Sure Signs of Meth Use

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The use of methamphetamine, commonly referred to as meth, can result in devastating physiological and psychological effects over time. Meth abuse has resulted in the destruction of families, social ties, and the lives of users since it became popularized as a cheap stimulant that can be readily manufactured using a variety of chemicals. The abuse of methamphetamine continues to be present a widespread problem not only for the users themselves and the loved ones around them, but also the communities they live in and our society as a whole.

For the families and loved ones of individuals addicted to meth, it can be difficult to recognize the signs of meth use. Getting a loved one the help they need to combat meth abuse requires recognizing the signs of meth use, yet many people remain unfamiliar with the most common signs that a loved one may be using meth. This presents challenges for getting a person close to you the help they need before the most destructive effects of meth use manifest.

In the spirit of aiding individuals who think someone in their life, whether it be a family member, loved one, friend, or coworker, may be abusing meth, we’ve compiled a list of common signs of meth abuse. This article will outline the effects that short-term meth abuse can have on the user’s body and mental state. We’ll also explore some of the long-term effects of meth abuse. This information will highlight the importance of recognizing the effects of meth abuse early so that you can get the meth user in your life the help they need before permanent damage is done. Getting the individual you suspect of using meth the treatment they need early will not only give them the best chances for a successful recovery, but also help them avoid the catastrophic physiological and neurological damage that is associated with long-term meth use.

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What is Methamphetamine?

Methamphetamine is a synthetic, or man-made, stimulant that was first synthesized in 1893 by a Japanese chemist in an attempt to create a synthetic stimulant alternative to ephedra. Ephedra is a plant that contains the stimulant ephedrine. Although we now associate methamphetamine with illicit drug users, for decades amphetamines were utilized as a nasal decongestant and sold without a prescription. Methamphetamine in particular was utilized by many of the militaries involved in World War II. Japan, Germany, the United States and Great Britain all provided methamphetamine to servicemen on missions to help ward off fatigue and increase awareness.[1]

Although a form of meth, methamphetamine hydrochloride, continues to see medical use under the trade name Desoxyn to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), the vast majority of meth use in the United States stems from illicitly manufactured methamphetamine. According to a 2012 survey, methamphetamine is the fourth most abused drug in the United States behind cocaine, heroin, and marijuana, affecting roughly 1.2 million Americans. Although meth use is on the whole declining, there are regional variations that result in particularly high rates of meth use.[2]

Meth is known by a number of names that have become commonplace in our current society. These include crank, crystal, crystal meth, or speed. Meth sold on the streets is usually either a white powder, or a crystalline substance that resembles glass and is referred to as crystal meth. The most common method of using meth is by smoking it, although injection and snorting it are also common. Less common is simply ingesting meth, but this too will produce a profound effect. Smoking or injecting meth results in an immediate onset of effects, while snorting meth will result in effects within 3-5 minutes. Like many other stimulants, users of meth will typically continue to take meth over a period of time until the body’s fatigue finally takes over and results in a crash. This is known as binging or a “run”, and can be particularly destructive while resulting in a number of side effects of meth use including hallucinations and progressively worsening fluctuations in mood and behavior.[3]

Short-Term Signs of Meth Use

The signs of meth use can be broadly broken down into short and long-term indicators. Both are important for individuals to understand if they think that someone in their life is abusing meth. Short-term signs of meth use can often serve as a warning sign for those closest to the meth user that there may be something wrong. While the short-term effects of meth use can have a profound impact on an individual’s life, physical and mental health, and overall stability, they often pale in comparison to the destruction that is associated with long-term meth abuse. As such, it is especially important to get individuals the help they need to overcome their addiction if you notice the following signs and patterns of behavior.

  • Decreased fatigue
  • Increased wakefulness
  • Restlessness or increased energy
  • Lack of appetite
  • Elevated body temperature (hyperthermia)
  • Rapid breathing
  • Euphoria
  • Paranoia
  • Irritability
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Jaw clenching
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Excessive sweating
  • Seizures

Looking at the list of short-term signs of meth use, it is easy to see the relationship between the stimulant properties of meth and the early signs of its use. Meth is a powerful stimulant that will result in decreased appetite and fatigue, while increasing alertness and energy in the short-term. Users under the effects of the stimulant may not feel tired at all, and will often suffer from insomnia. Excessive sweating, high blood pressure, elevated body temperature, and rapid breathing are all physiological effects directly related to the powerful stimulant properties of meth. At the same time, many meth users will exhibit psychological signs of meth use, such as paranoia, irritability, and the euphoria that encourages them to continue taking the drug. It is also notable that although many of these signs of short-term meth abuse are temporary and directly related to the stimulant properties of meth, such as elevated blood pressure or lack of fatigue, short-term meth abuse can also result in seizures and even death for some users.[4]

Signs of Long-term Meth Use

The signs of long-term meth use are particularly destructive. Meth use over time profoundly affects the users physical body and mental state, resulting in marked deterioration in the physical appearance and mental stability of the individual taking meth. The long-term effects of meth use have been well-documented in both the medical community and in the media. Let’s take a look at some of the sure signs of long-term meth use.

  • Aggressive behavior
  • Violence
  • Damage to the mouth and teeth
  • Suppressed immune system
  • High blood pressure
  • Prolonged anxiety, irritability, or distractibility
  • Mood swings or disturbances
  • Skin problems (sores, acne, increased infections)
  • Organ damage (lungs, kidneys, liver, heart)
  • Risky behavior (unprotected sex, needle sharing)
  • Psychosis (paranoia, hallucinations, delusions)
  • Brain damage

In many regards, the long-term signs of meth abuse map the continued use of a powerful stimulant over time. The psychological effects of long-term meth abuse include a variety of readily apparent behavioral signs, including heightened paranoia, irritability, hallucinations, or delusions. Aggressive behavior and violence are also prevalent in long-term meth users, alongside homicidal or suicidal thoughts. Mood swings can occur in long-term meth users at any time, and may be accompanied by violence. Long-term meth use results in substantial effects on the physiological structure of the brain, particularly the parts of the brain responsible for emotions and memory. Over time, meth use can damage nerve terminals in the brain, and result in lasting damage that continues long after the user has stopped taking meth.[5]

The long-term effects of meth use on the body are a sure sign of meth abuse. Long-term meth users will exhibit notable deterioration of their physical appearance, with their skin appearing sallow or pallid and lacking in the vitality apparent in a healthy person. This is often at odds with an individual’s age as it is closely aligned with the amount of time that an individual has been using meth.

The dental damage associated with smoking meth over time has been well-documented as well, and is often referred to as “meth mouth”. Users may have cracked or damaged teeth from excessive grinding while under the effects of the drug. Meth also causes the blood vessels to shrink in the mouth, resulting in inadequate saliva production that works alongside the caustic chemicals used in the manufacturing of meth to deteriorate the enamel protecting teeth along with causing damage to the bones of the face and mouth, esophagus, nasal passages, and gums.[6]

Closing Thoughts

As the signs of meth use indicate, the use and abuse of methamphetamine can result in a number of negative outcomes that affect the user’s body, mental state, and stability. Many of the short-term signs of meth abuse are also visible in long-term users, with these signs tending to be more exaggerated and pronounced. Whether meth is used for a short or long period of time, it will ultimately result in a deterioration of the mental state and body of the user.

Loved ones and those closest to the meth user will notice the effects of meth use first, as the meth user becomes more emotionally erratic and their physical appearance deteriorates. As users become addicted to meth they will tend to withdraw from those around them as using meth becomes their central concern. This will result in a deterioration of their social life and stability, so loved ones and those closest to someone they suspect of using meth should be mindful if they begin to withdraw from the world around them.

If you believe that someone close to you has been using meth, it is critically important to encourage them to get the help they need to early on. As the long-term signs of meth use indicate, the longer that an individual uses meth the more pronounced the effects will be on their physical and mental state. Long-term meth use can also result in permanent damage, so intervening early is a high priority.

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