Methamphetamine is a stimulant drug that is commonly known as crystal meth or simply meth. Reports show that meth is abused by half a million people in the United States every week. Crystal meth has very little medicinal usefulness. It is mainly used as a drug of abuse. People abuse crystal meth primarily for its euphoric effects.
Meth offers people feelings of confidence, pleasure, focus, and it even has aphrodisiac properties. Unfortunately, it is also extremely addictive. It doesn’t take long for the physical and behavioral side effects of crystal meth abuse to become apparent. Within a short time, people who abuse crystal meth can severely damage all aspects of their life including jobs, relationships and health. In many cases, crystal meth abuse can be deadly. A 2017 study shows that 15% of all fatal drug overdoses involved crystal meth.
Helping loved ones recover from meth addiction starts with recognizing the signs of crystal meth abuse. People suffering from addiction, unfortunately, are likely to take pains to hide or disguise their substance abuse. They can be reluctant to talk about their struggles with crystal meth due to shame, or because they are under the mistaken belief that they can still control their drug use if they only try harder.
The reality is that crystal meth addiction, if left untreated, is only likely to get worse. To help your family member or other loved one get the help they need, it is important to be able to recognize the signs of their crystal meth addiction. Even young people who work hard to hide their substance abuse are rarely able to completely cover it up. The signs of crystal meth abuse include a combination of physical and behavioral symptoms that are apparent to anyone who knows how to recognize the signs.
Physical Signs of Crystal Meth Abuse
Crystal meth abusers are often depicted as people with rotten teeth and skin sores. While it is true that regular crystal meth causes significant damage to physical health, it is a good idea to let go of preconceived notions of what a crystal meth addict looks like. Not all meth addicts are in the advanced stages of their addiction as depicted in those before and after photos. Some common physical signs of crystal meth abuse include:
- High energy and excitement
- Facial twitching
- Quick, jerky eye movements
- Pupil dilation
- Jerky or twitchy body movements or tremors
- Sores on the face and skin
- High body temperature
- Increased sweating
- Tooth decay (meth mouth)
- Decreased appetite and weight loss
- Difficulty sleeping
- Constant, rapid speech
- Frequent scratching or picking at the hair and skin
Behavioral Signs of Crystal Meth Abuse
Crystal meth is a drug that is most frequently abused for its effects on one’s mood. Because if its effect on the brain, it is natural that meth causes severe emotional and behavioral changes for people who abuse it. While the euphoria, focus, and confidence that people abuse methamphetamine to obtain may seem like the obvious symptoms to look out for, it is important to understand that often the most obvious behavioral signs of crystal meth abuse occur when a person is withdrawing from the drug.
Crystal meth withdrawal is a debilitating and painful state that causes mood changes that are the polar opposite of the drug’s initial effects. Symptoms of crystal meth withdrawal include feelings of hopelessness, depression, and anxiety. It is thus important to remember that the behavioral signs of crystal meth abuse cover a wide range of extreme moods and associated behaviors. Common behavioral signs to look out for include:
- Impulsive or unpredictable behavior
- Increased activity, like hyperactivity or restlessness
- Anxious, nervous, or irritable behavior
- Aggressive or violent reactions
- Seeing or hearing things that aren’t there (hallucinations)
- Suspicion of others (paranoia)
- Irrational beliefs (delusions)
- Going with little or no sleep for days at a time
- Feelings of depression or hopelessness
- Extreme exhaustion
Crystal Meth Overdose
Abuse of crystal meth can be fatal in the event of a methamphetamine overdose. People overdose when they take greater quantities of methamphetamine than they can tolerate. The result is a toxic reaction that leads to harmful symptoms and sometimes death. Crystal meth overdoses cause hyperthermia, otherwise known as “heatstroke,” which can lead to multiple organ failure. During a crystal meth overdose, the body also experiences a sharp rise in blood pressure that can cause hemorrhaging, liver failure, and heart failure.
The symptoms of a crystal meth overdose include:
- High or low blood pressure
- Severe stomach pain
- Profuse sweating
- Difficult, slowed, or stopped breathing
- Dangerously high body temperature
- Irregular heart rate
- Chest pain
- Extreme agitation
15% of all drug overdose deaths involve methamphetamine. Overdoses become much more likely when people abuse crystal meth alongside other substances. It is estimated that 50% of people who die from a crystal meth overdose were also abusing opioids. Fentanyl, a highly potent synthetic opioid, is responsible for half of these polysubstance abuse-related deaths.
When crystal meth, a stimulant, is combined with depressants like opioids or alcohol, it can demand too much of the body while impairing the body’s ability to meet these demands. It is important to understand that the risks of drug interactions remain even when a person believes they are only using crystal meth. Drug dealers frequently add dangerous illicitly produced synthetic opioids to street methamphetamine without letting their customers know.
Recovering from Crystal Meth Addiction
If you start to notice that a loved one is exhibiting any of these behavioral or physical signs, it is often a wise to bring up your concerns. People who have nothing to hide often don’t mind inquiry from a loved one out of care and concern. It is important, though, to make sure to approach the conversation from a place of concern rather than accusation. Mainly because many of the signs of methamphetamine abuse are similar to symptoms of other mental health conditions like severe depression or bipolar disorder.
If your loved one does indeed suffer from a methamphetamine substance use disorder, it is all the more important that you represent an ally rather than an enemy. It is highly likely that they’ve already recognized their problem and have tried and failed to solve it. By offering a helping hand, you can ensure that they don’t suffer alone and that they get the resources they need to recover. At a minimum, you offer a place for them to safely return in the future if they want help.
The best course of action for people suffering from crystal meth addictions is to enroll in a sober living home after a medical detox or residential treatment center. San Diego Sober Living is a structured sober living home for women in San Diego California. We offer a structured program for recovery that helps residents work to develop the skills they need to get sober and maintain their sobriety in the company of other young women who are similarly committed to recovery.
Research has shown that sober living homes are effective at keeping people sober over the long term because of the sober social support systems that residents cultivate there. If you or a loved one is looking for the next step in their path to sobriety please call us today! We can help because we have been there before.