8 Signs of Meth Addiction and How to Help a Loved One
Meth addiction can destroy lives, and the earlier you find and treat it, the less damage it can do. Here’s how to notice possible meth addiction in a loved one.
Over 21.5 million Americans struggle with some kind of substance abuse and/or addiction. Addiction is classified as a disease, and for good reason. It affects your mental, emotional, and physical health in intense and permanent ways.
Not only does it affect the person struggling with addiction, but it severely impacts those around them. Studies show that families and close friends of addicts have disrupted relationships, attachment issues, “emotional chaos”, financial troubles, and have an increased risk of developing a substance abuse disorder as well.
So if you suspect that a loved one is struggling with an addiction, it makes sense that you want to do everything you can to help, especially if you suspect hard drug use like a meth addiction.
The earlier you can identify signs of meth use and abuse, the better. Early treatment of meth addiction means less long-lasting damage for your loved one.
Keep reading to learn 8 of the common signs of meth addiction, and what you can do to help.
What Is Meth?
Meth, short for the name methamphetamine, is a stimulant that’s similar to cocaine. Users can snort, smoke, inject, or swallow meth in order to feel the intense effects of the drug.
Meth triggers the release of “feel good” neurotransmitters in the brain. The most relevant one is “dopamine.” Meth will trigger the brain to release a huge amount of dopamine, which will give the user bursts of euphoria, happiness, and a feeling of calm/relaxation.
It is a stimulant, so it also leads to classic stimulant effects like:
- Rapid heart rate
- Increased blood pressure
- Feeling alert/wide awake
- Increased libido
Once this initial “rush” is over, meth users will crash. The crash, also known as tweaking, is caused by the sudden absence of dopamine. This can lead to:
- Violent outbursts
- Intense cravings
While each user will experience different effects of the drug, these are the most common.
Why Is Meth So Dangerous?
The very thing that makes meth so sought after is the same thing that makes it so dangerous: the effect on the brain and body. When you take meth, your brain releases huge amounts of dopamine. This leads to the desired effects like euphoria and a sense of calm.
However, this also depletes your dopamine stores, which makes it hard to function normally. It can lead to huge crashes, depression, fatigue, and other adverse side effects.
There are also studies showing that meth physically changes the way the brain is wired. It teaches your brain to only release dopamine when you use meth, which means that a user eventually might not be able to feel pleasure or the effects of dopamine like a non-user would.
Because of this, users quickly become addicted. They may not feel pleasure or happiness from anything except meth, which leads to them seeking it out constantly.
Constant use can also lead to extreme effects, including:
- Loss of appetite
- Skin sores/wounds
- Going days without sleeping
- Damaged motor skills
- Difficulty expressing emotions
- Heart failure
The extremely addictive nature combined with the ability to change how the brain works and functions is why meth addiction is so dangerous.
Signs of Meth Addiction
So now you know just how dangerous this drug is. If you suspect your loved one is using meth, you’re probably scared right now. Look for these 8 common signs to see if your suspicions are correct.
Remember that not all users show the same symptoms, and just because someone has these symptoms, it doesn’t mean they’re a meth addict. These are just some general guidelines that can help you if you’re worried about your loved one.
1. You Find Meth
Finding meth in your loved one’s belongings, room, or home is a big red flag. Unlike some other drugs, “casual” meth use is almost non-existent. The addictive nature of the drug leads to almost consistent, and abusive, use.
Meth can come in a powdered form or in a crystal form that looks similar to rock candy. You may also find syringes, glass pipes, burnt foil/aluminum, yellow residue, and other meth paraphernalia.
2. Unusually Alert and/or Awake for Long Periods
Meth is a stimulant, which means that it will make users feel energetic, euphoric, and happy for long periods of time. This can lead to sleeplessness, insomnia, and long periods of energy that won’t allow them to sleep.
That along with intense withdrawal symptoms leads to meth addicts staying awake for days on end.
The feeling of alertness can also lead to users appearing jittery, jumpy, nervous, and restless. Once the user crashes, you may see the opposite sign: extreme fatigue and sleepiness that they cannot control.
3. Weight Loss and/or Loss of Appetite
Meth use decreases appetite. Since meth addicts are constantly high (or looking for their next high), many often forget or don’t feel the need to eat. And since meth binges can last days to weeks, this often leads to days without eating. And that, unsurprisingly, leads to significant and drastic weight loss.
If you notice a loved one’s weight rapidly dropping and they refuse/don’t want to eat, it could be a sign of meth addiction.
However, it can also be a sign of many other illnesses and problems, so look for other signs alongside this one before jumping to any conclusion.
4. Severe Mood Swings
The constant high-crash cycle of meth can lead to some intense mood swings. One day, they’ll be on top of the world, happy, laughing, and euphoric. The next time you see them, they may be anxious, aggressive, angry, and depressed.
This can be explained with the way meth works on the brain. The highs are because of the huge rush of dopamine. Once the drugs wear off, run out, or all their dopamine is used up, they’ll feel awful, depressed, and anxious.
5. Consistently Nervous/Anxious
Anxiety and nervousness are normal emotions and feelings. In meth addicts, you’ll see these symptoms consistently and to the extreme. They may be twitchy, paranoid, and restless.
They also may exhibit physical symptoms of this anxiety by scratching their skin, jumping at sounds, darting eyes, rapid heart rate, increased blood pressure, sweating, etc.
Since delusions and hallucinations are common with meth use, they may also be seeing and hearing things that aren’t really there, which can lead to intense fear and anxiety.
Many long term meth users commonly exhibit violent outbursts and increased aggression. You may know someone as calm and anything but violent and suddenly see them starting fights, yelling, and getting aggressive at inappropriate times.
Meth use can change personalities, and violent outbursts are common in long-term meth users/addicts even if that person was never violent before.
7. Unexplained Financial Troubles
Drugs are expensive. If your loved one is addicted to meth, chances are they’ve blown all of their money on drugs or ways to get more drugs.
Smart and money-savvy individuals will spend every last dime they have on meth if they’re addicted. The addiction rules their life, and they’ll do anything they need to in order to get more meth.
If your loved one suddenly has no money, is asking you for money constantly, is stealing money/items to sell, and is unwilling to explain why they’re struggling with money, that’s a sign they might have a drug problem.
8. Physical Indicators
Meth attacks and breaks down the body mentally, as we’ve seen with these signs, but it also affects the body physically as well.
“Meth mouth” occurs in meth users: it’s characterized by rotting teeth, rancid breath, and overall poor dental hygiene. The dangerous chemicals in meth combined with the saliva-drying effect meth has lead to this physical symptom.
Meth users also often pick at their skin so much so they have numerous open wounds/sores on their face and limbs.
You may also notice:
- Involuntary ticks
- Hair loss
- Repetitive behaviors (twitching, scratching, looking in a certain place over and over, etc)
- Weight loss
- Needle marks
If you notice any of these physical symptoms, that’s a red flag.
How You Can Help
Meth addicts almost always need rehab in order to get clean. The way meth affects the brain makes it almost impossible for them to quit on their own, especially with the severity of the withdrawal they will experience.
You need to encourage them to get help. Try staging an intervention with friends, family, and an intervention specialist.
Look for rehabilitation centers in your area that specialize in meth addiction treatment. Learn everything possible about meth addiction, and be prepared to support your loved one through what’s probably the hardest thing to ever happen to them.
Chances are, the best thing you can do for them is let them know they’re not alone and that you want to help them. They may not be receptive at first, but be consistent in your unwavering support.
Meth addiction is a life-threatening disease. It kills over 3,700 people every year and destroys thousands of more lives.
Even by reading this article, you’re already helping an addicted loved one. You’re informing yourself so you’re able to support them in the best way possible.
Contact us today to ask any questions about how you can help a loved one addicted to meth. You can also read this article to learn exactly how friends and family can support a loved one while they go through rehab treatment.