Central nervous system stimulants are a common drug in both medical and recreational use. Many can cause a euphoric high, increased energy, and a feeling of empowerment. Amphetamines, meth, and cocaine are commonly abused for their positive effects. However, they can also cause adverse effects, particularly after you become chemically dependent. Stimulant withdrawal symptoms can be unpleasant and even painful. Learn more about stimulant withdrawal and how it can be treated.
What are Stimulant Withdrawal Symptoms?
Stimulants can cause immediate side effects as soon as they start to wear off. These effects are usually called a comedown or crash. The symptoms of a stimulant crash may be fatigue, irritability, difficulty focusing, anxiety, and depression. However, if you’ve developed a chemical dependence on a stimulant, withdrawal symptoms may continue for several days. Common symptoms of stimulant withdrawal include:
- Severe headache
- Changes in heart rate
- Changes in blood pressure
- Concentration issues
- Suicidal thoughts
- General discomfort
What are the Stages of Stimulant Withdrawal Timeline?
The stages of withdrawal you experience after quitting a stimulant may depend on the specific drug you use, the size of your average dose, and the size of your last dose. Withdrawal can begin anywhere between 12 hours to a few days after your last dose. The drug’s half-life can also determine how long it remains active in your system. A half-life is the amount of time it takes for your body to reduce it to half of its original concentration in your blood. When a drug reaches its half-life, it usually doesn’t take long for its effects to fade. For instance, cocaine’s half-life is one hour, and its effects usually last between five and 90 minutes.
Stimulant withdrawal usually starts with fatigue and a low mood. As the drug’s high fades, you’re left feeling tired and depressed. Stimulant binges can often cause hypersomnia after they end. As withdrawal continues, you may feel deep depression, anxiety, general discomfort, fatigue, trouble sleeping, sleep disturbances, and the inability to focus. Anhedonia can occur in some cases, which is the inability to feel pleasure. These symptoms are usually temporary, but it can take some time before it fades.
After about a week, most physical discomfort will fade, and acute withdrawal symptoms will go away, but psychological symptoms may linger. Symptoms like anxiety and depression may last a few more weeks. If you have symptoms that last longer than a month, they may need to be addressed in treatment.
Should I Detox?
Stimulant withdrawal isn’t usually life-threatening, but it can be extremely uncomfortable. It may also be difficult to get through it without relapsing. In some cases, the psychological symptoms of withdrawal can be severe. Depression can lead to anhedonia, which is the inability to feel pleasure. This is often seen with chronic meth use because dopamine receptors are damaged and become less functional.
Severe anhedonia or depression can lead to suicidal thoughts or actions. However, detox programs can help treat physical and psychological symptoms. Medical detox involves 24-hour medically managed treatment. It usually lasts for a week to ten days before you’re able to move on to the next level of care. Detox is an important part of treatment for many, but it’s not all you need to address addiction. The full continuum of care from inpatient to outpatient services may be necessary.