First, decide if you are ready.

“I might need to cut down or stop but I'm not sure I want to...”

People can be in two minds about their use of meth (and other drugs for that matter). On the one hand, you've got more energy and enjoy the party, but, on the other hand, you might have trouble sleeping or be feeling depressed or anxious.

To help make the issues clearer, try weighing up the pros and cons of your meth use, as you see them. List the things you like about meth and then list all of the things that you don't like so much. (Don't spend too much time on the things you like though, because this can trigger cravings). 

Example: pros and cons

Like about meth
  • Lots of energy
  • Get things done
  • Partying with friends
  • More confident socially
Don't really like about meth
  • Can't sleep when I want to
  • Coming down
  • I feel paranoid sometimes
  • Losing good friends

Preparing to cut down or stop

Set a day to start cutting down or to stop - Make a commitment to your day and stick to it. Get ready for this day by preparing your environment...

Prepare your environment - Get rid of everything from your home, your phone, your car, and anywhere else that's been associated with using meth. These things are triggers for meth use and are likely to increase your cravings withdraw.

Tame the 'meth monster' - "life will be boring without meth", "I'll put on weight". Self-sabotage comes from the 'meth monster'. Make a list of all the things you don't really like about using meth to remind yourself of why you wanted to change in the first place. Keep a wallet or purse-sized card with this list so you can re-read it if you have cravings. You could also make a list of the benefits of cutting down or stopping meth and read it to tame the meth monster and help you to stay committed. You could also consider having photos of people you care about to maintain focus on the importance of stopping or cutting down.

Anticipate risky situations - List every potential situation you can think of that could lead you down the meth path again. Situations could include being with friends who use lots of meth; going to a party;  being offered meth; feeling tired, bored, or angry; feeling happy; wanting to celebrate; wanting to reward yourself; having lots of money; having no money; having a craving; putting on weight etc. Make a coping plan for each risky situation. You might need some assistance with this so you can always start a counselling session with us anytime to talk it through.

Plan to manage cravings or urges - read our section on managing cravings.

Set Goals

The S.M.A.R.T approach:

Specific: I'll pay off my credit card in 12 months I want to get some money together" isn't specific enough. e.g. Specific - I won't use meth this weekend and will make a credit card payment this Friday with the money I would use on meth.

Measurable: Seeing your credit card balance decrease each month will help to keep you motivated, so make sure you set a goal that allows you to measure your progress.

Active: The best goals are those in which you play the active part. Getting someone else to do what you want them to do is often not an achievable or realistic goal. An active goal in this case involves your response. For example "For the next two weeks, whenever my partner gets angry I'll stay calm/leave the room/do something else, rather than get angry too and have an argument."

Realistic: Some of the best goals are personally challenging, but make sure that your goal is attainable and that you have the ability to achieve it, or can learn the skills you need to make it happen.

Time limited: It's important to have a time frame for your goal so you can keep an eye on your progress and know when you've achieved it. It's hard to stay motivated when the end is nowhere in sight. 

Solve Problems

Using meth can be a great way to avoid problems. However, avoiding problems always makes things worse and even the most simple problems can start to seem difficult. 

Try this practical method for dealing with problems and avoid putting them off. You'll find that just making a small start will help to relieve your stress.

1)    Stop and think about the whole situation. What's really going on? What's the real issue? Be clear about what the actual problem is.

2)    Break the problem down into smaller, manageable parts and solve each part separately.

3)    Be creative and generate a list of possible solutions. Come up with as many options as possible to solve the problem without judging the merits of any option yet.

4)    Choose an option by considering each one separately and weighing up the pros and cons. Reject unusable options, choose the best one, and keep the second best as a back-up plan if you need it.

5)    Practice. Try out your solution and evaluate the plan. Did it work? If not, why not? How could you tackle this problem differently in future?


Finally...make an ACTION plan

Getting Through Withdrawal

Be prepared
  • Rally your support people to be there for you if you need them.
  • Take leave from work, limit visitors (support people are fine), and turn off the phone. You're likely to be tired and irritable so give yourself plenty of personal space and remember to rest as much as you can.
  • Practice lots of ways to manage cravings and stick a list on the wall of the ones that work for you.
Be kind to yourself
  • You might have trouble remembering or concentrating so write notes to yourself if you have to do something you can't avoid while you're getting through it.
  • Call on support people when you need to. It can be hard to do this alone.
Watch your mood
  • Watch for symptoms of depression and if symptoms hang around, become severe or you start to think about hurting yourself in any way get professional help straight away. 
Remember why you're stopping
  • Keep telling yourself why you want to stop using meth in the first place.
  • Read your 'things I don't like about meth' reminder card.
  • Remind yourself of the benefits of not
  • Put a picture of yourself at your worst in a prominent place.
  • Do whatever you can to maintain your commitment so you can get through this.
Get specialist help if you need it
  • If you have problems with insomnia for more than a week or two, or you have ongoing feelings of anxiety, agitation or restlessness which is increasing your risk of using meth again, pay a visit to your GP for support.
  • Consider on-going counselling to help you stay stopped. Withdrawal is just the first step on a long road, so go to the talk to someone page for treatment options if you'd like some support from meth treatment specialists.

Read the Getting Through Amphetamine Withdrawal Guide

Staying Stopped

Get active - Being active is very important. If your mind is focused on other enjoyable activities, it has less time to think about using meth. It is also an opportunity to form new constructive habits to divert you away from destructive ones.

Call on your support people - Make a list of helpful people that don't share a lifestyle of using meth.  You might have spent less time with them recently - send them a text to catch up.

Be aware of your thoughts and actions - change becomes the new habit. See Managing unhelpful thoughts for more suggestions.

Be alert for your 'early warning signs' - What kind of places; times; people; feelings; situations; or things will make it hard for you to stay on top of things or feel good about yourself? Would any of these things cause you to use meth again or go back to your old patterns of using meth? Write a list of your possible early warning signs and stay alert for them in your life. Staying stopped (or cut down) involves getting in early when triggers come up, having an action plan to respond to them without using meth, and being prepared to carry out the plan.  It might help to talk this through with a trusted friend or start a chat session with us.

Manage cravings - Although cravings are most intense in the early stages of cutting down or stopping, a craving can still hit even if you haven't had meth for a long time. Remember what works for you and be ready to manage a craving, even if it seems to come out of the blue.  

Watch your use of alcohol and other drugs - Some people increase their use of cannabis or alcohol when they stop using meth. Keep an eye on how much you're drinking or smoking to make sure you're not just swapping one habit for another one.  Other substances like alcohol can act as a 'disinhibitor' and impact your judgement.  If you are at the early stages of giving up, it might be worth also having a break from alcohol. 

Remind yourself why you've made a change - Suggestions include writing a reminder card of the reasons you stopped and check it regularly (set a reminder in your phone); get out that photo of you at your worst and compare the new you with the old you; ask your friends to remind you of what it was really like; make a list of all of the ways that cutting down or stopping meth has improved your life and make a commitment to your new lifestyle every day.  

Don't give up - If you do slip up and have some meth (or more than you'd planned) don't beat yourself up about it. The meth monster will probably try to sabotage you with messages like "I might as well keep using since I can't stay off it". Tame the meth monster by thinking "Okay, I've had some meth, but it's just been this once and I don't have to have any more. I'm doing well and this is just a minor blip on the radar". But the truth is, you CAN... you HAVE... and you can STAY stopped.   

Mistakes, lapses and relapses are all opportunities to learn - You can't learn from mistakes if you never make them so go easy on yourself and add the trigger that led you to use meth to your 'risky situations' list and come up with a good response plan if you're faced with it again.

These suggestions might seem simple but having plans and preparing is very important.  Adding strength to your plans can seem hard when you start compared to the strength and temptation of using meth, so, talk it through with someone you trust, or, talk to us.

Managing Cravings

A word of caution: Sometimes just reading this type of information can trigger a craving so get yourself prepared just in case it happens to you. 

Some info about cravings;

Cravings for meth are caused by psychological and physical factors
Being exposed to things that you've associated with meth can cause a little squirt of dopamine to be released in anticipation of the main event (meth) and the brain WANTS MORE. This is why it's hard to get meth out of your mind for the first few minutes of a craving.

Cravings can be triggered by lots of different things
People, places, objects, feelings, situations, smells, sounds, thoughts and anything else that reminds you of using meth can trigger a craving. Even dreams about using meth can trigger cravings. These dreams are common in the early stages of stopping.

Cravings can continue long after stopping meth

A craving is like an ocean wave...
It starts off small, gathers momentum, peaks, and then breaks. The peak intensity of a craving rarely lasts beyond a few minutes.  The trick is to ride out the peak until it passes.

Cravings will only lose their power if you DON'T GIVE IN TO THEM
Even having meth occasionally keeps cravings alive. Your brain has learnt that a little squirt of dopamine is generally followed by a BIG SQUIRT brought on by meth, so if you keep using when you have a craving your brain can't unlearn and the cravings will keep coming back.

The good news is there are ways to manage your cravings...

Tips for managing cravings

Try urge surfing

Cravings, just like an ocean wave, do break.

Visualise yourself surfing the crest of the craving wave, you'll feel it build, peak, subside, and finally break. 

Don't like the ocean? Ok, imagine a craving as one loop on a roller coaster or ferris wheel.

Try the 3 D's...

Delay - This feeling will pass... I can handle this..."  Delaying your decision, and supportive self-talk will help you to break the habit of reaching immediately for meth whenever a craving hits.
 
Distract - Once you've delayed your decision, Distract yourself from thoughts about meth. Go for a walk or run, have a shower, call a support person, listen to music, just do whatever it takes to get you through the peak. It should only last for a few minutes...remember to make a note of what works for you and do it again and again.  Eventually your mind will associate the new activity with pleasure and a new, healthy habit is born!
 
Decide - After the craving's passed, remind yourself why you wanted to stop using meth in the first place. Re-read your reminder card if you made one. Now DECIDE to stay stopped (or cut down). Know that the next craving will be easier to manage because you didn't give in to it this time. Every time you get through it without using meth, your confidence will increase and you can challenge any catastrophic thoughts you may have had about your ability to be stronger than your cravings.  

Try relaxation

Cravings can make people feel agitated, anxious and edgy. You CAN consciously decide to relax though, and these techniques work really well, even for people with anxiety problems. You can't be both relaxed and anxious at the same time, so CHOOSE to be relaxed.

Breathing relaxation;

•    Sit (or lie) down and close your eyes, or let your eyes gently rest on an object in the room.
•    Inhale deeply and slowly, while counting to four.
•    Exhale slowly, counting to four.
•    Inhale deeply and slowly again as you count to four, then hold your breath for two seconds.
•    Exhale slowly, counting to four.
•    Repeat inhale and exhale cycle for several minutes, and consciously relax.
•    As you inhale, imagine yourself in a safe, comfortable, beautiful place. Continue to breathe as you hold the image in your mind. Feel how relaxed you are.
•    When you are ready, become aware of yourself in the room once again, wriggle your fingers and toes, and slowly open your eyes.

Listen to the breathing relaxation MP3

Progressive muscle relaxation;

•    Rest your arms by your side, and close your eyes.
•    Inhale as you count to 4, and exhale as you count to 4, until your mind is quiet and you feel calm.
•    As you continue to breathe slowly, tense each muscle group for 10 seconds (don't tense so much that you feel cramp or pain), then relax for 10 seconds, starting with your:

  1. Feet: curl your toes, then relax.
  2. Calves: tighten your calf muscles, then relax.
  3. Thighs: tighten your thigh muscles, then relax.
  4. Buttocks: tighten your buttocks, then relax.
  5. Stomach: pull your tummy in, then relax.
  6. Chest: breathe in deeply, then breathe out and relax.
  7. Hands: clench your hands into fists, then relax.
  8. Lower arms: bend your hands up at the wrists, then relax.
  9. Upper arms: bend your arms up at the elbow, then relax.
  10. Shoulders: lift your shoulders up, then relax.
  11. Neck: roll your neck gently to the left, then the right, then forward, and relax.
  12. Jaw: clench your teeth, then relax.
  13. Forehead and scalp: close your eyes tightly, then relax.
  14. Eyes: raise your eyebrows, then relax.
  15. Continue slow, controlled breathing for five more minutes, and enjoy the feeling of relaxation.
  16. When you're ready, have a good stretch and bring your awareness back into the room.

Listen to the muscle relaxation MP3

Look after your mental health

Regular meth use can have an impact on your mental health. Long term effects can include;

  • Depression/depressive symptoms - feeling sad, tired, lost interest in things, can't sleep
  • Anxiety - nervousness and worry that is hard to control
  • Psychosis/psychotic symptoms - hallucinations and paranoia, which may persist

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms it is important to speak to a health professional, or, speak to someone you trust who can support you to get professional help. 

Crisis assistance - If you or someone you know are having thoughts of suicide, self harm or experiencing persistent psychotic symptoms, call an ambulance on 000, or if the situation is dangerous call the police on 000.  They will make sure you are safe and your symptoms are treated.

  • The emergency department of your local hospital will also help in a crisis.

General practitioner - Your GP can provide a referral to a professional, or may help you to manage your symptoms with brief counselling or medication.

Counselling - If you'd like to see a psychologist for counselling, Medicare can pay for up to twelve counselling sessions by a registered psychologist if you're referred by a GP.

Counsellors from other professional backgrounds might also be registered for medicare rebates so check with your selected counsellor.

Drug and alcohol treatment services  - have counsellors and psychologists on staff, so check availability with your local drug treatment service.  If you seek treatment for you meth use at a drug & alcohol service, they will also assist with any mental health symptoms you are experiencing, so be open with them.

We can help you find a drug & alcohol treatment service - see our 'How we can help' section.

Other services worth contacting about mental health include;

more about Depression

How do I know if I have Depression?

It's not uncommon for people to feel flat, irritable, tired and generally pretty low for a few days after a binge on meth and most people have their own way to get through the coming down period.  

But, regular meth users are at risk of experiencing persistent depressive feelings because their stores of neurotransmitters that regulate mood are often pretty low.  This in itself can be a strong trigger to use meth again.

Symptoms of depression include:

  • Depressed mood that hangs around for longer than a few weeks.
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities.    
  • Feeling physically unwell, run down, having aches or pains.
  • Significant weight gain or loss (without dieting and unrelated to meth use).
  • Sleep problems (insomnia, broken sleep).
  • Loss of energy, or feeling tired or lethargic for no real reason.
  • Poor concentration, fuzzy thinking.    
  • Loss of interest in sex.
  • Feeling hopeless, worthless, guilty or responsible for things beyond your control.
  • Having thoughts of self-harm or suicide.

Managing Depression

Have a complete break from using meth - It's important to have a break to replenish neurotransmitter stores. Lots of rest and a good diet are important when you are recovering.

Use different ways to cope with stress - Try the relaxation techniques and problem solving skills in our Preparing to Stop and Managing Cravings sections.

Watch your mood - On a scale of 1-10, write down how you feel each day with 10 being the best and 1 the worst. Also write down what you were thinking and doing at the time, and any events that triggered those feelings. This will help you identify any unhelpful patterns that might need your attention.

|   Day?   |   Doing?   |   Thinking?   |   Event?   |   Depression Rating /10   |

Become aware of your automatic thoughts - depression and anxiety to get into unhelpful patterns of thinking. For example:

  • Black and white thinking: If you don't love me then you must hate me.
  • Personalising: My partner's in a bad mood, I must have done something wrong.
  • Catastrophising: If I don't have meth I'll die. 
  • Jumping to negative conclusions: Even if I get the chance to do it I know I'll mess it up.
  • Generalising: Everything in my life is going wrong.
  • Negating: She was only nice to me because she felt sorry for me.

When you catch yourself thinking a negative or unhelpful thought, ask yourself:

  • Is the thought 100% true or do I need more information to be sure? - sometimes just checking on the facts will help you get some perspective and reduce unnecessary worry.
  • Is the thought part of an unhelpful pattern? - recognising your own thinking patterns can give you a chance to ditch the automatic pilot and start to actively think about things in a more positive and realistic way.
  • Is there another way to think about this? - there are many ways to interpret a situation and with attention, you can replace automatic, negative thoughts with more positive ones.

For example:   

Unhelpful: My partner's in a bad mood, I must have done something wrong.

Helpful: My partner's in a bad mood, I don't know why so I'll find out what's going on.

Get professional help if you...

  • Feel depressed most of the time.
  • Feel guilty or responsibility for things beyond your control.
  • Don't improve on your own.
  • Have thoughts of self-harm.

Your local GP or mental health service might recommend counselling, or you might even be prescribed an antidepressant medication for your symptoms. Mixing meth with some antidepressants can lead to a range of medical complications, such as dangerously high blood pressure, heart attack, and seizures, so be honest with your prescriber about your meth use.  If you can't talk to your regular doctor about your meth use, ask around among friends or acquaintances and find a doctor that you can talk to.

more about Anxiety

Managing Anxiety

People can feel anxious or panicky due to elevated levels of neurotransmitters, but these feelings generally resolve when the meth wears off. Regular meth users often report troubling symptoms of anxiety though, so if the anxious feelings persist when you're not using meth, or you're concerned about these feelings, the following steps can be helpful.

How anxious do you feel?

On a scale of 1-10, write down how you feel each day with 1 being the least anxious and 10 the most anxious. Also write down what you were thinking and doing at the time, how you were feeling (e.g. worried, panicky) and any events that triggered those feelings. This will help you identify any unhelpful patterns or automatic thoughts that might need your attention.

|    Day    |    Doing?    |    Thinking?    |    Feeling?    |    Anxiety Rating /10    |

Identify your automatic thoughts and challenge unhelpful thoughts - "If that person talks to me I'll die". When you catch yourself thinking an unhelpful thought, ask yourself:

  • Is the thought 100% true, or, do I need more information to be sure?  Sometimes just checking the facts will help you to calm down and get some perspective on the situation. It's common to automatically jump to negative conclusions or have catastrophic thoughts when you're anxious.
  • Is the thought part of an unhelpful pattern? Recognising your own thinking patterns will help to give you space to think about things in a more positive way. It's common for anxious people to talk themselves into a frenzy, but if you can say to yourself, "this is just me jumping to a negative conclusion again, so it might not be completely true"  can help you to calm down and think more realistically. 
  • Is there another way to think about this? There's many ways to interpret a situation and with attention, you can replace automatic, negative interpretations with more positive ones. For example:

  Unhelpful thinking: My partner is upset, something bad must have happened.   

  Helpful thinking:  My partner is upset, I'll ask and find out why? 

  • Learning new ways of thinking takes time and work but like everything in life it gets much easier with practice.   
  • Use the breathing and progressive muscle relaxation techniques regularly - It's important to practice so you can use them as soon as you start to feel anxious. If you manage your symptoms early you've got a much better chance of staying calm and in control.   

Get some professional help if you...

  • Feel anxious most of the time.
  • Feel so nervous that nothing could calm you down.
  • Don't improve on your own.
  • Have thoughts of self-harm.

If it's a crisis situation and you have thoughts of self harm, contact 000 and ask for an ambulance.

  • The emergency department of your local hospital will also help in a crisis.

See a GP and speak about your symptoms.

Contact a drug and alcohol treatment service - we can assist; see our 'How we can help' section.

Other services worth contacting about mental health include;

more about Psychosis

About Psychosis

Psychosis brought on by any kind of meth, including ice and speed, can be a very scary experience. Meth psychosis can potentially put the person and those around them at risk of physical harm. 

Many meth users report having mild symptoms such as illusions (a mental impression caused by a misinterpretation of an actual event e.g. a shadow is thought to be a person), or having 'odd' thoughts that come and go.

But some meth users have more severe episodes where they hear or see things that aren't there (hallucinations), or become extremely anxious and believe that people are out to get them in some way (paranoia). Some people believe that they have super-human abilities such as being able to fly.

Psychosis can also cause people to become emotionally unstable or agitated, and act in seemingly irrational, hostile or sometimes violent ways. This is the most common reason why people are taken to hospital emergency departments for immediate treatment.

Many people recover spontaneously from these symptoms within a few hours as the meth wears off and they get some much needed sleep. On the other hand, psychosis can persist for days, weeks, months or longer and in this case people need specialist mental health treatment.

Regular and dependent meth users are at greatest risk of experiencing psychosis, as are injectors and smokers of crystal meth.   

How can I reduce my risk?

  • Take regular breaks from meth and NEVER use more than once a week.
  • Large amounts and long binges increase risk of psychosis so keep track of how much you're using and plan regular rest periods - lack of sleep also increases risk.
  • Learn to recognise your early warning signs of psychosis such as feeling more anxious, stressed or afraid than usual, feeling overly suspicious of people, hearing things, seeing things, feeling 'strange' or feeling that the world or people have changed in some way. If you do feel any of these things, have a complete break from meth to reduce your risk of having a serious episode.
  • If you do feel scared or have symptoms, go somewhere quiet and familiar where you can feel safe and get grounded. Take a support person who can talk you through it and help you stay calm until the meth wears off. If it doesn't wear off, get some help straight away.
  • If you've had psychosis before, you have a high risk for having it again so carefully weigh up the risks before you decide to keep using meth.
  • Meth can stop antipsychotic medications from working, so if you already have a psychotic illness and need to take medications to stay well, the best advice is to stop using meth altogether....

Get some professional help if you...

  • Feel psychotic symptoms most of the time and when not using meth..
  • Don't improve on your own.
  • Have thoughts of self-harm.

If it's a crisis situation and you have thoughts of self harm, contact 000 and ask for an ambulance.

  • The emergency department of your local hospital will also help in a crisis.

See a GP and speak about your symptoms.

Contact a drug and alcohol treatment service - we can assist; see our 'How we can help' section.

Other services worth contacting about mental health include;

Managing unhelpful thoughts

Types of unhelpful thoughts

People with depression and anxiety tend to interpret situations negatively. This way of thinking can become a pattern that makes people feel worse and can also bring on cravings to use meth.

Do you have any of the following unhelpful thought patterns?

  • Are things in your life either all good or all bad with no shades of grey?
  • Do you think that because something has gone wrong once, it will go wrong every time?
  • Do you have strict rules about yourself and your life? For example, do you think that in order to be good at something, you must do it perfectly every time?
  • Do you believe that in order to be a good person, everybody must like you all the time?
  • Do you usually interpret situations negatively, even when a positive explanation is just as likely?
  • Do you tend to make a mountain out of a molehill? "If I don't have some meth, I'll die."
  • If one thing goes wrong do you think that your whole life is a mess?
  • Do you blame yourself for anything bad that happens? "I feel stupid, so I am."

Managing unhelpful patterns of thinking

You can manage and overcome unhelpful thinking patterns by following a few simple steps.

  1. Spot a negative feeling - feeling anxious, tense, irritable or angry, feeling guilty, sad, hopeless or depressed, having a craving for meth.
  2. Have I just had an unhelpful thought that lead to that negative feeling? "yes"
  3. Distance yourself from the thought and see it for what it is - thoughts are just thoughts that come and go. Thoughts are not facts, they are not real, and I am not my thoughts.
  4. Label the thought - Which type of unhelpful thought did I just have?
  5. Give yourself a reality check - What are the facts? Is this 100% true? Do these thoughts fit with the facts as I understand them? "no"
  6. Allow yourself to think differently - If I take these facts into account, how else could I interpret this situation? Is the alternative explanation just as likely to be true? Does the alternative explanation make me feel better?'