Children and teens who use meth tend to suffer greater and more extensive changes to brain function than adults. Pay attention to these signs of meth addiction to ensure you can get your child or teen treatment as soon as possible.
How Common is Meth Use Among Children and Teens?
The reality is that children are abusing meth, and putting themselves at risk for life-long battles with addiction. In 2015, meth was used by 0.5% of 8th graders, 0.8% of 10th graders, and 0.6% of 12th graders. Additionally, 0.5% of 12th graders reported using meth within the last year. While these numbers reveal meth isn’t as commonly used as marijuana, kids are still getting their hands on this drug.
What Parents Need to Know About Meth Abuse
Methamphetamine is a Schedule II drug, which means it has a high potential for abuse and dependence. Meth is available in several forms, and can be used in the following ways:
- Swallowed or taken by mouth
Meth is most often abused in a “binge and crash” pattern since the high is so short-lived. Meth users try to stay high by using more before the initial amount has even left their bloodstreams.
Meth has a high relapse rate and is a difficult addiction to overcome. Often people who start abusing drugs at a young age face lifelong battles with addiction. The best chance you have is to intervene right away and stop the cycle of addiction.
What Are the Signs Your Child Is Using Meth?
Behavioral changes are the first major signs of meth addiction. Teens who use meth will start skipping meals and losing weight. They may go through periods of high energy followed by long crashes.
Other common meth effects to look out for include:
- Increased focus
- Increased activity
- Visible euphoria/rush
- Increased respiration
- Rapid/irregular heartbeat
- Hyperthermia (elevated body temperature)
Evidence of drug paraphernalia in your child’s room or personal space will point to drug abuse. If they are using meth, they may emit an odor similar to cat pee while using.
What Effect Does Meth Have on the Adolescent Brain?
Children, teens, and young adults who use meth generally face a greater risk for brain damage. This is because the young brain continues to develop through the age of 25. Studies show that teens who use meth suffer diminished thickness in the gray matter of the frontal cortex when compared to the brains of adult meth users. The frontal cortex is involved in the ability to organize, reason, and remember things.
- Mood disturbances
- Violent behavior
- Psychosis, such as paranoia, visual and auditory hallucinations, and delusions
Prolonged use of meth causes chemical and molecular changes in the brain. These changes often lead to limited motor skills and difficulties with verbal learning. These brain changes may last long after meth use is stopped, and may be reversed after being off the drug for more than one year.
The Matrix Model is an ideal treatment for young patients and their families. This 16-week treatment approach combines behavioral therapy, family education, individual counseling, 12-step support, drug testing, and encouragement for non-drug-related activities. Contingency management interventions are also effective for treating meth use. These methods provide tangible incentives in exchange for engaging in treatment and maintaining abstinence.
Teens who are overcoming meth addiction can benefit greatly from wilderness therapy. Wilderness Therapy is an alternative therapy that takes place in the great outdoors. It exposes teens to challenging situations in nature that promote healing and recovery. Outpatient therapy may also be used but is only ideal for teens who have supportive home environments.
Meth use is severe and dangerous — especially for children and teens whose bodies and brains are still developing. Addiction is a chronic relapsing brain disorder and requires professional treatment. Pay close attention to signs of meth addiction in your child, and connect them with the help they need to stay healthy.