Methamphetamine is a very addictive psychostimulant. Meth is available in white or light brown powdered form, with visible crystals. This drug is most commonly smoked but can also be taken in injection or pill form. Parents and loved ones can recognize the signs of meth use in order to seek immediate help and help loved ones combat drug use. You can recognize the signs of meth use by looking for physical signs, psychological symptoms, and behavioral indications.
EditNoticing Physical Signs
- Search for physical changes. Notice any changes in the person’s physical appearance. Physical signs are very common among people who abuse meth, unlike with other drugs which may have more subtle effects. Use your observation skills. Do you notice anything different about how the person looks? Any physical illness or complaints? Some common physicals signs of meth use are:
- Excessive weight loss due to low appetite.
- Dilated pupils.
- Eyes looking droopy, tired, or having dark circles (this can be due to loss of sleep).
- Eye twitching.
- Look for tooth decay. Meth can adversely affect teeth, turning them brown and causing decay or “meth mouth.” The person may also have red or sore gums because of damage caused by meth.
- This may look like rotten or browning teeth.
- The person may also have missing teeth.
- You can look up pictures of meth mouth online and compare.
- Check for track marks or nose bleeds. You will notice track marks on the person’s arms if the drug is being injected, or nose bleeds if the drug is being snorted. There may also be burn marks on the person’s lips or fingers if the drug is smoked using hot glass or a metallic pipe.
- Pay attention to harsh body odors. If a person is using meth, they will often give off a very bad odor. This is due to a combination of the drug use itself and the person forgetting to wash while they are using. Sometimes the odor is similar to the smell of ammonia.
- Identify signs of premature aging. Meth users often start to look old before their time because their skin is damaged, becoming rough and itchy, and their hair can start to fall out.
- Notice any skin lesions. Skin lesions are very common in meth users due to compulsive scratching at the face.
- Look for open sores on the face.
- Observe if the person picks or scratches at his face.
- The lesions often become infected and result in sores and scars.
- Identify long-term health issues. Meth users are more prone to diseases, including high blood pressure and heart diseases. They may also pass away at an early age as a result. The following medical issues can be caused by meth use:
- Hypertension, or high blood pressure.
- Tachycardia, a rapid heart beat.
- Hyperthermia, or a body temperature that is above normal.
- Heart attack, stroke, seizures, and renal/liver failure can result from large doses of meth.
- Respiratory symptoms, such as bronchitis, if meth is smoked.
- Risk for HIV and hepatitis C increase due to risky sexual behaviors and needle sharing.
EditLooking for Psychological Symptoms
- Look for the immediate effects. The effects of meth may last several hours to a day or so, depending on the use. After using methamphetamine the person will likely experience:
- Euphoria (due to increased dopamine in the brain).
- Increase in alertness.
- Increased cortisol levels (stress hormone).
- Decreased anxiety.
- Increased confidence.
- Improved attention and concentration.
- Decreased appetite.
- Hypersexuality or an increase in libido.
- Increased energy.
- Hyperactivity – as evidenced by excessive talking and inability to sleep.
- Higher doses of meth can cause: increased anxiety, restlessness, compulsive behaviors, and tremors (physical shaking). These symptoms are often called tweaking.
- Watch out for longer term signs. Due to chemical changes in the brain, some psychological symptoms are also visible. These psychological signs may include the following symptoms and might indicate meth use:
- Impaired judgment or inhibition.
- Hallucinations or delusions, such as seeing or hearing things which others do not.
- Aggressive behaviors upon unavailability of drug (i.e. picking an argument for no reason).
- Increased anxiety or depression.
- Paranoia or believing that somebody is out to get him.
- Social isolation.
- Search for life disturbances. Social, occupational, and functional disturbances are very common among people who abuse meth. The school/college life, work life and/or social life of people who use meth is impaired. You can detect signs of these disturbances by doing the following:
- Remain in touch with teachers, peers and close friends. They can help you to keep track of the person’s recent activities.
- Keep in touch with colleagues, if the person is employed. They can tell you how the person behaves while at work and can fill you in on their daily routine, e.g when they arrive at work, when they leave, etc.
- Observe the legal, social and financial condition of the person who is suspected of being a meth abuser. Poor social functioning, financial trouble and frequent legal issues are commonly the result of meth abuse.
- Look for signs of impaired thinking. This may show up as reduced cognition or deteriorated memory. Many brain cells are damaged as a result of continuous meth use. This damage is caused by the many caustic chemicals used in meth preparation, and can manifest itself in slower brain function and loss of memory. Look for:
- Attention issues.
- Issues with working memory or solving problems.
- Lowered decision-making skills.
- Catch signs of withdrawal. Withdrawal signs occur when a habitual abuser stops taking the drug. Most symptoms of withdrawal typically subside around seven to ten days after taking meth. Withdrawal symptoms from meth use are mostly psychological and not as physical as other drugs. They include:
- Anhedonia or decreased motivation.
- Irritability, anxiety, or depression.
- Lower frustration tolerance.
- Low energy or fatigue.
- Impaired social functioning.
- Inability to concentrate.
- Loss of sexual interest.
- Possible suicidality or thoughts of harming one’s self.
- Intense craving for the drug – may last up to five weeks.
EditIdentifying Behavioral Indicators
- Keep an eye on the activities of the person. The observation of certain activities is very important in identifying the signs of meth abuse. Some common social problems faced by those who abuse meth are:
- Heightened and unsafe sexual activity due to drug effects like confusion and inability to make decisions.
- Excessive aggression leading to relationship problems with parents, peers and siblings.
- Keeping company with those who either abuse drugs or have easy access to drugs.
- Notice hyperactivity and impulsivity. Being hyperactive, impulsive, and having low judgment are commonly associated with meth use. Pay attention to the person’s behaviors and notice if they are uncharacteristic of the individual.
- Notice excessive talking. For example, the person may try to finish others sentences and give advice to others, whether he knows anything about the topic being discussed or not.
- Impulsivity may mean the person behaves recklessly and refuses to worry about the outcomes of his risky behavior.
- Pay attention to financial issues. Meth users often have financial issues due to their drug use. For example, some meth users may spend all of their money to get the drug. Keep in mind that it is often difficult for teenagers, who only get pocket money from their parents, to afford drugs, so they find ways to make up for this shortage of money through various means. Some signs of financial issues are:
- Inability to meet financial needs because of excessive spending on drug related activities like buying drugs or supplying drugs for a party. Notice unpaid bills or not being able to afford normal items like food.
- Excessive debt as a result of asking for money from others in order to finance their drug habit.
- Problems with friends and peers over money issues, due to the drug user’s inability to pay back debts.
- Problem with parents and complaints over not having any money.
- Inability to report where the money is being spent when asked.
- Pay attention to the company your loved one keeps. Meth users tend to hang around with other people who abuse drugs. This is one of the easiest ways to detect drug abuse. Meth abusers often have the following kind of company:
- People who abuse meth or any other drug.
- People who have easy access to drugs.
- People who don’t pose a threat — i.e. those who won’t tell the drug user’s family or criticize him for his addiction.
- Be aware of secretive behavior and social isolation. When using, the person may spend the whole day in his room with a closed door, not allowing anyone to enter. Additionally, the person will behave in a very closed off, secretive manner to hide their drug use.
- Look for a meth apparatus in the person’s living area. If you find certain drug taking apparatus in the person’s headquarters, it is a pretty definite indication that the person is taking meth (or another drug). Items to look out for include:
- The tube of a ballpoint pen or surgical tubing that might have been used to sniff meth.
- A crumpled can of aluminum foil.
- A small bag of white powder or crystals.
- A soda can with a hole on one of its sides.
- A syringe that might be used to inject drugs.
EditUnderstanding the Patterns of Meth Users
- Understand the patterns of low intensity users. These abusers intake meth just to enjoy its so-called benefits, such as feeling energetic, euphoric, experiencing increased alertness and sense of power. They are not psychologically addicted to the drug and they mostly take it by swallowing or snorting it.
- Low intensity users may include truck drivers trying to stay alert while driving long distances, workers trying to stay awake through overnight or taxing shifts, a homemaker trying to juggle housework, raising kids, and trying to be a good or “perfect” spouse.
- Be aware of high intensity abusers. High intensity abusers prefer taking meth by injecting or smoking it. They do so to feel high or aroused. They may become psychologically and physical addicted. They continuously intake large amounts of the drug.
- Recognize the signs of binge use. Binge abusers need to take more meth every few hours to maintain a high. They will do this for several days.
- After taking the drug, binge users feel mentally and physically active. They feel a huge rush or high, but can quickly crash.
- Other common symptoms of binge users include: sleeplessness, hallucinations, paranoia, irritability, and unprovoked aggression.
- Binge users often experience punding which is repeated compulsive behaviors such as sorting objects or cleaning.
- Several hours after their last binge, the person may sleep for many days.
- Overcome a Meth Addiction
- Get Rid of Drug Dealers in Your Neighborhood
- Understand Why People Use Drugs
- Deal With a Drug Addicted Family Member or Loved One
EditSources and Citations
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