Meth Relapse

Meth relapse is a serious obstacle to recovering from meth addiction. Relapse rates for meth addiction are sometimes very high, but scientists are working to discover new ways to help people recover from meth addiction and avoid meth relapse.


Meth relapse occurs when a person who is trying to quit meth uses it again. It does not mean the person has failed, just that they've hit a stumbling block in their recovery. They need to figure out what happened and address the problem so they can move forward with their recovery. Meth relapse does not mean the person does not want to recover or isn't trying.

Meth, or methamphetamine, is a very addictive drug. It causes the brain to release large amounts of the chemical dopamine, which causes an intense high that can be very addictive. Meth can also cause serious health, legal, and social problems, so many people who become addicted to meth find that they want to quit. Because meth causes long-term changes to the brain, however, quitting can be difficult and meth relase happens a lot.

Though recovering from meth addiction is not impossible, it is often difficult. The withdrawal symptoms from meth include a severe craving for the drug and feelings of unhappiness that cause many users to seek meth again, meth relpase often occurs within 6 months of quitting. Between 2 and 4 months after quitting, meth users often hit a wall, where they feel little pleasure in life and crave the drug. Users who make it to 6 months and have made changes in the pattern of their lives are usually well on their way to avoiding meth relapse and staying meth free. 

One method that has been proven effective in treating meth addiction is a form of behavioral therapy called the Matrix model. It involves meeting in individual or group therapy sessions several times each week to talk about recovery efforts and support users who are at risk for relapse. It may also include urine tests to discourage or catch relapse, therapy sessions involving the user's family, and involvement in a 12-step type program. This method has about a 50 percent success rate for recovery after 6 months.

Other methods of meth recovery are still being tested. Residential programs may help some people with a meth addiction. Some state-sponsored residential programs have had 60 to 80 percent recovery rates after 6 months. Others find 12-step programs like Narcotics Anonymous helpful. Scientists are working to develop a drug to help prevent relapse, or to find a current drug that can help, like an anti-depressant, but there are no definite answers about drugs to help with meth addiction and relapse yet.

Studies have found that stress is a common trigger in meth relapse. Learning healthier ways to manage stress is one of the changes meth users can make in their lives to greatly increase their chances of making a lasting recovery. Some strategies for managing stress can include:

  • Establishing healthy habits like eating well, getting enough sleep, and exercising
  • Avoid using other alcohol or other drugs, including tobacco
  • Finding supportive people to talk to
  • Learning to meditate or do a relaxing activity like yoga or tai chi
  • Focusing on spiritual inclinations
  • Finding activities you enjoy, such as art, music, sports, gardening
  • Simply your life by cutting out unnecessary activities that cause stress
  • Learn to manage your time well so you don't get overwhelmed
  • Learn to have realistic expectations of yourself
  • Keep a journal where you can write about your feelings
  • Consider volunteering in a cause you think is worthwhile
  • If needed, get counseling to help you change negative thought patterns

Meth addicts and their family members and friends should be patient during the recovery process. While it is best to avoid meth relapse, even those who do relapse can still recover with continued support and persistence.


Julia Sommerfeld, MSNBC, "Beating an Addiction to Meth" [online]
Medical News Today, "Stress Triggers Relapse in Meth Abuse, OHSU Finds" [online]
Mionnesota Court System, Children's Justice Initiative, "Brain Chemistry of Addiction" [online]
California Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs, "Methamphetamine Treatment: A Practicioners' Guide" [online]
WebMD, Stress Management Health Center, Topic Overview [online]

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