Aims: To characterize the natural history of methamphetamine withdrawal during the first 3 weeks of abstinence.
Design: Cross-sectional study with comparison group. Setting A substance use treatment facility in Chiang Mai Province, Thailand.
Participants: The sample comprised 21 in-patients undergoing treatment for methamphetamine dependence. Nine age- and sex-matched non-dependent individuals provided comparison data.
Measurements: Instruments including: the Amphetamine Withdrawal Questionnaire, a modified version of the Cocaine Selective Severity Assessment, Clinical Global Impression scale and the St Mary's Hospital Sleep Questionnaire were completed daily for the first 3 weeks of abstinence.
Findings: Methamphetamine withdrawal severity declined from a high initial peak within 24 hours of the last use of amphetamines reducing to near control levels by the end of the first week of abstinence (the acute phase). The acute phase of amphetamine withdrawal was characterized by increased sleeping and eating, a cluster of depression-related symptoms and less severely, anxiety and craving-related symptoms. Following the acute withdrawal phase most withdrawal symptoms remained stable and at low levels for the remaining 2 weeks of abstinence.
Conclusions: This study has provided evidence of a methamphetamine withdrawal syndrome that can be categorized into two phases, the acute phase lasting 7-10 days during which overall symptom severity declined in a linear pattern from a high initial peak, and a subacute phase lasting at least a further 2 weeks.