Signs of Meth Use


Are you worried that someone you love is using meth? Methamphetamine is an extremely addictive stimulant. Its street names include ‘glass’, ‘ice’, and ‘shards’, and it is often referred to as crystal meth because it looks like bits of crystals or glass shards. It can produce an extremely euphoric high, give the individual increased energy and lower their appetite, much like cocaine. However, while cocaine’s effects only last between 15 to 30 minutes, the effects of meth can last anywhere between 8 and 24 hours with the average being 12 hours.

How Is Meth Used?

Crystal meth can be inhaled in a pipe, intravenously injected, or eaten. Smoking or injecting meth produces the fastest effects. Once the drug is consumed and takes effect, it causes an extreme dopamine release in the brain, which creates a euphoric high that usually lasts a few minutes. Individuals that use meth typically binge on the substance for hours or even days in an effort to maintain the euphoric high. During the binge part of the use, the individual may not eat or sleep. Once they stop using and crash, they may sleep for an extended period of time.

Are There Medical Uses for Crystal Meth?

There are no medical uses for crystal meth, and it has no therapeutic value. It is always an illicit substance, and it’s always created in a makeshift lab, usually in an abandoned house or extremely rural area where the toxic fumes are not likely to be noticed. However, the substance belongs to a larger class of medications called methamphetamines. Methamphetamines that are used for the treatment of certain conditions, like ADHD and narcolepsy, are classified as Schedule II drugs. Schedule II drugs are medications that have a high risk of abuse and overuse. Therefore, the medications are tightly controlled and have severe restrictions on how and when they can be prescribed. Along with methamphetamines, Vicodin, methadone, oxycodone, and fentanyl are all considered Schedule II drugs.

Physical Signs of Meth Use

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, roughly 2.6 million people aged 12 and older have tried meth in the United States in the last year, and 1.5 million people have methamphetamine use disorder. Meth is also used by 8th to 12th graders. According to the NIH, .02 percent of 8th, 10th, and 12th graders have tried meth in the past year. Unfortunately for users, meth is extremely hard on the body, even in the short term. Therefore, the signs and symptoms of meth use are usually readily apparent if you know the short and long-term signs and mental and behavioral changes that crystal meth causes.

Short-Term Signs of Meth Use

Meth use causes immediate signs. Some of the short-term effects include:

  • Being awake for days or insomnia
  • Appearing flushed
  • Excessive sleeping once the drug wears off
  • Muscle twitching
  • Rapid eye movements
  • Talking very fast
  • Jerky movements, especially when walking
  • Having a decreased appetite or loss of appetite
  • Having a rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Complaining of chest pain
  • Having hallucinations
  • Increased breathing or fast breathing
  • Having suddenly itchy skin
  • More prone to overheating or complaining they are hot.

When these signs of meth use are present, you may notice small scratches on the individual’s body. If they live with you, they may pace the house at night or clean, and you may notice that they are frigidity or twitchy. Once the drug wears off, they may sleep for an extended amount of time.


Long-Term Signs of Meth Use

Over time, using meth can take a serious toll on the body. The individual may look like they’ve aged decades in a couple of years, and younger individuals, including those in their late teens and 20s, are not spared from the physical changes.

  • Birth defects if the individual happens to get pregnant
  • Being dirty or suddenly having poor hygiene
  • Black or rotting teeth and tooth loss, are often referred to as meth mouth.
  • Heart arrhythmia or palpitations
  • Heart disease, liver and kidney failure
  • Malnutrition and extreme weight loss
  • Problems breathing or respiratory problems
  • Problems conceiving or reproductive problems
  • Seizures or convulsions
  • Skin sores and skin infections

If the individual is a chronic user of meth, you’ll be able to physically see the changes. They will dramatically lose weight. Their teeth will rot, and they will have an abundance of skin sores due to excessive scratching. Since the drug makes them nervous and frigidity, they may also pick those sores, causing them to get infected.

Mental Signs of Meth Use

Meth’s most obvious symptoms are the physical signs, but it also causes mental and emotional changes that can be quite dramatic.

  • Sudden mood swings
  • Increased irritability, anger, or aggression
  • Anxiety and confusion
  • Sudden disinterest in hobbies and activities they used to enjoy
  • Memory problems, including impaired visual memory
  • Inability to learn new things
  • Meth-induced psychosis

The most obvious mental issues caused by meth are sudden mood swings, increased anger and agitation, and psychosis. The meth-induced psychosis can lead the individual to believe there are bugs crawling on their skin. In an effort to rid themselves of the bug, they may pick or pull them off. In actuality, they are picking and pulling off their skin, which leads to more sores.

Signs of Meth Use in the Household

Sudden changes in an individual’s domicile can be signs of meth use. This is especially true if the house is excessively clean or now contains evidence of drug use, like pipes and syringes.

Increased Physical Activity

Individuals who use meth experience an abundance of energy. In order to burn off that energy, they may participate in excessive physical activity. This could result in exercising way too much, meaning their home may contain gym equipment or exercise equipment that they didn’t have before, or they may now have an extremely clean house. If the individual wasn’t particularly keen on staying in shape and/or wasn’t concerned about having an immaculate house in the past, these could be signs of meth addiction.

Drug Paraphernalia Laying Out in the Open

Individuals who use meth often purchase or make various paraphernalia that allows them to ingest the drug more easily. This could include syringes, medical or surgical tubing, pipes, and burnt or damaged spoons. If the individual doesn’t smoke tobacco and doesn’t have a medical need for syringes or tubing, having these items could indicate meth use.

Signs of a Meth Overdose

Meth causes individuals to push themselves past what their bodies can tolerate. Over time, the individual may consume more and more of the drug or go on increasingly frequent meth binges, which can lead to an overdose. Signs that an individual has overdosed on crystal meth include suffering a heart attack or stroke, experiencing convulsions or seizures, and having an excessive body temperature or fever. In severe cases, a meth overdose can cause multiple organ failures, including the heart, liver, and kidneys. A meth overdose cannot be treated at home as it requires emergency medical intervention. Therefore, it’s best to call for an ambulance.

Getting Help for Meth Use Disorder

If you suspect that someone you know or one of your close or extended family members has a dependence or addiction to crystal meth, there is professional help available. In fact, one of the best and most effective ways to treat meth use disorder is to check in to a residential or inpatient treatment center. These centers help the individual detox from the substance and help them develop healthy coping skills for daily stressors that do not involve the consumption of illicit substances. They also allow the individual to immerse themselves in their treatment while in an environment that is free of temptation. Treatment for meth typically includes individual and group therapy as well as holistic treatments, like art or nature therapy.

To start the process of getting help for meth use disorder from experienced, friendly, and caring staff, contact us today.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Long Island Treatment Center

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