Methamphetamine (aka meth or crystal meth) is a stimulant similar to amphetamine that is most often found illicitly. Meth is typically more potent than prescription amphetamines and is only rarely used for any legitimate medical purpose.
Meth is usually purchased from a dealer on the street or “cooked” in a home or clandestine lab. Meth is also commonly known as ice, glass, and crank, among other names. It usually presents as a crystal or rock-like substance that is clear, semi-transparent, or bluish. Occasionally it can be found in the form of a powder or a tablet.
Signs of Meth Use
Regular meth use often results in a myriad of adverse changes in an individual’s life that can be easily identified by certain signs and symptoms.
Changes in Lifestyle
Meth users are often secretive and go to great lengths to hide the extent of their use. Over time, however, it becomes more and more difficult to disguise their habit, as they continue to spend increasing amounts of time and money obtaining, manufacturing, and using the drug.
As meth use becomes central in an individual’s life, they begin to fail to attend to responsibilities at work, school, and home. For instance, expenses related to drug making, purchasing, or using may lead to financial issues and an inability to keep up with bills. Also, binges may be followed by a prolonged period of inactivity in which childcare and other essential responsibilities are neglected.
Mood Swings and Adverse Mental Changes
Like other stimulants, meth use causes the brain to release excessive amounts of dopamine, a neurochemical responsible for feelings of reward and well-being. With extended meth use, the brain becomes less able to produce dopamine without chemical assistance. This effect can leave the user feeling anxious and depressed during periods of abstinence.
Chronic meth use can also be associated with paranoia, delusions, and even full-blown psychosis. Users may experience irrational fears and other adverse mental effects that persist long after meth use has ended. Very uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms are common among long-term meth users when they attempt to quit using or cut back.
Because meth is a potent central nervous system stimulant, increased activity in both the brain and body leads to feelings of euphoria and high energy and elevated mood. Users are often very talkative, hyperactive, and may engage in repetitive and obsessive activities, such as cleaning.
Meth users may also experience tactile sensations or hallucinations associated with itching or the feeling of insects crawling on or under their skin, known as “meth mites.” This can also result in repeated scratching and the development of skin sores.
What’s more, prolonged meth use often causes appetite suppression, and thus, marked weight loss. Over time, users begin to appear gaunt and malnourished due to poor eating and sleeping habits.
In addition to itching, sores, weight loss, and a generally disheveled and general appearance of being unwell, long-term meth users also tend to incur dental problems commonly referred to as “meth mouth.” This condition is hallmarked by a loss of tooth enamel due to poor oral hygiene and dry mouth, which results in rampant tooth decay.
How meth is administered can also dramatically impact a meth user’s outward appearance. For example, an individual who smokes meth faces a higher risk of bronchitis and pneumonia and may experience chronic coughing and congestion.
And snorting meth, not unlike snorting cocaine, can lead to frequent nosebleeds and permanent damage to the septum and surrounding nasal tissues. Finally, injecting meth, although relatively uncommon, can result in open wounds and sores on the skin, infections, and damage to veins.
Paraphernalia using for using meth may include any of the following:
- Razors, rolled papers, mirrors, or hollow tubes for snorting
- Metal or glass pipes, bongs, foils, or light bulbs with a hollow tube attached for smoking
- Spoons, syringes, and tourniquets for injection
Signs of a Meth Lab
Not all people who use meth cook it themselves. However, the following signs may indicate a person you know is operating a meth lab:
- Excessive home security measures, such as “Private Property” or “Beware of Dog” signs, alarm systems, etc.
- Items for concealing the interior of the home, such as darkened windows, drawn curtains, high fences, etc.
- Chemical smells that are detectable around the home, garage, or yard
- Garbage contains suspicious bottles, containers, or sheets stained from filtering chemicals
- Evidence of chemical waste dumping
Treatment For Meth Abuse, Dependence, and Addiction
Meth addiction occurs when a persons’ brain and body have developed a dependency on the substance, and uncomfortable side effects manifest when an individual attempts to quit. When a user has become fully dependent, they will engage in compulsive drug-seeking behavior at a very high level. They often do whatever it takes to procure and use meth despite the many adverse effects that result.
Treatment for meth use should begin with medical detox, followed by participation in multiple therapies, such as psychotherapy, counseling, and group support. Just Believe Detox and Just Believe Recovery are specialized treatment centers that offer care and support for meth users and others struggling to overcome drug dependence and addiction.