How to Help a Meth Addict
Methamphetamine (“meth”) is a substance that has very limited medical use. The drug is only available legally under the name Desoxyn, which is a medication with limited therapeutic application for the treatment of obesity and ADHD.
As a substance of abuse, the amount of illicitly manufactured methamphetamine dwarfs that which is produced for pharmaceutical purposes. Commonly, it is a white crystalline powder or tablet that is taken orally, but it can also be smoked, snorted, or injected to produce a stimulating, euphoric high. Crystal meth is one version of the substance that is particularly dangerous, in part due to the method of production, which frequently involves numerous hazardous chemicals and toxic contaminants. It looks like pieces of broken glass and is usually smoked.
Help for Methamphetamine Addicts
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration:
- Nearly 12 million people have abused methamphetamine in their lifetimes.
- Estimates state that about 130,000 people try meth for the first time each year.
- Almost 2% of high school seniors admitted to using meth for non-medical reasons.
Fortunately, effective treatments exist for people trying to quit methamphetamine use. Although the best treatment will be tailored to the individual, possible options for someone abusing methamphetamine include:
- Inpatient substance abuse rehabilitation.
- Outpatient treatment programs.
- Individual behavioral therapy sessions with a therapist, counselor, or other addiction treatment professional.
- Family therapy.
- Support groups.
Approaching a Loved One About Getting Help
If a loved one is currently abusing methamphetamine, it may be time to consider talking to them about their drug use and treatment options. Meth is a dangerous drug and abuse can lead to death. In 2011, methamphetamine overdose accounted for nearly 160,000 admissions to the emergency room.
No one wants to witness a loved one battle an addiction to meth, as it can severely impact not only their quality of life, but also the lives of those in their support system. You may have even witnessed your loved one’s physical and mental health change or deteriorate as a result of their drug use.
If you are worried or nervous about how your loved one will react to a confrontation about their meth addiction, you are not alone. It is common to feel anxious before talking to someone about their substance use. Fortunately, there are many programs available to help you work through these emotions and prepare for a conversation. One tool is called Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT), and it has proven to be successful in engaging loved ones in treatment. CRAFT teaches family and friends positive ways to practice self-care, reward non-using behavior, and understand a loved one’s triggers for drug abuse.
Given the serious health risks of meth addiction, it is important to have the conversation early. You may just save the life of someone you love.
Is Methamphetamine Addictive?
With its powerful and quickly delivered high, methamphetamine is considered to be one of the most highly addictive of street drugs. It acts as a stimulant within the body, which means that it:
- Speeds up various processes in the body.
- Increases energy.
- Increases alertness.
- Decreases sleep behavior.
Many addictive substances, including methamphetamine, manipulate levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Increased dopamine activity may play a role in mediating a pleasurable, rewarding sensation whenever methamphetamine is used. This rewarding sensation compels the user to continue taking methamphetamine, even in the face of negative consequences (a primary indicator of addiction) or choose use over other pleasurable activities or responsibilities.
What Are the Signs of Methamphetamine Addiction?
Someone under the influence of methamphetamine may exhibit the following signs of a meth high:
- Intensely pleasurable rush/euphoria.
- High energy and motivation.
- Altered sleeping patterns.
- Diminished appetite.
- Higher body temperature.
- Quicker heart rate.
- Faster breathing.
As initially rewarding as it may be, the high from meth comes with an array of unwanted and harmful effects. Someone using meth may display:
- Anxiety, nervousness, and worry.
- Inability to sleep.
- Mood changes with depression.
- Confusion or forgetfulness.
- Symptoms of psychosis—hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia.
Another telling sign that someone is addicted to methamphetamine is their behavior when they are not under the influence. Since many use methamphetamine in “binges” that involve steady use for several days, there will be a crash that follows. A crash is marked by excessive sleeping and periods of inactivity lasting for several days.
Someone may be abusing meth to accomplish tasks like studying for school or completing a project, since the substance can create long periods of focus and energy.
Am I Addicted to Methamphetamine?
With methamphetamine being so powerful and intoxicating, addiction can begin quickly. Signs of an addiction to meth include:
- Devoting a lot of time, energy, and money to the substance.
- Devoting fewer resources to relationships, work, school, and other responsibilities.
- Ignoring the pleas of others to stop or reduce your use.
- Being unable to end use even though you want to.
- Taking more of the substance or using it for longer periods to achieve the same result. This is a sign of building tolerance.
- Feeling unable to function without the substance or feeling incomplete without it in your system. This is a sign of physiologic dependence.
Meth Addiction Treatment Types
Even with its strong addictive qualities, available treatment options have been successful in ending the use of and enabling recovery from meth addiction. Options for treatment that may take place in an inpatient rehab or outpatient treatment setting include:
- Behavioral therapy. Formal therapy is often the most effective type of treatment for someone addicted to methamphetamine. The best forms of behavioral therapy are those that utilize aspects of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)—which addresses the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that lead to and sustain continued substance use—and contingency management (CM) approaches, such as:
- The Matrix Model—A 16-week system that combines individual, group, and family therapy with 12-Step meetings and drug testing.
- Motivational Incentives for Enhancing Drug Abuse Recovery (MIEDAR)—A CM program that rewards abstinence from meth with behavioral incentives and rewards.
- Support groups. Support groups offer informal treatment, fellowship, and encouragement to participate in sober activities. 12-Step programs are the best-known support groups, but others exist. Meetings are led by members rather than a professional.
- Family education and therapy. Substance abuse and addiction have the power to influence the entire family unit. Additionally, the family unit has the ability to influence the addiction. By engaging in family therapy, both the individual using meth and their loved ones will learn more about addiction, as well as measures to improve their relationships and responses to one another.
A treatment program that utilizes many different interventions for recovery and also makes plans for a comprehensive aftercare program will allow the recovering addict to learn the skills needed to prevent relapse and live a healthy, sober life.
Find Meth Addiction Treatment Programs
Addiction to meth can be very problematic for the person using the substance and their loved ones. Fortunately, recovery is possible with treatment. Rehab programs are located throughout the U.S., and a variety of treatment types is available. You can use SAMHSA’s Find Treatment tool to search for facilities. Many state government websites will provide local drug and alcohol resources to those in need. To find your state government’s website, do a web search for your state name and ‘.gov.’
American Addiction Centers (AAC) is a leading treatment provider and has trusted rehab programs across the country. Call AAC free at to receive more information on methamphetamine abuse and possible treatment options.
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