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Identifying Methamphetamine (Meth): Look, Smell & Taste

Meth can come in the form of a powder, pill, or crystal.[1] As a powder, it has a whitish appearance. Crystal meth appears as shards of crystals or glass that are either clear or bluish.

Struggling with Methamphetamine Addiction? Get Help Now

Unless a person intends to smoke meth, there isn’t much in the way of paraphernalia required to use it, although snorting it is often done through the use of a straw or similar tool (although one can also snort powder without these tools).

What Does Meth Look Like?

Meth comes in several forms, such as these:[1]


The Nevada Attorney General says methamphetamine powder is typically white, and it’s finely grained to dissolve quickly in water and alcohol.[6]

The actual color can differ significantly depending on the purity of the substance. Cheap and sometimes dangerous cutting agents are commonly used to make selling drugs more profitable, so some of the additives used can be very harmful.


Meth is sometimes sold in the form of a pill. Pills can come in almost any shape or color, although white or blue pills seem to be the most common for meth.


Crystalline meth, often called glass or crystal meth, generally looks like shards of glass or bluish-white rocks, says the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).[1] This is often the form of meth that most people imagine when they hear the term, although it notably is only one of several forms the drug can take.


The Nevada Attorney General says some dealers sell a bright-yellow, crystalline form of the drug that’s intended for swallowing. The size of the chunks can vary, but they’re all very yellow.[6]

Common Meth Paraphernalia

In its powder or pill form, meth doesn’t necessarily require any paraphernalia to use. However, methamphetamine can be snorted (either in its powder form or if pills are bought and crushed). Snorting the drug can be made easier through the use of a variety of devices, such as straws or rolled-up paper.

Crystalline meth is typically smoked, which is usually done through a glass or ceramic pipe. This will require some source of heat. 

What Does Meth Smell Like?

In a 2006 article, nurses were encouraged to identify meth use in a home with their noses. If a child smells like cat urine, it’s likely the parents are either making or using meth.[7]

Meth production is incredibly smelly. As the drug is made, the process can produce a variety of unpleasant smells, including those similar to cat urine, ammonia, rotten eggs, or paint thinner.[2]

What Does Meth Taste Like?

The NIDA says meth is typically bitter tasting.[1] The actual taste would be considered unpleasant by most people (and obviously isn’t the reason a person is typically taking the drug).

Meth is often smoked, where taste is less of a factor, although it can be swallowed in its powder or pill form.

What Does Meth Sound Like?

Some people who use meth discuss the drug openly. However, it’s common for people to use slang terms to refer to the drug.

The U.S. Department of Justice says these terms are commonly used to describe meth:[9]

  • Batu
  • Bikers coffee
  • Black beauties
  • Chalk
  • Chicken feed
  • Crank
  • Crystal
  • Glass
  • Go-Fast
  • Hiropon
  • Ice
  • Meth
  • Methlies quick
  • Poor man’s cocaine
  • Shabu
  • Shards
  • Speed
  • Stove top
  • Tina
  • TrashTweak
  • Uppers
  • Ventana
  • Vidrio
  • Yaba
  • Yellow bam

How Dangerous is Meth Production?

Methamphetamine is a man-made drug, and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) says many labs are found in remote areas, such as national forests. By creating drugs in far-flung places, dealers hope no one will notice the smell and notify the authorities.[10]

The USFS considers meth production facilities environmental hazards. Meth ingredients are highly explosive, so a single spark can be enough to set off a roaring blaze. Cleaning up a meth production facility isn’t easy either, as one pound of completed drugs produces six pounds of toxic waste.[10]

Use these steps to identify a meth production facility:[2]

  • Use your nose. Meth may smell like ammonia or rotten eggs.
  • Watch the outside. The windows may be boarded up, and the vegetation around the home may be damaged by dumped chemicals. You may also notice unusual ventilation methods, such as using fans on cold days.
  • Check the trash. Meth makers may fill their trash bins with things like batteries, empty bottles of ammonia or peroxide, coffee filters, turkey basters, and broken glass.
  • Examine the visitors. Meth makers may be paranoid and secretive. They may allow customers to visit, so people may be coming and going at odd hours. They may be intoxicated when they leave the facility.

If you identify a suspected meth production facility, contact the authorities. Don’t confront anyone yourself.[2]

Identifying Meth Addiction

People with an ongoing meth addiction may display signs of intoxication regularly. They can include the following:[8]

  • Fast heartbeatDilated pupils
  • Sweating
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Agitation
  • Confusion
  • Seizure
  • Psychosis
  • Talkativeness
  • Restlessness
  • Decreased appetite

The NIDA says long-term abuse of meth can lead to the following symptoms:[3]

  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Insomnia
  • Violent behavior
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Weight loss
  • Dental disease
  • Skin sores caused by scratching

Recovery From Meth Addiction

The first step of recovery is often meth detox. After a person has stabilized in detox, comprehensive addiction therapy will generally start. The key is that addiction treatment should be personalized to meet the individual needs of each person in treatment.[5]

Reach out to us here at Boca Recovery Center to learn more about how our unique addiction treatment program can help you stop all use of meth and other substances. Your healing journey can begin today.

Updated May 6, 2024
  1. Methamphetamine. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Accessed November 20, 2023.
  2. Recognizing a meth house / structure. Accessed November 20, 2023. State of Nevada.
  3. Methamphetamine (Crystal/Meth). National Institute on Drug Abuse. Accessed November 20, 2023.
  4. Neurobiology, clinical presentation, and treatment of methamphetamine use disorder. Paulus MP, Stewart JL. JAMA Psychiatry. 2020;77(9).
  5. The key to individualized addiction treatment is comprehensive assessment and monitoring of symptoms and behavioral change. B Hilton T, Pilkonis P. ehavioral Sciences. 2015;5(4):477-495.
  6. Forms of meth. Nevada Attorney General. Accessed February 21, 2024.
  7. The meth epidemic: Its effect on children and communities. The Journal of School Nursing. 2006;22(2):63-65.
  8. Public meeting on patient-focused drug development for stimulant use disorder. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Published October 6, 2020. Accessed February 21, 2024.
  9. Methamphetamine. U.S. Department of Justice. Published October 2022. Accessed February 21, 2024.
  10. Dangers of meth labs. U.S. Forest Service. Accessed February 21, 2024.
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