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How Can You Tell If Someone Is On Meth?

how can you tell if someone is on meth

Also known as speed or meth, methamphetamine is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant drug that can affect the body in a number of ways.

Being the spouse, parent, friend, or loved one with a meth addiction can be difficult when you become aware of their drug problem. Perhaps you’re only familiar with the side effects of meth based on what you see in movies or read about online or in books. You may not even be sure what the physical signs of drug use are. If so, how can you tell if someone is on meth? Being able to recognize meth addiction is crucial to getting the person the help they need. If you’re unsure of whether your loved one is struggling with a drug problem, our drug rehab in Palm Springs, CA, shares the signs and symptoms of meth use you should look out for.

What Does Meth Look Like?

Methamphetamine or meth looks like a white crystalline or chunky powder that’s odorless and bitter-tasting. Because it’s a powder, speed can easily dissolve into liquids like water or alcohol. It can also be smoked, injected, or snorted. Some drug dealers may even sell meth pressed into tablets or as a pill form. Another type of meth known as crystal meth looks like shiny clear or bluish crystals that resemble pieces of glass or rocks.

Although meth can be used in many ways, the most common way to use meth is to smoke it. The average dose of meth is 0.2 grams, which can keep a person high for approximately seven hours. However, most users are attracted to the rush or surge of energy and euphoria that kicks in when they first use meth, which wears off quickly. As a result, many methamphetamine users may use several doses of it within 24 hours. As their physical tolerance develops, they will require more and more of the drug to experience the same rush. This pattern becomes a vicious cycle of addictive behavior, which may require a medically monitored detox to break.

What Are the Signs of Meth Use?

A methamphetamine high is so pleasurable that it can greatly influence a person’s drug-related behavior. A handful of meth uses is often enough to encourage a person to continue using this drug despite its side effects. However, addiction doesn’t happen overnight, so the signs someone is using meth may not be obvious right away. Sometimes the loved ones of addicts don’t realize the problem until the addict has hit rock bottom. Fortunately, being able to recognize the signs and symptoms of meth use in your spouse, friend, or family member enables you to get them the help they’ll need to recover. So, what does someone on meth look like?

Some behavioral signs of meth use include:

  • Being very energetic, alert, or physically active
  • Reduced appetite or extreme weight loss
  • Random or frequent outbursts and mood swings
  • Paranoia or hallucinations
  • Grinding of teeth (contributes to meth mouth)
  • Shortness of breath

Methamphetamine is also known to negatively impact users’ physical appearance. Things like tooth loss, tooth decay, and skin picking are direct results of meth use that commonly characterize methamphetamine users. Over time, meth can dramatically impact a person’s looks and give them distinct characteristics that portray their drug problem.

Some common physical signs of meth use include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Increased body temperature
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Rapid breathing
  • Premature aging
  • Hair or skin picking (resulting in meth mites or meth sores)
  • Extreme weight loss (can contribute to a thin or frail appearance)
  • Tooth decay, tooth loss, gum disease, and rotting teeth (also known as meth mouth)
  • Skin sores or skin diseases (caused by skin picking)
  • Hair loss (the result of hair picking)

Even if your loved one doesn’t display all of these signs, it doesn’t mean they don’t have a meth problem. If you’re wondering how you can tell if someone is on meth, it’s important to pay attention to any changes in character, people they’re spending time with, and their daily activities. Often, substance abuse becomes apparent in small changes that become more obvious as the person’s habit worsens.


Tweaking is the term used to describe an intense craving for meth or a sense of desperation that users feel when they can’t get high off of a certain dose of meth anymore. Tweaking is the result of developed tolerance, which is when a person becomes so physically accustomed to a certain dose of a drug that they have to use more of it to experience the same side effects. A meth addict who can no longer get high off their customary dose may experience intense cravings and a sense of desperation, otherwise known as withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms are often so painful and uncomfortable that addicts have to undergo a meth detox at a treatment facility to avoid physical complications and relapse.

Some typical characteristics of a tweaker include:

  • The sensation of bugs crawling on or under your skin
  • Difficulty sleeping for days at a time
  • Being in a psychotic state or feeling completely disconnected from reality (meth-induced psychosis)
  • Experiencing visual or auditory hallucinations
  • Self-harm
  • Strong cravings for meth
  • Feeling of depression

In addition to the signs of tweaking, you may also notice your loved one suddenly wind down from days of being energetic, also known as a crash. Coming down off meth can also be a sign of meth use in a loved one. During “the crash,” the person’s body collapses after constant stimulation from meth, usually causing them to fall asleep for long periods. A meth crash can last anywhere from one to three days. Additionally, if someone addicted to meth suddenly stops using it, they may also display certain symptoms like intense cravings, fatigue, anxiety, paranoia, and depression. These are otherwise known as meth withdrawal symptoms and can easily indicate whether a person has a drug problem.

Signs of Meth Use: Paraphernalia to Look Out For

Drug paraphernalia is accessories or tools that people use when taking drugs. Each drug has its own set of paraphernalia that is associated with its use. Some common types of meth paraphernalia you should look out for include:

  • Needles
  • Syringes
  • Burnt spoons
  • Cotton balls
  • Butane lighters
  • Tinfoil or aluminum foil
  • Small glass or metal pipes
  • Plastic pen casings
  • Razor blades
  • Drinking straws
  • Small mirrors

Once you know how to tell someone is on meth, you’ll be better equipped to help your loved one get the meth treatment they need to recover. At Banyan Palm Springs, we offer different kinds of treatment approaches to help people addicted to drugs and alcohol regain their health and sobriety. Call us today at 888-280-4763 for more information about our California drug treatment programs.

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Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.