I originally wrote a similar article detailing my 15-year life with a meth user. I have yet to post it. While I still plan to post that at some point, I found it too difficult to publish at this point. If you've lived with a meth user, you know how emotionally, physically, and mentally draining it can be. So for the time being, I will compromise with myself and post a more objective description of meth use.I've read other sites, and sometimes I get the idea these "experts" have never lived with a meth user through the worst of it. I don't write this with the expertise of a doctor who has studied patients and run tests.
I lived with a user. For well over a decade. I was married into a family of them. I saw her family and friends all doing it. Through my ordeal I learned to hate the drug, but I also became quite familiar with the signs and the cycle that follows meth use. I may not be an expert at treating it, but I am definitely an expert at spotting it.
If you feel like someone you love may be using meth, I will describe what you might be seeing.
One common denominator of meth use is secrecy. If you’re not a fellow user or supplier, you won’t be privy to the truth of their world. They’ll lie to your face and assume you believe everything they say. Users hide their addictions, deny it, and sometimes even ridicule others for doing it (perhaps to throw us off the scent?).
Just before using, you might sense something is going on. You’ll see unusual behavior, such as disappearing into another room to take a call, going into the bathroom for 20 minutes, running a sudden “errand” that would normally wait (such as running out for milk at 1am when you still have half a gallon in the fridge). You might also see certain “friends” show up for very brief visits, sometimes not even getting out of their car.
If you haven’t been able to translate the above issues – wow you’re slow! No, just kidding. Haha.. They simply mean the meth user is looking for some drugs.
A meth user will often go on the hunt for their drug. They’ll disappear to make phone calls, or even drive to their dealer’s house if the can’t contact him. Those are the “errands” they usually run. Or sometimes their dealer might even show up, either having been called or maybe just making a courtesy call to see if the user needs anything.
After the deal, the meth user will then go do the deed. It could be in the bathroom or in their car in a nearby field. They might also do it somewhere that is more “meth friendly” than around you, such as at another user’s house. The actual use is very brief – only a few moments.
You might see remnants of the use, such as straws, pieces of tin foil, small bags or pieces of plastic wrap, razor blades, lighters – you get the idea. These things are all standard meth-related items. If the user snorted it, he could be touching his nose often because of the sensation/irritation of sucking it up his nose.
Hey we’re just getting started. This is where you enter the picture and start to see things.
After doing meth, the user will display some very obvious and animated signs. The pupils will be dilated. To me that was always the tip-off. Dilated eyes, even in a bright room, were always immediate and obvious. The skin is warm to the touch and heart is pounding. You will see a mood that is a little bit too happy. And lots of energy. Meth users often get little or no sleep for days after using. They will also display exaggerated or semi-uncontrolled mannerisms, such as constant cleaning, preening, talking, etc., along with uncontrolled twitching or facial tics. During the high, the meth user often lacks an appetite and may go an entire day eating virtually nothing. It’s not uncommon to see them overly productive, such as cleaning or doing repetitive tasks, even in the middle of the night. They might pick at their hair or skin repeatedly. Almost obsessively. When they do sleep, it might be agitated and filled with movement, sweating, talking, laughing, or gibberish. The user may exhibit a heightened sexual arousal. You may even notice that the person has an unusual odor.
So why do meth users want to be this way? They don’t. Those are only the things being externalized. Inside, they are experiencing a sense of euphoria, confidence, and well-being that is far beyond what they feel when sober. They live for the high, and deal with everything else.
Those of us on the outside can’t imagine how it becomes worth it. But it does.
There is a brief period between the high and the crash in which the user begins to shift behavior patters. I call this the Plateau. The high is coming to and end and the user begins to display new symptoms. He begins to slow down. He might still be animated, but in a less energetic state. If he can’t get more meth, he will start to head quickly into the crash.
The Crash (aka “Coming Down”)
When a meth user has exhausted his supply and what he ingested has worked its way through his system, we have the crash. A crashing user might spend several days in bed. He might be asleep the entire time, or is awake but lethargic. He might only getting up to use the restroom or have a quick snack. The worst part of the crash is that it’s typically accompanied by a very agitated and foul demeanor. The user can get violent and display psychotic traits and huge mood swings. Lethargic, irrational, angry, moody, and confused – these are all signs of the crash.
From my perspective, this was by far the worst part. Whereas the user is mostly irritating during the high, he is more likely to focus his crashing ire directly at you. You will likely get sucked into absurd arguments or even find yourself dodging violent behavior.
It can last a few days. A few days of hell.
As the crash wears off, the meth user begins to revert back to his pre-high self. He might even exhibit better than normal behavior.
And just when you think life is back to normal, the cycle soon repeats and the roller coaster ride begins again. It is exhausting and frustrating for the loved ones enduring it.
Though I’ve focused on the short-term signs of meth use, I should point out that there are long-term signs of meth use as well. Weight loss, tooth decay, poor hygiene, increased acne, dry skin, hair loss, mental illness, memory loss, paranoia, depression, and psychosis are all possible. Not all of these are necessarily reversible.
If you suspect someone you love is using meth, you need to get help. If you can’t get help, you need to get out.
Note: in 2011 I posted a follow-up to this article, about avoiding your own addiction to the addict.