Methamphetamine, or meth, is a powerfully addictive drug. Also known as crank, speed, dope, ice, and crystal, meth is most often consumed by smoking or snorting. But it can also be injected intravenously or rectally, or eaten in pill form. There are several slang terms for taking meth, such as “hot rolling,” “hot railing” (the act of snorting a line of meth), and “getting glassed.” You may have heard of crystal meth. That’s hydrochloride salt, an ingredient in methamphetamine that can be smoked on its own. The other common form of meth is a white powder.
Recognizing meth addiction can mean the difference between life and death. It’s a stimulant, and like similar amphetamines that are prescribed for ADHD, methamphetamine creates an enhanced ability to focus. Unlike amphetamines, meth is a drug that also causes extreme amounts of energy, euphoria, and a host of dangerous health issues. Meth abuse deteriorates a person’s physical and mental health to such an extent the effects can become permanent. Longtime meth users are more likely to suffer strokes, premature aging, anhedonia or the inability to feel pleasure, and more.
If you are concerned a loved one is addicted to meth, review the following signs and symptoms of meth addiction. There may come a time to bring up your concerns with your loved one and/or support them in recovery.
Physical Meth Addiction Symptoms
There are telltale physical signs of meth use. Some are unique to meth alone. Pay close attention to the skin, facial features, and weight of someone you suspect is using meth.
Short-term physical signs of meth addiction include:
- Decreased appetite
- Rapid weight loss
- Skin sores because of picking at skin
- Dilated pupils
- Burns on lips or fingers resulting from holding red-hot pipes or smoking from them
- Poor dental hygiene – “Meth mouth” refers to the tooth decay and gum damage caused by meth.
- Chest pain
- Increased heart rate
- Flushed skin
- Raised body temperature
- Drug cravings
Long-term physical signs of meth addiction include:
- Heart disease
- Rotten teeth
- Respiratory issues
- Liver failure
- Kidney failure
- Premature aging
- High blood pressure
Behavioral Meth Addiction Symptoms
Many meth users are very good at hiding the physical signs of addiction, so keep an eye out instead for a change in lifestyle and behavior patterns. A sudden change in values or priorities, for example, is a red flag.
Short-term behavioral signs of meth addiction include:
- Neglecting responsibilities, such as work or school
- Spending more time with new friends
- Losing interest in or giving up previously enjoyed activities
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Eating less – Meth suppresses the appetite. For this reason, it’s sometimes used by those desiring to lose weight.
- Picking or scratching at skin – Meth use creates the sensation of bugs crawling on the skin, causing itchiness.
- Sleeping less – People using meth can go several days, or even weeks, without sleeping.
- Acting suspiciously and secretively
Long-term behavioral signs of meth addiction include:
- Disrupted sleep schedule
- Loss of friends and disconnect from loved ones
- Stealing or borrowing money
- Legal trouble resulting from violent behavior
Mental and Emotional Meth Addiction Symptoms
The mental and emotional effects of meth could best be described as erratic. From the beginning of a high to the end of one, emotions and resulting behaviors can swing from one end of the spectrum to the opposite: happy and energetic to depressed and lethargic. Look for the following signs and symptoms in conjunction with the others.
Short-term mental and emotional signs of meth addiction:
- Euphoria (intensely pleasurable feelings of excitement and happiness)
- Being hyper-alert
- Bursts of motivation to complete tasks
- Delusions (beliefs that are not grounded in reality)
- Hallucinations—seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting, or smelling things which are not there
Long-term mental and emotional signs of meth addiction include:
- Memory loss
- Impaired cognition
- Dramatic mood swings
The Evidence of Meth Use
A person’s living space can give you clues about whether they are using meth. Knowing the environmental signs of meth may be useful if your loved one is especially good at hiding other signs of drug abuse.
Keep an eye out for these signs of meth abuse in the places where your loved one lives or spends time:
- Meth pipes or “flutes” – They look like glass tubes with a bulb on one end.
- Burnt lightbulbs with the bottoms broken out
- Burnt spoons
- Needles or syringes
- Cut straws or hollowed-out pens
- Razor blades and/or a mirror with scratch marks
- Burnt tin foil or aluminum cans
- Small plastic baggies with white residue
Other Features of Meth Use
There are a couple other features exclusive to meth use that include physical, behavioral, and mental symptoms. They occur in all cases of meth abuse.
This set of symptoms occurs during prolonged meth use, known as a “run” or binge. It involves jittery, repetitive movements and a state of alertness and high energy. Meth users who are tweaking can go up to two weeks without sleeping. They likely become:
They are prone to violent behavior, and they may experience hallucinations.
When someone stops using meth, they experience a crash. People who are crashing, or withdrawing, from meth are extremely tired. They sleep for days and may suffer from depression. They will also experience intense drug cravings because their brain is being deprived of the extreme amounts of dopamine meth was providing it. The crash phase of meth withdrawal can last up to about a week.
Don’t Wait to Offer Help
It can be tempting to angrily confront your loved one whom you suspect of using meth. Instead, approach them from a concerned, non-judgmental standpoint. Although they will probably still be defensive, it’s important to face the issue with your loved one before they fall too far into meth addiction. Overdosing on meth is extremely dangerous and can lead to multiple organ failure. Irreversible physical, emotional, and mental damages from meth use haunt former meth addicts for the rest of their lives.
One proactive measure you can take before you bring up your concerns to your loved one is becoming knowledgeable about meth addiction treatment programs. Different levels of care are available depending on how severe the meth addiction is. Options commonly include:
If you have a loved one struggling with meth addiction, are addicted yourself, or just would like more information, contact Footprints to Recovery treatment center. All calls are confidential and free. We look forward to helping you or loved get on the path of recovery and keep moving toward a happy, drug-free life.