The Latest Scientific Data About Recovery from Crystal Meth

(SPOILER: IT’S SOME VERY GOOD NEWS!)

Since the publication of Quitting Crystal Meth: What to Expect & What to Do, several new studies have been published on meth recovery, withdrawal timelines and what to expect during the first six months after quitting. I’m happy to report none of the studies conflict or contradict what you’ll read in the book in any substantial manner, but they do augment and, in some cases, give a few new insights into our first year of recovery.

When the second edition is published in 2018 (it’s important to keep up with the latest data), I will include all of this information and, hopefully, more. For now, however, I didn’t want for you to have to wait. So here’s what the scientific and medical community has learned about our journey of quitting.

On Cravings:

  • After you get through that awful first month of withdrawal, though you may feel much better emotionally and physically, studies show that “cue related” cravings actually begin to increase. These cravings usually peak during the third month of abstinence.

This was a surprise to me, at first, but, as I thought about it, I began to see how this fits into the current timeline outlined in the book. Though the more acute withdrawal symptoms from using tend to ease up over the first month, lessening as time goes by, one’s cravings from “external cues” (triggers from people, places or things) or “internal cues” (triggers from emotions) begin to intensify substantially. Though the brain is healing and you might be experiencing a “pink cloud” (see the “Withdrawal” excerpt from the book), your mind is poised to be triggered. Here, it’s important to follow the book’s instruction on how to avoid, triggers and counteract cravings (see “The Honeymoon” and “The Wall” chapters). Two related blogposts on triggers, how to avoid them and, ultimately, deal with them, are here and here.

  • Another study shows that after you’re clean for six months cravings decrease substantially.

So to summarize in brief: science says six months is the magic number for the easing up of cravings, with three months being when they are at their peak. Knowing and expecting the upswing in your cravings during months two and three can help you prepare for them. And holding on to the fact that after that third month the cravings dramatically start to fall can give you hope to get through the early months. It get’s better, but it’s somewhat of a rollercoaster at first.

On the Healing of the Brain:

There’s some very good news from the new scientific data available on brain healing.

  • When tested, meth users who were abstinent for five years or more and non-meth using control subjects had similar neurochemical levels. In short, after 5 years the brain can often show no sign of meth destruction.
  • A group of meth addicts were compared to a control group of age-matched non-meth users.  Just upon quitting, the meth addicts performed far worse on measures of cognitive performance and neuropsychological functioning, as well as emotional distress. But, after a year of continuous abstinence from meth, these subjects performed comparably to the healthy control subjects.

And for those of you who have severe brain impairments, like hearing voices and bouts of continued paranoia, take comfort in this:

  • Among those meth users who stayed clean for a year, those with the worst brain-damage related impairments showed the greatest improvement when retested.

It’s not exactly new information as the book notes the one year mark as a significant turning point. However, in the book, the “magic number” for major brain healing is two years (anecdotally, I found that was usually when the fog had seemed to completely lift). But the scientific data tells us that usually this significant healing happens earlier. It is something I will change in the next edition.

Bottom line and great news: for most of us who can stay clean for a year or longer, studies show substantial thinking improvements and visible brain healing. For most of us, the brain can come close to being completely healed in time.

So spread the news: it gets better. This takes only two things: not using meth and clean time.

Let any addict who’s struggling in their early months know these new facts:

  • The cravings will probably increase in month two and peak in three, but they will have decreased substantially by month six. (As I recall, it was around this time, my cravings and using dreams dwindled into obscurity.)
  • As far as brain healing goes: it does heal dramatically in merely one year.

Great news… Evidence-based… Facts…

 

 

  • Family

    Thank you!!

  • Glad this helps. It is some very hopeful news and we’ll take all of that we can get, right?

  • Ray

    Hi friends and family,
    I’m sure most of you know my background of heavy drug use and negligence! I’m so grateful today to be saved and delivered from that awful time of my life! I wanted to share a link with you highlighting the transformation that took place. Please watch it and tell me what you think?

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  • Zita

    I agree that all of that is good news. And I have found the recovery timeline accurate. Except… I am now almost 9 months clean and suddenly am finding myself more depressed and having way more cravings, triggered by my environment, than I have had since 2 or 3 months clean. It seems everything this last while is reminding me of dope. I’m having dreams almost nightly. Even the hazy weather lately is a constant reminder of the fog I was in for so long. Discouraged right now. Blah.

    • Hang in there. It gets better. You know, I seem to recall a few weeks nearing the end of the first year where cravings and wanting to use returned stronger than they had in a while too. But you know better. Play the “tape forward” as to what awful results using will bring you. I know my disease likes to lie to me with stuff like, “Hey, you’ve been clean so many months/years now, you’ve proven you can control it. Go ahead. Take a weekend off.” It hasn’t said that in months, but occasionally it’ll pop up… usually, I just laugh. Right? When have I ever just done meth for a weekend or night? It would most likely be the beginning of the end. I guess my best advice is to be honest about what you are feeling with others who understand (which you’re doing by writing me, btw); though it’s miserable right now, DON’T FORGET IT… let it remind you of how potent, strong and paitent addiction can be. You know from experience, this will pass. Exercise helps too (boring answer, I know, but true). We’re both examples that you can quit meth and, in time, life not only returns to normal, but I’m finding, gets far richer than I’d possibly imagined. Hope the blahs lift soon… best, Joseph

      • Zita

        Joseph,
        Thank you so much for your reply. Playing the tape all the way through to the end is what keeps me clean each day. Sometimes I just need reminded how important it is that I don’t ever stop doing that. Because of my current circumstances, I don’t feel free to share my struggles, even with my support system. I’m too afraid how my struggles will be perceived. So being able to share here made a huge difference to me that day. And today. So many hard days lately. But as long as I’m clean, it’s nothing that I can’t get through. Thanks again!! Zita

  • David

    I am very grateful that I came across your blog and your book. I have been in rehab countless times and the information that I am learning in your book has been a tremendous help to me so far. I am getting past the dark void and feel like somewhat of a human being today. I know that meth addiction is a life long struggle and the honeymoon doesn’t last forever but I will enjoy it to the fullest while I am experiencing it. God bless you and I wish you all of the best.

    • Thanks, David, for letting me know the book helps. You know, yes, the honeymoon will pass… but, still, life does get better. I guess that’s the important take away for me today (I just celebrated 3 years clean) and that is: IT GETS BETTER. My life, both relationally and career-wise, has gotten a lot better and continues to grow as long as I don’t use. We may be meth addicts for life, but we don’t have to be active addicts. We can be recovered. We can live amazing, full lives that we’d never thought possible while in the depth of our addiction. It gets better and better the longer we’re clean, good news. Peace, Joseph

      • zabelisa

        HI Joseph, I was wondering if you think that integrating a nutritional component might help this cause. We can rebuild the brain with the proper building blocks with foods and specific supplements. I heard of a book called “The Mood Cure” so something along those lines. Dr. Amen is also very well known in the field of brain power and rewiring techniques. My boyfriend has PTSD and struggles with many issues. Crystal Meth amplifies all of this, it is horrible to see. He is compulsive/impulsive with everything!! coffee, cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, sex, spending, you name it. He is not only addicted to meth but just about everything he touches. He does that dumpster diving stuff, he thinks he’s an angel and that people do voodoo on him or try to – so he does it to. He touches things (like trees and metal) for the energy transfer it procures him. He says he wants to go to tactical training school to learn discipline. The thing that he lacks the most. I wish I could open a crystal meth treatment centre. I have a background in psychology, counselling, trauma and nutrition, surely that is a good place to start. We tried psychedelics for his PTSD and his meth cravings but it didn’t work in the end.

      • zabelisa

        I don’t think you should tell people they are meth addicts for life. That is blasphemy not to mention disempowering. Just because you think of something doesn’t mean you are an addict. You should re-phrase that. It is the same mistake as saying you have a disease. NOT TRUE. A large portion of the problem comes from nutritional deficiencies, that is not a disease. That is why the brain is malfunctioning. Anyway, I still think your book is awesome.

    • zabelisa

      Can you please help me to get my boyfriend off this stuff? He also wants to stop but I can’t help him much other then telling him I love him. I already spent thousands of $$ and I don’t even have a job or a suitable place for him to come to. Now he is on the streets and up to no good. A criminal case pending which probably will get him some time. Maybe it’s the only way for him to quit? That’s how he did it last time before I met him. He calls me from time to time, I worry a lot about his health. Especially his mental health. He lost a very good job, crash his brand new truck that he loved so much, lost our home, and I am still here, waiting and hoping that he will get back on track. He is one of the most loving person I have ever met. I don’t want to loose him. He is 44 years old and did 3 years of time already. I met him 5 years ago after he cleaned up. It’s the first time I see this sort of thing. I looked up for a CMA meeting in his area and plan to tell him about it when he calls next time. It’s so sad, he has nowhere to go but shelters and the streets or random people who abuse him sexually. What can I tell him to give him hope or motivate him? I will get that book asap

      • David

        I am so sorry for what you are going through. Jail may be the best place for him provided he doesn’t use in there. N.A. does outreach in jails so maybe he can get the message there. He has to want to get clean for himself. No matter what you do, it will never be enough. He has to want it for himself. You have to step back and let him reach his bottom. It’s hard to watch but you moving on with your life is what would be best for you. My loved ones had to watch me self detruct until I had had enough of the suffering. They tried to help but it wasn’t enough. Eventually they had to step away. It’s a harsh reality but I am just being honest. Pray for him and never give up hope. Love from a distance.

        • zabelisa

          Well you are wrong.. in this case anyway. I don’t pray and he does do some of the work himself on the healing. I only assist him financially. Today he went on his first job interview after his 10 month relapse. He has been further then the bottom tried to kill himself several times but he wants to live for the tress he says. He loves the trees. He has a hard time getting along with people because of his complex nature. He has many flaws but also many qualities, so he is focusing on the good bits at the moment. Anger being his number one issue/struggle. People don;t like to be around adults who have temper tantrums… Need some growing up there. Slowly slowly, and with proper nutrition too. Most addicts have problems because of nutritional deficiencies. They should address that first as it is very empowering. And exercise too!

  • warriorofdalight

    Hi its my first time ever voluntariraly looking up info and really wanting to quit this horrible drug. I’ve been an addict for more than 15 yrs. I’ve lost so much to this drug. I remember at first it was fun but very rapidly it took ahold of me. I was the one of four brothers and one sister who everybody looked at as the one who was suppost to make it in life. I’m talking career driven and successful. Didnt happen. I am the proud father of a beautiful 15 yr. Old girl. But been a very bad father. I’ve caused alot of damage along the way. I use to think, well im only hurting myself. Boy was I wrong. You hurt everybody that cares for you. I’ve been doing the insanity thing. The revolving door, thinking it’s going to be better the next time. After getting some clean time and not voluntarirly but because of jail.coming out I thought I can get a better grip on it and work and be responsible, never happened. So now I believe I’m in my last saga with this drug and knowing I need to quit before it kills me or makes me go crazy. I’m 36 yrs old looking desperately for a way out. I’ve had moments in my life where I loved life and loved myself and reached a level of spirituality that I long for that. Im willing to listen and take advice or talk to someone. I really need good positive friends to help me through this.
    Sincerely, looking for a way out…

    • Zan

      Hey hang in there. I know your pain…I know your battle….I know your guilt (I have a 12 year old son). Just get through one day…and then the next day…each time you want to use, put it off until tomorrow-rest today, your dealer will still be there tomorrow. It will get better. The first weeks are hell….but it’s gonna get better. I’m 3 weeks and two days clean. U and me, we got to hang in there. Sending u my care….reaching out to u from my heart. Zan x

      • warriorofdalight

        thank you so much. Since I posted on here I’ve manage to stay clean. Thanks to the information given on here. It’s good to know people still care about other people. I know that my road ahead is going to be a battle . But in my heart I know I want this. I want to be free from the shackels that have kept me prisoner to this addictio. Thank you zan for your reply and I send you my good positive vives and energy. i send you my prayers too. May we all win in this battle in life that ain’t easy. But if we trully desire it we can have it.

        • zabelisa

          Hey you guys, hope you still are hanging in there. My bf and I went through hell and still are because his brain needs some repair. I never used it but I saw the damage first hand. He not only lost everything but I have been paying for repairs of this damage for almost a year and still is. I don;t have a job but a good credit. I suspect I will have to go bankrupt but for him to get off that shit, it’s worth it. Just wanted to tell you guys that with a very clean diet and proper nutrition you can rebuild your damaged brain. read and research on it please, it will empower you as you will know you can do something about your condition. And yes, things will not change overnight, baby steps is all you need.

  • CDL

    Hi all,
    I’m so glad I found this blog. I am such a mess. I’ve tried quitting twice, 1st time for almost 2 years!! The 2nd time for only a month, maybe. Quitting & living a clean life has always been present in my mind and OMG at the guilt I have. The excerpts I read on here from the book is the 1st time I’ve ever seen shame/guilt addressed. Once I got to the stage that I didn’t feel guilt/shame is unfortunately when I started feeling cocky ‘I’ve got this covered’ then came the ‘I got through that easy enough, I can handle doing a little now & then, just for fun’..& we all know where it goes from there. I’m so disgusted with myself. Now, this past Monday, I got a job that has everything I’ve been looking for, which at 55, yes 55..finding a great job is a gift from God. I start next Monday. I immediately decided ‘now or never’ and hope the hell they don’t ask me to take a drug screen. Here comes the real stupid part..I went 2 days without and they called me last night wanting me to come in to a meeting with a new accountant I would be working with. Those of you that are quitting remember how you felt on day 3! My weak mind & body felt the only way I could possibly make this meeting was to…you guessed it. I made it through the meeting (still feeling like death warmed over Now back to square one. I don’t know how I’m going to be able to function at my new job while going through the withdrawal stage. I know it says to put recovery before work & relationships but financially I can’t not work & sleep a couple of weeks. Any advice anyone can offer that’ll help get through this horrible sick as a dog stage enough to function at work? I know I might as well ask for a million dollars and the body of a 20 yr old while I’m asking for miracles. Just hoping someone out there has found some kind of help, no matter how little..any at all would be so appreciated. I’m determined to slay this dragon. Am I attempting the impossible trying to quit and starting a new job at the same time?

    • zabelisa

      How are you doing CDL? Did you make it through the first week? All I can suggest is to seriously meditate and attend to your health with nutritious foods to rebuild your brain (there are supplements that can help too). You kind of need to clear your mind from the meth thoughts. One day at a time… Baby steps, little victories Millions have done it, so can you!

  • zabelisa

    So what do you suggest one to do when the cravings occur? My boyfriend is hooked again and I don’t know how to handle it. Last time he came to see me, I ended up spending a lot of money I don’t have (credit) to buy him cigarettes, food, little alcohol and weed. I could not support that for long needless to say. I thought it was better then using but then again, when I told him to leave (he was fairly aggressive and unstable emotionally) he went right back at it. He now lives on the streets and do horrible things for money.

    • zabelisa

      Little update. He stopped and is now looking for work. I bought him a little used camper so he can live independently and not have to go to shelters or be on the streets. Today is his first day of meeting an employer to clean some gutters. He cannot live with me because I have a room mate that doesn’t want him around. Him and I cannot live together because he is too crazy and drives me nuts most of the time. He didn’t used to be like that to this extreme anyway, but after his relapse, everything changed… After about 10 months of insanity, just now starting to see some light. What makes things worst I think is that he has PTSD from childhood abuse and severe neglect. Very difficult to feel safe and trust people for him. Makes him somewhat paranoid and hyper vigilant.It is draining to be around him. He always “Needs” or “wants” something to fill that void.

  • Aza

    Hi there I been 3 weeks clean and hell ride still present. But I’m being strong though. i am not a hardcore addict, last time i smoke was about 2 years ago but on 10/31/15 i smoke on some s$&#t again (i guess i am an addict) but this time the withdrawal was a pain in the butt! now is the 3rd week and not feeling good still. it did got better since the 2nd week but i feel pressure in my brain. head pain and feeling dull all the time. love to play videogames but i dont have no interest at all. feel like my dopamine receptors are completely shut off with a bazooka. hope in time i will feel happy once again. on tuesday 11/24/15 i have an appointment with the neurologist. for a scan. hope i am ok…

  • Fuck u

    Fuck this shit noone wants to here it takes A WHOLE YEAR I couldn’t go a week without it much less. Year fuck u

  • Kelvin

    Hi Joe,

    Do you know when and where the second ed will be published?

    • The second “revised” edition will be published in 2000. Other than small additions to each chapter, there will be a new preface. Also in these last years have brought a lot of new scientific papers on CM particularly, which hadn’t exists at the time o ght. Oh, well I hope this helps.

  • Chastity Wyatt

    So I am about 45 days into recovery from a year-long battle with IV meth/crack/cocaine use. not to mention that I am a 15-year opiate addict as well. I recently started shooting up last year and went into the use of speed very quickly. I have withdrawal and recovered from opiate addiction several times throughout my life but this needle and meth recovery is a world I have never experienced. I go through points of highs and lows, my jaw still gets locked and my body is remembering how to intake fluid and food making eating uncomfortable most days, I barely have any back teeth which doesn’t help either. I constantly wear braces on both my hands as several misses have left me with tingling numb hands…in short I’m a mess. the emotional effects I can’t even go into it’s almost like being in shock coming back down to reality. and then of course there’s the actual life effects of evictions and Repos and arrests. most days I can compartmentalize these things and not focus on them all at once, as even the most sane individual could drive themselves insane doing such. I am involved in an anonymous program but they have NO CLUE about drug addicts. I moved completely out of state A Thousand Miles Away with an aunt that I’ve never gotten to know and her son who disappears for weeks and still ‘parties.’ I’m in the mountains with no vehicle in an entirely new climate and some days I feel like I want to jump off a cliff. I’ve been researching more about amphetamine recovery and came across this blog, I want to be clean and want to remain clean so badly but I have to talk to somebody that understands what I’m going through cuz it seems like no one does…

    • Anthony martinez

      Chastity Wyatt could you please text me 9183131750

    • Anthony martinez

      Callor text me please 9183131760