Crystal Meth: Compassion, kindness, patience equal hope for users and their families

November 16, 2020

By Kelly Hallihan, Clinical Coordinator of Adult Services at Addiction and Mental Health Services, Miramichi area.

Working within the field of Addiction and Mental Health for the past thirteen years has given me the opportunity to gain further insight into the impact both addiction and mental illness can have on not only on the individual with the illness but their families as well.

Alcohol, drug and prescription drug addiction treatments have always been among my interests. With the increase rise of crystal meth use in New Brunswick and seeing the impact of this type of drug use first hand, it has led me to further educate myself in this area.

Personally, in the last year, the use of crystal meth has increased in my community and is having a significant impact on those using the drug, their families as well as the larger community. Crystal meth is a powerful drug that provides immediate effects. The alertness, euphoria and sense of energy the drug provides to the user makes them want to continue using the drug.

In my experience, working with individuals who are using crystal meth can be quite challenging at times as it impacts the user’s physical and mental health. Crystal meth tends to become the users main priority as this is a highly addictive stimulant.

Addiction to crystal meth creates many losses for the user such as family, friends, job loss as well as material possessions; all critical to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Crystal meth users are also putting themselves in high risk situations by sharing needles and engaging in risky sexual behavior.

Family members are also affected when someone in the family is using crystal meth as they struggle to see their loved one taken over by their addiction. It is heartbreaking for family members to see the physical and mental health of their loved one deteriorate while feeling helpless in the process. Family members frequently need to seek support from professionals to further understand the addiction and seek ways to help support rather than enable their loved ones.

Crystal meth has created a sense of fear and uncertainty for communities. With the increase in crystal meth use, communities are being affected by seeing an increase in crime related activities, violence, child abuse and neglect. Community members need to be supported by one another and feel safe in their community while reducing the harms associated with crystal meth use.

Members of these communities should adopt a “Community Policing” ideology and take a more proactive role in creating a safer environment. This can be achieved by reporting suspicious activity to appropriate authorities, being an active member in local committees that assist in policing the community such as Crime Stoppers or other partnered entities and/or fostering a partnering committee with the police agency in their area.  

As communities, we need to continue to raise awareness on crystal meth and the risks associated with using this drug. We also need to continue to build strong working relationships with community stakeholders to educate family, friends and community members on the dangers of crystal meth with the hope it will encourage people not to try the drug. Providing education to various populations is a key component in prevention. 

This would include some basic knowledge on how to identify if a person is using, the symptoms of methamphetamine use and steps to take to seek help within your community.

From a social work perspective, in treatment, it is important to continue to try and engage clients who use crystal meth. However, the reality is that is can be challenging by times.

In my experience, when dealing with a person struggling with addiction— compassion, kindness, open-mindedness and patience are key in the helping profession. We need to realize that listening and providing a safe place for those using crystal meth may encourage them to access services.

Often times, individuals involved in addiction are very vulnerable and have lost all sense of hope. “A single thread of hope is still a very powerful thing.” Instilling a message of HOPE is something that I have incorporated into my practice whether it be working directly with clients, families or providing clinical direction to my colleagues.

I strongly encourage those who have questions or concerns relating to crystal meth use or Addiction and Mental Health in general to reach out to the professionals within your community to obtain further information.

For more information on crystal meth and where to get help in New Brunswick, click here.

Kelly Hallihan is the Clinical Coordinator of Adult Services at Addiction and Mental Health Services in Miramichi. Kelly has worked in various positions within Addiction and Mental Health but has spent most of her career working at Miramichi Addiction Recovery Clinic – an Opiate Replacement Therapy Clinic for those who have an opiate addiction. 

Kelly is recognized as a leader who shows compassion, integrity and respect to both her colleagues and clients.