Article at a Glance:

  • Meth is a powerfully addictive drug, creating a range of negative physical and mental side effects.
  • It can be difficult to watch a loved one suffer through meth addiction. Their behavior may change, and their health may deteriorate, but these are symptoms of a legitimate medical condition.
  • By approaching the meth addict with care and empathy and working with professionals, you can help your loved one see the need for treatment so they can begin their journey toward recovery from meth addiction.

How Is Meth Addiction Different?

Methamphetamine, or “meth,” is a highly addictive stimulant drug that people typically use by smoking, snorting or injecting. Some people may also take this drug orally in the form of a pill. A specific form that looks like glass fragments or white rocks with a blue tint is called crystal meth.

Meth addiction is so powerful because this drug quickly increases levels of dopamine, a chemical in the brain that produces feelings of pleasure. This makes a person want to use meth again and again to achieve the same rush, which eventually leads to addiction. People addicted to meth are likely to experience intense withdrawal symptoms, such as depression, drug cravings and extreme fatigue if they go without the drug.

For family, friends, and loved ones of a meth addict, watching a person become a victim of this drug can be frightening. Meth abuse comes with serious side effects, including tooth decay, severe weight loss, skin sores, anxiety, confusion and memory loss, paranoid behavior, hallucinations, aggression, coordination problems and brain damage.

What Family and Friends Should Do

If you have witnessed the above signs and symptoms in a loved one addicted to meth, you are probably wondering what you can do to help.

Research & Understand Crystal Meth

If you’re the family member of someone with any addiction, including crystal meth, the first thing to do is research addiction and the drug itself. Addiction is a chronic health problem, which leads someone to compulsively seek drugs, even when they experience negative consequences. Loved ones are often not to blame for the addiction, and the behavior of an addicted person stems from a legitimate medical condition.

It is also helpful to research what to expect from drug addiction treatment so that you can share this information with your loved one and hopefully ease some of their fears surrounding getting help.

RELATED: Methamphetamine (Meth) Addiction & Abuse

Work With Professionals

With any addiction, it can be incredibly valuable for family members to speak with professionals, whether it’s a treatment facility, individual therapist or interventionist. This can be especially true when a loved one is suffering from the devastating effects of meth addiction.

An addiction professional can help train you and the rest of your family on how to approach the addicted loved one and how to appropriately address the problem. A professional can also teach you ways to effectively motivate the person to seek treatment, often through a professionally led intervention. Professionals can also help loved ones avoid behavior that enables the addiction.

Self-Care

Regardless of how your loved one or friend feels about treatment, you need to ensure you’re taking care of yourself as well. It can be valuable to join a support group for families of addicts. Support groups offer social support where you can share your experiences to help your own mental health. You can also learn from other people’s experiences how to approach helping an addicted person.

Keep in mind that it is impossible to care for others if you do not first care for yourself. Take time to do things you enjoy, such as going for a walk, meeting a friend for lunch or taking a hot bath. These stress-relieving activities can help you cope with your loved one’s addiction in a healthier way.

How To Talk to an Addict

When confronting a loved one about their addiction and your desire for them to seek treatment, it is important to remain empathetic and understanding. Keep in mind that resistance to change is normal, and your loved one may be in denial. Give them an opportunity to express their fears regarding getting treatment instead of trying to shut them down from talking.

It is also important to avoid blaming the addicted person or making them feel ashamed, as they are unlikely to listen to you if they feel attacked. Approach the issue from a place of care and concern. You may consider expressing your love for the addicted person and reminding them of the ways that drug use has negatively affected your life and their own.

When talking to your loved one about getting help for meth addiction, you may consider using principles from motivational interviewing, a type of counseling technique that is commonly used to encourage people with addictions to get help. This non-confrontational style can shut down some of the defenses that people have and help them realize the necessity of treatment.

A professional can use motivational interviewing techniques when working with your addicted family member, but many of the principles of this method apply to having a conversation with a loved one. For example, motivational interviewing relies upon strategies like empathy, reflective listening, avoidance of arguing, and helping a person see the discrepancies between their drug use and life goals.

How Not To Help Someone Addicted to Meth

Just as there are strategies that you can use to have a more effective conversation with someone addicted to meth, there are certain things you should not do if you want to help your loved one.

Don’t Confront An Addict When They’re High

If you’re trying to help a person addicted to meth, you shouldn’t try to approach them when they’re on the drug or experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms. You probably won’t make much progress if they are under the influence or suffering from uncomfortable withdrawal side effects. Remember that meth is a stimulant drug, meaning it can lead to paranoid behavior or hallucinations. You cannot expect a discussion regarding treatment to be effective if someone is experiencing these symptoms. Withdrawal can also lead to symptoms of anxiety, depression and even psychosis, so a person who is withdrawing is unlikely to be receptive to conversation.

If possible, wait until your loved one appears to be sober and in a neutral or happy mood before approaching the topic of getting help for meth addiction. If they react with violent or aggressive behavior, this is a side effect of meth abuse and not an indication that this is an inherently dangerous person.

Don’t Force Recovery

Principles from motivational interviewing also teach that it is not helpful to force recovery. Trying to force someone to admit they need help can make them more resistant to change. Instead of forcing recovery, offer the person options, and explore their concerns regarding getting help. If you remain open to hearing their viewpoint, they are more likely to feel understood, which can help them come to their own realization that recovery is needed.

The Recovery Village provides care to those struggling with methamphetamine abuse. Reach out to us today to learn how we can help your loved one recover from meth addiction and co-occurring mental health conditions like depression or anxiety.

  • Sources

    National Institute on Drug Abuse. “What is drug addiction?” July 2018. Accessed April 26, 2021.

    National Institute on Drug Abuse. “What is methamphetamine?” May 2019. Accessed April 26, 2021.

    Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “Chapter 3— Motivational Interviewing as a Counseling Style.” 1999. Accessed April 26, 2021.

  • Medical Disclaimer

    The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

    View our editorial policy or view our research.

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