Meth Addiction in the Family: How to Help an Addicted Son or Daughter
Recognizing meth abuse and addiction in your son or daughter is a critical first step. The sooner they can get clinical treatment, the sooner they can minimize the risks of this substance use disorder and bring the life they want back into focus. Learn how you can help a family member with meth addiction and empower them to discover new ways to handle triggers and stress in the future.
The way you imagine a meth addict looks and seems may or may not be an accurate depiction. Are meth addicts thin and sickly? In some cases, yes, they are; but many people can appear healthy who are also addicted to methamphetamine. Are meth addicts incapable of holding down a job and a relationship? In many cases, they do struggle with unemployment, destructive relationships, and homelessness. Not all meth addicts are in this category of dysfunction, but chances are good that they are headed in this direction if they don’t get the critical treatment they need.
Recognizing meth addiction in a family member is a nuanced responsibility. You are called to look beyond the stigma and witness them with compassion and understanding. As you have known your child for so long, you are in a good position to observe and evaluate whether their behaviors, appearance, and overall presence in life has changed, and you can watch for some tell-tale signs of meth addiction. Helping your son or daughter in recovery is also a nuanced responsibility because some of your actions and reactions may be counterproductive. It’s important to learn how to offer the most constructive and compassionate support. Someone with meth addiction can be helped by the family, but professional treatment is absolutely necessary and primary if they are to undergo safe detox and develop lasting skills to manage addiction in the future.
How to Tell If Your Son or Daughter Is Addicted to Meth
Whether or not someone appears healthy, if they are addicted to meth, they may be headed toward extremely serious health complications. These include heart attack, stroke, seizures, delusions, hallucinations, eating disorders, and possibly death. Methamphetamine speeds up the body’s nervous system, affecting the heart rate, blood pressure, breath, temperature, and energy levels. Because of meth’s highly addictive nature, recreational users tend to take the drug for the stimulant effects, over time needing more and more of it to achieve the desired high. The side effects can be extensive and dangerous—no matter how much of the drug a person takes—because everyone reacts to it differently.
Getting high on meth can give someone confidence, energy, and feelings of euphoria. It can also distort a person’s thoughts and perception of reality, overload their nervous system and cardiovascular systems, and diminish their ability to participate in life as they have in the past. Again, symptoms of meth abuse vary, but here are some of the signs that you can look for in your daughter or your son:
- Uncharacteristic joyfulness and self-confidence
- High energy
- Aggression and irritability
- Fast and confused speech
- Psychotic symptoms, including delusional thinking or hallucinations
- Depression or mood swings, which could signify periods of withdrawal
- Dilated pupils
- Feeling overly warm
- Feelings nauseous or vomiting
Particularly because you are their parent, they may try hard to hide suspicious activity from you. They may also be particularly sensitive and resistant to your watchfulness and advice. This sensitivity can create a fine line between what is helpful in the direction of recovery and what actually triggers your child’s compulsive behaviors, provokes them to withdraw further, or otherwise isolates them from positive perspective and support. Hence, sometimes it’s just really valuable to have a third-party expert opinion to help you discern which of your son’s or daughter’s behaviors are concerning and, more importantly, what to do next.
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How to Help a Family Member with Meth Addiction
While it’s easy to get frustrated and scared and to feel hopeless, it’s best if you can take a step back, breathe, and act from a place of awareness when it comes to your child’s substance use disorder. Even without intending to, you may be imposing shame and negativity on them, which can drive them away and help keep them stuck in the disempowered place from which addiction takes hold. It’s infinitely better if you can help to instill confidence in your son or daughter while making available the kind of comprehensive addiction treatment they need.
Addressing the Dangers of the Drug
The treatment program that will help set them up on the road to long-term recovery from meth addiction involves intensive support for their physical, psychological, emotional, and behavioral symptoms, as well as the constructive development of long-range coping strategies. Particularly for the psychological symptoms of withdrawal—the cravings and possible psychosis, paranoia, depression, suicidal ideation, anxiety, and aggression—a medically supervised detox can ensure the safest and most comfortable transition away from the drug.
Once someone has gotten clean, the risk of relapse is high. A long-term residential treatment program can help them to build a foundation for sustained recovery. With cognitive behavioral therapy and other psychotherapy modalities, peer support, holistic therapies, and family involvement, clients discover strength from many corners of themselves and their lives—enough to help them manage the triggers and stressors that drove them to use in the past.
Addressing the Dangers of Enabling and the Value of Constructive Relationships
Unfortunately, it’s possible that some of your best intentions and actions to help your child overcome their addiction may have reverse effects. If they are struggling to make ends meet in life with the burden of their addiction in tow, supporting them financially or otherwise may actually be making this destructive life possible. A better move in the direction of recovery would be to reach out to a treatment center for guidance in navigating this sensitive territory of addiction as a family disorder.
There are ways to force someone into treatment, but their chances of success in really connecting with recovery and their responsibilities will be significantly greater if they can actually buy into the value of this path. That is to say, the value of the path as they see it—not necessarily as you see it. In fact, the best way for a person to enter treatment is to be able to envision the life they want and to understand more clearly how their substance use is getting in the way of that desire. Treatment specialists can help to guide you both in this direction of awareness and intention. Not only will your son or daughter be completely supported in their journey, but you, too, will be supported in helping your child develop an empowered relationship with their addiction and their life as a whole.
Alta Mira offers comprehensive treatment for people struggling with drug and alcohol addiction as well as co-occurring mental health disorders and process addictions. Contact us to learn more about our renowned Bay Area programs and how we can help you or your loved one start the journey toward lasting recovery.