A meth high usually lasts less than a day. But how long does the powerful substance stay in your system?
What is Meth and Meth Addiction?
Methamphetamine (meth) is a strong, addictive, and illegal drug that affects the central nervous system. Originally, methamphetamine was developed from amphetamine to be used in bronchial inhalers and nasal decongestants. But today, only one legal meth product exists for the treatment of ADHD and exogenous obesity, called Desoxyn. It is considered the second most popular illicit drug globally, and the United States law classifies meth as a Schedule II drug, yet 2.5 million Americans aged 12 or older reported having used methamphetamine in 2020.
Illicit methamphetamine goes under the street names speed, ice, crystal, crank, or chalk. The dangerous drug can lead to serious complications, both short and long-term, as well as overdose.
Like most drug abuse, Meth affects the brain’s reward system. Only it is so powerful that even first-time meth users have a very strong urge to use it again. A very small amount of meth can cause physical dependence and addiction.
Meth is such a highly addictive drug due to the long-lasting euphoria it creates, and the fact that a user will try to match the first euphoric high by increasing the amount. Meth addiction is a serious problem as it comes with severe consequences. It can have long-term effects on your health even after leaving your system.
These include severe dental problems, known as meth mouth, skin sores from scratching due to itching, anxiety, memory loss, and changes in brain function. A person may suffer from extreme weight loss and malnourishment, while violent behavior in drug-induced episodes and sleeping disorders are common too.
Effects of Meth
The effects of illicit meth are very different from prescribed methamphetamines. Smoking, snorting, ingesting, or injecting meth obtained illegally can cause unpredictable effects, as it is often sold as meth but the quality and potency are unknown, and it often includes other adulterants or substances.
Usually, people experience stages of meth intoxication before they crash. After ingesting the substance, a person may experience a rush that lasts between five to thirty minutes. This rush is usually followed by a longer meth high, lasting four to sixteen hours. Here, a person may experience increased awareness, rapid thinking patterns and speech, and obsessive behavior.
When the high wears off, binging usually begins, during which a person smokes or injects more and more of the drug, but experiences smaller rushes until the body does not respond anymore and there is no high. During this phase, which can last three to fifteen days, an abuser may become mentally and physically hyperactive and easily avoid eating or sleeping.
The last stage, called tweaking, is when the high effects have worn off and side effects and withdrawal symptoms start appearing. Here, a person can become increasingly unstable due to going many days without sleep, and they may be frustrated and paranoid, and experience itchy skin. Meth-induced psychosis can occur during intoxication or withdrawal after.
Further Effects of Meth Use
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), methamphetamine not only changes the way the brain works but also speeds up the body’s systems to lethal levels—increasing heart and breathing rates as well as blood pressure. Other effects and health consequences of methamphetamine use include:
- Inability to focus
- Elevated body temperature
- Dilated pupils
- Poor balance and coordination
- Visual and auditory hallucinations
- Delusions, such as the belief that insects crawl under the skin
- Depressed reflexes and an increased reaction time
- Time distortion
Meth Withdrawal Symptoms
Withdrawal symptoms from methamphetamine come with intense cravings, which often motivate a person to use more and more of it. The heavier and longer the use, the longer it takes to entirely leave the system.
Methamphetamine withdrawal symptoms include what is known as the ‘crash’. It lasts for one to three days when the body finally shuts down after overstimulation from a meth high. It can happen when a person stops using methamphetamines altogether too. The crash involves excessive fatigue and sleeping, and is followed by a ‘hangover’ stage, during which a person suffers from hunger, dehydration, and physical and mental exhaustion.
A methamphetamine overdose can be sudden or acute, when a person takes it intentionally or unintentionally, with deadly side effects. Meth accounts for 22.6% of drug overdose deaths in 2020 in the US. A chronic or long-term methamphetamine overdose refers to the consequences of regularly using meth on health.
How Long Does Meth Stay in Your System?
While the initial high may last less than a day, meth stays in the system for much more time. The liver remains hard at work long after the high wears off, breaking down the substance so that it can be removed. But exactly how long meth stays in the system depends on various factors.
Factors Influencing How Long Methamphetamine Stays in Your System
Detecting methamphetamine in the human body depends a lot on a person’s health, metabolism, age physical activity, and frequency of drug use. This makes it challenging to determine how long meth will show up on a test.
The health of an individual, especially their liver and kidney function, makes a difference in how rapidly meth is processed and removed from their body. A person that is in good overall health may be able to get rid of the substance quicker than a less healthy person. At the same time, a person’s metabolic rate plays a role.
The time it takes for the ingested dose to be metabolized and eliminated from the bloodstream differs from person to person; those with a high metabolism tend to process and excrete meth faster than those with a slow metabolism. Younger people usually have higher metabolism rates than older people, making the excretion of meth out of the system faster.
How much meth and how often a person uses also determines the length of its stay in the system. The more meth is used, the longer it takes to clear. Meth is also often combined with other stimulants, like cocaine or MDMA, or other drugs like heroin or ketamine. Apart from having very harmful effects on the body, combining substances lengthens the time it takes for all the substances to leave the system.
To detect methamphetamine, drug testing is used. The type of drug test makes a difference in answering the question, “how long does meth stay in the system?”.
Types of Drug Tests
The effects of methamphetamine can last for hours, but it may take many days for the drug to completely leave the body. Meth has an average half-life of 9-24 hours, meaning that it takes that long for the amount of methamphetamine in the bloodstream to be reduced by half, or for half the drug to exit the system.
Different tests have different detection times, and metabolites could show up for days after the last dose, or months.
Urine tests, for example, can typically detect meth use two to five hours after, and a positive urine test could occur after even a single use of meth for up to four days after. The detection interval in urine tests is therefore typically three to five days after the use, but in the case of heavy or chronic users, it could still be detected for up to a week.
Meth use can also be detected through blood testing. This method can show methamphetamine presence two hours after first using it. Crystal meth ( which is the powdered or crystallized form and is the most popular) will show up immediately in the blood.
A cotton swab can be used to collect saliva from the mouth to carry out a saliva test. This can test positive for methamphetamine within ten minutes of use and is accurate in detecting recent ingestion. Methamphetamine remains in saliva for one to four days after use.
There is also meth detection through a hair follicle test. Meth reaches the hair follicles seven to ten days after use, and hair tests can detect meth for up to three months.
Treatment for Meth Addiction
Even though there is no approved medication to treat meth use, there are addiction treatment programs that can help people recover. Detox, which involves the body getting rid of the drug and its toxins, usually presents meth withdrawal, which can be unpleasant and dangerous to undergo alone. Meth withdrawal management programs allow patients to go through detox with the support of medical professionals who may use medication to manage symptoms and reduce cravings, making it safer and more comfortable.
Treatment centers also offer behavioral therapy, which helps a user identify factors or causes underlying addiction as well as tools and skills to cope with them and respond to them healthily. Peer support through support groups also forms part of treatment, whereby members of a group share their experiences and support each other in the strive for sobriety.
Where Can I Find a Treatment Centre?
If you or a loved one needs help with meth abuse or addiction, look no further than NP Addiction Clinic. Our specialist team can stabilize and gradually reduce your dependency on meth through detox, with FDA-approved medications so that you can take your first recovery steps as painlessly as possible.
Our state-of-the-art residential program can be tailored to meet your mental, physical and emotional needs, to ensure that you get the highest care with around-the-clock support and guidance. NP Addiction’s holistic approach enables us to treat both mental health and addiction simultaneously. Underpinned by the philosophy of the 12-steps, we offer individual, group, trauma-focused, and family therapy, as well as art, music, and recreational therapy.