Meth Addiction: Signs of Drug Abuse

Recognising the signs of crystal meth use could help save a person’s life

If you or someone you know is displaying signs of an addiction to meth, it's important to seek addiction treatment as soon as possible. 


We offer help at our meth rehab centre. Contact The Hader Clinic and speak to a recovery specialist. Patients in a crisis will receive priority admission. Call us if the situation is urgent.

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Crystal meth is a highly addictive and dangerous drug that can have devastating effects on an individual’s physical and mental health. Users typically smoke, snort or inject the drug, which can lead to a range of health problems, including memory loss, gum disease and rotting teeth, skin infections, mental health disorders, psychosis and stroke.

Using meth produces an intense and pleasurable rush because it targets the dopamine receptors in the brain, flooding it with the neurotransmitter. However, this high is short-lived and is followed by an intense 'crash', during which users feel tired, anxious and depressed. This can lead to them using again in an attempt to chase the original high, leading to a vicious cycle of addiction.

The Hader Clinic explains how addicts are not able to predict how much they are going to use once they start using or control their use.

Physical signs of Meth Abuse

Methamphetamine, crystal meth, meth or ice, as it’s also known, is a highly addictive stimulant with serious negative psychological and physical effects on the user. Being able to identify these signs could help you encourage a loved one to seek help and regain control over their life again.

Meth Addiction Signs: Skin

One of the most outward and visible signs of meth addiction is changes to the skin. This can manifest itself in a number of ways, including:

  • Meth addict sores or ulcers: Caused by picking at the skin due to delusions or hallucinations, also known as 'meth mites' or skin sores.
  • Dry, brittle skin: Caused by dehydration
  • Acne breakouts: Due to an increase in sebum production from smoking meth
  • Premature ageing: Due to the damaging effects of meth on collagen production
  • Track Marks: Sores and scarring from injecting meth
  • Meth addict face: May be paler than usual or display signs of rapid weight loss
A woman holding her right arm

Meth Addiction Signs: Eyes

A common sign of meth use is changes to the eyes. This can include:

  • Dilated pupils: Meth speeds up the nervous system, causing the pupils to dilate
  • Red or 'bloodshot' eyes: Caused by dehydration and lack of sleep
  • Watery eyes: Also caused by dehydration
  • Rapid eye movements (REM): Known as 'trash eyes'
A close up of an eye

Meth Addiction Signs: Teeth

One of the most well-known meth addiction symptoms is 'meth mouth', which refers to the deterioration of teeth and gums. This can be a result of many factors, including:

  • Dry mouth: Meth inhibits saliva production, leading to a dry mouth. This lack of saliva combined with meth addict teeth grinding can lead to tooth decay.
  • Smoking meth: The chemicals in meth (including ammonia and methanesulfonic acid) can erode tooth enamel.
  • Dehydration: Meth causes users to become dehydrated, leading to inflamed gums and disease.
Close up of someone's mouth

Meth Addiction Signs: Brain

People who abuse meth may start to show signs of changes to the brain, including:

  • Damage to dopamine receptors: Meth causes an increase in dopamine levels in the brain, which over time can lead to damage to the dopamine receptors. This can result in problems with memory, learning and decision-making.
  • Changes in brain structure: Studies have shown that meth use can lead to changes in the brain's structure, particularly in the regions responsible for memory and emotion.
  • Psychosis: Meth use can cause psychotic symptoms such as paranoia, delusions and hallucinations. These symptoms can sometimes persist long after someone has stopped using meth.
A man holding his head

Meth Addiction: Behavioural Signs

Methamphetamine addiction can cause a range of psychological symptoms that cause changes in behaviour, both during meth use and in between uses. These can include:

  • Aggression: Meth abuse can cause users to become aggressive, violent or even psychotic.
  • Anxiety: Meth use can lead to feelings of anxiety and paranoia.
  • Agoraphobia: Meth users may start to experience a fear of open spaces or leaving the house.
  • Compulsive behaviour: Meth addicts may start to display compulsive behaviours such as hoarding, cleaning or picking at skin.
  • Mood swings: Meth addicts may experience sudden mood swings from happy to angry or vice versa.
  • Increased libido: A meth addict's behaviour may include an increase in sex drive which can lead to an increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases
  • Tweaking: The irritable and sometimes psychotic state that meth addicts can enter at the end of a meth binge.
A meth rehab therapy session
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Methamphetamine abuse typically follows a pattern or 'cycle' of use, followed by a period of withdrawal or 'crash'. This cycle can repeat itself multiple times and poses serious health risks to the user.

The cycle of methamphetamine abuse usually goes something like this:

1. The user takes meth and experiences an intense 'high'.

2. The high begins to wear off, and the user starts to feel 'crash' or the side effects of meth withdrawal such as fatigue, hunger and irritability.

3. The user takes more meth in an attempt to avoid the crash symptoms and regain the initial high.

4. The cycle repeats itself, with the user taking more and more meth in an attempt to chase the initial high.

5. The user eventually becomes addicted to meth and may start to experience serious adverse health effects from abusing meth, such as psychosis, anxiety and paranoia.

If you or someone you know is showing signs of methamphetamine abuse, it is important to seek help as soon as possible. Methamphetamine addiction is a serious problem that can have devastating consequences, but help is available. 

Frequently asked questions about the signs of meth addiction

What are the four symptoms of addiction?

The four symptoms of addiction are: compulsive drug seeking and use, loss of control over drug use, continued use despite negative consequences, and craving.

What is the difference between dependence and addiction?

Dependence refers to a physiological state that develops as the body adapts to chronic exposure to a substance. Addiction is a term that describes a complex set of behaviours that includes compulsive drug seeking and use, despite the negative consequences.

How long does it take to detox from methamphetamine?

The length of time it takes to detox from methamphetamine depends on a number of factors, including the severity of the addiction, the person's age and health status, and whether they are using other drugs. However, most people will start to feel withdrawal symptoms within 24 - 48 hours of their last dose.

What are the treatment options for methamphetamine addiction?

Treatment for methamphetamine addiction typically involves a combination of detoxification, counselling and support groups. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to the treatment process, and the best course of action will be tailored to the individual's needs.

What are the long-term effects of methamphetamine abuse?

The long-term effects of methamphetamine abuse can be devastating. Methamphetamine use can lead to serious health problems such as psychosis, anxiety and paranoia. In addition, meth is a highly addictive drug, and users can quickly develop a tolerance to the drug, leading to increased use and greater risks of health problems.

What are the early signs of crystal meth addiction?

The early signs of crystal meth addiction include increased secrecy, changes in mood and behaviour, financial problems, and withdrawal from friends and family.

What is meth mouth, and does it go away?

Meth mouth is a term used to describe the damage that methamphetamine abuse can cause to teeth and gums. It is characterised by tooth decay, gum disease and tooth loss. Meth mouth is preventable by quitting methamphetamine use, but the damage it causes is often irreversible.

What does methamphetamine withdrawal feel like?

Withdrawal from methamphetamine can be extremely unpleasant. Symptoms include fatigue, hunger, irritability, anxiety and depression. In severe cases, people may experience psychosis.

Where can I get help for a loved one with a substance abuse addiction?

Many drug rehab organisations with a treatment center can help and support people with substance abuse addiction. At The Hader Clinic treatment facility in Melbourne, we offer a range of programs and services to help people overcome their addiction. For more information, please call us on 1300 662 769.

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