Methamphetamine is a Schedule II drug as classified by the DEA and is only available medically as a nonrefillable prescription. Its medical uses are limited so prescriptions are rarely handed out – methamphetamine is most often used for recreational purposes.
A stimulant that increases energy, talkativeness and a sense of euphoria, it’s often abused in high doses, increasing the risk of long-term complications and overdose.
If you have a family member or friend struggling with methamphetamine abuse, it is important for their safety and well-being to offer them support as best you can, and get them the help they need when the time is right.
What are the effects of methamphetamine abuse?
When consumed, meth releases very high levels of dopamine which triggers the brain’s pleasure/reward system and invokes that desire to repeat said pleasurable action (in this case, taking more of the drug). In addition, meth abuse has many short-term side effects the individual will experience shortly after consumption, including:
- Hyperattention and energy
- Decreased fatigue
- Depressed appetite
- Heightened euphoria, or a rushing sensation
- Increased body temperature
- Rapid breathing
- Increased heart rate, or irregular heartbeat
Methamphetamine use can also significantly impact one’s mental and physical health to the point of having long-term effects depending on how long the abuse occurred and how frequently.
Long-term effects include:
- An inability to feel pleasure from anything other than the drug, further feeding the cycle of addiction
- Withdrawal symptoms upon stopping the drug suddenly or skipping a dose
- Mental health symptoms include depression, anxiety, paranoia and mood swings
- Changes in brain chemistry and functioning, including memory loss and difficulty performing fine motor skills
- Trouble focusing
- Increased agitation or aggression
- Weight loss
- Dental disease
- Decreased quality of life and lack of healthy relationships/community
Which of these effects manifest depends on the health and habits of each individual, but can be best prevented through early detection of the symptoms of addiction and treatment designed to address addiction and any mental health complications that led to abusive habits.
Helping a loved one battling methamphetamine abuse
Watching a loved one struggle with a substance use disorder is never easy and may leave you feeling hopeless or helpless. However, while you cannot induce change in your family member or friend simply by willing it, you can make a difference by being present to them and encouraging healthy habits in simple, sincere ways.
If you feel compelled to bring to your loved one’s attention the concerns you have regarding signs of meth abuse, make sure you’re also ready to listen to their side of the story. They may not want to share anything with you at all, and that is okay – but if they are open to talking, make sure you practice active listening.
Let them share their story and experience with you without interruption; don’t offer advice unless they ask, and offer to help them get the help they need only when they are finished with their story. It might take them a long time to realize they need help, but knowing they can count on you as a listening ear will be significant in their search for recovery.
Know the difference between supporting vs enabling
Enabling is offering “help” that actually furthers addictive habits. This could include paying for your loved one’s rent since they are struggling financially as a direct result of methamphetamine abuse. While well-intentioned, offering to help financially in these ways usually enables addictive behaviors.
Consider showing support in other ways, including inviting them over for a meal once a week, offering to drive them to a treatment center for therapy or helping them move should they make a big life-changing decision to get out of their current situation.
Help them make the first call
It can be really intimidating to reach out to a treatment center – even though it might be the step that needs to be taken, your loved one may feel like it’s insurmountable. You can help by researching the best treatment facilities with them, sitting with them as they call or email the facility and maybe even driving them to their first treatment session.
This participation in their recovery will show that you are fully supportive of this process and will offer them encouragement when they feel the most vulnerable.
Support lifestyle changes
If your loved one begins indicating their desire for change, help them with the big transitions. Maybe they want to get a new job away from coworkers who encourage addictive habits – help them polish their resume and select a professional outfit for the interview. Maybe they want to move out of their apartment where abuse often occurred – help them search the internet and visit potential new homes with them.
Whatever signs of change your loved one pursues, feel free to actively support them. Your actions will go a long way in affirming their healthy lifestyle choices.
Family addiction support
If addiction is present in your family, help is available for you, for your struggling loved one and for all members of the family.