Amphetamine Detox, Withdrawal and Treatment Options

When a person uses amphetamines regularly over a period of time, their body and mind develop a dependency on the drug; when they stop taking amphetamines, if a dependency has developed the body reacts to the absence of the drug in the user’s system.

This reaction is known as withdrawal and can be accompanied by a range of symptoms which can vary in type, duration and severity depending on a number of factors including the duration of the user’s dependency, the dosages they have become accustomed to and the method by which they have been taking the drug

While withdrawal from amphetamines is not generally considered to present a significant direct risk to a person’s life (unlike some substances including, it is always advisable to carry out withdrawal from any drug with the assistance of a health professional;

Some symptoms commonly associated with withdrawal from amphetamines include:

  • Exhaustion/lethargy
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia
  • Agitation
  • Very vivid dreams and nightmares:
  • Significantly affected appetite
  • Muscular pain
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Anhedonia
  • Cravings
  • Psychosis

Again, the severity and duration of these symptoms will vary from person to person, as will the specific symptoms experienced.

Amphetamine Withdrawal Timeline

Each person experiences withdrawal from amphetamines differently: as already noted, a variety of factors will affect the type, severity and duration of the symptoms produced, and will also have an impact on when each symptom manifests itself.

As a result, any withdrawal timeline should only be considered a rough outline of what can be expected: if certain symptoms haven’t shown up by a certain time that’s no guarantee that they won’t occur later.

Generally speaking, a typical amphetamine withdrawal timeline might be:

  • Days 1-3: Amphetamine withdrawal symptoms usually begin 24-36 hours after the last dose of the drug, when what is often referred to as the “crash” begins. The user may feel intense cravings for the drug, along with agitation, exhaustion (and likely insomnia), anxiety and sweating. Aches and pains may occur at random. Intense nightmares may also begin.
  • Days 3-5: The user may feel profound exhaustion and lethargy, coupled with an ongoing Cravings may still be intense, although these and other symptoms will begin decreasing in duration, frequency and intensity. Depression may set in.
  • Days 6-14: The worst of the withdrawal will have passed, but sleep patterns and appetite are likely still to be affected. The recovering user may be struggling with lethargy and depression, made worse by anhedonia.
  • Two weeks and onwards: a fortnight after the last dose, the user will be “clean” from amphetamines and most withdrawal symptoms will have disappeared. However, in some cases symptoms such as depression, cravings, sleep problems and anhedonia may persist as post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS), for which some doctors may prescribe medication and which can be helped by ongoing therapy.

Treatment Options for Amphetamine Addiction

There are a number of different options for amphetamine addicts looking to break their substance abuse disorders. While each person may respond differently to different treatment, in general, a combination of rehabilitation and post-rehab therapy and support is viewed as having the greatest efficacy in terms of contributing to a permanent recovery.

Rehab

Banbury Lodge provides a tailored treatment programme for those struggling with amphetamine addiction. Our programme consists of:

  • Medical detox where appropriate
  • 24 hour care from professional staff
  • One-to-one therapy such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Dialectical Behaviour Therapy
  • Group therapy
  • An introduction to the 12 steps
  • Skills workshops
  • Educational workshops
  • Holistic treatments
  • Family Therapy
  • Aftercare and relapse prevention

What Does Rehab Entail?

Rehabilitation, in its broadest sense, is a catch-all term used to describe the processes by which a person addicted to a substance or substances can be treated for their addiction and begin to lead a drug-free life; however, it’s most commonly used (as in “going to rehab”) to mean the facilities in which an addict can get that treatment.

Rehab usually comprises medically assisted detoxification (whereby an addict is supervised while they go through detox to cleanse their body of substances of abuse) followed by a variety of therapy options aimed at tackling the root causes of a person’s addiction and equipping them with specific tools and methods to avoid returning to their old ways once they leave rehab.

The addict will also be given dietary and fitness programmes to enable them to lead a healthier lifestyle, giving them a physical and psychological boost (as well as helping speed up the rebalancing of brain chemistry). Rehab organisations will also provide aftercare – often for up to a year – to ensure the recovering addict has ongoing support long after they have escaped their addiction.

Rehab can be attended on an inpatient or outpatient basis. The former has numerous benefits: first and foremost, the 24/7 nature of treatment during a stay in residential rehab (normally for around 28 days, but potentially longer) means the patient will always be very close to health professionals and to therapists if they feel in urgent need of help for whatever reason; meanwhile, they will be kept away from amphetamines so that no matter how intense their cravings might be they will be unable to relapse. They’ll also find themselves in a pleasant and relaxing environment conducive to their recovery.

For addicts with work or family commitments which mean they are unable to stay 24/7 in a facility, outpatient rehab is available whereby they will attend treatments and therapy sessions on-site but will return home and/or to work outside those sessions. This does, however, mean that they will not be wholly isolated from the risk of using amphetamines again whilst off-site, and being in their familiar environment may mean cravings are all the harder to resist.

All rehabs are very privacy-minded institutions and patient confidentiality is paramount.

Medication

There is no medication currently available to treat amphetamine withdrawal directly – and, unfortunately, no “magic bullet” medicine which can remove an addiction purely through medicinal means. However, some medication can be prescribed to deal with specific withdrawal symptoms.

Some benzodiazepines (for example, diazepam) can be helpful in treating irritability and agitation, and for relaxing the patient to help with sleep disorders. If the patient is showing signs of psychosis, antipsychotic medication might also be prescribed. Doctors may also believe it necessary to prescribe certain antidepressants to deal with depression both during and after withdrawal.

It’s important to note, though, that such medication might not be appropriate for every patient (for example, certain pre-existing conditions may mean that dangerous complications could arise) and doctors are often especially cautious when considering the use of medication (such as the aforementioned benzodiazepines) which can themselves be habit-forming. It’s crucial that an addict follows the advice of their GP and/or any other health professional/s involved in their case, and does not attempt to self-medicate.

Therapy

A wide variety of therapies – both group and one-to-one – are available both within and outside rehab which can have a very positive impact on a patient’s recovery and chances of staying permanently “clean”. A recovering addict may initially be suspicious of therapy (especially if they haven’t ever attended therapy or counselling before) and/or unwilling to share their stories in front of others in a group setting; however, the benefits of participating fully in therapy can be profound and such participation is greatly encouraged as a means of addressing the fundamental origins of a person’s addiction.

As with much else, each addict might respond differently to different types of therapy and there’s no hard and fast rule which says that certain models work better for amphetamine addiction than others. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Motivational Therapy (MT) are two models commonly found in rehab, along with group therapy (with the groups frequently comprising fellow amphetamine addicts, to ensure that each other’s stories and experiences can provide useful learnings of relevance to the addict’s specific situation).

After a person has “got clean”, either via residential rehab or through other means, ongoing support can be found via groups such as Narcotics Anonymous (which has branches throughout the UK) and/or through independent therapists.

Don’t waste another day