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Signs of Meth Abuse

Symptoms of meth abuse include paranoia, hallucinations, mood swings, and physical decline like 'meth mouth.' Chronic use leads to severe mental, physical harm, and overdose risks. Recovery, though challenging, is possible with comprehensive treatment.

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Meth abuse symptoms include paranoia, hallucinations, weight loss, mood swings, insomnia, dental issues, and various cognitive issues, such as memory loss, confusion, and learning issues.

Many dangers are associated with chronic meth abuse, including severe mental and physical damage and the potential for overdose, which can be fatal.

What Are the Most Common Signs & Symptoms of Meth Abuse?

The most common signs and symptoms of meth abuse include the following:

  • High levels of excitability interspersed with down, low-energy periods
  • Agitation
  • Dilated pupils
  • Violent behavior
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Poor coordination
  • Panic
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Insomnia
  • Weight loss
  • Extreme dental issues, such as decay, tooth loss, and gum disease
  • Heart problems, such as elevated heart rate and blood pressure, cardiomyopathy, and myocardial infarction
  • Skin abscesses 
  • Memory loss
  • Confusion

What Are the Dangers of Meth?

As meth abuse continues, the person will become increasingly obsessed with getting and using meth. Virtually every area of their life will begin to suffer. 

Most people who are addicted to meth end up losing their jobs, their relationships, their finances, and their health. Continued abuse can eventually lead to death.

Dangers of meth abuse include the following:

  • Increased risk-taking behavior, potentially leading to accidents, injuries, and unsafe sex
  • Hallucinations and psychosis, which can involve violence and harm to oneself and others
  • Extreme weight loss, triggering increased stress on the heart and other organs
  • Elevated heart rate and blood pressure
  • Respiratory issues
  • Organ damage and failure
  • Problems with immune system functioning
  • Brain damage and cellular changes in the brain
  • Stroke and heart attack
  • Seizure

Because meth is illegal, its possession and use can lead to incarceration and a wide range of other social problems. Few people are able to consume meth while simultaneously managing general life responsibilities. 

If you believe someone is abusing meth and may be addicted, it is important to intervene as quickly as possible. The downward spiral that tends to accompany meth abuse can quickly accelerate, leading to severe damage to a person’s health and life. 

Physical Decline With Meth Abuse

Meth is a drug that is often associated with clear physical decline. The Faces of Meth campaign is a drug prevention effort that was initiated by the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office in Oregon. It documented the physical changes that occurred after chronic meth abuse.

The campaign shows before and after pictures of people who have abused meth, and the changes are stark. Here are some of the changes that occur:

  • An extreme loss of facial fat results in a large change in facial musculature. Due to severe malnourishment, long-term users lose facial fat and muscle.
  • Meth mouth is the term used to describe the extreme dental damage that occurs with sustained meth use. As saliva production decreases and tooth grinding occurs, many meth users largely consume sugary foods. Since oral hygiene is lacking, the combination of factors leads to severe decay, damaged gums, and lost teeth.
  • Skin issues associated with long-term meth abuse include acne and sores that don’t heal. Many meth users feel they have bugs or mites under their skin and repeatedly pick at it until it bleeds. This often leads to scarring.

The Faces of Meth campaign documents the ages between photos of users before and after meth use. Oftentimes, only a couple years have passed, but the person looks decades older due to meth use. 

How to Recognize Meth Addiction

In addition to the physical decline signs detailed above, signs of meth addiction include the following:

  • Many unsuccessful attempts to discontinue meth use
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities
  • Financial difficulties due to buying meth or losing employment  
  • Risky or illicit sexual activities
  • Withdrawal symptoms in the absence of meth
  • Engaging in risky or illegal activities in order to locate meth

The Potential for Overdose

Meth overdose is a possibility every time meth is abused. When too much meth is taken or the substance is cut with other toxic substances, which is common, the result can be toxic.

These are signs of a meth overdose:

  • Extreme confusion
  • Spike in blood pressure or heart rate
  • Chest pain
  • Seizure
  • Psychosis
  • Coma

If an overdose is suspected, call 911 immediately. In some cases, a meth overdose can be treated, but it may be fatal.

Is Recovery From Meth Addiction Possible?

Meth is an incredibly addictive drug, and it’s very difficult to stop using on your own. But recovery from meth addiction is possible with the right support. 

In a comprehensive meth addiction treatment program, you’ll receive medical care, medications (as needed), therapy, and other supportive activities to help you detox from meth and achieve a lasting recovery. While the road to recovery isn’t easy, it’s manageable with the right guidance and care.

Updated May 7, 2024
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