A central nervous system stimulant, crystal meth is a recreational drug with very powerful psychological effect. Those who try crystal meth even once can become psychologically dependent -- meaning that the learning and reward center in the brain instantly learns a deep, emotional connection to use of the drug. Those under the influence of this drug experience great, euphoric pleasure, and also go through phases of paranoia and impulses that lead them to extreme violence. Crystal meth withdrawal, similarly, is a dramatic process. Depending on the length of time for which addiction has lasted, withdrawal effects upon ceasing use can last weeks, subjecting the addict to severe pain and discomfort.
The presence of the meth drug in the system chemically disrupts brain function. When this happens, the natural response of the brain is to learn to adapt to its presence. In other words, brain functions change simply to accommodate the presence of the meth drug in the system.
When meth is tapered off in an attempt to quit, the brain needs to struggle yet again to find equilibrium as it adjusts to functioning without the drug. As it struggles, the brain can experience serious disruptions. These are experienced as withdrawal symptoms.
Many meth side effects can be severe. The first signs of withdrawal begin to show three hours after the last dose, and peak by the end of the first day. They continue at their most intense level for as long as four days. As these effects wear off, mild after-effects can last an indefinite period of time (although most people experience them no longer than 10 days).
The most common effects associated with meth are anxiety, depression, physical pain, paranoia, psychotic behavior and sleep deprivation. These can be maddening enough to cause most addicts to abandon plans to quit and return to active drug use. It is for this reason that it is always a good idea to withdraw under medical supervision in inpatient rehab.
Unlike detoxifying from other addictions, there are no specific medications indicated for crystal meth withdrawal. This does not mean that medications are not used to help ease the way out of addiction. Medications are frequently prescribed for every one of the various effects felt; prescriptions tend to be off-label, however. It takes considerable medical expertise in a physician or addiction expert to make such off-label prescriptions work. Symptomatic treatment is often offered for patients who are depressed or suicidal. For instance, specific antidepressants may be tried.
For those who are unfamiliar with the medical reasons behind addiction, it can seem odd that rehab would involve therapy. Therapy is the most important part of any treatment for addiction, however. It is in therapy that addicts learn to address the primary reasons for their need to turn to drug use. Therapeutic intervention is offered in its most intense form at the conclusion of the detox phase. This part of treatment is called relapse prevention. Patients learn a great deal about how addiction works, and how they should anticipate and head off cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Patients also receive a personal emotional support, a very important indicator for long-term sobriety.
Crystal meth addiction is a dangerous condition that needs close medical supervision and support. While some people do manage to withdraw on their own, the sobriety achieved doesn't usually last. It takes competent rehab to achieve lasting results.