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How to Get Off Methamphetamine: Tips & Treatment Options

Peter Manza, PhD profile image
Reviewed By Peter Manza, PhD • Updated Sep 14, 2023 • 8 cited sources

Getting off methamphetamine can be extremely difficult, as it is a highly addictive substance. Meth withdrawal symptoms and the crash from coming down can be distressing and unpleasant, which is why professional detox is often recommended. While there aren’t any medications that can help with methamphetamine withdrawal and methamphetamine use disorder directly, the condition can be effectively treated with a comprehensive addiction treatment program consisting of various individual, group, and family therapies.

How Hard is it to Get Off Meth?

Quick Answer

It can be difficult for many people to quit meth because of how powerfully addictive it is. Using meth causes an intense rush of pleasure and euphoria due to a dopamine surge, causing people to want to repeat this behavior. Quitting once you’re dependent results in uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms and intense methamphetamine cravings, which may cause someone to relapse to use. Quitting meth is much easier with professional detox and addiction treatment.

Tips for Quitting Meth

Quitting methamphetamine can be challenging, but it is easier with support and professional treatment. 

Here are some tips for getting off meth and staying abstinent long-term:

  • Enter a professional detox program
  • Attend a meth addiction treatment program
  • After treatment, attend aftercare such as support group meetings and ongoing therapy
  • Create a strong sober support network
  • Learn how to recognize relapse warning signs
  • Create a relapse prevention plan
  • Write a list of positive affirmations for addiction recovery and hang them somewhere you’ll see them
  • Engage in hobbies that you enjoy
  • Get regular exercise, whether that’s walking your dog, playing a team sport, or dancing
  • Avoid old friends and locations you associate with using meth
  • Practice mindfulness and meditation
  • Start a gratitude journal
  • Get enough sleep and eat nutritious meals
  • Develop a structured routine
  • Celebrate milestones

The key to recovery from methamphetamine use disorder is to take it one step and one day at a time. Be patient with yourself and yourself the same kindness and forgiveness you would offer a loved one.

What Makes Quitting Methamphetamine Hard?

Methamphetamine is a powerful stimulant that can easily cause physical and psychological dependence with repeated use.[1] It is also often cut with the opioid, fentanyl, which is itself highly addictive and a frequent cause of overdose deaths. An individual taking methamphetamine may not know their drugs have been laced with other substances.

Still, on its own methamphetamine is highly addictive. Repeated methamphetamine use causes major changes in the brain’s functioning and structure, especially in the reward system. These changes reinforce using methamphetamine over “natural” rewards like eating or having sex. Other activities become less pleasurable compared to the intense high caused by meth.[1]

Continued meth use leads to tolerance, physiological dependence, and methamphetamine use disorder, a condition characterized by compulsive use regardless of negative consequences. Repeated methamphetamine use changes brain chemistry, causing issues with:[1]

  • Memory
  • Coordination
  • Emotional regulation
  • Decision-making
  • Learning
  • Mood
  • Motivation

These neurological changes and toxic effects can reinforce meth behavior and make cravings difficult to resist.

Unfortunately, unlike opioids and alcohol, there are no pharmacological agents or medications that have consistently been proven to help prevent methamphetamine use, which makes methamphetamine use disorder (MUD) in some ways more challenging to treat. 

Methamphetamine Withdrawal Symptoms: Acute and Protracted

A person quitting methamphetamine must first engage in a period of drug abstinence called acute withdrawal. When someone who is dependent on this stimulant abruptly stops taking it, they’ll experience methamphetamine withdrawal symptoms, which can be very unpleasant. They tend to increase in intensity, peak, and then slowly get better over time. 

Acute Withdrawal Phase

Acute methamphetamine withdrawal can vary in intensity, generally depending on how long and how heavily a person has been using methamphetamine, but it is typically characterized by the following symptoms:[1],[2]

  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Potentially severe depression, with most people self-reporting mild to moderate depression
  • Temporary psychosis (a break from reality, where one may believe or hallucinate things that aren’t real)
  • Intense drug cravings
  • Hypersomnia or insomnia
  • Nightmares
  • Rapid, purposeless movements like pacing or fidgeting
  • Slowed movements and thoughts

Acute methamphetamine withdrawal tends to be the most distressing and lasts between 7 and 10 days.[3]

Many people choose to go through acute withdrawal at an inpatient detox facility, which is also the recommendation of many experts. These facilities can help you feel more comfortable and support you as you go through the worst of withdrawal. 

They also put additional barriers in place toward accessing meth, which can make resisting potentially very strong drug cravings less difficult. Ultimately, if you undergo meth withdrawal with professional supervision, relapse is less likely.

Post-Acute Withdrawal from Meth

The second phase, in which symptoms become less severe but still linger, is the post-acute or protracted withdrawal phase. This phase can last another few weeks to even months, depending on the individual. 

Meth protracted withdrawal symptoms may include:[4]

  • Increased appetite
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Meth cravings
  • Inability to feel pleasure
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Fatigue
  • Psychosis

These post-acute withdrawal symptoms can be frustrating and disrupt a person’s daily life as well as increase the risk of relapse. This is why receiving ongoing support and therapy is so important—if you are feeling tempted to use meth, you can lean on your support system, your sober friends and your therapist.

Meth Detox: The First Step Toward Recovery

Because meth withdrawal can be distressing and lead to relapse, the best way to manage withdrawal symptoms is to enter a detox program. During detox, a team of medical professionals treats meth withdrawal symptoms and helps keep you comfortable and safe throughout the process. They are also there to prevent and treat any complications that may arise during withdrawal.

There are many different settings for meth detox, including:

  • Medical detox: This occurs in a hospital and is the most intensive detox setting, offering 24-hour medical care and supervision.
  • Inpatient detox: This occurs in a freestanding detox center or as part of an inpatient meth rehab program, offering around-the-clock supervision and monitoring and some medical care.
  • Partial hospitalization/intensive outpatient detox: These outpatient detox settings provide a high level of support and care while allowing you to return home in the evenings.
  • Outpatient detox: This is the least intensive detox setting and involves appointments during the day while living at home. 

Some of the benefits of choosing medical or inpatient detox include:

  • 24/7 monitoring, care and supervision
  • Prevent and address medical or mental health dangers
  • Structure and routine
  • Supportive medical care like nutritional therapy and IV fluids
  • Separating from the meth using environment

Once you go through meth detox and achieve medical stabilization, it’s time to transition into an addiction treatment program. This is because detox only addresses the physical challenges of meth withdrawal—it doesn’t help create lasting behavioral change or address the underlying factors that caused you to use meth in the first place. Another benefit of attending professional detox is that the treatment team can help transition you directly into a meth rehab.

Attending Addiction Treatment

Once you complete detox, the next step on the road to recovery is to enter a comprehensive and integrated treatment program where you can focus on rectifying maladaptive behaviors, learning healthy coping skills, and understanding more about your meth addiction.

Treatment Settings

Much like detox, there are many different treatment settings, including:

  • Inpatient rehab: The most intensive setting, you live at the rehab for between 30 and 90 days while receiving a variety of therapies and interventions.
  • Partial hospitalization: The most intensive outpatient setting, you live at home while attending up to 30 hours of care per week. 
  • Intensive outpatient: A step down from partial hospitalization, you live at home and attend between 9 and 20 hours of treatment per week, for several months.
  • Outpatient treatment: The most flexible treatment setting, you reside at home and attend a few hours of counseling per week. Outpatient may work best when used as step-down care after completing an initial stay at an inpatient program.

Therapies Used to Treat Methamphetamine Use Disorder

During the program, your treatment team will conduct an assessment and create an individualized treatment plan based on your needs and goals. The most common therapies used to treat stimulant use disorder include:[8]

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): You learn to understand the connection between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in order to reduce meth use and learn healthier coping mechanisms.
  • Motivational interviewing: Motivational interviewing helps you overcome ambivalent feelings about getting off meth and increase motivation to quit.
  • Contingency management: This behavioral therapy rewards abstinent behaviors with tangible rewards like cash or prizes.
  • Community reinforcement approach: Often used in combination with contingency management, this therapy identifies behaviors that cause meth use and work to make a substance-free life more rewarding.

Many people go to addiction support groups, which can further help to build healthy relationships with others and also give you an outlet to talk with people who have firsthand experience with the same issues.[6] The right support group for you will depend on your preferences and needs, but there are many different kinds for people of various backgrounds. 

Medications to Treat Methamphetamine Use Disorder

While some substance use disorders can be treated in part with medication (such as Suboxone for opioid use disorder), there aren’t any drugs approved to treat a methamphetamine use disorder. A doctor may prescribe you medication to reduce some of your withdrawal symptoms or treat a co-occurring mental health condition like depression or anxiety, but there is not yet a way to treat the addiction more directly. 

Some areas of promise that may help treat methamphetamine addiction easier in the future include the following:[5]

  • Noninvasive magnetic brain stimulation
  • Specialized vaccines
  • Drugs designed to reduce the reinforcing effects of methamphetamine use

At this time, the mainstays of treatment for MUD are behavioral therapies. 

Is Quitting Meth ‘Cold Turkey’ Safe?

Quitting methamphetamine “cold turkey” is unlikely to cause you serious harm, but it isn’t the best way to quit. While the definition of the term can vary, cold turkey usually implies trying to quit on your own abruptly, usually without professional help. 

Quitting on your own doesn’t carry any real medical benefits, and it means you aren’t going to learn the strategies professionals can teach you to avoid drug use long-term. Even if you get through withdrawal without help, which isn’t easy in itself, that doesn’t “cure” addiction. There is no cure for addiction, but it can be effectively treated and managed with comprehensive care.[7]

The best way to get off methamphetamine in the long term is with professional help. Treatment comes in a wide array of options, ranging from inpatient programs to virtual care, so you can easily find the right level of support for your situation.

Reviewed By Peter Manza, PhD

Peter Manza, PhD received his BA in Psychology and Biology from the University of Rochester and his PhD in Integrative Neuroscience at Stony Brook University. He is currently working as a research scientist in Washington, DC. His research focuses on the role ... Read More

  1. Methamphetamine. National Institute on Drug Abuse. May 2019. Accessed November 2022.
  2. Withdrawal Symptoms in Abstinent Methamphetamine-Dependent Subjects. Addiction. October 2010. Accessed November 2022.
  3. The Nature, Time Course and Severity of Methamphetamine Withdrawal. Addiction. September 2005. Accessed November 2022.
  4. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2021). Treatment for stimulant use disorders. Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series 33. SAMHSA Publication No. PEP21-02-01- 004. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
  5. Motivational Incentives Research in the National Drug Abuse Treatment Clinical Trials Network.  Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment. June 2011. Accessed November 2022.
  6. Efficacy of Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation in Patients With Methamphetamine Use Disorder: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Double-Blind Randomized Clinical Trials. Frontiers in Psychiatry. May 2022. Accessed November 2022.
  7. Benefits of Peer Support Groups in the Treatment of Addiction. Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation. September 2016. Accessed November 2022.
  8. Treatment of Stimulant Use Disorders. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. 2020. Accessed July 11, 2023.

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