Meth is one of the most widely abused drugs these days. This drug takes an extreme physical and psychological toll on the body, making it one of the most dangerous drugs sold on the streets today. It can affect the user’s brain and body where the signs and symptoms can be seen in various ways. 

One of the most common signs that someone is addicted to meth is the sudden loss of interest in the things that were once important to them. A meth addict’s relationship, hobbies, and career are usually set aside and most of the time they will try to hide their drug use. However, the longer they are addicted, the more visible their addiction is. So what does addiction to meth look like? Here’s what you need to know.

Details about the Drug

Meth or crystal methamphetamine is a stimulant drug widely sold in the streets. It is also referred to as ice, speed, or chalk. It can usually be found in crystal or powder-like form which has no odor, a bitter taste, and can dissolve quickly in water. This drug is usually seen in brown, pink or yellowish gray in color. While the crystal powder has colors, crystal meth on the other hand looks clear and is similar in appearance to ice. 

Meth has a similar chemical makeup to amphetamine, which is used to treat ADHD. It is highly potent and can be very addictive. Based on a survey in 2012 by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about 1.2 million people are believed to have used methamphetamine over the past year, and about 440,000 people use meth in an average month. 

Initial effects of using meth can be euphoric and exhilarating, but compared to cocaine and other recreational drugs, this is one that remains in the brain longer. It also stimulates the brain to release more dopamine which is a chemical that affects the person’s energy and moods. 

Low doses of this drug can cause one to stay awake, focused, and happy, but these effects are also attached with negative ones. Larger doses can cause more serious health problems including sudden cardiac arrest. Not only that, damages to major organs in the body can also become permanent or worse — lead to untimely death. 

There are certain physical signs to tell you that someone is on or using meth, and people who are abusing meth will usually show a variety of physical and behavioral symptoms. Among these are the common signs of meth use:

  • They become very alert and physically active
  • Has outbursts or mood swings.
  • They lose weight fast or have a reduced appetite.
  • An increase in blood pressure is common.
  • Has paranoias or hallucinations.
  • An elevated body temperature and heart rate is also common.
  • Can be found grinding their teeth often.
  • Has shortness of breath. 

Physical signs can also be seen as the following:

  • Rapid weight loss.
  • They pick on their skin or hair.
  • Has dilated pupils.
  • Burns on the lips or tips of fingers.
  • Has odd sleeping patterns, including being awake for days or longer periods.
  • Has rapid eye movement.
  • Constantly talking.
  • Rotting teeth can be seen. 
  • They have visible skin sores, cuts or bruising.
  • Facial tics or jerky movements can be seen. They also exhibit exaggerated mannerisms.
  • Has mood swings; can be hyper or suddenly sullen.
  • Has increased hallucinations.

Another classic sign of meth use is tweaking. Tweaking usually occurs at the end of the user’s drug binge and happens when they can no longer achieve the same effects of the drug. Tweaking is a period of anxiety and insomnia that can last for about 3 to 15 days. When this happens, the user can exhibit the psychological effects of this such as paranoia, confusion and irritability. This is due to their desperation to use meth again. In some cases, drug users can become violent and experience hallucinations. In addition to that, tweaking can also cause users to:

  • Feel like there are bugs or insects crawling under their skin.
  • Be in a psychotic state and completely disconnected from reality. 
  • They are unable to sleep for days, even weeks.
  • Increase in hallucinations.
  • Begin to self-harm.
  • Begins to grow increasingly paranoid, frustrated and unstable. 
  • Has strong cravings for meth. 

Another sign that someone is on meth is what they call the ‘crash phase’. In this period, the drug addict’s body is deprived of dopamine and is extremely exhausted. This can last from 1-3 days and is characterized by intense cravings for meth, longer periods of sleeping and depression. 

Long-term Side Effects

The long-term side effects of meth use can create dependence for the user and eventually addiction. These effects are divided into psychological and physical categories. Physical effects can be:

  • Liver failure
  • Heart diseases
  • Respiratory issues
  • Rotting and blackened teeth
  • Arrhythmia
    Kidney failure
  • Malnutrition
  • Birth defects for pregnant women
  • Premature aging
  • Seizures
  • Skin infections
  • Sudden cardiac deaths
  • High blood pressure
  • Reproductive issues

Psychological effects include:

  • Aggression
  • Anhedonia or the lack of or inability to feel any pleasure
  • Depression
  • Delusion
  • Impaired cognition
  • Memory loss
  • Paranoia
  • Psychosis

The Dangers of Using Meth

There is a serious health risk for those who are using meth. For one, meth is a stimulant that if taken in larger doses can stay longer in the body. This becomes toxic to the nerve terminals of the brain which can destroy the brain cell synapses that release dopamine. When this happens, changes in the brain chemistry of the user can destroy the pleasure center of the brain, making it difficult for them to experience pleasure without using meth. 

Besides the changes in the brain, behavioral changes are also evident among meth users. Chronic use also causes damage in the blood vessels of the brain and other systems in the body that cannot be reversed.  

Meth Withdrawal

Withdrawal from any drugs can be an uncomfortable experience, and withdrawing from methamphetamine is no exception. Not only is it very uncomfortable, but it is also dangerous if unsupervised. Once a drug addict decides to stop using meth, the withdrawals can start quickly, usually within a few hours. They can also feel the following:

  • Fatigued and extremely exhausted.
  • Has vivid dreams or nightmares.
  • Sleeps too much or has problems sleeping.
  • Has an increased appetite.
  • Has slowed reaction; physically and emotionally.
  • Has slowed heart rate. 
  • Exhibits repetitive and meaningless movements. 

These withdrawal symptoms usually last for 10 days depending on how severe the meth use is and how long the drug addict has been using. Some meth withdrawals can last more than 10 days which is why symptoms like depression and cravings to use are persistent longer than usual. 

Treatment for Meth Addiction

Treating meth addiction requires professionals in an accredited, high-quality addiction treatment program. The users must first go through detox with medications under the supervision of a licensed professional health care worker. This way, withdrawal symptoms are managed and patients can ease into rehab more comfortably. Once the detox program is done, the real treatment can then begin. Rehabilitation is usually done in a structured facility where scheduled classes, drug education, group/individual therapy and reflection time is done. There are also other therapies which can be used to help treat meth addicts. Among these include holistic therapies which can be used to help the recovering addict find new ways to express themselves and cope with negative emotions. 

A 12-step program is also involved in the treatment for meth users and is usually done in a group setting. This is encouraged to continue once you leave the rehab facility. In case the user experiences or suffers from co-occurring mental health disorder like depression, anxiety, etc, finding the right facility or hospital that is equipped to handle these disorders is important. Ignoring these can lead recovering meth addicts to relapse, especially for someone who uses meth to cope with mental health illness.

Methamphetamine addiction can destroy your life, but there is always a way to turn your life around. Finding the right treatment program is one of them. Getting help as soon as you can will help you find that renewed sense of peace that you need. Seek medical treatment now and see the difference proper treatment does. It is not too late to get a new lease on life.

Talk to Someone Who’s Been There. Talk to Someone Who Can Help. Scottsdale Recovery Center® holds the highest accreditation (Joint Commission) and is Arizona’s premier rehab facility since 2009. Call 602-346-9142.