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What Are 5 Signs Somebody Is Using Methamphetamine?

What Are 5 Signs Somebody Is Using Methamphetamine?
Raul Haro
December 15, 2023
It can be a difficult time when someone knows or suspects that a loved one is using methamphetamine. Methamphetamine, also known as “meth” or “crystal meth,” is a potent and highly addictive drug. When people are addicted to methamphetamine, it can not only ruin their bodies, it can also ruin their relationships. It's especially hard […]
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What Are 5 Signs Somebody Is Using Methamphetamine?

It can be a difficult time when someone knows or suspects that a loved one is using methamphetamine. Methamphetamine, also known as “meth” or “crystal meth,” is a potent and highly addictive drug. When people are addicted to methamphetamine, it can not only ruin their bodies, it can also ruin their relationships. It's especially hard to see a loved one's behavior change as the dependence and addiction fully take hold. For some, they may believe that they may never get their loved one back.

There is hope, and anyone can recover from addiction. It takes time, a sincere desire to recover, support, and specialized treatment. Such treatment can be found at Pathways Wellness Center, where clients can recover from their addiction in comfort and safety. It doesn't matter if someone is using methamphetamine, they can still recover as long as they are willing to change their life. Pathways Wellness Center is an outpatient facility, which means clients come to receive treatment during the day and go home to rest afterward.

Not only does Pathways Wellness Center offer treatment, but we also offer education about addiction. It's important to recognize the signs of addiction, especially if someone is using methamphetamine. The faster a person gets treatment, the faster they will be able to recover. It's especially important for substances like methamphetamine, as long-term use can cause serious and sometimes life-threatening complications. Whether an individual is using methamphetamine or a loved one is, everyone is deserving of compassionate and quality treatment. 

But before someone can recognize the signs of someone using methamphetamine, they need to understand what methamphetamine is. By understanding how the drug affects the brain and its short- and long-term effects, people can be better educated about addiction. With such a heavy stigma around addiction and substance use, it can be hard to tell facts from outright falsehoods. The more education about substance use and addiction someone receives, the easier it is to help a loved one who is struggling.

What Is Methamphetamine and How Does It Affect People?

Methamphetamine is a powerful stimulant that affects the central nervous system. It was developed in the early 20th century from its parent drug, amphetamine, which was commonly used in nasal decongestants and bronchial inhalers. However, methamphetamine differs from amphetamine in that if you have the same amount of the drug, more methamphetamine will reach the brain, thus making it more powerful. Methamphetamine comes in the form of a white crystalline powder that can be snorted, smoked, dissolved in liquids, or injected into the bloodstream. It does have some use as a treatment for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or weight loss, but it's rarely prescribed and strictly controlled. 

Using methamphetamine affects the brain because it releases a large amount of dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain. This neurotransmitter passes information along the brain that controls the feelings of pleasure, as well as aids in motor function and motivation. Using methamphetamine overrides this system and floods it with dopamine, which causes the feelings of euphoria or “high’” that are sought after. In the short term, the effects of using methamphetamine are immediately apparent, usually within minutes to half an hour of consuming the drug. Some short-term effects of using methamphetamine include:

  • An increase in heart rate (which sometimes becomes irregular), blood pressure, respiration, and body temperature
  • Digestive issues, such as diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, dry mouth, and bad breath
  • Increased ability to focus, including performing repetitive, meaningless tasks
  • Body tensing, which leads to alertness, tremors, headache, and severe clenching of the jaw
  • Feelings of paranoia and irritability, which can lead to aggression
  • Sweating, insomnia, and in severe reactions, seizures

The long-term effects of using methamphetamine can be severe, as the drug will wear down a person's body and psyche with each use. Perhaps the most obvious long-term effect of using methamphetamine is dependence and addiction, where someone experiences withdrawal symptoms and constant cravings for methamphetamine. However, some other long-term effects of using methamphetamine show just how serious methamphetamine use and addiction are. Some of these long-term effects include:

  • Stimulant-induced psychosis: These are psychotic symptoms that will persist for months or years even after someone has stopped using methamphetamine. Symptoms include severe paranoia, homicidal and suicidal thoughts, aggression, hallucinations that may include the feeling of bugs crawling under the skin ("meth mites" or “crank bugs”), delirium, and violent behavior. 
  • Weakened immune system: Using methamphetamine wears down the ability of the body to fight infection and diseases, leaving the user prone to high blood pressure, sores, skin infections, broken and cracked teeth, liver and kidney damage, brain damage, weight loss, malnutrition, and heart and lung damage.
  • Blood-borne diseases: This is mostly for those who inject drugs and share needles. Those who share needs are at high risk for diseases such as hepatitis C and HIV. 

What Are the Signs That Somebody Is Using Methamphetamine?

Methamphetamine is not only dangerous, it's also potent. There have been cases of people using methamphetamine once and then becoming dependent on it. Because of how potent it is, it leaves some very distinct signs that affect someone's mind, body, and behavior. It doesn't just affect those, it also affects someone's social life and financial stability. Just using methamphetamine once can also cause life-threatening complications, so it's important to notice the signs as early as possible.

Luckily, the signs of using methamphetamine are distinct and highly noticeable. It's especially easier to spot if there are sudden unexplained changes to someone's behavior and appearance. Someone rapidly losing weight because they are grieving the loss of a loved one is understandable. Sudden weight loss out of nowhere, paired with sores and constant scratching is a distinct sign of using methamphetamine. Below are the most common signs associated with using methamphetamine. If either of these signs is noticed, it's time to have a serious conversation. 

#1. The Physical Signs of Using Methamphetamine

Using methamphetamine will cause noticeable effects on the body. For the most part, methamphetamine will leave someone looking "haggard" or “disheveled.” When someone is caught in an addiction, they often neglect hygiene standards, such as washing clothes or brushing their hair. The top five common physical signs of using methamphetamine are:

  • Sores or scratches, especially on the face and around the arms (where needles are typically injected)
  • Dramatic weight loss in a short time frame
  • Dental problems, also known as "meth mouth"
  • Dilated pupils and bloodshot eyes
  • Agitated movements or twitching

#2. The Behavioral Signs of Using Methamphetamine

Methamphetamine will often change a person's behavior. This is because it is a stimulant that directly affects the central nervous system. People using methamphetamine will often seem twitchy and erratic. It's especially noticeable when someone is experiencing a craving or desperate to get their next dose. The top five most common behavioral signs of methamphetamine use are:

  • Extreme bursts of energy followed by a crash
  • Aggressive or violent behavior
  • Obsessive focus on repetitive tasks
  • Increased libido and risky sexual behavior
  • Paranoid or delusional thoughts

#3. Paraphernalia Linked With Methamphetamine Consumption

When someone consumes or abuses a substance, they sometimes need tools to do so. This is called paraphernalia, some of which are very distinct. Methamphetamine can be consumed in several different ways, so it's important to be aware of what these tools may look like. The five paraphernalia most often used to consume methamphetamine are:

  • Glass pipes or homemade smoking devices
  • Burned aluminum foil
  • Straws or tubes for snorting
  • Plastic bags with white crystalline residue
  • Hypodermic needles, especially if they have no apparent use (such as a diabetic needing needles to administer insulin) 

#4. Financial and Social Red Flags Associated With Using Methamphetamine

Using methamphetamine can have serious financial and social consequences on a person. Methamphetamine is not a cheap substance. The more dependent someone is, the more methamphetamine they “need.” This causes someone to neglect their financial responsibilities until they are in serious financial trouble. Using methamphetamine impacts how well a person can perform at work and school, which can cause someone to get fired or flunk out. Lastly, methamphetamine is a controlled substance, and thus illegal to possess. Sometimes those using methamphetamine will run afoul of the law and face legal troubles. The five most common signs of financial and social troubles caused by using methamphetamine are: 

  • Drastic and unexplained financial troubles
  • New or unusual friendships, distancing themselves from close friends and family
  • Neglect of personal and professional responsibilities
  • A sudden lack of interest in previous hobbies or passions
  • Sudden troubles with the law, such as theft, possession, assault, and public intoxication 

#5. Cognitive and Psychological Signs of Using Methamphetamine

Using methamphetamine will have long-lasting effects on both the psyche and functionality of the brain. Some of these effects are severe and can cause brain damage. Some of these signs can persist for years, even after someone has fully recovered from using methamphetamine. It's another reason why swift and comprehensive treatment is important, as it can reduce the chance of these persistent effects. The five cognitive and psychological signs of using methamphetamine are:

  • Difficulty in thinking clearly or rationally
  • Severe mood swings and irritability
  • Hallucinations or feelings of bugs crawling under the skin ("meth mites" or “crank bugs”)
  • Severe insomnia or altered sleep patterns
  • Signs of anxiety and paranoia

Steps to Take When Confronted With These Signs

When someone is sure that a loved one is using methamphetamine, they need to act quickly, but carefully. It can be tempting to have a confrontation right away, but this can be detrimental to getting someone help. This is because many times, someone using methamphetamine will deny that they have a problem or get defensive if confronted too harshly. It's why these conversations have to come from a place of love and compassion. Understandably, it will be difficult to put aside feelings of anger and disappointment, especially if someone has been harmed by someone using methamphetamine. However, it must be done for the sake of everyone involved.

Start by letting the person using methamphetamine know that they are loved and that people care about them and their health. People who have support are more likely to seek help and successfully recover from addiction. Do not assign blame or attack the person using methamphetamine. Instead, let them know that even though they are loved, they are harming themselves and the people who love them. Be understanding, and empathetic. Listen to them. If it's difficult to have this conversation alone, it's encouraged to seek professional help.

Pathways Wellness Center is staffed by compassionate and expert mental health care professionals. Some of these professionals are trained to mediate and oversee interventions. Interventions are when loved ones gather to convince someone to receive help. These professionals can not only help oversee and mediate an intervention, but they can also help family members gather their thoughts. Not only that, a person is more likely to seek help for an addiction if they know they can recover or have a solution ready to go. A mental health care professional can help the person using methamphetamine sign up for and begin their addiction treatment, as well as reassure and answer questions they may have.

Having a support network is vital to recovery, which is why Pathways Wellness Center emphasizes building them. We help clients talk with their peers and find mentors who can help them achieve and stay in recovery. Part of this includes family therapy, which can help bridge the gap between loved ones. Only by receiving support can a person maintain their sobriety and recover from addiction. 

Pathways to Healing: Overcoming Meth Addiction

Now that the person using methamphetamine has been spoken to and encouraged to get help, it's time to look at addiction treatment. Pathways Wellness Center is an outpatient treatment center that offers two programs. These are the partial hospitalization program (PHP) and the Intensive outpatient program (IOP). PHPs are most suited to those who are still detoxing, are struggling with cravings, or have a high relapse risk. IOPs are more appropriate for those who are ready to join society again but need extra support to do so. For those using methamphetamine, they tend to start in a residential treatment program to detox and then transition to a PHP.

Both treatment programs are different, but they have the same types of therapies available. These treatments are comprehensive and scientifically backed, with an emphasis on holistic healing. This means that the body, mind, and spirit are given equal treatment to help the person using methamphetamine heal completely. Clients will find typical addiction treatment staples, such as psychotherapy and medication-assisted treatment (MAT). However, they'll also find other treatments such as adventure therapy and art therapy. All therapies and treatments at Pathways Wellness Center are designed to help clients recover from addiction and stay in recovery.

For those who have questions about substance abuse and addiction treatment, they are always welcome to contact Pathways Wellness Center for help. An informed and educated society is a vigilant one, and it takes everyone working together to help create a healthy society. The faster people can recognize when someone is using methamphetamine, the faster they can be helped. People are encouraged to call, send an email, or even visit Pathways Wellness Center in person to get an accurate understanding of addiction and its treatment.

Remember that everyone is deserving of help, including those who are using methamphetamine. Methamphetamine addiction may be scary and difficult, but people can and have recovered from it. No addiction is “too much” to receive compassionate and quality treatment. Addictions are never a punishment for a perceived moral failing. They can happen to anyone at any time, regardless of sex, race, age, or social class. No mental health care or addiction treatment facility will ever berate or judge someone for needing help. They want people to seek help for their addiction and are always happy to help. 

For those that struggle with a methamphetamine addiction, they may feel as though they are trapped and have no means of escape. There is always hope, as anyone can recover from a methamphetamine addiction with the right treatment, support, and personal drive to succeed. Here at Pathways Wellness Center in Glendora, California, clients can expect a safe and supportive environment staffed by compassionate and understanding mental health care professionals. With personalized treatment plans focused on holistic treatment methods, clients can expect individualized treatments to help them achieve long-lasting recovery. If you or a loved one is struggling with a methamphetamine addiction, don't wait to seek help. Call Pathways Wellness Center at(888) 771-0966 to start your recovery journey today. 

About the Author

Raul Haro
Raul Haro is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with sixteen years of experience working in both the inpatient and outpatient setting. As an LMFT, He has trained in trauma focused cognitive behavioral therapy and EMDR. Raul has furthered his training in the drug and alcohol field by obtaining a Masters in Drug and Alcohol Counseling through CCAPP. Raul has a background in nursing where he has been an LVN for over 25 years. Recently, he has returned to school to complete a degree in Registered Nursing. Future plans are for Raul are to eventually complete a degree as a Nurse Practitioner combining his therapy practice with his nursing skills.

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