Identifying the Signs of Meth Use in Friends and FamilyFrank Montalvo
How Knowing the Signs of Meth Use Can Help Your Loved One
Methamphetamine, or meth, is a stimulant drug – meaning that it lets people stay awake and undertake continuous activities with less need for sleep as it affects the central nervous system. Not only is meth highly addictive, but methamphetamine use disorders are becoming problematic in the United States. Knowing the signs of meth use can make the difference in getting a loved one the help they need to get healthy.
From 2015-2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that 1.6 million adults 18 and older reported using meth in the previous year, with 52.9% reporting a meth use disorder. Among those numbers reported, a co-occurring substance use disorder and mental illness were common.
If you have ever seen someone struggle with a substance use disorder, you know that asking for help is a big step for them. Sometimes, they are crying out for help by making the signs of meth use obvious, but they don’t feel strong enough on their own to take that first step toward living a sober life.
Luckily, Icarus Behavioral Health can help! We can help you identify the signs of using meth, help you create a dialog with your friend or family member, learn about the effects of meth, and can help them take the first steps to a life free from methamphetamine addiction.
What is Meth?
Methamphetamine is a synthetic (man-made) schedule II stimulant trafficked illegally and comes in a pill or powder form. Meth is considered a more potent form of drug – more addictive than cocaine.
Alternative street names for meth may include speed, uppers, crystal meth, ice, chalk, glass, crank, and Christmas tree. Most clients use this addictive drug by smoking, snorting, injecting directly into blood vessels, or taking it orally – all of which can result in serious health problems, which can even lead to death.
The Appeal of Methamphetamine
If you ask anyone who has used methamphetamine or crystal meth in the past, their stories are typically the same – not only do they get euphoric feelings, but they are full of energy and feel extremely alert. Oftentimes, one time leads to two, two leads to four, and so on; before they know it, they become addicted to the feeling and need it to function in their daily lives.
The reason this happens is through dopamine. Dopamine is a natural chemical within the brain that is involved with body movement, motivation, and the reinforcement of rewarding behaviors. Meth can rapidly release high levels of dopamine into the reward center of the brain – this literally makes people want to continue to use it.
The Dangers of Methamphetamine
Meth changes how the brain works and speeds up your body’s systems. These chemical changes in the body are dangerous and can have serious consequences. At Icarus Behavioral Health, we have seen firsthand the short- and long-term effects of meth on clients entering our treatment programs.
Short-Term Effects of Meth
Any time someone uses meth, there is a chance that it will have a negative impact on their life. Whether it be one-time use or a small amount, these are the effects a client may encounter:
- An increase in blood pressure or body temperature
- Faster breathing
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
- Loss of appetite
- Erratic sleep patterns
- Aggressive, erratic, irritable, or violent behavior
Long-Term Effects of Meth
The chronic use of meth is not without serious negative consequences on the body. Even after stopping meth use, it is possible for lasting physical effects to remain, like:
- Permanent heart or brain damage
- High blood pressure, which could lead to an increased risk of stroke, heart attack, or death
- Liver damage
- Kidney damage
- Lung damage
- Organ failure
- An inability to feel pleasure
- Anxiety or confusion
- Paranoia, hallucinations, mood disturbances, delusions, or violent behavior
- Intense, unsatiable itching which causes sores on the skin
- Premature onset of osteoporosis
- Dental problems
The Signs of Meth Use: Meth Mouth
Dental problems are common in methamphetamine and crystal meth abuse patients. The phenomenon is characterized by the presence of severe tooth decay and gum disease. These severe dental problems can cause the teeth to break or fall out – after an examination of 571 methamphetamine users, a dental practice found that 96% had cavities, 58% had untreated tooth decay, and 31% had six or more missing teeth.
There is a link between dental health and overall health. Meth abuse can lead to poor dental health, which can result in the drug’s ability to overthrow the integrity of one’s overall health and puts a person’s life at risk.
How to Identify the Signs of Meth Use
Wouldn’t it be easy if there was a neon sign flashing over our heads that tells us if someone is using meth or another substance? Unfortunately, it isn’t that easy. Many of the symptoms, signs, and warning signs associated with meth, drug use, or substance abuse are also found in numerous other substance use disorders or health-related disorders.
Regardless, it is important to know what to look out for if you suspect someone you know and love is using this addictive, destructive substance. Being able to identify the early signs and risk factors may be the difference in saving their life.
The common signs of meth use can present in three forms – physical, psychological, and behavioral. Please remember that even if someone presents with one or more of these symptoms, it doesn’t mean that methamphetamines are involved, and further inquiries may be required to determine which treatment is right.
Physical Signs Associated with Meth Addiction
The physical signs of meth use and addiction can present themselves whether the client is new to the drug or they are dependent on it. Many times, clients don’t realize that addiction is occurring until it has already happened, and by this time, they may present with the following:
- Thin or frail bodies
- Facial sores
- Rotting teeth (called “meth mouth”)
- Loose facial skin, premature aging
- Liver damage
- Lower immunity which increases the risk of infectious disease
- Higher than normal body temperature
- Increased libido, which often leads to unsafe sexual practices and increased risk for sexually transmitted diseases
- Intense scratching
Psychological Signs Associated with Meth Abuse
The use of meth and its changes to the brain’s chemistry can begin a chain reaction of symptoms that are created due to the imbalance of dopamine levels and dopamine-involved operations of the brain. For example, this imbalance can enhance memory problems, an inability to learn new motor skills, and impaired visual memory.
For some, psychosis can occur with long-term or repeated meth use. Meth-induced psychosis can include:
- Auditory and visual hallucinations
- Mental illnesses (antisocial personality disorder and other mental health disorders)
Physical symptoms, such as intense scratching (which leads to sores on the skin), can be attributed to psychologically rooted instances with this highly addictive drug. Many clients have experienced the feeling of bugs crawling on their skin, leading to scratching, and picking at the skin. These physical symptoms often lead to abrasions, rashes, or infected sores on the skin.
More commonly referred to as “tweaking,” insomnia that lasts 3-15 days can result in psychological symptoms (often from a meth binge), including paranoia, irritability, and confusion. When tweaking occurs, someone may talk very fast, have jumbled speech, or walk in a jerking motion. Rapid eye movement is also common among those who are tweaking.
What are the Behavioral Signs of Meth Use?
When the shift occurs from recreational drugs to a major life priority (dependency), behavioral symptoms are often spotted before the physical ones begin to surface. Those dependent on meth may begin to let their daily routines go, with self-care often taking the brunt of the addiction. They may even be willing to sacrifice necessities to pay for their addiction or have relationship problems with the ones they love the most.
Even if you notice someone’s physical appearance and hygiene taking a nosedive or a decrease in the means to take care of themselves, it is important to have definitive proof before approaching someone about potential meth addiction.
Caution should be used due to the violent outbursts, mood swings, and emotional instability that accompanies the use of this substance. Sometimes, proof like finding a meth lab for cooking meth isn’t as prominent – but meth paraphernalia (needles, syringes, spoons) may be more likely.
Treatment Options for Methamphetamine
If you suspect that someone you love might abuse meth, there are options available for treatment. By understanding meth addiction, learn how to help them take the first steps to live a life of recovery from this dangerous drug. Icarus Behavioral Health offers many treatment facility options for in and outpatient drug rehab. All these methods have shown promise in methamphetamine addiction treatment.
The Process of Meth Detoxification
Detoxification is an addiction treatment process by which substances like meth are safely removed from a person’s body. This process is usually integrated into other types of treatment. In most circumstances, detox is the first step to the effective treatment of meth addicts.
Meth is undoubtedly a dangerous drug, one of the hardest stimulants to overcome, so it is imperative for anyone struggling with meth addiction to go for professional treatment; people who attempt to quit drug use by themselves rarely do succeed.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
The goal of CBT is to help the meth addict to redirect their behavior to a more positive mindset that would improve the well-being of the individual. Through CBT, the recovering addict is introduced to new ways of coping with the pressures of life instead of resorting to dangerous drugs to kill their pains.
Contingency Management Intervention (CMI)
A little encouragement can go a long way to help addicts recover from substance abuse disorder, and that’s the idea of the CMI treatment method. It is designed to encourage the meth user undergoing treatment by motivating them with rewards.
So when the individual struggling with meth addiction is motivated with incentives whenever they reach positive milestones in the treatment process, they are encouraged to keep at it till the end.
Inpatient Treatment Programs
In the event that an individual is suffering from a chronic addiction to meth, they may require admission into an inpatient treatment program. This is to enable them to get properly monitored and given the attention they deserve. This is usually the case where the level of addiction is considered severe by the rehab therapists.
Without this approach, addicts who are being treated could easily relapse and return to their addiction. Once a person is hooked on meth, it can take a while to get them to break the habit, and the best option for people struggling with serious addiction trouble would be to get checked in at a rehab facility for proper supervised treatment.
Family therapy is important in situations where the rest of the family has to be a part of the recovery process of the individual being treated. It is a psychological counseling program that is designed to help families improve communication and resolve conflicts relating to drug treatment.
An outpatient treatment center is just the opposite of an inpatient center; patients could still be admitted to stay at the rehab for a couple of days or 2 weeks max, then they have to come for observation and treatment on schedule until their full recovery. But their situation isn’t necessarily worrisome or chronic.
Methamphetamine Withdrawal Symptoms
Methamphetamine and substance abuse use can lead to a number of severe withdrawal symptoms (such as the meth comedown or crash phase), which will manifest in the area of intense cravings for the drug. That is why meth addiction treatment is done in a stable, safe, and healthy environment to help them break the vicious cycle they’re dealing with.
It would be counterproductive if they have to return to the same atmosphere that triggered or supports their addiction in the first place, which could result in a relapse or drug binge.
Symptoms include the following:
- Lack of energy
- Weight gain
- Mental numbness
- Intense craving for the substance
- Social withdrawal
- Mood swings
- Inability to experience pleasure
- An increased appetite (at advanced stages)
Get Professional Help for Meth at Icarus
It is important for individuals addicted to any powerful drug, such as meth or crystal meth, to seek professional help immediately. Meth and other drugs have the potential to tear lives and families apart. Prompt medical assistance is important, which is why family members of someone with drug addiction problems should intervene sooner and reach out to Icarus Behavioral to discuss options.
Icarus Behavioral Health treatment centers accept most major insurance carriers, including Presbyterian, which allow clients to focus on their addiction concerns instead of how they will afford treatment. Reach out to us today if you believe Icarus can help you or someone you love beat their struggle with methamphetamine addiction.