Meth Abuse Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment

How to identify the signs and symptoms of meth abuse

Long-term methamphetamine addiction can cause severe neurological and physical damage, which makes learning how to identify meth abuse signs and symptoms a critical skill for anyone with teens or loved ones who may be at risk. Methamphetamine, also known as crystal meth or simply meth, is one of the most highly addictive and destructive drugs on the planet.  According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, over 12.3 million Americans age 12 and older have tried meth at least once. A 2013 survey by the Institute found the average age at which methamphetamine users try the drug for the first time is around 19 years old. Since meth can be addictive after just a few uses, learning the warning signs of meth abuse and addiction is the key to preventing deleterious effects that can last a lifetime. 

Indications of meth use

Meth is available in a variety of forms, and can be snorted, smoked, taken internally, or injected. Meth comes in liquid form or as a white to light brown powder, typically sold in small bags. If you are concerned someone you know is using meth, look for small vials or empty bags, syringes, crumpled aluminum foil, and soda cans with a hole in the side. Finding any of these items is a strong indication that a person may be abusing meth or another illicit drug.

Long and short-term meth abuse symptoms

Meth abuse takes a heavy toll on users’ physical, mental, and emotional well-being. The short-term symptoms of meth abuse are apparent when users have just taken the drug, and may disappear within a few hours. The long-term signs of meth abuse develop over time and can persist for years, lingering long after users have stopped taking meth.

Psychological signs of meth use

The psychological signs of meth abuse are similar to cocaine abuse. Meth users behavior will change, often drastically and abruptly, once they begin taking the drug. While these behavioral changes first appear when users are actively under the influence of meth, they become pervasive and linger even once the drug has worn off. The psychological effects of meth abuse include:

  • Erratic behavior
  • Violent mood swings
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Paranoia
  • Sexual promiscuity
  • Risky behavior
  • Hallucinations

Physical signs of meth use

If you are wondering if a loved one is struggling with meth abuse, there are a number of physical signs to look for. Meth use causes the following physical symptoms:

  • Insomnia – users may not sleep for days at a time
  • Loss of appetite – meth suppresses users’ appetite
  • Unusually active – meth users get a burst of euphoria and energy from the drug
  • Anxiety and nervousness
  • Dilated pupils
  • Sweatiness – even if the temperature is cool
  • Track or needle marks – may be located on arms, legs, hands, feet, or neck
  • Coughing or hoarseness – from smoking meth
  • Energy crash – after meth wears off, users may fall in a deep sleep for hours

Over time, the physical effects of meth abuse become severe. One or two years of meth abuse can cause users to appear ten or twenty years older than they actually are. The physical signs of long-term meth abuse that develop include:

  • Loss of weight – meth suppresses users’ appetite, and can cause nausea and vomiting
  • Open sores – meth use restricts blood flow and slows healing
  • Skin-picking and sores –many meth users obsessively pick at their skin due to the hallucination that bugs are crawling under their skin (known as formication)
  • Loss of skin elasticity
  • Hair loss
  • Trembling and shaking
  • “Meth mouth”- broken, discolored, and rotting teeth due to tooth decay, tooth fractures, and acid erosion from meth use
  • Convulsions, cardiovascular collapse, coma, and death from overdose

Meth abuse treatment and recovery

The treatment programs for meth abuse that have been found to be most effective are those that are based on cognitive, behavioral, or motivational method. Therapeutic sessions that focus on recognizing triggers, avoiding high risk situations, life coping skills, and other relapse prevention techniques have the best success in helping patients maintain their recovery on a long-term basis.

If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

About the Author

is a proud alumni member of WhiteSands Treatment. After living a life of chaos, destruction and constant let downs, Mark was able to make a complete turnaround that sparked a new way of life. He is serious about his recovery along with helping others. At WhiteSands Treatment, we offer support to you in your homes or when you are out living in your daily lives.