Meth, or methamphetamine, is a potent and highly addictive central nervous system stimulant that is made in clandestine laboratories. It can be snorted, orally ingested, smoked or injected. Meth abuse has disastrous psychological, social and medical consequences, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Meth use causes physical and behavioral signs that may identify an abuser.
Signs of Intoxication
Signs of methamphetamine intoxication result from its effects as a powerful stimulant. Increased activity, insomnia, lack of appetite, excited or agitated behavior and incessant talking are common, according to The Partnership for a Drug Free America. The user may sweat heavily, scratch or pick at the skin and shake or twitch. Meth causes the pupils to dilate. The user may participate in dangerous activities due to a false sense of confidence and a loss of inhibitions. Long periods of wakefulness lasting from 24 to as long as 120 hours can result from meth use.
A meth abuser usually withdraws from family, friends and normal activities. They may sleep excessively, and exhibit severe depression and extreme moodiness during the "crash" after the drug wears off. Sleep can last from 24 to 48 hours. Commonly, a carelessness about appearance and hygiene will develop. Secretive and deceitful behavior may be noted, and the meth user may have different friends.
Signs of Ongoing Meth Abuse
Meth abusers lose weight rapidly and eventually become gaunt and malnourished. Severe dental problems occur rapidly. The extensive tooth decay common with meth abuse is called "meth mouth," and often the teeth must be extracted. Dry mouth from the drug, long periods of poor oral hygiene, cravings for carbonated, sugary drinks and clenching the jaw lead to rotted, black and crumbling teeth, according to the American Dental Association. Scabs and sores on the face and arms are common, due to scratching and picking at the skin caused by the feeling that bugs are crawling below the surface. Chronic meth abuse can result in putrid body odor, memory loss, depression, hallucinations, and violent and aggressive behavior.
Presence of Chemicals or Paraphernalia
The presence of drug paraphernalia can indicate meth abuse. Straws, rolled-up money, mirrors or pieces of glass, and razor blades are signs of snorting the drug. Burned spoons, surgical tubing, and needles and syringes indicate intravenous use. Some meth abusers will also make the drug. Meth is made from common items, some of which are very toxic. Signs of manufacturing meth include cold and allergy medicines that containing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, ammonia, starter fluid, de-icer, drain cleaner, rubbing alcohol and lithium batteries, explains Purdue University. Strong odors of ammonia, ether or acetone may be noted.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse: Methamphetamine Abuse and Addiction
- The Partnership for a Drug Free America: Meth Frequently Asked Questions
- American Dental Association: Meth Mouth
- NIDA for Teens: Meth Mouth and Crank Bugs: Meth-a-morphosis
- Purdue University: Methamphetamine – One of Rural Indiana’s Greatest Challenges