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How to Help Someone Addicted to Meth
Author: Phil Kosanovich
Published: January 3, 2023
How to Help Someone Addicted to Meth

Meth addiction can lead to serious health risks, fortunately, addiction treatment can help prevent or reverse many of those risks.

If you want to help someone who is suffering from an addiction, the first step is to educate yourself on drug abuse and substance use disorder. This article provides detailed information on methamphetamine addiction to help you understand, at least, the basics of it.

However, you can go deeper into your own research. The more you learn about addiction, the better you’ll understand the person going through it, and the better you’ll be able to help them.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in 2020, more than 2,6 million people aged 12 and older had used methamphetamine in the previous 12 months. Moreover, around 1.5 million suffered from meth use disorder. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, around 500 people a day try meth for the first time.

These statistics could mean you or a loved one could be suffering from meth use. Therefore it is crucial to know what are the symptoms of those suffering from meth addiction and how to help a loved one seek meth addiction treatment.

What is Methamphetamine?

What is Methamphetamine?

Methamphetamine, commonly known as meth, is an illegal and highly addictive stimulant drug. Usually, people use meth for its euphoric effects, which are very similar to those of cocaine but cheaper, and its effects last longer.

There are a few different forms of the drug, both legal and illegal. For instance, methamphetamine hydrochloride is approved by Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a treatment for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

But, illegal forms of methamphetamine, including crystal meth, have grown in popularity, and they are usually made in form of a white powder that can either be snorted or dissolved in water and injected.

History of Meth

Meth was developed from amphetamine, and it was first synthesized in the late 1800s. The substance was first introduced as a nasal decongestant and respiratory stimulator as well as a weight-loss drug in the early 20th century. Moreover, meth was used during World War II to keep troops awake and make factory workers work for longer periods.

But it was only in 1919 that Japanese chemist, Akira Ogata, streamlined the process and created the first crystal meth, the most consumed form of meth in the world. This was done by using phosphorus and iodine to reduce the ephedrine into a crystallized form.

What is Crystal Meth?

Crystal methamphetamine is a synthetic psychostimulant drug that increases the brain’s internal processes influencing the Central Nervous System; And is one of the most addictive substances. Crystal meth, a solid and crystalline form of methamphetamine, is an illegal drug and part of the street drugs group.

Users use crystal meth by either snorting or smoking it, which provides an intense high, making this type of meth more addictive and, potentially, more harmful than other forms of methamphetamine.

Why is Meth so Addictive?

Methamphetamine or crystal methamphetamine has a high potential for misuse and addiction. This is because its tolerance is usually developed very quickly, and psychological addiction can be developed soon after someone uses it.

Naturally, the brain makes dopamine to control behaviors such as pleasure and desire, which is crucial for healthy development. It keeps the brain cells active, allowing us to have feelings such as euphoria.

However, meth increases 12 times the normal amount of dopamine levels, which causes the brain to feel more pleasure than on its own. It can also remain in the brain’s synapses for long periods after use.

Chronic Meth Use

The chronic use of meth can lead to a substance abuse problem. This is because, as briefly mentioned before, after prolonged meth use, people begin to develop a tolerance to the drug. Additionally, the person using may become incapable of producing dopamine naturally, needing higher doses each time to experience simple feelings of pleasure.

In particular, individuals who experienced crystal meth report them became addicted to it after experiencing a “meth high” just once.

How Long Does Methamphetamine Stay in Your System?

Those who consume meth by snorting it experience its effects within 15 to 20m and can last for hours. While those who use meth by smoking experience its effects for fewer periods.

Additionally, meth has long-lasting effects, and it may take up to four days to leave the body. Above that, it takes around 10 hours for the body to metabolize and eliminate half of the ingested amount from the bloodstream.

That said, different drug testing methods detect the presence of substances differently. For instance, a blood test can detect the drug use up to four days, and a hair test will indicate someone used the drug up to three months following its use.

Signs a Loved One is Addicted to Meth

These are the signs you should pay attention to if you believe a family member or a friend is using meth.

  • Severe weight loss and frail body;
  • Decreased appetite;
  • Dilated pupils;
  • Lip and finger burns;
  • Irregular breathing patterns;
  • Extreme sweating;
  • Facial acne and low facial skin quality, including premature aging of the skin;
  • Bad breathing and blackened teeth (meth mouth);
  • Sores, abscesses, and/or infections;
  • Nosebleeds and damage to nasal passages;
  • Lowered immunity.

Overdosing on Meth

Crystal meth is an illegal drug and as it is not regulated, it is not possible to determine how much methamphetamine is in each dose. However, overdosing on meth can be not only dangerous but also deadly for those using it.

Signs of an overdose include:

  • High body temperature;
  • Heart attack;
  • Seizure;
  • Stroke;
  • Chest pain;
  • High anxiety levels;
  • Irregular heartbeat and irregular breathing;

If not treated, an overdose can lead to organ failure and, ultimately, to death.

Side Effects of Meth Addiction

Using meth or other drugs has negative consequences for the person’s life using it. Extended use of meth can have serious and devastating effects, including:

  • Mental health issues and mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, paranoia, and even psychosis;
  • Changes in brain structure and function, including brain damage;
  • Severe dental problems, including tooth decay – known as meth mouth;
  • Cognitive issues, such as memory loss, confusion, deficits in thinking and motor skills;
  • Cardiovascular issues, including irregular heartbeat or heart failure;
  • Mood and behavior changes, like violent or aggressive behavior, mood swings, and agitation;
  • Malnutrition.
  • Anhedonia, which is a lack of pleasure, results from the destruction of dopamine receptors in the brain.

Meth Addiction and Psychosis

Long-term use of meth can increase the chances of suffering from psychosis. Those who have psychosis may experience paranoia, visual and auditory hallucinations, delusions, and repetitive behaviors. These symptoms can last weeks, months, or even years after someone stops using meth, and they can occur spontaneously.

This type of psychosis, induced by substance use, can be described as a mental state in which the person’s thoughts become erratic, and they can experience auditory and tactile hallucinations, the most common feeling is bugs crawling under the skin. This sensation, known as meth bugs, makes people scratch their skin intensely, leaving them with skin sores that can get infections.

The type of hallucinations provoked by meth psychosis is very similar to those in individuals who have paranoid schizophrenia. Ultimately, if not treated, long-term meth use could lead to a greater risk of schizophrenia.

Meth Addiction and Mental Health Disorders

Meth addiction can also aggravate the symptoms of a co-occurring mental health disorder. Co-occurring disorders are usually drug use issues and mental health disorders that co-exist, often with one contributing to the other.

In these types of situations, sometimes a mental health issue, such as depression, can be hard to diagnose by mental health services since the symptoms of methamphetamine addiction can blur the symptoms of mental illness.

If you think a loved one might be suffering from both substance abuse and a mental issue, then it is crucial to get professional help since these two conditions may require different treatment processes.

Additionally, for a full recovery, it is important to treat the two issues simultaneously and with the right treatment program to prevent relapse.

Withdrawal Symptoms of Meth Addiction

Suddenly stopping meth abuse can be dangerous without a proper medical professional drug addiction treatment. These symptoms start as soon as 24 hours after stopping methamphetamine abuse. Common withdrawal symptoms are:

  • Anger;
  • Confusion;
  • Fatigue and extreme tiredness;
  • Loss of pleasure;
  • Headaches;
  • Hunger;
  • Anxiety;
  • Sleep issues, either problems sleeping or sleeping too much;
  • Depression;
Prepare to Help Someone with a Meth Addiction

Prepare to Help Someone with a Meth Addiction

Avoid Judgemental Terms

Be aware of the language you use. Terms such as methamphetamine addicts or meth addicts can have a negative impact, especially because of the term’s negative connotations. The term “meth addict” is often used as an insult and to shame those who have an addiction. An addicted person can be seen as lazy, problematic, and irresponsible.

Ultimately, referring to someone as a meth addict defines the person according to a health issue he or she is currently dealing with. It also assumes that their most defining feature is their meth use, which can be belittling and even demoralizing.

Instead, choose not to describe or define the person by their issue. Use words such as “substance use” or just refer to them as having an addiction.

Acknowledge the Meth Abuse

It is common and perfectly understandable that family members or close friends try to avoid mentioning meth addiction in conversations. After all, talking about addiction makes it become a real issue, and you might not be ready to accept the fact that a loved one is going through such a problem.

However, to help family or friends who suffer from an addiction and to support their recovery is crucial to acknowledge their problem ourselves first and then help them recognize it. This, of course, involves a hard conversation you’ll have to have with someone with a meth addiction.

The best way to do so is to take it easy and speak from your heart without judging or trying to understand what led them to their addiction. It is not your job to determine the exact causes of their addiction, but rather help the person recognize they have a problem and they need treatment to mend the situation.

Stop Enabling Behaviors

Enabling behaviors refers to actions done by those close to the one suffering from an addiction. This means allowing or facilitating their addiction by either ignoring their behavior or lending money for the purpose of substance use.

If you see yourself in this situation, reflect on each circumstance you’re providing that makes it easier for them to continue such behavior and how you can stop enabling this type of behavior. You can still help them but in positive ways that won’t put them at higher risk or worsen their addiction.

Encourage Recovery

For this step, it is important to understand you cannot pressure someone to seek treatment. That should come from within them. However, you can always be there once the person is ready to recover and influence them by showing the benefits of treatment.

  • Do your research on addiction centers available and the type of treatment they are providing so you have an idea of what to suggest;
  • Propose sober activities, for instance, a self-care day;
  • Engage in conversations about their feelings and listen without judging;
  • Make them visualize the beneficial effects of recovery.

Additionally, it is important for those seeking professional treatment to talk to their doctor first, so a proper diagnosis is made. That said, offer to accompany them to the doctor’s appointment.

Provide Post-Recovery Support

More important than giving your support to a family member who might be suffering from substance abuse before they choose to get addiction treatment, it is to be there for them after they leave the addiction center.

This is because relapses occur more often than expected, especially if the person suffers from both drug use and a mental illness.

Meth Addiction Treatment Options

There are treatment centers that offer fantastic treatment options. Usually, their addiction treatment is paired with different types of therapy. This may include support groups, behavioral therapy, or, even, family therapy.

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy;
  • Contingency management;
  • Family therapy;
  • Outpatient treatment;
  • Therapy treatment;
  • Support groups;
  • Co-occurring disorders treatment.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the best treatment for meth addiction is behavioral therapy. Additionally, seeking professional help will provide the person suffering from addiction with specific treatment and provide coping skills that are essential to avoid addiction relapse and maintain long-term recovery.

For those in need, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration can help provide information about funding for your loved one to get the help he or she needs.


Cornerstone provides professional support and many of the treatment options described above to support recovery from substance misuse. From intensive inpatient rehab to medication-assisted treatment, we can provide the care you need to move forward.

We are experts in the field of addiction and recovery and accept all age groups, from teenagers to adults. Before the treatment process, we perform a tailored assessment to assist our clients best. In the same manner, we offer great aftercare and an outcome follow-up after discharge to assist in long-term recovery.

Get in contact today to find out how we can help you or a loved one overcome meth addiction.