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Meth Use: What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Someone Using Methamphetamines?

Dorsi lost a dear friend to methamphetamine use. She hopes to share her story so that she can help others.

If you think someone you love is on meth, discover the ways in which you can offer them help.

If you think someone you love is on meth, discover the ways in which you can offer them help.

The Signs of Methamphetamine Abuse

I wanted to process the senseless death of my own friend by talking about the signs and symptoms of methamphetamine use to encourage people to seek help for their meth addiction or to help others. If this article helps just one person, then it has served its purpose.

Without intervention and rehabilitation, the long-term effects of extended methamphetamine use can be devastating and fatal. Methamphetamine is referred to by many names, including meth, speed, crank, chald, go-fast, zip, and cristy. The smokable form of this drug is often called L.A., ice, crystal (or chrystal), 64glass, or quartz.

Methamphetamine comes in various colors and may be inhaled (smoked), injected, or taken orally.

Methamphetamine comes in various colors and may be inhaled (smoked), injected, or taken orally.

How I Lost a Friend to Meth Use

C.W. was only 35 years old and a single mother of two young children (ages 11 and 15). She was a young, talented photographer, and although I had only known her briefly, I knew that she had a drug addiction problem—methamphetamine use, to be specific.

C.W. had been found in cardiac arrest with massive amounts of methamphetamine in her system and was later taken off life support. She had promised to "stop" using on January 1st, 2010, and ironically, that was the day she did stop using forever. C.W. died just hours before she promised to "quit drugs."

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Someone Using Methamphetamines?

When it comes to methamphetamine or meth, side effects can vary, but any of these signs or symptoms listed in the table below could indicate that someone you know is using.

Short-Term Meth Use Symptoms

rapid weight loss

rambling conversation

frequent sweating

dilated pupils

sense of well-being

poor personal hygiene

rapid, darting eyes

careless appearance

tooth decay

increased alertness


dangerously high body temperature


aggressive behavior

increased heart rate


uncontrollable movements (twitching, jerking)

violent behavior


impaired speech

premature aging

dry and itchy skin

rotting teeth or "meth mouth"

loss of appetite

bad acne on the arms, back, and neck

sores and skin lesions


"Meth mouth"—one can see how devastating the use of methamphetamine is on the body, including the teeth.

"Meth mouth"—one can see how devastating the use of methamphetamine is on the body, including the teeth.

How Does Methamphetamine Affect the Brain?

Methamphetamine also affects the brain, alters mental stability, and can cause the following symptoms posted in the table below.

The Effects of Methamphetamine Use on the Brain

disturbed sleep


absence from work or school

days of staying awake


false sense of confidence and power

days of sleeping


delusions of grandeur leading to aggressive behavior

excessive excitation


uninterested in friends, sex, or food

excessive talking


aggressive and violent behavior


deception, secretiveness, and lying

severe depression

A visual diagram of the impacts of methamphetamine use.

A visual diagram of the impacts of methamphetamine use.

How to Identify Drug or Meth Paraphernalia

These items may indicate signs of meth use:

  • burned aluminum foil
  • light bulbs that have been converted to smoking devices
  • small Ziploc baggies
  • cut drinking straws
  • butane fuel or windproof butane lighters
  • small smoking pipes
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Read More From Patientslounge

The Long-Term Effects of Methamphetamine Use

Long-term meth use can lead to:

  • fatal kidney and lung disorders
  • brain damage
  • depression
  • permanent psychological problems
  • liver damage
  • stroke
  • cardiac arrest
  • death

How to Help Someone Quit Using Methamphetamine

If you know someone who is displaying any of the above-mentioned symptoms, there is a lot of help online and in most communities. Here are some tips for encouraging a meth user to get help:

  • Don't Accept "Later": Don't let someone tell you that they will get help "later." Tell them that later could be "too late." Tell them later could mean death. Tell them later could mean their children being parentless and their family devastated.
  • Stage an Intervention: If necessary, stage an intervention to help your loved one. It could mean the difference between their life and death.

Drug Addiction Can End in Tragedy

In C.W.'s case, she had been abusing methamphetamine for about 11 years. Her family and loved ones struggled to help her over the years, but after her mother died, the stress and the addiction caught up with her and ended in tragedy.

Despite our best efforts to help our family members, sometimes it is never enough. Family and friends should never blame themselves for someone else's drug addiction. Using drugs is a personal choice, and addiction can be very hard to kick—I know, because I used to use a lot of drugs back in the 70s and 80s, including "speed" and "crank." The only reason I stopped is because I started having severe panic attacks. Looking back, I'm glad that this happened to me because I could have ended up like C.W.

Photography by my friend C.W.

Photography by my friend C.W.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


Justin Whitney on June 27, 2016:

I've been clean for about 2 months.. I've used and abused uppers like adderal and Meth for almost 11 years . I wanted to note that another thing that can happen is ones feet can feel like they caught fire . My ankle swelled up like a balloon during a "run" this year. The skin on my hand was coming off. If I wanted to I could have pulled all the skin off my hand as it would never heal even with a little sleep. A huge part of me (even having talked to and seeing gargoyle type demons and hearing voices when trying to pray ) wants it everyday still . I'm only 26 but I'm tired and struggling because if I wanted to any day now I can find it ANYWHERE and it's not hard to come up with 70 bucks and spend a week on it which would lead to hell again but that first high feels like freedom . Everytime and I love it. I'm recently employed at taco bell and about to have a vehicle again but I'm on bail and have court for theft because of my last run supporting my habit .. I may lose my job anyway . I see myself back on it before or during next year.. perhaps I will stay clean but after 11 years of this "shit" I doubt it . :(

Dorsi Diaz (author) from The San Francisco Bay Area on February 09, 2014:

@Bishop) I am so sorry to hear of this. I am also sorry I just saw your comment. I need to go in and adjust my settings. I pray your stepsons mom kicks it - I've seen it done....hard but it can be overcome. In fact, one of my friends has been clean now for about a year!

Rebecca from USA on September 30, 2013:

I'm sorry to hear of your friend. This drug has personally affected my life as well (not me using, but my stepsons mother), we now have full custody of him as she has not been able to kick the habit. This is a good hub. I've written about meth use a lot to because of how it's affected my life. This is a horrible drug and ruins the lives of users and everyone around them. A very sad and destructive substance.

anonymous on July 26, 2013:

Thank you to the Gallatin Co Sheriff's Dept for all of their hard work getting the meth off of the seterts in Gallatin Co. I always knew there was a lot of drugs around here but never could have imagined how many until I seen all the labs they have been shutting down & all the arrests they have been making. Way to go to all the officers. Keep up the good work.

Wesman Todd Shaw from Kaufman, Texas on October 09, 2012:

Well that would be just what the pharmaceutical corporations would say and want you to believe.

Having done lots of Vyvanse and tons of meth, I assure you their "high" is exactly the same.

Dorsi Diaz (author) from The San Francisco Bay Area on October 08, 2012:

@aaron) I understand where you are coming from but choosing to stay "addicted" is a choice. I know it's hard, all addictive things are hard to break but at some point we have to make a choice to either fight against it or let it's have it's way, sadly. But yes, the brain wants to keep getting that "high".

aaron on October 05, 2012:

Your comment "using drugs is a personal choice" is 99% inaccurate. The choice was made in the beginning to try the drug, however for most people the choice is largely out of their control after that initial use. Addiction to methamphetamine (or any other psychostimulant) is a neurological brain DISEASE, not a matter of moral character. These people have abnormalities in brain chemistry induced by the drug that do not go away even if they stop using.

Dorsi Diaz (author) from The San Francisco Bay Area on July 05, 2012:

@zach) Thank you Zach for coming by and your thoughts about meth use. Unless you have experienced it, it is hard to understand sometimes.

zach on July 04, 2012:

i think it funny how most the people on thes sites talk about things like meth like thay care but relly thay dont. How can somebody say thay truly care when thay have never been there them selfs people hve no clue what meth is like and never will so if u have never smoked it how can u stand back and juge people for smoking it. ps sory about CW

Dorsi Diaz (author) from The San Francisco Bay Area on January 16, 2012:

Wesman) Thank you for the informative comment. Yes I understand that stimulants used for various treatments (like ADHD) have similar properties but don't carry the high risk of addiction like Meth does.

Wesman Todd Shaw from Kaufman, Texas on January 16, 2012:

The meth mouth thing is totally ridiculous propaganda.

I've got all of my teeth, thanks, and have never had a cavity.

Actually, all meth fear mongering is total drug war prison industrial complex and police state propaganda.

Most people realize, of course, that the US Gov and Big Pharma corporations gave meth out as if it were candy for many years prior to making it illegal.

You could say that the population had been well prepped for an illicit meth trade.

Ignorance is bliss, but what actually happened was that a brilliant chemist put a chemical blocking agent in P2P - and that made the traditional meth manufacturing process no longer doable without P2P manufactured in another country.

Following that, the pharmaceutical corporations made the planned and predicted profits from the sell of pseudo ephedrine.

Pseudo ephedrine is used most often in what is known as The Birch Reduction method of meth manufacture - it's the manufacturing method that typically employs someone's stolen anhydrous ammonia.

Listen, meth is perfectly safe when manufactured correctly - but when every tom, dick, and harry is cooking dope from The Birch Reduction Method - what you most often get is the street grade poison that you're talking about in this article.

It doesn't take much of a chemist to clean that garbage up and make it into a drug that is every bit as safe and clean as was the methamphetamine that the pharmaceutical industry gave out to house wives as a diet pill for many years.

I do not advocate the use of methamphetamine - but you'd have to do some work to find someone who's used more of it in their time than I have.

No, it's certainly not a "good thing" to use, but you should also know that prescription Vyvanse or Adderall is exactly the same thing with an ever so slightly different chemical compound...and EXACTLY the same effect as clean methamphetamine.

Since the pseudo ephedrine has been put behind the counters (very wise move) - meth is imported from Mexico, and most often this is in a very clean form known as "ice."

"Ice" is often prescription grade stuff, the days of Joe Bob cooking poison in a motel with a coffee pot are over.

Dorsi Diaz (author) from The San Francisco Bay Area on January 16, 2012:

@Narcon) Thank you and that's my goal - to increase awareness. Meth is a HORRIBLE drug.

NarcononVistaBay from California on January 16, 2012:

Dorsi this is a great way to increase awareness about meth and any other drug. Talking about a real experience is what people relate to. Meth is a terrible drug,there is hope only for those who find a right rehab on time.

Dorsi Diaz (author) from The San Francisco Bay Area on January 02, 2012:

@Joel) I'm sorry to hear about your brother. I hope he gets some help. Maybe you can show him this hub?

@marlene) I'm glad this helped but sorry to know your friend is still on meth. I hope things turn around and good luck.

marlene on January 02, 2012:

My friend thinks I think she does not do it any more but i can tell for sure thanks to this article she is still on it, now i have to confront her.

Joel Dawson on December 31, 2011:

hi i know someone who did meth once, (but is not addict)

he said it was very scary and would never do it again.

and have a brother who does drugs, very sad,

and i think i know someone who does meth.

Dorsi Diaz (author) from The San Francisco Bay Area on September 30, 2011:

@Tom) Thanks for reading. I am not sure what the excessive thirst could be. Can you talk to your own health provider about that? I understand and agree with your concerns. Let me know how things are going.

Tom Harrison on September 28, 2011:

We have just taken in a very hurt and angry 15 yr.old boy,and am fostering him.He has been diagnosed with adhd,however,I am a little concerned,and forgive me,if I am over reacting.This young man is unusually thirsty.He drinks water in "unhealthy"Ammounts.I know that water is good,but highly unusual,in the ammount that he drinks.I find no mention in all of the articles,I have read.Has anyone here,seen this kind of symtom.My wife thinks it may be the early onset of diabetes,and has discussed this with him.He refuses to take a blood test,to see his blood sugar count.I really want to give him,every chance in life,with trust,respect and dignity,however.I have a seventeen year old son,and don't want a bad influence in his life.Help!!

Dorsi Diaz (author) from The San Francisco Bay Area on November 03, 2010:

lorlie6) Thanks so much for coming by and sharing your atory. It isn't easy to turn your life around and I commend you. Thanks again for sharing.

Laurel Rogers from Bishop, Ca on November 01, 2010:

Your hub touched me deeply, Dorsi. For around 3 years, I was addicted to crack, crank, you name it. Thankfully I survived. This hub reminds me that this drug is evil-and I don't use that word lightly.

Thank you.

Dorsi Diaz (author) from The San Francisco Bay Area on October 03, 2010:

Dolores) I agree. Addiction leads to lie after lie, including even lying to yourself. I hope Vanessa got some space. Thanks for coming by.

Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on October 03, 2010:

Dorsi - This is so sad. I checked out those before and after meth use pics and they were scary. Those poor people had such a desperate and sad look about them. I think that Vanessa needs to move home with her parents for a year or two until she is sure that her husband is clean. The one thing all addicts have in common is that they lie.

Dorsi Diaz (author) from The San Francisco Bay Area on June 19, 2010:

Vanessa) I'm sorry to hear about that. E mail me privately is you want to talk. Most important, take care of yourself and the baby. That's number #1 priority. Dad needs to take full responsibility for his addiction and get the help he needs and only he can do that for himself.

Vanessa on June 16, 2010:

I just found out my husband has had a relapse for four months. I am four months pregnant and now really frightened about our future. I'm hoping he means it when he says this was it for him, he's done. I've never tried it and can't imagine why anyone would put this drug in their body.

Dorsi Diaz (author) from The San Francisco Bay Area on May 12, 2010:

Tina) I am so sorry. Send me an email, maybe I can help you find some help in your area. Keep in touch.

ccdursina) Thanks for stopping by.

Tina Womack on May 11, 2010:

I am an addict, and want to quit. I live in Texarkana, TX and meth is very easy to get here.

Carolina Dursina from Spring Green WI on April 10, 2010:

Wow, very great article;

Dorsi Diaz (author) from The San Francisco Bay Area on April 05, 2010:

Susan) Yes, it was exceptionally sad. Especially with the promise of her to quit drugs just hours before she died. And those 2 beautiful girls she left behind. Just so tragic. Thanks for stopping by.

Susan Keeping from Kitchener, Ontario on April 05, 2010:

Wow, a very dramatic hub. Well done. If it doesn't change some minds, nothing will.

stars439 from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State. on January 22, 2010:

Thank you for sharing this great hub with us. God Bless

dusanotes from Windermere, FL on January 04, 2010:

Thanks, Dorsi. You described what has to be one of the most painful, degrading ways to die. And so young, too, only 37. Family to CW was very important, especially her mother, for when she died CW lost hope. After all the family can do, it is often not enough. But the teaching moments must not start when the kids are teenagers experimenting with drugs. It must start much earlier. There must be some great role models where that person lives, some great friends. Unfortunately, in many parts of America the role models are not such good models. I suspect, Dorsi, that CW had friends who used drugs and she was merely following along. Maybe they were strong enough - or got intervention and family help sooner - we don't know. It is not for us to judge, but just to thank God and his son Jesus Christ that in the life to come, and in the spirit world, where CW resides now, there will be help in the form of people who have been through these kinds of things. It is my faith that we will have another chance to learn the truth and how we should act at a later date. All is not lost. Thanks for this important Hub. Don White

Nancy's Niche on January 04, 2010:

An informative article Dorsi and very well written considering the emotional pain you must be feeling. Meth is a horribly destructive drug both physically, mentally and socially. Drugs can tear families apart especially when death is the result…CW is at peace now and free from the devil that plagued her.

The angels are always near to those who are grieving, to whisper to them that their loved ones are safe in the hand of God. ~Quoted in The Angels' Little Instruction Book by Eileen Elias Freeman, 1994

bearclawmedia from Mining Planet Earth on January 03, 2010:

This is the scurge of our society. I have spoken to smack addicts whacked out of their minds and they could always make some sense. Not with this crap biker speed. The ice, all of it, is crushing the life out of society. I have no answers only pain. Thanks for reminding me that this is still a major social question.

Elena. from Madrid on January 03, 2010:

Hi Dorsi - Thanks for writing this article, which must have been hard as hell. One of my brothers passed away of AIDS, which he got by sharing a needle to use heroine. He was 37 when he passed, around the same age as CW. He was clean in the end, and he made peace with all of us, but what useless losses and what terrible pain the families and the addicts go through. I SO understand that you are mad, I was there so many times with my brother, and supporting my mother... Hang in there is all I can say.

Roberta Kyle from Central New Jersey on January 03, 2010:

A beautifu tribute to CW Dorsi and you shine a light on the uselessness of it all. I think the problem is societal denial-- we all tend to make excuses for the addict and not recognize the seriousness of the addiction. Addiction is a real illness and it always ends in death unless there is real intervention and a strong desire on the part of the addict to get well-- I am so sorry CW didn't get help sooner and I hope this hub will be a wake up call for some person who reads it who either knows an addict or is one.

Hello, hello, from London, UK on January 03, 2010:

I think the root lies with the drug dealer and drug barons. I very strongly belief there should be the death penalty. The harm they do is unmeasurable. Why let them get rich on other people's heartache and it is a heartache. They have to live with it all their lives. It is nothing but a life sentence. It also involves robbery with violence in various forms. I am not normally a person like but in that case I think the death penalty would be the only solution and with DNA there aren't many mistakes. People get beaten to death because they tell them not to make a racket at night, or for not given them the money, or being found in the house - broken in and mostly because of drugs. So many old people met a very violent death because they know that they can't fight back.

Thank you for being my fan

rvsrinivasan on January 02, 2010:

Drug addiction has become a social problem. People get into these habits. They are not able to leave. It is an evil to society. I have written certain hubs on health. May please go through these hubs.

Frieda Babbley from Saint Louis, MO on January 02, 2010:

This is terribly scary. The disintegration happens so fast! (I saw the photos in the link.) How terribly sad. Thorough hub. Thanks much for the info.

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