How Long Does Meth Stay in Your System?

Addiction Treatment

Jan Trobisch


Methamphetamine is a powerful, highly addictive stimulant with potentially dangerous consequences. Someone might try methamphetamine to experience its euphoric effects and crave the drug again to escape negative emotions.

It’s easy to become quickly addicted to methamphetamine, and many people in the United States struggle with meth addiction. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 1.6 million adults reported past-year methamphetamine use from 2015 to 2018, and nearly 53% had a methamphetamine use disorder.

Like many addictive drugs, methamphetamine can produce harmful short-term and long-term effects, such as irregular heartbeat and increased blood pressure. The effects of stimulating drugs like meth might urge someone to go to the emergency room for care. For example, in California, almost 34% of nonfatal drug-related emergency room visits were due to amphetamines from 2012 to 2014. Even trying the drug once can have devastating effects and sometimes lead to a fatal overdose.

Because of methamphetamine’s dangers, you may be wondering how long it will take for meth to get out of your or a loved one’s system. Or maybe you’re concerned you won’t pass a drug test if you’ve recently used meth. In this post, we show you how long meth can be detected, its effects on the body and the various types of meth screening. If you’re ready to get help today for methamphetamine abuse, we’re here for you at Synergy Recovery Services in Bakersfield, California.

The Effects of Meth on the Body

The-effects-of-meth-on-the-body-pinterestMethamphetamine is a stimulant that affects the body’s central nervous system. Meth stimulates the reward centers of the brain and causes it to release an enormous amount of dopamine. Dopamine makes the user feel euphoric in ways that can’t happen naturally. This makes the person crave the experience again.

Meth affects the body in other ways, too, even taken in small doses. Short-term effects are similar to those caused by other stimulants and include the following:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Faster breathing
  • Increased heart rate or irregular heartbeat
  • Elevated blood pressure and body temperature
  • Increased physical activity and sleeplessness

Long-term methamphetamine use can create harmful effects that may last months or years after the person quits using the drug. Long-term use can have the following consequences:

  • Addiction
  • Dental issues
  • Weight loss
  • Itching and skin sores
  • Changes in brain function
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Violent behavior

People might take meth by smoking, injecting, snorting or orally ingesting the drug. When someone injects or smokes methamphetamine, it enters the bloodstream and goes to the brain quickly, producing a rush of pleasurable and highly addictive feelings. The initial euphoric rush only lasts for a few minutes and then leads to the “high.” Being high on meth may include hyperactivity or aggressive behavior.

Snorting or orally ingesting methamphetamine takes a little longer to reach the brain and produces euphoria without the rush. When someone snorts methamphetamine, they might feel the effects in about five minutes. Oral ingestion produces effects between 15 and 20 minutes.

Over time, users develop a tolerance to methamphetamine and take higher amounts of the drug or use it more frequently to experience its pleasurable effects. Those who abuse methamphetamine chronically may struggle to feel pleasure without taking the drug, making it more challenging to beat their addiction.

Methamphetamine Metabolism and Its Half-Life

After methamphetamine enters your bloodstream, the drug will move to different tissues and organs. Your liver will break it down into chemical compounds called metabolites that get passed through the kidneys. Amphetamine is a metabolite of methamphetamine. Your kidneys will filter amphetamine and other metabolites out of your blood. The waste your kidneys filter from your blood will then reach your bladder and eventually exit your body as urine.

Methamphetamine’s half-life ranges from 6 to 15 hours. Half-life describes the length of time it takes your body to metabolize and eliminate 50% of the drug from your bloodstream. For example, if you take 100 milligrams (mg) of a drug with a half-life of two hours, 50 mg of it will be cleared from your bloodstream two hours after taking the drug. In another two hours, 25 mg of the drug will be eliminated from your body, and so on. Factors such as your age, health and use of other drugs or alcohol can affect how quickly you metabolize methamphetamine and flush it out of your system.

In comparison to cocaine, which is another addictive stimulant, methamphetamine has a much longer half-life. Fifty percent of cocaine leaves the body in an hour. Due to its long half-life, small amounts of methamphetamine can stay in your body for days after use, even though the effects have worn off.


How Long Meth Lasts in the System

Even though the primary effects of methamphetamine may last about four to eight hours, it can remain detectable in your body for days. Considering that the average half-life of methamphetamine is 10 hours, it would take almost three days for the drug to be out of your system completely.

When it comes to detecting methamphetamine, saliva, hair, blood and urine tests will produce different results. After you take methamphetamine, here is how long each test can detect the drug:

  • Saliva: During a saliva test, a health care worker will swab the inside of your cheek. Saliva tests can be used to detect methamphetamine one to four days after use. Saliva testing is an easy way to collect a sample but becomes less effective after three days.
  • Hair: Hair testing is less invasive than other tests and can detect drugs over a longer period. Hair tests can detect methamphetamine up to 90 days after use. Hair tests might be ordered as part of a pre-employment drug screening or criminal investigation. Hair tests are meant to detect long-term drug use since substances can only be detected after three to five days since ingestion.
  • Blood: Blood testing is commonly the screening method used in emergencies and for diagnostic purposes. For example, blood drug tests are often given after accidents because they can be conducted when a person is injured or intoxicated. Blood tests detect methamphetamine one to three days after use.
  • Urine: Urine testing is the most common type of drug test, partially because urine is easy to collect. It takes about two hours after use for a drug to appear in a urine test. Urine tests typically detect meth one to four days after ingestion. However, it can show methamphetamine up to a week after heavy use. Urine testing is best for short-term detection and may be ordered by employers before hiring new employees or to check for drug use on the job.

Factors That Influence Methamphetamine Detection

Many different factors influence how quickly your body metabolizes methamphetamine and whether it will show up in drug tests. These factors can make it difficult to predict whether you’d pass or fail a drug test after using methamphetamine. Factors that influence meth screening include:

  • How the drug was taken: How you take the drug can affect how long it can be detected. For example, if you inject methamphetamine, it will stay in your system longer than if you ingest the drug orally.
  • Frequency of use and amount: How often you use methamphetamine and the dose will affect how long it takes for the drug to leave your body. For example, if someone ingests a single dose of methamphetamine, a urine test might detect the drug for about 24 hours. However, if a person frequently uses meth at high doses, a urine test may detect the drug for two to four days after the last use.
  • Other substances: Taking other drugs or using alcohol with methamphetamine can affect how quickly your body metabolizes meth. For example, if you combine meth with other substances or alcohol, you increase your chance of experiencing a drug-induced liver injury, which will impact your liver’s functioning and its ability to metabolize toxins efficiently.
  • Overall health: If you’re in good health, your body can eliminate toxins, such as methamphetamine, faster than those with health issues. Liver and kidney functioning, in particular, play a vital role in how fast your body processes meth and removes it from your system.
  • Age: In general, the younger you are, the faster your body metabolizes substances and gets rid of toxins. As you age, your metabolism naturally slows down and cannot eliminate drugs as quickly.
  • Urine acidity: Urine acidity affects drug detection times if you undergo a urine test. Your urine’s pH measures how acidic or alkaline it is. A urine pH of 4 is very acidic, while a pH of 7 is neutral. Strongly acidic urine leads to shorter detection times.

Medications That Can Lead to False-Positive Test Results

It’s possible to get a positive drug test result even if you do not use methamphetamine. Certain prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medications can lead to false-positive test results for methamphetamine or other drugs.

It helps to know what might give you a false-positive result if you need to take a drug test for an employer or any other reason. According to the University of Michigan, here are medications to be aware of when taking a urine drug test:

  • Bupropion: Bupropion, which is often sold under the brand names Wellbutrin and Zyban, may be prescribed to treat depression or seasonal affective disorder. Some doctors prescribe bupropion to help patients quit smoking.
  • Tricyclic antidepressants: Tricyclic antidepressants may be prescribed to treat depression or bipolar disorder. Examples of commonly prescribed tricyclic antidepressants include Norpramin, Anafranil and Elavil.
  • Phenothiazines: Doctors prescribe phenothiazines to treat schizophrenia. Examples of phenothiazines include Thorazine and Compazine.
  • Propranolol: Propranolol treats high blood pressure and irregular heart rhythms. This medication may be sold under the brand names Inderal LA or Innopran XL.
  • Ranitidine: Ranitidine is a heartburn medication that may be used to treat ulcers or gastroesophageal reflux disease. Zantac is ranitidine’s brand name.
  • Labetalol: Labetalol can be used to treat high blood pressure. Brand names include Normodyne and Trandate.
  • Trazodone: Trazodone may be used to treat depression, insomnia, schizophrenia and anxiety. Brand names include Oleptro and Desyrel.
  • OTC cold medications: Some ingredients in OTC cold and allergy medications can impact drug test results. For example, brompheniramine is an antihistamine used to relieve allergy or cold symptoms. Children’s Dimetapp Cold and Allergy medicine contains brompheniramine.
  • Vicks nasal sprays: Vicks nasal sprays used to relieve nasal congestion might impact methamphetamine test results.


Methamphetamine Withdrawal Symptoms

If you’re concerned about passing a drug test, you may be thinking of ways to get methamphetamine out of your system. When someone stops using methamphetamine, they can experience severe withdrawal symptoms depending on their body, how much they used and for how long. Everyone experiences withdrawal differently, but some symptoms are common.

Typically, when someone stops abusing methamphetamine, they experience the “crash.” During the crash, the person might feel anxious, depressed, agitated or have intense cravings for the drug. The higher the amount of methamphetamine that was used, the worse the crash will be. Crash symptoms may last for a few days after use.

After the crash, people who have developed a methamphetamine dependence will experience withdrawal symptoms. Symptoms may include:

  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Need for sleep
  • Inability to experience pleasure
  • Increased appetite
  • Drug cravings

Withdrawal symptoms can increase in intensity over the next few days following the crash, or they can fluctuate over several weeks. Some individuals may experience severe depression and suicidal ideation during withdrawal from methamphetamine.

Safely Getting Meth Out of Your System Begins With Sobriety

The only way to get methamphetamine out of your system is to stop using the drug and give your body time to eliminate toxins and heal. Since methamphetamine withdrawal symptoms can be severe, and in some cases, dangerous, it’s best not to go through it alone. Professionals are waiting to help you safely get methamphetamine out of your body and head toward recovery.

At Synergy Recovery Services in Bakersfield, California, our compassionate addiction specialists are ready to help you or your loved one overcome methamphetamine addiction. Our experienced team of licensed addiction counselors understand how difficult it is to beat a meth addiction and can offer the support you need. Our meth addiction treatment program combines individualized counseling to address the underlying cause of addiction with prescription medications to ease withdrawal symptoms and cravings.


Contact Synergy Recovery Services Today

If you or a loved one are concerned about a drug test detecting methamphetamine, you may be ready to reach out for help. At Synergy Recovery Services, you can expect a personalized addiction treatment program to help you journey towards sobriety, health and happiness — along with the respect you deserve. To learn more about our methamphetamine addiction program, please contact us today.


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