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How Long Does Meth Stay in Your System?

As with most drug use, meth is detectable even months later in a person’s hair, although it can take at least a week from use for affected hair to grow out enough to be detected.

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A person can expect meth to remain in their system for at least four days.

Drug Testing for Meth

Traces of methamphetamines can stay in the body for days after use, with meth use detectable in hair even months later. When a person uses meth, it is distributed throughout the body, with the highest uptake occurring in a person’s:

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  • Lungs
  • Liver
  • Brain
  • Kidneys

For reasons related to how the body processes drugs and disposes of waste materials, urine is usually where meth is most immediately detectable for the longest period of time, with the drug generally remaining detectable in a person’s urine for about four days from cessation of use. After about a week from a person’s initial use, hair will begin to also have detectable traces of the drug, remaining detectable in hair for about three months.

The following is a chart of common sources of samples that might be tested for meth use and approximately how long the drug is detectable in each:

Source of SampleHow Long Is Meth Detectable?
Blood> 4 days after use
Saliva> 4 days after use
Urine~ 4 days after use
Hair~ 3 months after use

How Is Meth Metabolized?

When a person uses meth, approximately 37 to 54 percent is eventually eliminated unchanged through the urine. The rest is primarily eliminated via hepatic metabolism. This is when the liver, through a polymorphic enzyme cytochrome, converts methamphetamines into primarily two substances:

  • Para-hydroxymethamphetamine
  • Amphetamine

In simpler terms, meth first enters the body, having its characteristic effects. As it flows through the liver, some of it is processed via enzymes and broken down into different parts called metabolites. Eventually, it is largely urinated out as either unaltered methamphetamine or processed metabolites. 

How Long Can a Test Detect Meth in the Body?

Meth use can be detected very shortly after use, within a few hours or less.

The exact amount of time meth can be detected in the body is going to vary by user. Generally speaking, methamphetamine use is detectable for at least four days after use.

The best way to test for methamphetamine use in an individual is usually urine. Urine tests are less invasive than blood testing, and they’re cheaper.

If a person has not used methamphetamines recently, it becomes much harder to detect their past use through the current drug-testing methodology. Generally speaking, the only way it can be detected is after about a week through a person’s hair. 

Factors That Impact Meth’s Presence in the Body

The amount of meth a person uses is going to impact how much is present in their body. Obviously, putting more methamphetamines into your system means more is generally going to be present. It also means your meth use has the potential to be detected for a longer period of time.

While not well studied in reference to illicit drug use, an individual’s size and organ health can also affect how meth is processed and expelled. Liver and kidney health in particular can impact how long meth remains in the body as well as the body’s overall ability to tolerate the drug. 

How Long Do the Effects of Meth Last? 

When swallowed, a meth high peaks at about two to four hours. A user will feel a sense of euphoria that is not as addictive as when snorting, smoking, or injecting the drug. That being said, swallowing meth is still very addictive. After that initial peak, the effects of meth will begin to fade.

When meth is snorted, smoked, or injected, a peak happens in minutes. This is because taking meth in these ways allows the drug to reach the brain faster. This creates an intense and highly addictive rush. When taken in this way, the effects of meth tend to fade much more quickly than when taking it orally.

Unfortunately, many people who use meth repeatedly use the drug, taking another dose before the initial dose fully wears off. This can make a person high for days in what is called a binge-and-crash pattern of drug abuse. Using meth in this way may make sleeping impossible and cause a person to potentially neglect basic self-care habits like drinking water or eating.

Meth Withdrawal & Detox Symptoms

Meth withdrawal can be difficult, with one small study concluding most people going through withdrawal experience “mild-moderate level” depressive symptoms during their first week of recovery along with symptoms of psychosis.

Depression and psychosis generally go away after that initial week of withdrawal, although a person will still have a strong craving for meth for at least two weeks. After this point, a person’s cravings for meth generally continue to decline until about the fifth week.

Notably, a person may still feel drawn to use methamphetamine even after going through withdrawal and successfully detoxing from the drug. Part of addiction is often psychological dependence, where a person may begin to rely on drug use to avoid certain emotional problems in their life.

This is why comprehensive addiction treatment for methamphetamine is important, as expert drug counselors can help you resist drug abuse on a long-term basis. In addiction therapy, you’ll address the underlying issues that led you to abuse meth in the first place, and you’ll develop coping mechanisms to help you resist cravings for the drug in the future.

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Medically Reviewed By Dr. Alison Tarlow

Dr. Alison Tarlow is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist in the States of Florida and Pennsylvania, and a Certified Addictions Professional (CAP). She has been a practicing psychologist for over 15 years. Sh... Read More

Updated March 20, 2024
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