It can be difficult to tell if a loved one is secretly using hard drugs like methamphetamine. You may not want to ask directly for fear of being wrong and offending your friend, family member, or partner. However, there are several common signs that someone close to you is using meth recreationally that you can look for.
Here are seven of the most common warning signs and symptoms that someone is using meth:
- Erratic sleep schedule
- Loss of interest
- Loss of appetite
- Physical deterioration (skin, teeth, & weight loss)
- Compulsive behavior
- Drug paraphernalia
#1. Erratic Sleep Schedule
Meth is a stimulant. This means it speeds up the body’s systems.
- Heart rate
- Blood pressure
- Breathing rate
- Body temperature
This stimulation can increase energy and alertness, so someone using meth may not sleep for long periods of time.
But then they crash.
If your spouse stays awake for several days and then sleeps for 24-48 hours, this may be due to meth use. The drug’s physical effects interfere with normal sleep patterns.
#2. Loss of Interest
Has your spouse lost interest in hobbies, career goals, or relationships? Or maybe all of the above?
A sudden loss of interest in things that used to be important could be a sign that your spouse has started using meth or another substance. Obsession with obtaining and using meth happens quickly, even before a person may be classified as addicted.
When meth takes priority, everything else moves to the back burner.
#3. Loss of Appetite
People who use meth typically have very little appetite. Your spouse may skip meals or show a general disinterest in food.
Why? Meth use affects chemicals in the brain, specifically increasing dopamine production. When these chemical levels are thrown off, the brain’s communication processes change. It does not send and receive the usual signals for hunger and fullness.
Due to its effects on the brain and the lack of sleep it can cause, meth can make some people paranoid. They may experience symptoms of psychosis:
- Delusions are strongly held thoughts and beliefs that are not based in reality. Unlike unpopular opinions or conspiracy theories, delusions are beliefs that no one around you share and that are disproved by evidence, but still feel valid and true to you.
- Paranoia is a type of delusional thinking in which you think that you are being threatened in some way without substantial evidence that supports that belief.
- Hallucinations are any sensory experiences in which you see, feel, hear, or even taste / smell something that does not appear to exist to others. Hallucinations can feed into paranoid delusions, such as by hallucinatory voices suggesting that people can look at you and tell you have done something you’re ashamed of.
#5. Physical Deterioration
Meth wreaks havoc on the entire body. It often causes the following progressive issues:
Weight Loss and Muscle Wasting
Loss of appetite often means unhealthy weight loss, including loss of muscle. Because meth becomes a higher priority than food, an individual does not get enough nutrients, the body consumes stored fat for energy.
If the individual continues not to eat enough to support their caloric needs, the body uses muscle for the energy. This leads to wasting away of muscle and can cause weakness and other issues.
If your spouse is using meth, it’s likely they will get skin sores, also called “meth sores.” These sores appear on the face, chest, and arms. These splotchy, scabby wounds are caused by:
- Using meth often causes tactile hallucinations where a person feels like insects are crawling on their skin. Picking and scratching may be an attempt to relieve this feeling, but leads to skin abrasions and sores.
- Hygiene can become less of a priority as meth dependence and addiction progresses. Lack of skin cleanliness leads to a high concentration of bacteria on the skin, which increases the risk of infection in open wounds.
- The chemicals in meth affect the body’s ability to heal. A small wound that might typically close quickly can become large, long-lasting, or infected.
Meth can have serious side effects on the mouth. The acid in the drug weakens the teeth, so that they chip and break more easily.
Meth also dries out the saliva glands, which leads to tooth rot and gum decay. And since the user may not practice good oral hygiene habits, these effects are even worse.
If your spouse’s teeth are rotting, blackened, stained, or falling apart, this might be due to meth use.
#6. Repetitive, Compulsive Behavior
Because of the effects meth has on the brain, a person using meth may engage in repetitive behaviors. They may compulsively take apart and reassemble things, clean compulsively, or become unable to sit still.
If your spouse is using meth, they may also have fits of non-stop, rapid talking. A short fuse can also be a symptom of this behavior as they lash out compulsively in anger.
#7. Drug Paraphernalia in Your Home
If your spouse uses meth, you may find traces of the drug or drug paraphernalia. The drug itself may be a white powder, pills, or clear, shiny crystals called crystal meth. The drug can be smoked, snorted, swallowed, or injected.
Common drug supplies your spouse include syringes and needles, loose razor blades, spoons with burn marks, and straws or rolled-up dollar bills used for snorting.
How to Address the Signs of Meth Use
Meth affects a person’s health and behavior in specific ways that are tell-tale signs of meth use. Because the effects of meth are progressive, it’s important to address your concerns with your spouse as soon as you have them.
Only after you identify the issue can you take next steps, such as getting help from a professional interventionist, couples therapist, or family therapist in a meth addiction treatment program.
If you’re seeing signs of meth use, help is available. Call 800-681-1058 (Who Answers?) to learn about addiction treatment options for your loved one.