Helping Your Loved One With Meth Addiction
Could your son or daughter, spouse, or other loved one be using methamphetamine (meth)? Meth is highly addictive, and its use isn’t always easy to hide. In fact, it’s possible to spot the signs of meth use early, when the person is most vulnerable to developing addiction. Doing so may help save your loved one’s life.
A Common Concern
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, an estimated 964,000 people over the age of 12 in the U.S. had a meth use disorder in 2017. This number is representative only of people who reported having used the drug. Many others don’t seek help and use the drug at a rapidly growing rate. Meth is not hard to find, and it impacts people from all walks of life.
What Is Methamphetamine & Why Is It so Dangerous?
Meth is an addictive stimulant drug. It’s often used as a powder or made into a pill. Crystal meth is one version that looks like a shiny, hard rock. People using this drug may snort it or eat it. They may mix it with liquids to inject it. Crystal meth is commonly smoked using a glass pipe. The drug tends to create a fast reaction and an intense high. A rush of pleasure occurs and lasts for a few minutes. Then, a person becomes very excited, angry, aggressive, edgy, or even afraid.
The body reacts, too. Some people develop a severe itching that they cannot stop. Others pass out because their body temperature rises to very high levels. With consistent use of the drug, meth mouth develops. This is a condition in which a person’s teeth become so brittle they break off. They also suffer from dry mouth.
A person with a meth use disorder may also have emotional difficulties, cognitive decline, and limited overall ability to focus. When addiction and dependence form, it is hard for a person using the drug to stop using it because of intense cravings and withdrawal symptoms. They are chasing the high their brain has become reliant on to function normally.
When a person has a meth use disorder, they need treatment. This must occur soon enough to prevent the onset of disease or overdose.
Signs of Meth Use in a Loved One
A person using meth isn’t likely to be able to stop on their own. They can become so dependent on it that meth becomes their sole focus each day. Some other signs to look for include:
- Thinning body (weight loss is common because many people who use meth do not consume enough calories or nutrient-rich foods)
- Acne and sore development on the skin
- Rotting teeth
- Irritability, sometimes with aggression
- Intense scratching
Some people quickly develop health problems. These may include liver damage, heart-related problems, and strokes. In addition to this, they may suffer from seizures or convulsions, especially when they are not using the drug.
Overdose is possible with meth. When this happens, the brain doesn’t get enough oxygen. The organs begin to shut down. This can lead to seizures and a coma. Without immediate treatment, it may also lead to death.
The Psychological Signs of Methamphetamine Addiction
Many people focus on looking only for physical signs of addiction. Yet, there are psychological side effects as well.
Initial use of meth creates a euphoric sensation. This happens because the body releases a high level of dopamine, the feel-good hormone, into the bloodstream. This chemical triggers the brain’s reward system. That means a person begins to crave the drug and becomes reliant on it. When they don’t have access to it, they are likely to feel intense pain, paranoia, insomnia, headaches, and cravings.
The high level of dopamine can impact a person’s memory, ability to focus, and cognitive function. They struggle to learn. Long-term use may also lead to damage to motor skills and impaired visual memory.
More so, meth can cause psychosis in some people. This may include:
- Hallucinations, or seeing something that is not there
- Auditory hallucinations (hearing something that isn’t happening)
- Sensations on the skin like bugs crawling on them, often leading to itching and skin damage
Tweaking With Meth Use
Some people also experience tweaking. This occurs when a person uses meth for a span of 3 to 15 days. They may binge use the drug every few hours for days at a time. During that time, they don’t sleep and, in some cases, may not eat. This causes confusion and puts a person at a very high risk of overdose. Tweaking causes psychological effects, too, including paranoia. Speaking becomes difficult as well. Some who are tweaking will be violent or engage in reckless and criminal behavior.
What Should You Do if a Loved One Is Using Meth?
It’s hard to get a person using meth to seek help. That’s why it may be important for you to seek out help from a therapist to guide you in getting them into treatment. Most importantly, act. Talk to them about their use, discuss what it is doing to their health and your relationship, and offer opportunities for treatment.
Our drug detox center is a good starting point. To get help for your loved one, reach out to us immediately for support.
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