Methamphetamine has been detected in urine samples up to 7 days after exposure, though the detection window can vary based several factors such as dose, the user’s health, and other characteristics.1
There are also other ways of testing for crystal meth, each with its own detection window. The type and quality of a test kit will also factor into how long meth will remain detectable in a user’s system.
Read on to learn more about testing for meth, withdrawing from the substance, and treatment for meth abuse.
How Long is Meth in Your System?
The length of time that crystal meth stays in someone’s system varies based on several factors, such as the individual’s health and genetic/physical makeup, the dosage last taken and the overall duration and frequency of crystal meth use. In most cases, the subjective effects of a single dose of methamphetamine lasts approximately 12 hours.2
However, meth is still present in a person’s body after its subjective effects wear off and will show up on a drug test well after these effects subside.
What is Meth?
Methamphetamine is a stimulant that can be smoked, snorted, ingested or injected.5
Meth may be crushed into a powder but is commonly sold in a form that looks like shards of glass or small, bluish-white crystals (hence the terms “crystal”, “crystal meth,” “shards,” or “glass.”) Common street names include “ice,” “tina,” and “speed.”
Methamphetamine energizes the user and produces feelings of arousal, cardiac stimulation, positive mood, and improvements in psychomotor coordination, focus and attention. It also facilitates the release of dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain. The increased dopamine activity caused by crystal meth contributes to the drug’s addictive properties.5
How to Detect Meth Use
Crystal meth can be detected through:
- Oral fluid tests.3
- Urine testing.1
- Plasma testing (by drawing a blood sample).1
- Hair follicle tests.4
Oral fluid testing (saliva swab) has a relatively short window of detection for methamphetamine, likely due to the high possibility of contamination and the variability found in the acidity of saliva.3
Saliva tests remain popular among potential employers however, since the method enables an administrator to be present while the sample is taken, reducing the risk of tampering. Saliva tests can detect meth in the system up to 2 days after exposure.3
A study published in Addiction Review found that a single 30mg dose delivered via injection was detectable in the blood stream for 36-48 hours. The study also found that methamphetamine was detected in multiple urine samples 7 days after users took 4 doses of 10 milligrams of meth by mouth, and even in a single case one week after one oral dose of 250mg. Researchers suspect that in instances of prolonged use meth may detectable in urine for longer but studies have yet to verify or disprove this claim.1
Hair testing has the longest detection window of any drug test. A study published in Forensic Science International was able to detect methamphetamine in follicles up to 153 days after exposure. However, that length of time was unusual—meth was detectable in the majority of participants 90 days after use but by 120 days it was detected in only 16% of users.4
Signs of Meth Withdrawal
Acute methamphetamine withdrawal typically resolves within a week. However, people who have abused methamphetamine may experience some mild withdrawal symptoms long after meth is no longer detectable in their saliva, blood stream, or urine.6 The severity and timeline of methamphetamine withdrawal varies based on many factors, including:7
- The general health of the patient. This takes into account their physical health history as well as any co-occurring mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety disorders.
- The extent of abuse, meaning:
- The duration and frequency to which they’ve been using methamphetamine.
- The amount of methamphetamine they regularly take.
- Any other drugs or medication they have also been taking.
For most people experiencing withdrawal symptoms, symptoms peak or are their most severe around 24 hours after stopping use. However, it’s common to experience symptoms up to 7 or even 10 days after cessation. Withdrawal symptoms may include:
- Increased appetite.
- Red/itchy eyes.
- Difficulty sleeping.
- Lack of motivation or energy.
- Decreased sexual pleasure.
- Depressive symptoms of sadness and displeasure.
Milder symptoms of depression may last up to 3 weeks, while general cravings for meth can persist 5 weeks or longer.6
Detoxing from Meth
Effective detoxification or detox is an important first step in the treatment of a stimulant use disorder. Detox consists of 3 parts:6
- Evaluation of the patient by a medical professional.
- Stabilization, or making sure the patient remains safe and comfortable both mentally and physically during the detoxification process.
- Helping the patient commit to continued treatment.
Inpatient detox is often prescribed to patients where withdrawal symptoms are expected to be more severe, or when the risk of relapse is higher. Medical professionals are there to monitor and assist a patient 24/7 as they work through the acute withdrawal phase.
Quality detox facilities also retain substance abuse treatment specialists and therapists equipped to provide psychological support and treat co-occurring mental health conditions.
Over-the-counter medications may be provided during detox to manage some uncomfortable side effects. Treatment providers will also encourage rest, mild/moderate exercise, and a healthy diet to manage stimulant withdrawal.8
Patients undergoing the medical detox program at Recovery First experience around the clock care, with nurses performing rounds every 15 minutes, 24 hours a day. Beds at the facility are equipped with EarlySense technology to monitor the patient’s vital signs, immediately alerting the staff to any complications. If you’d like to learn more about Recovery First’s detox program or full continuum of care and treatment, give us a call at 954-526-5776.
- Cruickshank, C. C. & Dyer, K. R. (2009). A review of the clinical pharmacology of methamphetamine. Addiction 104(1085-1099).
- National Drug Intelligence Center. (2003). Crystal Methamphetamine Fast Facts. (Publication No: 2003-L0559-012).
- Crouch, D. J., Day, J., Baudys, J., & Fatah, A. A., (2005). Evaluation of Saliva/Oral Fluid as an Alternate Drug Testing Specimen. (Document No.: 203569).
- Junkuy, A., O’Brien, T.E., Sribanditmongkol, P., Suwannachom, N., & Thananchai T. (2015). Duration of detection of methamphetamine in hair after abstinence. Forensic Sci Int. (254)80-6.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). What is methamphetamine?
- Hellemann, G., London, E. D., Miotto, K., Nestor, L., Rawson, R., & Scanlon, G. (2010). Withdrawal symptoms in abstinent methamphetamine-dependent subjects. Addiction105(10), 1809–1818.
- Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. (2015). Detoxification and substance abuse treatment. Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 45. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2020). Treatment of stimulant use disorders.. Rockville, MD: National Mental Health and Substance Use Policy Laboratory.