How to Help a Meth Addict
Methamphetamine, when abused over a long period of time, can draw a person into a world of confusion, paranoia, and anger where they often find themselves unable to stop abusing the drug, no matter what problems come of it. This is what methamphetamine addiction is like, and for those who abuse the drug, it is extremely difficult to tell the difference between who wants to help and who means them harm.
Helping a meth addict is not easy. But it is important to remember that the individual’s addiction is what is causing them to act the way they do and that they are unable to stop themselves because of the severity of the addiction. Fortunately, there are ways to help a meth addict and get them the treatment they need to get better; here’s how.
Step One: Do Not Antagonize the Individual
One of the worst things you can do when trying to help someone addicted to methamphetamine is to antagonize, corner, or otherwise arouse hostility in the individual. Methamphetamine causes a number of effects in both the short term and long term that will make users quick to anger including paranoia, irritability, violence, anxiety, and insomnia. According to CESAR, “A person should use extreme caution when dealing with an individual on methamphetamine.”
Instead, the best way to help someone addicted to meth is to talk to them in a soothing voice and to not engage them in an argument or in angry feelings. You should not accuse them of things that they have done, even if you are angry yourself. Antagonizing the individual will only make them less likely to accept your help in the long run.
Step Two: In an Emergency, Take Them to the Hospital
The NLM states that there can be both chronic and acute versions of methamphetamine overdose. While a person who is undergoing acute overdose has taken a high dose of the drug and it is causing life-threatening effects, chronic overdose “refers to the health effects seen in someone who abuses the drug on a regular basis.”
In either case, the individual should be taken to a hospital for treatment right away. It is best to call 911 and to not engage with someone undergoing a methamphetamine overdose, especially if they have become violent or hostile. The symptoms of methamphetamine overdose are:
- Chest pain
- Heart attack
- Difficulty breathing
- Severe stomach pain
- Extreme mood swings
- Delusional behavior
Most individuals at the point of chronic overdose also show signs of malnutrition and extreme weight loss, severe dental problems (called meth mouth), and skin problems including sores, boils, and rashes caused by picking at the skin. If you are afraid for the individual’s life, you should absolutely make certain that they are treated for the effects methamphetamine is causing. Some people do not take their loved ones to the hospital, worried about the legal issues of meth abuse, and this can result in death for the overdosing individual.
Step Three: Seek Addiction Treatment for the Individual
Methamphetamine addiction treatment can be found in an inpatient and outpatient capacity as well as in long-term, short-term, and at free clinics. Fortunately, there are many resources for someone looking for methamphetamine addiction treatment, including directories such as SAMHSA‘s treatment facility locator.
According to the NIDA‘s Principles of Effective Treatment, “treatment does not need to be voluntary to be effective.” In the case that the individual cannot be reasoned into attending treatment, inpatient centers often allow others to make that decision. “Sanctions or enticements from family, employment settings, and/or the criminal justice system can significantly increase treatment entry, retention rates, and the ultimate success of drug treatment interventions.”
If you seek treatment for the individual and they either voluntarily or involuntarily attend, they will be given
- Medication to help curb the symptoms of withdrawal as well as any issues with stimulant-induced psychosis
- Therapy sessions that will teach them how to fight their cravings and avoid triggers
- Treatment for any co-occurring mental disorders as well as immediate treatment for any harmful physical ailments caused by the drug abuse
- A safe environment in which to heal
- The ability to see how their addiction is hurting them as well as you (and any other individuals in their life)
Formal addiction treatment, especially for a substance as potent as methamphetamine, is often the only way an individual can start off with a strong recovery and be able to heal. People who do not attend this type of formal addiction treatment are often more likely to relapse or struggle more in their recoveries.
Step Four: Listen
Once the individual gets to the point where they can talk to you about what they are going through, the best thing you can do is listen and be supportive. Those who receive treatment for their addictions often do much better if they have a strong support system of individuals who encourage their positive steps.
You will be helping your loved one through what will most likely be the most difficult time in their life so it is important to be available to listen as much as possible. Also remembering not to judge someone harshly for relapsing is key; relapse does not mean that the individual has to start over from the beginning, and friends and family members should be extremely supportive in this case instead of judgmental.
How to Help Yourself
If you have a loved one who has been abusing methamphetamine, it may be extremely difficult some days to be as helpful and understanding as you’ll often need to be. This is why one of the best ways to help your friend or family member who is addicted to meth is to also help yourself.
Support groups exist for family members of addicts, and talking to a counselor yourself may allow you to be more helpful to your loved one, as addiction can often cause resentment and a number of other issues in those who are involved in the individual’s life. Making sure that you are taken care of and that your feelings have an outlet can allow you to be as helpful as possible to your loved one.