects can last for about 8-12 hours. The methamphetamine come-down that follows thereafter is well-studied in the literature and involves the same symptoms from other stimulant withdrawal (Ciccarone, 2011). The symptoms may simply occur later in a methamphetamine user.

Some of the symptoms during withdrawal include (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2013):

  • Agitation
  • Restless behavior
  • Insomnia
  • Cravings
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Increased hunger
  • Nightmares

meth withdrawal timeline

Abuse facts  |  Withdrawal symptoms  |  Detox |  Back to top

Methamphetamine withdrawal begins about 24 hours after abstinence. It then reaches its peak within the first 7 to 10 days after stopping meth. The user progresses through the following phases (The Australian Drug Foundation, 2016):

  1. Crash phase

This is the phase where the user is agitated and depressed. Patients experience severe cravings, insomnia and exhaustion. Thereafter, a patient may be hyper-somnolent (sleep for extended periods of time).

  1. Honeymoon phase

The user feels better for a short period of time.

  1. The wall phase

This is the period wherein the stimulant-user experiences protracted, unpleasant withdrawal. This usually lasts for months, and lasts longer in methamphetamine users than cocaine users. The symptoms include depression, anxiety, low energy levels, insomnia and prominent cravings. There is a high chance of relapse during this phase secondary to the length of it.

  1. Extinction phase

Eventually, normal behavior resumes with cravings being brought on by certain triggers.

Please peruse our guide on cocaine detox as it follows the same withdrawal timeline as methamphetamine.

symptoms of meth detox

Abuse facts  |  Withdrawal symptoms  |  Withdrawal timeline  |  Back to top

Withdrawal symptoms are less consistently severe than withdrawal from alcohol or opioids, but can lead to severe depression or psychosis. Users often feel as though their withdrawal will continue indefinitely and experience crushing hopelessness. This in turn may lead to a methamphetamine user harming themselves or others (Ciccarone, 2011). This highlights the importance of a professional detoxification center in order to oversee this intense, emotional period.

There are a variety of treatment centers available to you or your family member. Contact one today.



The Australian Drug Foundation. (2016). Breaking the Ice in Our Community. Retrieved February 27, 2-10, from

Ciccarone, D. (2011). Stimulant abuse: pharmacology, cocaine, methamphetamine, treatment, attempts at pharmacotherapy. Primary Care38(1), 41-58.

Gouzoulis-Mayfrank, E., Härtel-Petri, R., Hamdorf, W., Havemann-Reinecke, U., Mühlig, S., & Wodarz, N. (2017). Methamphetamine-Related Disorders. Deutsches Arzteblatt International114(26), 455-461.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2013). Methamphetamine. Retrieved February 27, 2019, from

Medically Reviewed: September 25, 2019

Dr Ashley

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Dr Ashley Murray obtained her MBBCh Cum Laude in 2016. She currently practices in the public domain in South Africa. She has an interest in medical writing and has a keen interest in evidence-based medicine.

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Guide to Methamphetamine Detoxification.

Written By Jeff Mahre BA MFA MLIS - January 12th, 2017

The horrors of methamphetamine have been well-documented on the news and internet. For example, we have all seen the heart-breaking before-and-after mugshots. Television shows such as “Breaking Bad” have furthermore popularized the subject. Its notoriety lies in the fact that this drug has a high potential for abuse and long-term side effects. Contact someone who can help you today.