Prolonged use of amphetamines can lead to physical dependence on the drug, which involves the intake of the drug to function normally. Such dependence on amphetamines involves the adaptation of certain brain regions to the regular intake of the drug. This includes an adaptation of the dopamine neurons in brain centers that are involved in encoding the reinforcing properties of drugs like amphetamines. These adaptations in the brain lead to regular intake of the drug (i.e. dependence), and discontinuation of drug use results in a negative response in the form of withdrawal symptoms.
The symptoms of amphetamine withdrawal, although generally non-life-threatening, include depression and cravings that can lead to a relapse. Treatment at a medical detox can help the individual cope with these symptoms of amphetamine withdrawal.
Amphetamine Withdrawal Symptoms
Some of the symptoms of amphetamine withdrawal include
- Changes in mood involving depression, anxiety, irritability, anhedonia
- Drug cravings
- Sleep disturbances including insomnia and unpleasant dreams
- Increased appetite
- Muscle and bone pain
- Impaired social functioning
- Psychotic symptoms may also be present in individuals who experienced such symptoms during drug use.
How Long Do Amphetamines Stay In Your System?
Orally ingested amphetamines have a peak effect 1-3 hours after administration, whereas intravenously injected amphetamines have a peak effect within 15 minutes. Amphetamines have an elimination half-life(i.e. the time required to eliminate half of the total amount of drug) between 9 to 14 hours. The elimination half-life of amphetamines depends on the pH of the urine since amphetamines and its metabolites are eliminated through urine. The elimination half-life may increase to 18-34 hours when the pH of urine is greater than 6.7 i.e. is alkaline.
Amphetamine Withdrawal Timeline
Most of the symptoms of amphetamine withdrawal last for about 3 weeks. This period may be divided into two phases – the initial acute phase that lasts for about a week and the subsequent subacute phase that lasts for the remaining two weeks. The withdrawal symptoms peak in severity during the initial 24 hours after onset of abstinence from amphetamines. These symptoms include hypersomnia, increased appetite and depression. Some of the more severe symptoms during this period include depressive symptoms like inactivity, anhedonia ( an inability to feel pleasure), dysphoria (i.e. a feeling of general unease) and fatigue.
Other less severe symptoms may include an inability to concentrate, unpleasant dreams, anxiety, agitation, irritability, cravings, and motor retardation. Most of these symptoms resolve within the first 7-10 days after the onset of abstinence and persist at a stable level during the subacute phase. Sleep disturbances and increased appetite, however, tend to persist at similar levels in the sub-acute phase. Insomnia may also be observed during the sub-acute phase.
Factors Impacting Withdrawal from Amphetamines
The severity of symptoms of amphetamine withdrawal is influenced by the individual’s physiological characteristics (i.e. metabolism) and drug use history. Factors associated with drug use history, including the dose, frequency and duration of drug use, tend to influence the severity of withdrawal symptoms. Factors influencing physiological characteristics such as genetics, overall health and age also influence the severity of withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms tend to be more severe in individuals with severe dependence and in older individuals with a slower metabolism. Dependence on multiple substances can also result in more severe withdrawal symptoms.
Dangers of Amphetamine Withdrawal
In most cases, the symptoms of amphetamine withdrawal are not life-threatening. However, abstinence from amphetamines can lead to severe depression and may result in suicidal ideas or attempts. Psychotic symptoms may emerge during the withdrawal period if the individual experienced such symptoms during drug use. Thes symptoms are rare and may involve paranoid delusions and hallucinations. In such cases of psychotic behavior, individuals may become agitated and aggressive and can cause harm to others or themselves.
Detoxification involves the elimination of amphetamines from the system and management of the withdrawal symptoms that occur as a consequence of the discontinuation of drug use. There are no medications available for the treatment of amphetamine withdrawal but specific symptoms may be managed with the help of medications. Although there are no medications approved for the treatment of amphetamine withdrawal, modafinil (Provigil), methylphenidate (Ritalin) and certain non-SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) antidepressants like bupropion, mirtazapine have shown some promise in the treatment of withdrawal symptoms.
Detoxing at Home
The adverse withdrawal symptoms caused due to abstinence from amphetamines often lead to a relapse. Detoxification at home carries an increased risk of exposure to triggers that may lead to drug use and is hence not recommended. In case of detoxing at home, one must enlist the support of a friend or a family member and must seek advice from a doctor before starting the detoxification process. The physician may prescribe medications that may help alleviate certain withdrawal symptoms. Drug intake should not be discontinued abruptly as this can lead to more severe withdrawal symptoms. Drug intake should be instead tapered gradually over many days.
Intake of plenty of water and vitamin supplements is also recommended.
Engaging in soothing and pleasurable activities like listening to music can help take the individual’s mind off the unpleasant symptoms. Taking warm baths, practicing yoga or engaging in exercise can also be helpful. It is not advisable to detox using commercially available kits since these products are not regulated and may have their own adverse effects.
Detoxing at a Treatment Center
Detoxification may be undertaken either at an outpatient or inpatient treatment center. Treatment at both an inpatient and outpatient detox generally involves medications prescribed by a physician to manage the adverse withdrawal symptoms. Treatment at an outpatient detox allows an individual to continue with their daily life activities and return home at night. However, this may result in exposure to triggers such as peers who use the drug and cause a relapse. Treatment at an inpatient facility is generally advisable due to the intensive care provided in a safe and drug-free environment.
Medically Assisted Detox
Treatment at a medical detox involves 24-hour care provided by medical professionals in a safe and supportive environment. This involves the use of medications to manage or treat the emergent withdrawal symptoms as well as behavioral therapy in the form of counseling. Medications such as benzodiazepines can help address withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety and insomnia, whereas antipsychotics and antidepressants may be used in more severe cases involving mood disturbances. Non-opioid analgesics may also be used to relieve skeletomuscular pain.
Finding an Amphetamine Detox Center in Ohio
Finding the right detox center can be challenging, with many facilities providing similar kinds of treatments. Since the severity of withdrawal symptoms of an individual is influenced by their drug use history, physiological symptoms and co-use of other substances, individualized care is necessary. It is essential to find a detox facility that provides treatment tailored for each individual and the treatment protocols are based on scientific evidence.
It is also essential to ensure that the treatment at the detox is provided by accredited and experienced medical staff. Guidance from a medical professional can be useful in selecting a detox center. Due to the high cost of treatment, It is also essential to ensure that treatment at the detox facility is covered under the individual’s healthcare plan. Here is a list of drug detox centers in Ohio.
If you or a loved one suffers from amphetamine addiction, The Recovery Village Columbus can help. The Recovery Village Columbus provides evidence-based treatment for drug addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders delivered by accredited and experienced medical professionals.
Australian Government Department of Health. “Pharmacology of Amphetamines.” April 2004. Accessed September 5, 2019.
McGregor, Catherine, Manit Srisurapanont, Jaroon Jittiwutikarn, Suchart Laobhripatr, Thirawat Wongtan, and Jason M. White. “The nature, time course and severity of […]hetamine withdrawal.” Addiction. September 2005. Accessed September 5, 2019.
The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.