Methamphetamine is a dangerous illicit drug that can affect the body in a number of ways. Being the spouse, parent, friend or other loved one of someone using meth can be difficult when you become aware of these effects. But what might be even worse is suspecting drug use without confirmation. Perhaps you’re only familiar with the side effects based on what you see in movies or on television. Perhaps you’re not even sure what to look for in your friend or relative. Knowing the signs to look for can help you talk to your loved one about getting treatment. It can even save their life.

Article at a Glance:

  • People use crystal meth in different ways, such as injecting, snorting and smoking it.
  • Someone on meth may be very alert, lose weight, have mood swings and be paranoid.
  • The appearance of someone on meth may include skin sores, tooth decay, rapid breathing and dilated pupils.
  • Tweaking is a common sign that someone is using meth.
  • With meth users, there is a crash phase that lasts 1-3 days and involves long periods of sleep.

What Is Meth?

Crystal methamphetamine, also just called crystal meth, is a stimulant drug that is also called street names like chalk, ice, speed, and just meth. Crystal meth is similar in many ways including its chemical makeup to amphetamine, which is a drug often used to treat ADHD. Crystal meth is highly potent and incredibly addictive, and it’s also increasingly common, leaving people to wonder how they can tell if someone is on it.

Based on the results of a 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, around 1.2 million people said they had used methamphetamine in the past year, and 440,000 said they had been on crystal meth in the previous month.

Before answering the question of ways you can tell if someone is on crystal meth, it can be useful to understand how it’s abused.

How Is Meth Used?

This drug comes in different forms, and it can be taken several different ways including snorting, injection, taking it orally or smoking it. Smoking methamphetamine tends to be the most common way for people to abuse it.

When it’s injected or smoked it acts most quickly, and it creates an immediate rush. That rush lasts for only a few minutes, but users describe it as something that’s extremely pleasurable. When someone instead takes methamphetamine by snorting it or taking it orally, they get high, but it’s not usually as intense as it is with other methods of taking the drug.

Because the euphoric effects of a crystal meth rush tend to dissipate quickly, it leads to the increased likelihood of people addicted to the drug binging on it. This means that they try to keep their high by taking more of the drug, and in some cases, they may binge to the extent that they avoid for or sleep for a period of several days.

When people are on methamphetamine, it increases the amount of dopamine in their brain, and dopamine plays a key role in everything from reward to motivation and pleasure.

What Does Meth Look Like?

In most cases, methamphetamine is in the form of a crystalline white powder. The powder has no odor, it tastes bitter, and it dissolves in water easily. There may be other colors as well including brown, pink, or yellow-gray. Crystal meth, on the other hand, comes as clear crystals that look like ice.

What Are the Signs Someone Is On Crystal Meth?

People on meth typically exhibit certain physical signs. If you’re wondering how to tell if someone is on crystal meth or is abusing crystal meth, symptoms of this drug can include being very awake or physically active and a reduced appetite.

Behavioral Signs of Meth Use

Some of the behavioral signs of meth use include:

  • Being very alert or physically active
  • Reduced appetite and weight loss
  • Outbursts or mood swings
  • Paranoia or hallucinations
  • High blood pressure
  • Elevated body temperature and heart rate
  • Shortness of breath
  • Grinding of teeth

Visual signs of meth use

Some of the more visible meth symptoms can include:

  • Picking at skin or hair
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Dilated pupils
  • Rapid eye movement
  • Odd sleeping patterns that can include periods of being awake for days or even weeks
  • Twitching, facial tics, jerky movements, exaggerated mannerisms
  • Talking constantly
  • Outbursts or mood swings
  • Paranoia or hallucinations

Related: Starting Treatment with Online Rehab


Tweaking is another important element for determining whether or not someone is on crystal meth. Tweaking is the phase that occurs at the end of a drug binge when the person using can’t achieve a rush or high anymore, struggles to achieve the feelings of euphoria and is often left with intense cravings and a sense of desperation.

Signs of tweaking with meth use

Some additional signs of tweaking can include:

  • Feeling like bugs are crawling under the skin
  • Being unable to sleep for days
  • Being in a psychotic state or completely disconnected from reality
  • Growing increasingly frustrated, paranoid and unstable
  • Experiencing hallucinations
  • Self-harm
  • Strong cravings for meth

The Crash

Another sign someone is using crystal meth is the crash phase. During this period, the person’s body just can’t continue dealing with the drugs, and it usually ends up in long periods of sleep. A crash can last anywhere from one to three days, and it can be an outward sign of meth use that’s apparent to people around the user.

Signs of a meth crash

Changes in Physical Appearance Due to Meth Use

Methamphetamine is a disturbing, dangerous and highly addictive drug, and in many ways, it’s one of the easiest to tell someone is using. Some of the most common signs of meth use tend to show up in their outer appearance. Crystal meth can have a dramatic and often terrifying impact on the user’s looks, and give them certain distinctive characteristics that can show even a passerby they are on meth.

Physical signs of crystal meth abuse

  • Weight Loss

    People who are long-term users of meth will lose weight, and often significant amounts.

  • Meth Mouth

    Also, there is something called meth mouth. This is one of the top signs of someone on meth, and it indicates they have extreme tooth decay and tooth loss.

    The dental problems people on meth experience are thought to be from inadequate nutrition and hygiene, as well as dry mouth caused by the drug, and teeth grinding that occurs when someone is on meth.

  • Skin Sores

    Another sign of someone on meth are skin sores. Skin sores tend to appear because the addict imagines they have insects crawling on their skin, and they will pick at them habitually, leading to the sores.

If someone were to be addicted to meth and then stop using it, there are also signs that could be apparent to people around them because of withdrawal. Withdrawal from meth leads to severe mental symptoms, particularly for long-term users. Along with very intense cravings, signs someone is dependent on meth and experience withdrawal can include anxiety, fatigue, depression and psychosis.

If you recognize someone is showing the signs of being on meth, it’s important to seek help from an addiction professional or a medical professional. When someone is on meth, they can be not only a harm to themselves but a danger to people around them.

If you or a loved one are struggling with a meth addiction, The Recovery Village can help. Calls are free and confidential, so pick up the telephone and start the road to recovery today.


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