How Can You Tell If Someone Is Using Meth?

When you know the signs and symptoms of meth abuse and addiction, you may be better able to decide if you or a loved one should seek treatment to overcome a dangerous meth abuse disorder.

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Methamphetamines, with the nickname meth, is an illegal drug with a similar class as cocaine and other stimulants. Although it is a stimulant, meth presents a variety of effects that are quite different from other substances. Understand the signs of and symptoms of meth use and how to get treatment.

Aside from heroin and cocaine, methamphetamines belong as one of the widely-used illicit drugs. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 1.6 million people are reported to have abused meth in the year 2016, and the average age of users appear to be at 23 years old.

Behind these staggering statistics is the reason why so many people get hooked on meth. Apparently, this drug releases ten times more dopamine than natural sources, and the effects are short-lived. The chemical mechanism of meth is what makes the intake of the drug habit-forming–with its quick and strong effects, many users can’t help but seek the pleasurable sensations. In this post, we will understand what meth is, what addiction to it looks like, and how one can get treatment for meth abuse.

What Is Meth?

Methamphetamine is a powerful stimulant that targets the central nervous system. The components and effects of the drug were initially intended to treat the symptoms of Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). It is also used by patients who suffer from narcolepsy.

Sadly, meth is often abused because aside from treating these conditions, it brings pleasurable effects and increased focus. Since the effects of meth are rapid and strong, this reinforces taking higher doses of the drug, eventually leading to tolerance and addiction. People have created illicit versions of the drug, with the other nicknames blue, ice, crystal, and speed.

How is meth used?

Meth is commonly taken by users through the following routes:

  • Smoking: Users have a glass pipe where the crystal form of meth is burned. They inhale the vapors that result from the heated crystals.
  • Swallowing: There are also pills containing methamphetamines, most of which are given as the prescribed medication Desoxyn. Some users fake prescriptions to get Desoxyn and use or sell them in the black market.
  • Snorting: Pills or crystals are finely grounded as users snort the powdered form of meth.
  • Injecting: The crystal or pill is also grounded and dissolved in water and is injected in the bloodstream through a syringe.

The most common form of taking meth is through smoking, but injecting presents as the route that leads to the quickest effects.

What does meth look like?

Meth in its most common form looks like whitish or clear crystals. In its coarser form, it looks like rock salt particles. When finely ground, it looks more like crystal powdered sugar or salt. Prescribed medication versions of meth often look like a white tablet which turns into powder when crushed.

However, other forms of meth can also be brown or pink, depending on the substances mixed with it. Illicit forms of meth can have other addictive drugs combined within the crystals, which gives it a different color shade. Additionally, meth created from illegal labs can have other residue or impurities, causing it to have various color differences.

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What Are The Signs Someone Is On Crystal Meth?

What does meth do to you? There are short-term and long-term effects of crystal meth. When someone initially takes the drug, they immediately experience the short-term symptoms. However, prolonged use causes various physical, mental, and behavioral effects which can be deadly when meth addiction isn’t addressed right away. Below are the short and long-term symptoms of meth use:

Short-term signs and symptoms:

  • Being hyperactive
  • Muscle twitching
  • Dilated pupils
  • Experiencing paranoia
  • Rapid eye movement
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Skin burns
  • Erratic sleeping patterns

One particular sign on how to tell if someone is on meth is tweaking. It is commonly heard as the term “meth tweaking”.

Tweaking, what is it?

What does tweaking look like, and what happens during this particular phase of symptoms? Tweaking is the period where a meth user has a decreased dosage of the drug. As a result, the person experiences various physical and mental symptoms such as:

Tweaking can last up to 3-15 days, or until the person takes meth again during this period. It is often associated as part of the withdrawal symptoms that appear with meth addiction. At this point, the person becomes desperate to find sources of the drug until they find relief. If the drug is not given, they may also experience the “crashing phase” where they feel exhausted and sick because the release of dopamine isn’t the same as when they were taking meth.

Long-term symptoms

Aside from the short-term signs, there are also other health effects related to meth abuse. When the drugs are taken consistently for months or years, below are some of the mental, behavioral, and physical signs of a meth user in terms of their health:

  • Respiratory problems: Smoking meth causes the person to inhale other impurities in the air, causing lung disease.
  • Heart issues: Meth also causes a rapid or irregular heartbeat for users, as such they may experience heart problems such as heart failure, tachycardia, or elevated blood pressure.
  • Malnutrition: Those who abuse meth tend to neglect other areas of their wellbeing such as appearance or overall well-being. Thus, they may look malnourished, along with signs of the conditions resulting from the lack of nutrition.
  • Brain problems: Adults who use methamphetamine have an approximately fivefold increased risk of a hemorrhagic stroke. Individuals may also suffer from changes in personality or mood, or increasing violent behavior due to meth use

If a loved one is hiding a meth addiction, you may be wondering how to tell if someone is using meth. There are various changes in the body when someone is using meth.

Changes in Physical Appearance

  • Weight loss: Do you notice a sudden drop in weight in a suspected user? Some of the telltale signs can be seen such as having a more pronounced jawline, deep eye sockets, a skinnier waist, or smaller-looking arms.
  • Aging quickly: Unnatural aging also happens with frequent meth use. You may notice that they have increased sagging or wrinkly skin, or they have skin discolorations that appear bluish or gray. Users also look more pale than usual.
  • Black or rotting teeth: Also dubbed as the term “meth mouth”, this is the result of the acidic components of the drug that causes tooth decay. As a result, long-term meth users increasingly have blackened, rotting, or missing teeth.

These are some of the ways on how to tell if someone is smoking ice or using meth in general. If you are suspecting meth abuse in yourself or a loved one, know that you are not alone. There are high-quality meth addiction centers ready to provide you with resources and answer any questions you may have.

Know the Signs, Avoid the Risks

By identifying the signs of meth abuse, you can quickly avoid the life-threatening pitfalls caused by the addiction to this drug. There are behavioral, physical, and mental health consequences of meth abuse–don’t let it control your life. It is possible to be free from meth abuse, and it all starts with a decision to quit.


  • – “What is the scope of methamphetamine misuse in the United States?”.
  • – “Implication of brain-derived neurotrophic factor in the release of dopamine and dopamine-related behaviors induced by methamphetamine”.
  • – “DrugFacts: Methamphetamine”.
  • – “Desoxyn: Methamphetamine”.
  • – “Forms of Meth”.
  • – “Methamphetamine Use and Violent Behavior: User Perceptions and Predictors”.
  • – “Methamphetamine-induced neuronal necrosis: the role of electrographic seizure discharges”.
  • – “Meth mouth”.

Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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