Methamphetamine use has been eclipsed in the media by the ever-growing opioid epidemic, giving the false impression that meth use has declined. But the unfortunate reality is, meth use is still prevalent across the United States. Once used primarily by people in rural or lower income areas, meth is causing addiction in people at every socioeconomic level.
For a non-methamphetamine user, it may be very difficult to understand why someone would ever willingly risk using a drug with long-term negative effects like memory loss, mood disturbance, severe dental problems or even heart attack, brain damage or death. As far as street drugs go though, meth has a lot going for it. Compared to other illegal drugs like cocaine, meth is cheap, easy to find, and though highly dangerous, meth can be made by the person who wants to use it, and also sold to support their habit.
The most compelling reason for meth’s power over people is that it causes a release of a chemical called dopamine in the brain. In ordinary circumstances, dopamine helps a person feel good while doing something they enjoy—playing a favorite sport, eating pizza or watching a sunset. Meth, however, causes the release of 12 times the normal amount of dopamine, making the high immensely pleasurable.
This makes meth highly addictive, in addition to its destructive impacts on the user’s body. It’s why some call meth the “One and Done” drug because after someone has experienced a meth high, they want to feel that way again and again. With repeated use, the need for more meth increases to maintain the high.
How Friends and Family Can Support Recovery
If you suspect someone you are close to and care about is using meth, seek help in your area, such as through Nar-Anon, a support group for the family and friends of drug users, as well as other resources through your local hospital or mental health services. Educating yourself about the nature of addiction and how to recognize the signs of drug use will give you confidence when you talk to the person in need of help
“Approach the conversation as you would with anyone you love and are concerned about. Treat the person with compassion and understanding. At the same time, just because you’re being compassionate doesn’t mean you can’t be assertive as well. There’s a lot at stake here,” says Jennifer Mitchell, manager of Henry Ford Allegiance Substance Abuse Services. “So, it’s okay to lovingly steer them toward getting help. The goal is for the person to take responsibility and decide to seek treatment. You can’t do it for them.”
That said, you still have a lot of influence through your use of constructive communication. Mitchell points out that your willingness to voice your concerns, however difficult that may be, could very well be the catalyst toward that person heading in a better, healthier direction.
Offer reassurance instead of judgment or blame. Give your loved one confidence that you will be supportive and will help them find services to address their drug problem. Deep down, the person using meth knows they need to change something, so you do not need to be nervous suggesting they need to seek help. Remind your loved one there is still hope for a happy life—without drugs.
For assistance with substance abuse, talk to your primary care provider or visit henryford.com/addiction to learn more about our services.
You can also call 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936) in southeast Michigan. If you’re in the Jackson area or south central Michigan, call 1-888-862-DOCS.
Jennifer Mitchell is the manager for Henry Ford Allegiance Substance Abuse Services, which specializes in outpatient treatment of substance abuse and chemical dependency. Individual, group and family therapies are available to help those experiencing problems with drugs and/or alcohol.