Crystal meth is a synthetic manmade form of the drug d-methamphetamine. This drug is a very powerful stimulant that is often produced by individuals who use different over-the-counter products, including cold medicines and cough syrups with pseudoephedrine or ephedrine in them or substances like drain cleaner, antifreeze, and batteries, to produce it. It appears like small shards of glass or as glassy type rocks that are either bluish or clear. The drug is known to be highly addictive, and it is often smoked, injected, or snorted.
As a stimulant drug, it affects numerous neurotransmitters, particularly neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine that are involved in the activation of reinforcement and reward and feelings of euphoria and satisfaction. The process of making the drug in home laboratories is obviously variable from manufacturer to manufacturer and even from batch to batch.
Aside from the effects of d-methamphetamine, the other substances in the drug can be potentially toxic. The effects are relatively long-lasting for a stimulant drug, and tolerance develops extremely quickly, forcing individuals who habitually use the drug to take increasing amounts in order to achieve its euphoric effects. This results in an extreme cycle of bingeing on the drug. Then, individuals come down from the effects of the drug, which leads to the well-known “crash,” as levels of neurotransmitters in the central nervous system become severely depleted.
Signs of Crystal Meth Abuse
There are numerous signs that an individual may be abusing crystal meth in addition to finding drug paraphernalia, such as pipes, syringes, etc., and containers for the ingredients of the drug, such as containers for cough syrup, cold medicine, drain cleaner, etc. Some of these signs are outlined below.
- A person displays significant weight loss without being on a diet or exercise plan or without having a formal plan to lose weight. Individuals often begin to look gaunt and malnourished. They may have dark circles under their eyes and appear extremely unhealthy. Individuals who binge on crystal meth and other stimulants often have short periods of decreased appetite followed by periods of excessive gorging on food. When they are able to continue to use the drug for a long time, they may not eat for significant periods of time.
- Cracked skin, dry skin, and other issues with the skin that are particularly noticeable around the individual’s lips, nose, and/or their fingers (especially the fingertips) may occur.
- Consistent runny nose or unexplained nosebleeds may be apparent.
- Sores on their skin, such as abscesses or red blotches, are common.
- Significant and rapid problems with the individual’s dentition may occur. Those who binge on crystal meth often start to show signs of what has been termed “meth mouth.” This represents significant deterioration of the individual’s teeth. The individual may begin to lose teeth or lose fillings out of their teeth. Their teeth may begin to crack and break easily, and many individuals begin to experience significant issues with rotting teeth in a very short period of time.
- Other signs related to a lack of attention to personal hygiene may become apparent, such as being poorly kept, not bathing, not washing one’s clothes, etc.
- Unexplained burns on the individual’s fingers, lips, nose, or around the mouth may be present.
- Individuals may also begin to display chronic problems with halitosis (bad breath).
- Individuals often have chronic issues with dry mouth, teeth clenching, teeth grinding, and may be continually fidgeting with their mouth or nose.
- The person displays dilated pupils, bloodshot eyes, and twitches, such as an eye twitch that seems to come and go. Individuals may display shakiness or tremors in their hands and may begin to engage in useless repetitive acts, such as lip smacking, rapid blinking movements of the eyes, itching, flinching, etc.
- The person displays periodic signs of hyperactivity, such as pressured speech, talking rapidly, rambling on and on about nothing, being fidgety and unable to sit still, becoming overheated or perspiring excessively, having periods of insomnia followed by excessive fatigue, engaging in repetitive acts that are odd (e.g., tremor-like acts, twitching, picking at their skin, etc.), and significant issues with focus and attention.
- Sudden or periodic episodes of extreme suspiciousness, claiming to see or hear things that are not really there, unexplained emotional distress, or alternating periods of feeling extremely well followed by depression and apathy may be present.
- Periods of isolation, being gone for days at a time, a sudden surge of stealing or selling one’s possessions, the sudden development of severe financial problems, not fulfilling important personal or professional responsibilities, a marked deterioration in the individual’s performance at work, deteriorating performance in school, and/or becoming involved with individuals who appear to be chronic drug users, etc., may appear.
- Progressive issues with memory loss, particularly for short-term events, may be present. Often, individuals begin to confabulate or make up things to fill in their gaps in memory.
- Progressive issues with a deterioration in the individual’s other cognitive faculties, such as issues with their judgment, chronic problems with attention, engaging in impulsive behaviors, etc., may become apparent.
- Progressive deteriorations in the individual’s psychological and emotional functioning that include issues with anxiety (even panic attacks), depression, the development of idiosyncratic beliefs, etc., may take place.
- Rapid and progressive deteriorations in other aspects of the individual’s physical health may occur, including issues with blood pressure, heart rate abnormalities, respiratory issues, sexual dysfunction, renal issues, yellowish skin (which may be due to jaundice), etc.
Individuals who display several of the above signs are obviously more likely to have issues with substance abuse than individuals who just periodically display one or two signs. If an individual is suspected of abusing crystal meth, it is extremely important to address the situation by attempting to get the person to seek help. One way to do this is to organize a formal substance abuse intervention.
Individuals who chronically abuse crystal meth are at risk for serious long-term issues with cognitive functioning due to potential damage to the brain, issues with their physical health due to severe damage to numerous organ systems and increased vulnerability for diseases, and long-term issues with emotional functioning that can be quite complicated and severe.