A-Z Teen Health Glossary

Teen Meth Abuse Treatment

Methamphetamine, also known as meth, is a very strong, extremely addictive stimulant drug that affects the central nervous system. It comes in a colorless, odorless, white powdery substance that is usually either snorted, injected, smoked, or mixed into water and taken orally.  Meth causes a surge of dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter in the brain associated with pleasure, reward, and motor functioning. This surge usually causes the brain to try to adapt to the sensation, beginning the process of addiction. Because of its potency, methamphetamine is also considered neurotoxic and can cause lasting damage to the brain.

What Does Teen Meth Abuse Look Like?

  • Teen meth abuse is frequently seen in teen girls who are anorexic, in order to try to help them lose weight faster.  This can be an especially harmful and dangerous combination, causing them to lose weight too quickly and look skeleton-thin.
  • Meth abuse is characterized by irritability, weight loss, lack of hygiene, physical marks such as lesions and scabs caused by constant and frequent scratching, and in extreme cases, “meth mouth”, characterized by tooth fracture, acid erosion, and gum disease.
  • Teens with meth are much more prone to taking risks and doing very dangerous things. The euphoric effect of a meth high goes beyond all reason and can cause teens to push their bodies past the limit. Some teens use a small dose of methamphetamine for studying, as an alternative to Adderall.

Signs of Teen Meth Abuse

Rapid heart rate

Increased activity

Extreme weight loss

Aggressive/ Violent Behavior

Severe dental problems



Causes of Teen Meth Abuse

Meth abuse is a biopsychosocial problem, meaning that teens are likely to use and abuse the drug due to genetic factors, environmental factors, and special circumstances. Teens with preexisting mental conditions may be more likely to misuse meth as a way to cope with their emotions, while some teens may feel pressured to use meth to lose weight, study, or fit in at a party or with a group of other teens. Possible causes for meth abuse include:

Environmental factors – poverty, location, peer pressure, stress, academic pressure, and countless other factors push a teen to make the short-sighted decision to try a drug like methamphetamine and continue to use it after the first time.

Family history – contrary to popular belief, addiction is not common among drug users. Most Americans try an illicit drug in their lifetime, and many try highly addictive drugs such as cocaine and meth. However, only a fraction of users go from experimenting with the drug to become heavy users. One of the biggest factors determining an individual’s risk to succumbing to heavy drug use is family history. A family history of addiction hints at problems with substance use.

Mental health – precarious mental stability also causes a person to go from experimenting with drugs to relying on them. While all drug use is inherently dangerous, especially for teens who are more susceptible to drug abuse and addiction, a teen’s mental state can affect their craving for drugs, because their brain recognizes a drug as an easy way to cope with difficult or painful emotions.

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Teen Meth Abuse Treatment | Paradigm Malibu


of teens have used methamphetamine


adult addicts began using drugs before age 18


of teens with major depressive disorder struggle with drug use

How Can I Help My Teen with a Meth Abuse?

Talk to your teen – the first and foremost thing to do is talk to your teen about drug use. If your teen does not realize that they have a problem, then a frank conversation might help them realize that they’re hurting themselves and others with their behavior. Be sure to come prepared with examples of times when they were a danger to themselves or others because of their habit, to convince them that they need help.

It’s important not to be judgmental or come across as someone with negative intentions – as their parent, your goal is their best interest, and that means supporting them in getting better, rather than punishing them for using drugs. If they realize and understand that you’re on their side, you have a much better chance of coming through to your teen.

Learn more about drug use – drug use is extremely pervasive throughout the United States, for a wide variety of reasons. The more you learn about addiction, the more you can understand what led your teen to become susceptible to drug use in the first place, helping them avoid relapses and future drug interactions.

Help them explore recovery options – work with them to find therapists, healthcare options, inpatient recovery, rehab, and treatment centers. Learn more about therapy together and consider where you might want your teen to get treated for their addiction.

What Types of Meth Abuse Treatment Are Available?

The most successful teen meth abuse treatment involves an intensive, holistic treatment that involves physical, mental, and behavioral rehabilitation. Therapy involves first helping a person stop using the drug, while being monitored and supported for any adverse side effects caused from withdrawal.  Then, therapists work with the teen individually, in small groups, and with family members, to create as strong a network of support as possible.  This support can help the teen to make positive, lasting changes toward recovery.

Talk Therapy

Beyond just ending taking meth, therapy also helps the teen to address any other issues or factors that cause stress in life, and/or may have led to their initial use.  Depression, anxiety, disordered eating, and academic pressure are but a few reasons why teens might start using meth. Because meth is such an addictive substance with such severe negative effects, treatment is recommended to begin as soon as possible, to minimize any harm caused.

Family Therapy

Working with the family to help them learn how to better provide a healing environment for their teen is important. Recovery begins through a residential or outpatient program, but it has to continue at home. Through family therapy, families can ensure that they’re creating the right environment for their teens to continue to flourish after early recovery, and throughout the rest of their school days.

Group Therapy

Group therapy and support groups matter both for initial treatment and to help a teen stay on the straight-and-narrow after getting clean. Staying clean is the challenge in any journey of recovery and working with other former addicts to motivate one another and stay clean is a big part of it. Group sessions can let teens air out their problems and unique perspectives among others who have been in similar situations have had to face similar problems.

Teen Meth Abuse Treatment at Paradigm Malibu

Paradigm Malibu is a teen treatment center for a number of mental health conditions, including meth abuse. We see addiction as a mental health issue rather than a character flaw, and the science shows that therapy-based treatment works in helping teens overcome drug problems and lead normal, productive, and happy lives. However, it’s important to start things off right.

A residential treatment facility like Paradigm Malibu is perfect for helping teens with addiction, by pulling them out of the day-by-day, and transporting them into a world dedicated to helping them concretely tackle their health, through a holistic treatment approach that considers the physical and the mental.

Away from Drugs

A prerequisite for any successful treatment plan is sobriety. Getting teens away from even the remote possibility of drug use can help them make that first step to getting better. After withdrawal symptoms have passed, teens often go through a rollercoaster of emotions during their early recovery period. This is where a guided approach, through a specialized facility like Paradigm Malibu, can help teens continue to make progress in the right direction rather than succumb back to drug use after the first few weeks.

Dedicated to Healing

Paradigm Malibu’s various locations are all set in nature, outfitted with different programs and amenities. Teens are free to explore their creative limits, find new hobbies, grow, and expand as individuals, and utilize different forms of therapy to find ways to cope with what might have contributed to their addiction in the first place. Teens here are taught to deal with their condition in a healthy way and learn how to continue to cope with life’s challenges in a way that doesn’t drive them back to drugs.

It's the one program that allowed my child to continue his school work. The parent weekend involvement/training changed all of our lives. The place is beautiful, the staff highly qualified and always available to help. It's been almost a year since my child left and he still calls occasionally for guidance. I could not ask for more.
- Clarke S.

Frequently Asked Questions About Teen Meth Abuse

What if I only use it once in a while?

Meth is a very strong stimulant drug with serious negative effects, and therefore, using it all is putting yourself at risk for a number of things. The most obvious risk is the legal one. Methamphetamine is not legally available, unless it’s prescribed as Desoxyn for severe cases of ADHD. Using someone else’s prescription is illegal as well.  You also have no control over when your brain might click into addiction-mode, and you will have a much bigger problem on your hands than you originally intended. While using it once won’t technically trigger an addiction, it can prime your brain to want to use it again – so using it at all is a very big risk.

Does meth have lasting consequences?

Most of the physical consequences of meth use can be reversed with time, or cosmetic dental surgery. Brain damage caused by excessive meth use cannot be completely reversed, but the consequences are minor. It’s much worse to continue to use meth, than stop using and lose only a small amount of cognitive abilities. The brain is very adaptable, and while switching back to sobriety from extensive drug use is difficult, your brain will eventually adapt and heal.

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