Since 2008, hospital admittance for methamphetamine use has risen by roughly 245% in the U.S. The recent opioid crisis has put the dangers of meth abuse in the shadows, but the number of meth users is staggering.
The U.S. border seizes up to 20 times more of the drug than they did a decade ago, proving that the problem is as rampant as ever.
The physical manifestation of meth use is gradual. If you think someone you love is using, keep reading for the common meth signs of addiction and some advice on how to get help.
What is Meth?
Methamphetamine, more commonly known as meth, is a highly addictive, illegal drug that is similar in structure to amphetamines. Amphetamines are used in a variety of common prescription drugs such as Adderall, Ritalin, and Dexadrine.
While the two chemicals are structurally similar and can produce similar effects, it’s important not to mistake one for the other.
Doctors prescribe amphetamines to treat conditions like ADHD and other focus-related disorders. Methamphatimes are much stronger, highly addictive and completely illegal.
It is a whitish blue glassy substance, which is why its most common street name is crystal meth. Other common street names are crystal, ice, glass, whizz, and jib. People take the drug by injecting, smoking, snorting or ingesting it.
It produces an immediate feeling of extreme euphoria lasting up to 30 minutes. During that time users often feel highly motivated, intellectually charged, alert, and confident.
Meth is widely attributed to being one of the most dangerous, destructive illicit drugs available on the streets today. It has one of the highest rates of relapse due to its highly addictive nature and extremely cheap street prices.
Early Signs of Meth Use
In most cases, meth is not the first drug people try. It’s commonly abused by people who have already struggled with addiction or abuse of other drugs, especially uppers like cocaine or MDMA.
The obvious visible signs of meth use don’t happen quickly; it is a gradual process. If you think someone you love might be using meth, keep an eye out for the following.
While it might not be easy to identify, and might even seem like a positive thing at first, one early sign to look out for is if the person stops using other drugs. Cocaine, for instance, produces some of the same effects but is incredibly expensive.
If you’re close enough to someone to know what drugs they’ve been using, and you notice they’ve stopped buying cocaine, but are still acting in a way that worries you, they could have moved on to meth.
Another thing to watch for is a change in sleeping patterns. Meth users don’t sleep as much since the drug is a powerful stimulant. Withdrawing from loved ones and ditching previously enjoyed activities, work, and school are also red flags.
While it’s tricky to identify the early stages of meth addiction, it can be quite easy to identify if someone has recently taken it. Signs of the meth high include dilated pupils, fast-paced and excessive talking and over-confidence.
Other signs that someone is taking meth include extreme paranoia, delusional behavior, grandiose thoughts, increased libido, decreased appetite, stealing money from loved ones, violence and an increase in reckless behavior.
Late Signs of Meth Use
Unfortunately, it can go from the early stage to the late stage very quickly. It doesn’t take long for meth addiction to take hold, and the physical manifestation of the drug can be very jarring.
Physical signs of late-stage meth use are rotting teeth, mouth sores, bad breath, and scabs. Meth scabs are common due to the skin-crawling feeling that incites the users to pick at their skin, causing scabs and open sores.
Chronic meth use can lead to brain damage, stroke, seizures, and death. Meth addiction can cause the user to lose their job and home, leading them to financial ruin. It causes broken relationships. Often, the user ends up on the street.
It’s incredibly easy to overdose on meth. Signs that someone is overdosing, or close to overdosing, include intense, aggressive behavior, fever, muscle pains and shakes, nausea and vomiting, deliriousness or confusion or high or low blood pressure.
A meth overdose can lead to a stroke, a coma, and death. There is no drug available that can reduce the effects of a meth overdose.
Doctors will administer fluids through an IV for hydration, and give medication to control blood pressure and anxiety. The sooner the user gets medical attention, the better.
The meth detox process is not an easy one with such high relapse rates. But it’s not impossible. The earlier the user gets into a treatment center for detoxification, the better.
There are three commonly recognized stages of meth detox. The first stage is the crash, also known as the “come down” or the withdrawal, and lasts up to 3 days from the time the last high subsides.
During this time, the user will be extremely anxious, irritable, hungry, depressed, and exhausted. The next stage is known as the acute stage and can last up to a week once the initial withdrawal symptoms fade.
When in the acute stage of detox, the user will experience severe insomnia, body aches, shakiness, depression, loss of memory and psychosis. During this stage, it’s best for the user to be in a safe environment, preferably a detox center.
The last stage is referred to as extinction, or post-withdrawal acute stage, and in severe cases can last up to several months.
During what will hopefully be the final stage and the end of their addiction, users will experience extreme mood changes, extreme anxiety, depression, irritability, aggression, intense cravings, nightmares, and insomnia.
The Bottom Line: Get Help ASAP
If you think someone you love is using meth, try to get them help as soon as possible.
Deterioration of the body and mind of meth addicts happens fast and can lead to death.
To learn more about meth signs of addiction and to get help, read through our treatment options.