Face sores, paranoia, and aggression, oh my! Many people have heard the stories about meth and its ultra addictive qualities but the meth user is generally lost in those stories. Meth addicts are essentially trampled by the public’s conception of meth addiction. We know meth is addictive, we know what it looks like, and we know how it is used. But can we tell what a meth user looks like or how he acts? Understanding these qualifications is what will help addicts get help.
What is Meth?
First, let’s make sure we fully understand what meth is. Meth is a stimulant. Stimulants act by increasing certain cell signals in the brain, which in turn causes heightened physiological responses. Meth in particular increases dopamine levels. This dopamine is released in high levels in the reward center of the brain, which is what causes that euphoric high that meth users crave.
Meth is most commonly found as a white powder. But it can also come in a crystalline form that will look like shattered glass or bluish-white rocks. This is known as crystal meth. Meth can be inhaled, smoked, snorted, or injected (after being dissolved).
Common street names for meth include crystal, ice, speed, crank, and chalk.
Signs/Symptoms of a Meth User
Physical Qualities of a Meth User
Repeated abuse of meth will cause the body to deteriorate in specific ways.
- Face sores – Meth users often suffer from the sensation that bugs are crawling on or under their skin. This is called formication. The sensation causes the user to pick at his or her skin in attempt to stop it, which will eventually create sores and meth scabs. Meth scabs are common in areas that are easily reached by the user, such as the face, arms, and tops of hands.
- Severe tooth decay – Have you ever heard of “meth mouth”? Meth will cause the salivary glands in the mouth to dry out. The saliva that those salivary glands produce is what protects tooth enamel from the mouth’s acids. So, without it, acids will eat away at that enamel, causing cavities and tooth decay. A meth user is also less inclined to keep up good hygiene habits (like brushing and flossing) because of his full obedience to his addiction.
- Skeletal appearance – Meth causes extreme bursts of physical activity because of that dopamine release. But it also suppresses appetite. So a meth user can be physically active but not be taking in any calories or nutrients to balance out that activity. Furthermore, the meth high starts quickly and fades quickly, which may cause the meth user to go on meth binges in order to keep that high going. But that also means prolonged periods of appetite suppression. Eventually, these effects will cause a meth user to appear extremely thin, gaunt, and frail.
- Rapid aging – In 2004, deputy Bret King from an Oregon sheriff’s office started the Faces of Meth project. The project shows mug shots of meth addicts, highlighting the fact that these addicts look like they’ve aged years in the span of just a few months. Meth causes tissues and blood vessels to deteriorate, which hinders the body’s ability to naturally repair itself. Skin will lose its elasticity and luster. It will prematurely wrinkle and adopt a dull, grayish appearance, causing the meth user to look much older than he or she actually is.
Emotional and Mental Qualities of a Meth User
Meth also takes a toll on a person’s emotions and mental well being, particularly by attacking a person’s rationality.
- Paranoia – In many cases, meth users will become paranoid. One specific type of paranoia caused by meth is parasitosis. The tactile hallucinations of meth can cause a person to believe that he is actually infested by parasites. Habitual meth use can also cause the relationship of the brain’s amygdala and pre-frontal cortex to destabilize. This relationship is responsible for the bridge between rational thinking and emotional response. Paranoia is a direct result of this destabilization. A meth user will start to distrust others and see himself as a victim.
- Aggression and violence – The paranoia and distrust often make a meth user feel as if he needs to protect himself against others. Such thinking manifests in aggressive or violent outbursts.
These physical and mental qualities are the most common features of a meth user. You don’t need to travel down the yellow brick road to find these victims. It’s estimated that there are 24.7 million meth abusers worldwide. As much as we are inclined to discount the typical meth profile as an exaggeration, it’s not. Meth is extremely addictive and detrimental to a person’s health and wellbeing. Fortunately, there’s help.
If you or someone you know is struggling with a meth addiction, New Start can help. Don’t hesitate to call us at 855-737-7363 or reach out to us on our live chat.