If you’re the parent of a child using methamphetamine, let me start by sitting with you in your fear for a moment. Your heart hurts like you’ve never imagined. Every parent’s worst nightmare is the death of their child. When your kid is using hard drugs, that fear feels a lot closer to reality. Knowing how little control you have over this situation is also devastating. Feeling the shame of other people making sympathetic comments but still wondering if they secretly are judging you leaves you feeling lonely and disconnected. This is a very hard journey you’re on. My heart goes out to you, and you are included in my nightly prayers.
The abuse of methamphetamine is becoming rampant. It is relatively inexpensive for a hard drug, and the first high is supposedly so wonderful that it is extremely difficult not to use again. A lot of people report feeling hooked after their first use. Some estimate there are 24.7 million abusers worldwide. I think that is probably a conservative guess because meth abusers tend to be difficult to track.
Here are some of the signs you might see if your teenager is abusing meth:
- rapid weight loss
- periods of intense irritability and hyperactivity lasting several hours to even a few days
- periods of long hours of sleep and exhaustion
- dilated eyes
- they are suddenly out of money
- selling their things
- paranoia or intense anxiety
- paraphernalia in their room
- inability to meet responsibilities like homework, chores and curfews
- seems sneaky, like not going where they say they are
These are also signs of other problems. Don’t assume your teenager is doing meth if you see these signs. Just be aware it’s one of the possibilities.
Meth has several names. It is referred to as ice, glass, crystal, crystal meth, and speed. The prescription drug form of methamphetamine is Desoxyn. It is rarely prescribed anymore because of its addictive nature and dangerous side effects.
There are essentially five ways to get meth into the body. The two less common ways are to swallow it, or to take it in a suppository. More commonly meth is injected, smoked or snorted. It is possible to overdose on meth. An overdose can cause brain damage, heart damage or in extreme cases, death.
The high from methamphetamine is an intense burst of energy and euphoria. Many abusers say it helps them think very clearly and to focus. The high differs based on how and why the user is using it. Some take it orally in small doses to focus on a long, tedious task such as studying or completing a project. Most people who are abusing meth on a regular bases are looking for the longer, more intense high that comes from injecting or smoking. This is usually what you think of when you think of someone who abuses meth. They go on a “bender,” typically lasting from 1-3 days. They are wired, hyper, feel invincible, and energetic.
After the high ends comes the “crash.” This is the complete exhaustion that results from not taking care of the body’s needs such as sleep, hydration, eating, and hygiene. The body can be so depleted that the person might sleep for a full day or even two. After that the withdrawals include an extreme depression and sadness. Unfortunately the only remedy for this depression is to either get high again, or to quit using. Most people elect to get high again because the depression has been known to linger for up to six months. It is a true colorless pit of depression. A friend of mine who had been sober for three years once told me it took her about six months before she noticed the sky was blue, flowers had beauty and things stopped generally seeming dingy. She said her perception of reality had been skewed. She said the depression that came from the damage she had done to her brain was nearly unbearable and it took everything she had not to use again.
For users who become addicted, they rapidly develop tolerance. This means they need more and more of the drug to achieve any effect. It also means each and every high is less intense. At some point all the drug does is stave off the withdrawals even though there is no longer a high.
If you are the parent of a child using, I strongly urge you to get into a community of parents who have kids struggling with drugs. You will find the support you need for the days you feel like you can’t even breathe. Three good options are CODA, Alanon and Celebrate Recovery. They all have support groups that might help you walk though how to effectively help your teen. If you’re not the support group type, another good option is therapy. A therapist with a background in addiction recovery can help you understand options, point out ways that you might be accidentally enabling your child, and give you the safe space you need to work through your emotions around what has happened.
Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT
Some of the information shared in this blog post was gathered from drugfreeworld.org, some was gathered from my own experiences when I worked on the detox ward of a psychiatric hospital, and some from the clients I’ve worked with over the years who have endured the painful battle with a methamphetamine addiction.