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Meth Symptoms and Signs

If you’re concerned that a loved one is using meth, there are some signs you should be aware of. For example, if you find specific drug paraphernalia scattered about, this is a likely sign of meth use. Syringes are associated with heavy meth use. Look for crumpled aluminum foil with burn marks and straws or hollowed out ballpoint pens used to snort or smoke the drug. Other signs include spoons with burn marks used to melt the drug in water prior to injection, and small pieces of cotton or cigarette filters used to filter the solution.1

Perhaps the most infamous physical sign of meth use is an oral health condition known as “meth mouth.” Recent research indicates 72% of meth abusers have dry mouth, 68% experience jaw clenching and 47% have temporomandibular joint pain. Meth abusers also have significantly lower saliva production. Researchers surmise chronic meth abuse can lead to dry mouth and associated bad breath and extensive bruxism. This in turn leads to an increased risk of cavities, periodontal lesions and dental erosions.2

Heavy meth use can result in a physiological manifestation known as “meth or crank bugs,” which causes people to incessantly scratch or pick at their skin. Meth use increases body temperature and blood flow to the skin, resulting in excessive sweating. Perspiration contains an enzyme that increases blood flow to the skin. When sweat evaporates, this strips out sebaceous oil, which normally protects the skin. The combination of dehydration, sweating and loss of sebaceous oil creates a sensation that feels like bugs crawling on or under the skin (called formication). In worst-case scenarios, abusers use scissors, knives and razor blades in an attempt to remove the fictitious bugs, creating festering sores and open wounds at risk of serious infection.3

Other Physical Symptoms

People who use meth may experience many other symptoms in addition to meth mouth and meth bugs.4  These include:

  • Increased blood pressure and breathing rate
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Dilated pupils
  • Distinctive body odor
  • Heavy sweating
  • Loss of appetite and extreme weight loss
  • Sleeplessness
  • Headaches
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
  • Tremors
  • Uncontrollable jaw clenching
  • Respiratory abnormalities
  • Collapsed nasal cavity or nosebleeds
  • Microvascular hemorrhage
  • Eye damage and vision impairment
  • Reproductive health issues
  • Impaired sexual motivation and performance
  • Impaired immune system
  • Blood clots
  • Kidney disorders
  • Liver damage

Behavioral Health Signs

Meth alters normal function in a part of the limbic system that processes emotions such as anger and fear. The limbic system is a collection of brain structures including the hippocampus, hypothalamus and amygdala. As a result of this alteration, meth users often develop paranoid, aggressive or violent states of mind. Methamphetamine-induced psychosis is a recognized psychiatric disorder that can last for days to months. However, people who habitually use meth can experience bouts of paranoia-fueled aggressive or violent behavior without clinically diagnosable psychosis.5 Other behavioral signs of meth abuse include:

  • Paranoia
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Mood disorders
  • Hallucinations
  • Fleeting euphoria
  • Irritability4

If you believe a loved one is using meth, there is hope. Our licensed addiction experts are here to help you or a loved one find the right path to recovery. For a confidential assessment, call us today at 844-877-1781.

  1. How Do I Know if Someone Is Addicted to Meth? The Fix website. https://www.thefix.com/how-do-i-know-if-someone-addicted-meth Published September 2, 2015. Accessed October 10, 2016.
  2. Rommel N, Rohleder NH, Koerdt S, et al. Sympathomimetic effects of chronic methamphetamine abuse on oral health: a cross-sectional study. BMC Oral Health. 2016;16:59. doi:10.1186/s12903-016-0218-8.
  3. Bugs: Don’t Scratch That Phantom Itch! Drug Abuse website. http://drugabuse.com/ice-bugs-dont-scratch-that-phantom-itch/ Accessed October 10, 2016.
  4. Crystal Meth Abuse. Drug Abuse website. http://drugabuse.com/library/crystal-meth-abuse/ Accessed October 10, 2016.
  5. Links Between Methamphetamine Use, Paranoia, and Violence. Elements website. https://www.elementsbehavioralhealth.com/drug-abuse-addiction/links-between-methamphetamine-use-paranoia-and-violence/ Accessed October 10, 2016.
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