How to Help a Meth Addict
Methamphetamine, commonly known as meth, is a highly addictive drug that can cause severe physical and mental health problems. Because meth affects the brain, it is incredibly challenging for individuals to quit using it without professional help.
If you know someone who is struggling with meth addiction, you are well aware it is a frightening and emotional situation. Fortunately, there are some actions you can take to help them overcome their addiction and start living a healthier and happier life.
In this article, we will explore some steps and strategies to support a person addicted to meth in their journey toward recovery. A key place to start is to educate yourself on the disease of addiction and how meth affects the brain.
1. Educate Yourself About Meth Addiction
Addiction is a chronic disease characterized by compulsive substance use or behavior despite negative consequences. An addicted person craves the substance or behavior and cannot stop or reduce usage despite adverse effects on physical, mental, and social well-being.
How does meth affect the brain and body?
Meth is a stimulant drug that speeds up activity in the central nervous system. Although there is a legal, prescription form of methamphetamine, the drug is widely manufactured, purchased, and used illegally.
Effects of meth include:
- Increased wakefulness and physical activity, rapid breathing and heart rate, irregular heartbeat, increased blood pressure, hyperthermia (overheating), and decreased appetite. High doses may cause death from stroke, heart attack, or multiple organ problems caused by overheating.
- Increased dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a natural chemical that regulates body movement, motivation, and reinforcement of rewarding behaviors. Because meth triggers the release of unnaturally high dopamine levels in reward areas of the brain, it strongly reinforces drug-taking behavior, making the user want to repeat the experience.
Prolonged meth use damages dopamine receptors to the point where the user can no longer achieve feelings of pleasure without drug use. Regular use of meth also impairs the natural production of dopamine, causing a chemical imbalance that triggers intense cravings, severe withdrawal effects, and difficulty controlling impulses.
Understanding how meth hijacks the brain makes it easier to understand why it’s challenging for a person to “just quit” a behavior that is so damaging. Withdrawal symptoms from quitting meth can include severe depression, psychosis, extreme fatigue and anxiety, and intense drug cravings. Because symptoms can be severe, most experts urge people to stop drug use under a doctor’s supervision.
What can you do to educate yourself?
- Research and gather information from reputable sources like the National Institute on Drug Abuse about addiction, treatment options, and available resources.
- Attend support groups or consult addiction specialists who can help you understand the best course of action for your loved one. Facebook has an online meth support group for addicts, those in recovery, and their families.
2. Encourage Them to Seek Professional Help
As we discussed above, meth addiction causes severe changes in the pleasure and reward center of the brain. Professional help for detox and rehabilitation phases is essential to keep the addicted person safe, comfortable, and less likely to relapse.
Before starting the conversation about treatment, talk to an addiction specialist about the most appropriate treatment plan for your loved one. Research detox programs and inpatient and outpatient treatment options. Have specific information on hand so you will be ready if your loved one agrees to seek treatment.
Asking a meth addict to agree to treatment requires careful consideration and sensitivity. It’s essential to approach the conversation with empathy, understanding, and a non-judgmental attitude. Choose a private and calm setting where both parties feel comfortable and safe.
Start by expressing your genuine concern for their well-being and their addiction’s impact on their life and relationships. Share specific examples of how their addiction has affected you or others, emphasizing that the intention is to help, not to criticize or blame.
Discuss the treatment options you found during your research, emphasizing the potential benefits and support systems in place. Ultimately, convey your love and support, and express your belief in their ability to recover.
If the person is unwilling to seek treatment, you have some options. Staging an intervention is one option. Intervention, according to Mayo Clinic, is a well-organized process where family, friends, and professionals come together to confront a loved one about the consequences of addiction and request they seek treatment.
Another option may be involuntary commitment. If you believe an addicted person is a danger to themselves or others, you can seek involuntary commitment in most U.S. states. Currently, 37 U.S. states (and the District of Columbia) allow some form of involuntary commitment for addiction treatment.
3. Be Supportive
Recovery from meth addiction can be a long and challenging process, and studies have shown that the support of family and friends can make all the difference. Let them know you are there for them and will support them throughout their recovery journey.
Encourage them to attend support group meetings and attend meetings and counseling sessions with them when appropriate. Offer encouragement, express your love and concern, and remind them they are not alone.
Keep lines of communication open by creating a non-judgmental and safe environment where they feel comfortable discussing their challenges. Practice effective listening techniques to foster a meaningful connection with your loved one.
4. Set Boundaries
It’s essential to stop enabling addictive behavior. Set healthy boundaries by refusing to:
- Provide financial assistance.
- Cover for work or school absences.
- Make excuses for their actions.
Refrain from enabling behaviors that prevent the addicted person from facing the consequences of their actions. Clearly define, communicate, and stick to the boundaries you set.
5. Practice Self-Care
Helping someone with meth addiction can be emotionally and physically draining. Stay healthy and manage stress by engaging in self-care activities, like taking a walk and connecting with nature, practicing yoga or meditation, engaging in a creative outlet, and watching or reading inspirational stories. Seek support from others who understand the situation by joining a support group designed for family members of addicts. Taking care of yourself ensures you can continue offering the necessary support without burning out.
Helping a loved one overcome meth addiction is a challenging journey. However, with the proper knowledge, support, and resources, countless people have overcome addiction and are living sober, fulfilling lives.
Contact Midwest Recovery Centers for guidance in helping your addicted loved one.
Reviewed and Assessed by
Taylor Brown, B.A.Com., CADC
Tim Coleman, M. of Ed.