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Signs of Meth Use

by Landmark Recovery

October 17, 2019

Signs of meth use are not particularly tough to pick up on since this drug exerts such a damaging on toll on users.

According to the 2017 NSDUH (National Survey on Drug Use and Health), 1.6 million Americans reported using meth during the previous year. To put this into perspective, that equates to 0.6% of the entire population. With the average age of users just 23 years old, this is a problem that’s not going away. Indeed, with just under 1 million of these users developing methamphetamine use disorder, it would be safe to say it’s a problem that needs renewed attention.

Before we explore how you can determine if someone you know is using meth, what is it and why is the drug so lethal?

What Is Meth?

Crystal methamphetamine is a drug of many names. Whether it’s called ice, chalk, meth or crystal, this substance is similar to amphetamine both in terms of chemical composition and effects.

A highly addictive substance that impacts the central nervous system, meth packs a serious punch and it’s highly addictive.

Taking the form of a bitter white powder, meth can be smoked, snorted, swallowed or injected.

When laws changed making it harder to acquire chemicals like pseudoephedrine, production labs in the US gave way to larger scale operations in Mexico. So, while the attempt to stop production on home soil might have been effective, there was no change in the quantity of meth flooding the streets.

How Does It Work?

Taking meth leads to an increase in the amount of dopamine in the brain. This feel-good neurotransmitter is linked to happiness and euphoria which is reflected in the high induced. Users feel elated, highly alert and full of energy.

Effects last anywhere from 8 hours to 24 hours, much longer than many stimulants. This leads to mesh users staying up for days binging.

Continued use leads rapidly to tolerance building and dependence forming.

There are also 2 other distinct phases of meth use to watch out for:

  • Tweaking
  • The Crash Phase

What do these phases entail and what indicators accompany them?

What Is Tweaking?

At the trough of a drug binge, the user is often unable to get high or achieve any kind of meaningful effects with their system in meltdown. This is known as tweaking.

The user might be feeling as though they have bug crawling under their skin and they’ll be unable to sleep however hard they try. This insomnia for days.

Frustration can spill over into acts of aggression or lashing out.

By this stage, the user is liable to be close to the point of exhaustion and might even be experiencing hallucinations. Inevitably, a complete crash will soon follow…

What Is The Crash Phase?

A crash might last up to 3 days and is characterized by the person sleeping a great deal as their body attempts to normalize and cope with the onslaught of meth.

This type of near-complete shutdown is hard to mask from others, especially if you don’t live alone. Whether it’s your partner, your child or your friend, if you witness this kind of behavior, it’s time to talk.

We’ll look now at some other giveaway signs pointing to someone laboring under a meth addiction.

Signs of Meth Use

Where meth is such a seductive substance, by the time you start to spot signs of use in someone you know, they could already have reached the stage of abuse or even addiction.

Here are some of the most obvious physical indicators someone might be struggling under the weight of a meth problem:

Physical Signs of Meth Use

  • Burns, especially on the lips and fingers
  • Dilated pupils
  • Droopy facial skin
  • Erratic sleeping patterns
  • High body temperature
  • Hyperactivity
  • Increased libido
  • Paranoia
  • Rapid eye movement
  • Reduced appetite
  • Rotten teeth
  • Scratching furiously
  • Sudden, extreme weight loss
  • Skin sores
  • Twitching

Psychological Signs of Meth Use

As well as taking a heavy toll on the body, methamphetamine also brings about a nasty psychological backlash.

If you suspect someone you know is dabbling with meth and you’ve noticed some physical signs confirming this, ask yourself if any of the following psychological signs are also in place…

  • Difficulty learning new skills
  • Hallucinations
  • Impaired visual memory
  • Memory problems
  • Mood swings
  • Motor problems
  • Paranoia
  • Unpredictable behavior
  • Violence

If you’ve considered all of the above and you’re still not entirely convinced, think about your loved one’s behavior.

Have they started to do anything out of character?

Are they losing interest in regular activities?

We’ll glimpse now at how behavior can betray someone if they’re trying to mask a growing drug problem.

Altered Behavior and Other Giveaways

Just like any drug, once meth use starts interfering with someone’s day-to-day life, problems usually follow with interpersonal relationships.

During the early stages of using the drug, it’s common for users to do their best to conceal what they’re up to. Once meth becomes all-consuming, though, it’s easy for that barrier to drop. Keep your eyes peeled for an unusual quantity of discarded baggies.

What else might suggest meth use, then?

Keep an eye out for tubes used to smoke or snort with. Pipes, syringes and spoons are also dead giveaways.

Alongside obvious paraphernalia, monitor your loved one’s movements, too. If they frequently head outside for a short time then return in a different mood completely, maybe they’ve just popped out to pick up their supply.

Has the person started hanging out with new friends and started neglecting long-standing friends and family in favor of these drug buddies?

As you can see from that overview, detecting whether someone you love is using meth is often not about spotting just one sign.

If you notice a preponderance of any of the above physical, psychological or behavioral signs, you should educate yourself about some of the side effects caused by meth use both short-term and long-term. Once you’ve got a better understanding, you’ll be in a stronger position to intervene and help your loved one on the road to recovery.

Immediate Side Effects of Using Meth

If you suspect a friend or family member is using meth and you think you’ve just caught them indulging, monitor for the any of the following effects noticeable immediately after using the drug:

  • Aggression
  • Animated body language
  • Anxiety
  • Chest pain
  • Flushed skin
  • Grinding teeth
  • Hallucinations
  • Hyperactivity
  • Increased heart rate
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle twitching
  • Paranoia
  • Raised body temperature
  • Shortness of breath
  • Suppressed appetite
  • Talking excessively

If your loved one has been using meth for a prolonged period, other more severe side effects become apparent.

Long Term Effects of Meth Use

As the brain of a long-term meth user comes to rely more and more on the effects of the drug, dependence builds and can easily spill over into outright addiction.

Just some of the ruinous physical effects of chronic meth use include:

  • Acne
  • Arrhythmias
  • Birth defects
  • Blackened teeth
  • Delusions
  • Depression
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Kidney failure
  • Liver failure
  • Malnutrition
  • Memory loss
  • Psychosis
  • Premature aging
  • Respiratory issues
  • Reproductive issues
  • Seizures
  • Skin infection
  • Sudden cardiac death

Recognizing a Meth Addiction

According to the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), someone is diagnosed with meth use disorder if they meet more than two of the following criteria over a 12-month period:

  • Using meth even when it would be obviously dangerous to the user or others
  • Personal, professional and academic responsibilities are neglected
  • Presence of social and interpersonal problems as a result of meth use
  • Withdrawal symptoms apparent when trying to quit meth
  • Tolerance building
  • Using increased quantities of meth
  • Multiple failed attempts to quit or regulate use
  • Large amount of time devoted to meth use
  • Physical and psychological problems manifesting
  • Rejecting everyday activities
  • Cravings when the drug is not around

Someone meeting 2 or 3 of the above criteria is diagnosed with mild meth abuse disorder.

If 4 or 5 of these signs are in place, meth abuse disorder is classified as moderate.

With 6 or more criteria met, the diagnosis is severe meth abuse disorder.

If you’ve noticed some of these signs and you’re ready to speak with your loved one about the issue, what’s the prognosis for treating meth addiction?

Treatment for Meth Addiction

Meth addiction has been shown to respond well to medical detox followed by a comprehensive therapy to get to the root of the problem.

If you discuss treatment options with your loved one and they seem resistant to the idea of a residential program, it’s worth pointing out to them that the aggressive and potentially damaging side effects of meth withdrawal mean that recovery should take place in a structured program. Inpatient treatment is normally the best option although it might not be right for everyone.

Before you can move forward selecting a rehab center, you need to make sure your loved one is committed to recovery. If you initially meet resistance, step away and discuss the issue another time. Don’t become aggressive and don’t push your loved one.

And there’s some great news to finish with: we can help you get your loved one back on track so what do you need to do next?

What To Do Next

Get in touch with our team here at Landmark Recovery if you’re in any way concerned about meth use in someone you love. We are located in Louisville, KY and have a rehab in Carmel, Indiana.

We can help you out every step of the way whether your loved one needs medical detox followed by inpatient rehab or whether an intensive outpatient program might be a better fit.

If the writing is on the wall and the signs of meth use are apparent, don’t ignore them, call us today at 888-488-0302.

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About the Author

Landmark Recovery

Landmark Recovery

Landmark Recovery was founded with a determination to make addiction treatment accessible for all. Through our integrated treatment programs, we've helped thousands of people choose recovery over addiction and get back to life on their own terms. We're on a mission to save one million lives over the next century. We encourage all those struggling with substance use to seek professional help.