Your son is acting strangely. He has periods of extreme activity and seems agitated or upset. He is losing weight and has no appetite. He has sores on his face and arms and continues to dig at them as though bugs are crawling on his skin and he cannot get them off. You’ve noticed the behavior increasing over time and you suspect substance abuse. You start finding evidence that your suspicions are true – empty soda cans with holes in the sides, crumpled pieces of aluminum foil, and his manner has changed. You find yourself facing a harsh, upsetting reality. Your son is using “meth,” and you’re not sure how to go about helping him or if you even can.

In order to help your loved one struggling with meth addiction, it is important to understand “meth” and why it is such a popular drug of choice.

The use of Methamphetamine, or meth, continues to gain popularity with young adults. The stress of a fast paced lifestyle and the urge to have more energy often contributes to the desire to try meth for the first time. Methamphetamine is an intense stimulant that can last anywhere from 8 to 10 hours when it is ingested. Meth provides a fast, strong euphoria followed by a long, less intense euphoric phase. Meth is so addicting that users can become addicted within a few uses. Meth is easy to obtain and, according to HealthResearchFunding.org, costs about $25 for one hit, which equates to about a quarter of a gram. HealthResearchFunding.org also states that the first high from Methamphetamine is so pleasurable and intense that users feel compelled to keep chasing that high, trying again and again to replicate it. For a meth user, the craving is constant.

Common signs that an individual may be using meth include: not sleeping for long periods, loss of appetite, significant weight loss, extreme activity or hyperactive behavior, loss of teeth and deteriorating dental hygiene, and acting nervous, anxious, and paranoid.

Now that you understand the extremely addictive nature of meth and understand why your loved one is so compelled to use it, what can you do to help?

There is an old adage that you can “lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink.” This is true with addiction. And when you think about it, no human being has the right to force another human being to do something they don’t want to do. There are many addicts that don’t want to quit, and you cannot force someone stop using. Denial is a powerful force with meth. It is critical to remember that a meth high is so influential that getting an individual to seek help can be complicated.

HealthResearchFunding.org reveals that it can take more than one year for a meth addict to regain various cognitive functions, including impulse control and maintaining focus, and less than three percent of meth addicts can recover from meth addiction without some form of addiction therapy. Therefore, getting treatment for a meth addict is a vital part of his or her recovery.

So what, exactly, can you do? You can provide an encouraging, supportive environment and the necessary treatment alternatives for help once the person expresses a willingness to participate. A meth addict will need unconditional love, support, and a safe place to begin his or her journey into recovery.

First, start by consulting with someone such as a psychologist, social worker, or physician to help determine the appropriate treatment for the individual. It is important to recognize that recovery for a meth addict is long term and often requires medical treatment in addition to personal and professional support. Not only can withdrawal from meth be physically demanding, but a meth addict may also have to deal with health issues such as skin infection, lung disease, dental problems, and depression.

Second, support the treatment process by trying to help your loved one recognize his or her triggers. In other words, do certain situations or people make your loved one want to use meth? Help your loved one recognize these people and situations and encourage them to avoid them. If your loved one has committed to trying to stay sober, associating with the same people he or she used to do meth with is a recipe for relapse. Recognizing and avoiding triggers is key to a successful recovery, especially during the first year of recovery, when the urge to use will be at its strongest point and the brain hasn’t regained some of its cognitive functions.

Third, recognize that recovery for a meth addict can take years and relapse is common. It has been established how addictive meth is. Let’s face it…we all stumble. Most people can only stick to a new diet for a few weeks before they try to cheat in some way. Why do we expect recovery from a substance like meth to be any different? It’s important to encourage a recovering meth user to stay sober, even if he or she has had a relapse. A relapse doesn’t mean that treatment has failed or that the individual has failed on a moral level. Encouraging a meth addict to continue and stay in treatment is vital to their recovery.

Finding the appropriate treatment for a meth addict and encouraging the addict to stay in treatment is crucial for recovery. Continuing treatment, such as counseling and group therapy, helps meth users maintain sobriety long term. Time, patience, and persistence is key when dealing with meth addiction.

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