Recognizing meth addiction in a loved one can mean the difference between life and death. Meth abuse deteriorates your physical and mental health to such an extent the effects can become permanent. Longtime meth users are more likely to suffer:
- Premature aging
- Anhedonia (the inability to feel pleasure)
- Other health issues
Meth is a stimulant, and like similar amphetamines that are prescribed for ADHD, methamphetamine creates an enhanced ability to focus. Meth is a drug that also causes extreme amounts of energy, euphoria, and a host of dangerous physical and mental health concerns.
Methamphetamine is an illegal drug known as:
- Crystal meth
Meth is most often consumed by smoking or snorting, but it can be injected intravenously or rectally too. The powder form is the most common type of meth while crystal meth refers to hydrochloride salt that can be smoked on its own.
If you’re worried that a loved one has an addiction to meth, review the following signs and symptoms of methamphetamine addiction.
If you’re concerned that a loved one is using meth, their environment may provide some clues. Being aware of the tell-tale signs associated with methamphetamine abuse can be helpful, especially if your loved one is good at hiding other aspects of their drug use.
Keep an eye out for these common signs of meth abuse in the places 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 or a mirror with scratch marks
- Burnt tin foil or aluminum cans
- Small plastic baggies with white residue
Physical, behavioral, and mental signs of meth use may also include:
This set of meth 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 are often:
- Prone to violent behavior
- Experiencing hallucinations
When you stop using meth, you usually “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. The crash phase of meth withdrawal can last up to about a week.
Short-term meth side effects are caused by the drug’s ability to release high levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine is associated with feelings of happiness, so meth produces an intense feeling of pleasure. The high from methamphetamine is much more intense than the brief feeling of euphoria that comes from other drugs, such as cocaine. The effects of methamphetamine can last for up to 12 hours, and people often feel the need to keep taking the drug to maintain the high.
The short-term effects of meth use include:
- Increased alertness
- Decreased appetite
- Increased physical activity
- Rapid heart rate
- High blood pressure
- Dilated pupils
- Aggressive behavior
- Meth psychosis, which can cause hallucinations and delusions of grandeur
Long-term meth side effects are the result of both the drug’s direct effects on the brain and body as well as the lifestyle choices people make when they’re addicted to meth. People who use meth tend not to eat or sleep properly, which can lead to malnutrition and exhaustion. They may also engage in risky behaviors, such as sharing needles. This puts them at risk for contracting HIV/AIDS and other diseases.
The long-term side effects of meth use include:
- Weight loss
- Severe dental problems (“meth mouth”)
- Skin sores
- Violent behavior
- Erratic, unpredictable behavior
- HIV/AIDS and other diseases (if needles are shared)
- Kidney damage
- Liver damage
- Cardiovascular problems
- Permanent damage to blood vessels in the brain, which increases the risk of stroke, memory loss, and attention and learning problems
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
Many people with drug addictions are very good at hiding the physical signs of substance abuse, so keep an eye out for changes 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.
- Picking or scratching at skin – Meth 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 disconnection from loved ones
- Stealing or borrowing money
- Legal trouble resulting from violent behavior
The mental and emotional effects of meth can best be described as erratic. From the beginning of a high to the end, emotions and 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 those above.
Short-term mental and emotional signs of meth addiction:
- Euphoria (intensely pleasurable feelings of excitement and happiness)
- Hyper alertness
- Bursts of motivation to complete tasks
- Delusions (beliefs that are not grounded in reality)
- Hallucinations – Seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting, or smelling things that are not there
Long-term mental and emotional signs of meth addiction include:
- Memory loss
- Impaired cognition
- Dramatic mood swings
As meth use continues, the body becomes more tolerant of the drug. The user will need to take higher doses to get the same effects as when they first started using. Once you stop taking meth, you will experience withdrawal symptoms as your body readjusts to functioning without the drug.
Meth withdrawal symptoms can include:
- Intense cravings for meth
- Trouble sleeping
- Loss of appetite
- Psychosis (a break from reality)
Withdrawal symptoms can be difficult to cope with, and they may last for weeks or even months. Many people who try to quit meth on their own relapse because the withdrawal symptoms are so uncomfortable. If you or someone you love is addicted to methamphetamine, reach out for help. Recovery is possible.
Most insurance companies will cover at least some of the cost of meth addiction treatment. The exact amount covered will depend on your individual insurance plan. Some insurance companies may require that you pay a portion of the cost upfront, while others may cover the entire cost of treatment.
If you’re not sure whether your insurance covers meth addiction treatment, the best thing to do is call your insurer and ask. You can also call a meth addiction treatment center like Footprints to Recovery, and they can help you figure out what your insurance will cover. Verify your insurance for drug rehab.
It can be tempting to angrily confront your loved one you suspect is 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. Meth abusers can experience irreversible physical, emotional, and mental damage for the rest of their lives. If you need help having this conversation, contact us.
One proactive measure you can take before you bring up your concerns to your loved one is to research meth addiction treatment programs. Different levels of care are available depending on how severe the meth abuse is. Addiction treatment options commonly include:
- Residential treatment
- Partial hospitalization programs
- Intensive outpatient treatment
- Outpatient rehab
- Sober living environment
If you have a loved one struggling with drug abuse such as meth addiction, are addicted yourself, or would like more information about meth treatment programs, contact Footprints to Recovery. All calls are confidential and free. We offer evidence-based treatment for alcohol and drug abuse that includes approaches like:
- Individual therapy
- Group therapy
- Family therapy
- Co-occurring disorders treatment (concurrently treating anxiety, depression, etc.)
- Specialized trauma treatments like EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing)
- Holistic approaches like yoga, art therapy, fitness, and nutrition counseling
- Aftercare planning such as connecting you with community resources
- 12-step groups and alternatives to the 12 Steps
We’ve helped thousands of people find their way to recovery. We can help you too.