How do you feel when someone brings up the topic of crystal meth addiction? Maybe you think that this problem affects only criminals and people with behavioral issues. However, the truth is that anyone can get addicted to crystal methamphetamine, including someone that you know and love. So, it’s always a good idea to learn how to recognize the most serious signs of meth use.
Still, before we get to that, I would like to outline the main phases of the crystal meth use cycle. Each of them has a different effect on the addict and lasts for a specific amount of time:
• Rush phase (lasts for half an hour)
• High phase (4–16 hours)
• Binge phase (3–5 days)
• Tweaking phase (3–15 days)
• Crash phase (occurs within a day of the last meth hit and continues for 1–3 days)
• Withdrawal phase (happens 30–90 days after the last drug use and can last for more than a month)
One of the first signs of meth use that appears after a hit is hyperactivity. The person suddenly becomes energetic and even restless. They may also start to talk too much, too fast, or too loud.
This sign appears during the binge phase, alongside other symptoms, like an increased heart rate and high blood pressure. Such hyperactive behavior can lead to convulsions and even stroke in regular abusers.
2. Extreme and Rapid Weight Loss
In many cases, when meth addicts are binging, they forget to drink water or even to eat. Since this phase of the addiction can last for days, it can quickly lead to extreme weight loss.
However, even if the person doesn’t become hyperactive after taking methamphetamine, their body weight will still drop. Many drugs lead to appetite loss, including this one. On top of that, meth prevents the body from storing fat.
Meth messes up a person’s brain chemistry, and it damages the neuronal system. As a result, the levels of dopamine and serotonin decrease, while energy levels go through the roof. The abusers don’t feel tired; in fact, they can stay awake for several days.
4. Delusions, Hallucinations, and Paranoia
The combination of lack of sleep and high energy levels during the binge phase results in a so-called meth psychosis. It consists of delusions, hallucinations, and even paranoia. Unfortunately, this is one of the most dangerous signs of meth use for both addicts and the people around them.
For starters, paranoia and hallucinations can make the person believe that someone is after them. If they feel that you are a threat, they may become aggressive.
Also, the delusions can give the abuser wrong or false ideas. For example, they may believe they’re immortal. So, they may engage in dangerous activities, like walking on the edge of a building.
5. Itchy Skin
Usually, people who take crystal methamphetamine experience an odd sensation called meth mites, which makes the skin so itchy that addicts feel as if they have bugs crawling under it. That makes them scratch or pick at their face, legs, and arms.
Over time, continuous skin picking can lead to sores and scars. Since meth abusers often neglect their personal hygiene, these wounds can easily get infected.
6. Mood Swings and Outbursts
Meth addicts’ behavior is unpredictable. If you see that the person has mood swings or that they’re unusually irritable, be careful. The situation can quickly escalate, and before you know it, their anger can turn into violence. Therefore, keep your distance and don’t interact with an irritable abuser.
7. Extreme Exhaustion
Other giveaway signs of meth use include fatigue, tiredness, and lethargy. Typically, they come during the crash phase when the body finally runs out of energy. However, these symptoms can also continue throughout the withdrawal phase.
Sometimes, the exhaustion can become so severe that the person may sleep for several days. Although sleep is good for the body, when it’s done in excess, it can turn into a problem. For instance, meth users may prefer to stay in bed rather than to eat. Sadly, this can further harm their health.
The withdrawal phase is incredibly hard on the abuser because they feel immensely depressed. Even though it may have been weeks since the last hit, some of the drug’s effects are still active. Crystal meth can prevent the body from producing many hormones for months. Such a chemical imbalance leads to an inability to feel pleasure.
That’s often when addicts start using again. They know that the meth rush will make them feel better, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Other times, depression can trigger suicidal thoughts. So, don’t ignore this sign!
9. Memory Loss and Cognitive Issues
Long-term use of crystal methamphetamine can damage the brain and cause memory issues. Therefore, even after addicts recover, they may struggle to express their thoughts. In the worst-case scenario, the damage is so severe that it leads to a stroke.
10. Bad Teeth
Even if you don’t know much about crystal methamphetamine, you’ve probably heard of the term “meth mouth.” People who use this drug have many dental and oral problems. For instance, they may have bad breath, bleeding gums, broken, or even decaying teeth. So, what causes meth mouth?
For starters, methamphetamine contains an acid that damages tooth enamel. Also, because of their paranoia, addicts often suffer from anxiety. These two signs of meth use lead to excessive teeth clenching and grinding.
Finally, as I mentioned, abusers neglect their personal hygiene. Needless to say, this includes their oral hygiene too.
As you can see, spotting the signs of meth use is easy. What is hard is helping someone who is struggling with this addiction.
Unfortunately, research shows that 61% of recovering meth addicts relapse within twelve months of leaving rehab. If you don’t want your friend, relative, or colleague to become a part of the grim statistics, get them professional help.
If you don’t know where to start, try drug addiction hotlines like the ACC Helpline or Narcotics Anonymous. The members of these organizations can direct you to an expert in the field. Also, they can contact rehab facilities in your area, including those that serve low-income patients.
The road to meth recovery is long and bumpy. Still, with the right help, users can overcome their addiction. Just take the warning signs of meth use seriously, and you may save a life.