Methamphetamine is an incredibly addictive and dangerous drug that can cause severe side effects, addiction, dependence, withdrawal, and even death. In fact, a person can die from using meth just one time. Also, it is an extremely powerful drug, and those who do use it are likely to become addicted quickly.
Being able to recognize the issue of meth abuse and addiction is important, especially if you are a part of or know someone who is a part of the LGBTQ community. Meth is a dangerous drug amongst this population, and having the ability to spot the signs of a meth user is a way to ensure the safety you and your loved ones.
Top 10 Signs of a Meth User
There are many signs that point to methamphetamine abuse. According to the Center of Substance Abuse Research, meth abusers will often use more and more of the drug, just to make the positive effects last longer. Unfortunately, this also intensifies the drug’s negative effects. Below, we’ve listed the top 10 signs of a meth user.
1. Picking at one’s skin or hair
Using meth can cause the skin to become extremely itchy, dry, and cracked. Often, meth is smoked out of a glass pipe, which gets very hot and can easily burn the mouth, leading to sores (National Library of Medicine). Meth users are fidgety and tend to pick at their skin and sores often. This behavior leads to worsening skin conditions, which, in turn, leads to more picking. In addition, picking at or pulling out one’s hair is another sign of meth abuse.
2. Dilated pupils
Methamphetamine, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, is a type of amphetamine, which is a stimulant drug. As such, meth causes stimulant effects—like those of caffeine but much stronger. Stimulants cause the pupils to become larger. It’s a good bet that someone who is high and has large pupils in on some kind of stimulant like meth, rather than a drug like heroin, which causes the pupils to contract.
3. Rapid eye movement
When something stimulates you, it raises the amount of activity going on in your body. When a person abuses methamphetamine, this is what happens. Everything going on inside their body—their thoughts, their body’s functions—all moves much faster. A good way to see this from the outside is if the person’s eyes seem to be moving much faster than normal. As stated by CESAR, this is also a sign that the individual has taken meth for several hours or even days straight, an action known as tweaking.
4. Reduced appetite
Methamphetamine, like other stimulants, decreases one’s appetite. It gives you a rush that increases your ability to perform physical activities without the need for food or sleep. This is similar to what nicotine in cigarettes or caffeine in coffee does but on a much more intense scale. Sometimes, meth users will only eat foods that are high in sugar content in order to increase the high caused by the drug. Generally, though, meth users have little to no appetite, even after hours or days of not eating.
Like what we said above, meth abuse causes you to be able to function without sleep. Many people think of this as a positive effect: they can feel good and energetic without needing to stop for food or sleep. However, over time, this becomes severely dangerous. People who use meth all the time so they don’t have to sleep are sometimes called tweakers.
6. Sudden outbursts or extreme mood swings
Meth can make a person feel like they’re on top of the world, like they never do any wrong, even like they are invincible. But just as suddenly, the drug can have the opposite effect, causing the user to become fearful, anxious, or even enraged. Sudden and dangerous mood swings or outbursts that seem to come out of nowhere are a strong indicator that someone is using meth. In fact, these behaviors can become worse and morph into psychotic symptoms, as evidenced by NIDA. People who have been using meth for a while who quit can sometimes experience a resurgence of these effects months—even years—after their last meth use.
7. Losing weight
When a person smokes crystal meth regularly, they will not have a strong appetite, which can cause them to lose weight. Some people even become malnourished because they take the drug so much, which can be deadly. It takes time for a person’s appetite to balance out again after they stop abusing meth. At first, they might experience a heightened appetite, but their enjoyment of food will often be less than they remember, as they may experience a lack of the ability to feel pleasure, also known as anhedonia.
8. Meth mouth
Meth mouth is one of the most obvious and disturbing side effects of the drug and its abuse. This is the condition that causes people’s teeth to become stained, to rot, to break, and sometimes even to fall out of their mouths completely. This occurs because meth users do not take care of their teeth the way they should and because the drug itself causes dry mouth and uncontrollable jaw clenching, which can both lead to tooth problems.
According to NIDA for Teens, a study that examined 571 meth users found 96 percent of those studied had cavities, 58 percent had untreated tooth decay, and only 23 percent were able to keep all of their natural teeth.
9. Poor hygiene
Meth users, as stated above, do not worry extensively about their hygiene. They are often only focused on getting and/or keeping their high. This can lead to tooth rot but also poor body odor, wearing the same clothes day in and day out, and skin issues that arise from picking at the scabs caused by meth abuse.
10. Repetitive behavior
Regular meth abuse can cause a person to perform repetitive behavior, such as looking in the same places again and again, scratching themselves until they bleed, getting caught up in meaningless tasks, etc. They might also develop a twitch or tic.
The reason for these effects is that meth causes severe damage to the brain over time, damage that is akin to Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s disease (CESAR). Meth damages the brain’s nerve terminals, and while sometimes progress can be made toward healing this damage, it can be permanent in some cases. It all depends on the individual, how long they were abusing the drug, and how extensive the damage has become.
What Do People on Meth Look Like?
People on meth look jumpy, jittery, and often can’t sit still. Some people who have been on the drug for a long time might look normal, but their rapid eye movements and poor oral hygiene can give them away. These individuals are often volatile, malnourished, and have sores on their skin. Any of these signs are strong indicators that someone is using meth.
How Can I Find Help for Meth Addiction?
At La Fuente, we help people put an end to their meth abuse in safe, LGBTQ-affirmative treatment center. We offer helpful services for addiction treatment and recovery in the Hollywood area that also provides a safe space for those in the LGBTQ community. Often, this is exactly what someone needs after struggling with methamphetamine abuse.