is an illicit drug that has found its way into numerous homes in the United States. The U.S. Department of Justice’s 2017 National Drug Threat Assessment showed that this drug takes 30% of the law enforcement resources. This also contributes most to violent crimes garnering 36% of the respondents.

Given the threat that comes with using meth, it is alarming that there is a possibility that someone you love or know can potentially get hooked to this drug. Apart from suspecting that they could be abusing crystal meth, it is even worse to live in doubt without getting confirmation.


It is understandable if you only know of the crystal meth’s effects based on what you see on television or in the movies. You may not even know for sure just what you are looking for in your loved one or friend.

It is common to wonder:

  1. What does crystal meth look like?

  2. What do people abusing crystal meth look like?

  3. What are the effects of crystal meth?

  4. What is the usual physical appearance of people using crystal meth?

  5. What are the signs of crystal meth use?

Knowing the answers to these questions can help you talk to your loved one about getting help.

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What is Crystal Meth?

Crystal methamphetamine, or also known as crystal meth, is a stimulant drug. It has almost the same chemical makeup as amphetamines, which is commonly used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy, a sleep disorder. It is a highly addictive and incredibly potent substance. It is also very common and can be easily accessed.

The 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health estimates that there are about 1.2 million individuals who have used meth in the past year. Approximately 440,000 of the respondents have used crystal meth in the previous month.

How is Crystal Meth Used?

This substance comes in different forms and can be taken by several means such as injecting, smoking, snorting or taking it orally. Smoking meth is the most common means of taking the drug. Smoking, just like injecting, generates an immediate rush. This rush only lasts for a few minutes, but people describe it as something extremely pleasurable.

Those who snort or take it orally can still get high, but the feeling is not as intense compared with the other methods of using it. The euphoric effects of the drug can disappear quickly which is why people tend to use it again and again to get the same feeling. They develop the “binge and crash” pattern where they take the drugs and crash after its effects die down and then repeat the same cycle again.

There are others who binge on the drug to the point that they are not able to sleep for several days. This binge taking is known as the “run” where users give up eating and sleeping but continue to take the drug every few hours. They do this up to several days.

What Does Meth Look Like?

People are curious about what meth looks like and knowing is critical if you want to get help for someone who you suspect might be using it. Methamphetamine is usually in crystalline white powder form. This does not have any odor, but it tastes bitter and can be easily dissolved in water. However, it is also available in different colors such as pink, brown, yellow-gray and blue. Crystal methamphetamine, on the other hand, comes in clear crystal form which looks a lot like ice. The appearance is similar to shiny, bluish-white rocks or glass fragments.

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How Does Meth Affect the Brain?

People using meth experience an increase in dopamine, a natural chemical in the brain which plays an important role in reward, motivation, and pleasure. Meth has the ability to quickly release high levels of this chemical in reward areas of the brain. This vigorously reinforces the drug-taking behavior, so people want to relive the same experience.

What Are the Signs of Crystal Meth Use?

Among the short-term effects of meth use include:

  • Reduced appetite

  • Being very awake

  • Being very physically active

  • Faster heartbeat

  • Rapid breathing

Crystal meth users also have elevated body temperature and higher blood pressure. Another important sign that the person is on crystal meth is the existence of tweaking. This condition happens following a drug binge when the rush or sense of high is no longer achieved. When the euphoria leaves, the person is left with intense cravings and feelings of desperation. This is when tweaking takes place.

Among the common signs of tweaking are being unable to sleep for several days, feeling of bugs crawling under their skin, and experiencing a psychotic state. People going through tweaking will also experience total disconnection from reality, hallucinations and the tendency to hurt themselves.

This crash can last from a day to three days and a clear outward manifestation of meth use. Here are the specific symptoms of meth use:

  • Weight loss and loss of appetite

  • Picking at hair and skin

  • Rapid eye movement

  • Talking constantly

  • Dilated pupils

  • Strange sleeping patterns such as being awake for days or weeks

  • Mood swings or outbursts

  • Hallucinations or paranoia

  • Twitching, jerky movements, facial tics, exaggerated mannerisms

What are the Usual Physical Traits of Crystal Meth Users?

It is quite easy to tell if someone is using meth. There are several physical manifestations that would tell a person is using the drug.

Using crystal meth has a dramatic and terrifying impact on a person’s physical appearance. These signs show even an acquaintance that they are using meth.

The first of these is extreme weight loss. Meth mouth is another. This is a condition where the user’s teeth become rotten, stained, and broken. They experience teeth loss and extreme tooth decay because of their poor nutrition, inadequate hygiene, and teeth grinding mannerisms. Skin sore is another telltale sign of meth use. This appears because meth users imagine insects crawling under their skin and they will habitually pick that leading to the sores.

Withdrawal from meth can also result in certain manifestations. This is especially true if they have been using the drug for a long time. These include:

  • Anxiety

  • Intense cravings

  • Psychosis

  • Fatigue

  • Depression

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What are the Risk Factors of Using Meth?

Users who take meth via injection are at risk of contracting infectious illnesses like hepatitis B and C and HIV. These conditions are transmitted through contact with bodily fluids and blood. Using meth can also change one’s judgment and decision-making so users are prone to risky behaviors like driving under the influence or having unprotected sex, which is another cause of infection.

Using meth can even hasten the progression of HIV / AIDS as well as its consequences. It has been found that people with the disease who use meth cause more injury to their nerve cells and develop more cognitive problems than those who have the condition but do not use meth. These cognitive problems affect one’s understanding, thinking, remembering, and learning.

Continued use of the drug can alter the brain’s dopamine system which can lead to impaired verbal learning and reduced coordination. A study on the long-term use of meth showed severe changes in certain areas of the brain involved with memory and emotion. This explains the emotional and cognitive problems commonly observed among meth users.

Crystal Meth Use and Overdose

An individual can overdose on crystal meth. This happens when the individual uses too much of the drug resulting in a toxic reaction that can cause harmful symptoms or even death.

Overdosing on crystal meth can cause heart attack, stroke, or organ problems like liver or kidney failure. These conditions can cause death.

Timely intervention can treat meth overdose. The intent during these situations is to restore blood flow to the heart in case of heart attack, restore blood flow to the affected area of the brain, and treating the organ problems.

Crystal Meth Addiction Rehab at Chapters Capistrano

Crystal meth is a highly addictive substance. If an individual uses it more than once, their body can become dependent on the influx of chemicals. Dependency to the drug means they will experience withdrawal symptoms if they stop using it. These symptoms will begin to show upon detoxification and the meth leaves the system.

Withdrawal and detox from the drug prove to be uncomfortable to many and these are usually the reasons why people are unsuccessful in kicking the addiction. Aside from being unpleasant, withdrawal and detox are dangerous to the person’s health.

This is where a dependable rehab facility like Chapters Capistrano comes in. It is crucial that you go through these processes under the care and supervision of licensed and competent medical professionals. The symptoms of withdrawal can be pretty intense which can last for several days or even weeks. The main contributing factor that determines how long the symptoms will last depends on the length of the person’s addiction.

Want more information about how Chapters Capistrano can help? Feel free to call 949-276-2886 and one of our addiction specialists will help get the information and help you need.

Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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