Signs You Live With A Meth User

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.

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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.

The Deal
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.

How thoughtful.

Using
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.

The High
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.

The Plateau
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.

The Recovery
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.

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  • anonymous

    When I met my friend he was my dream come true. He told me about his past and he would take me everywhere he would go. Now he seldomly ask me to go with him. I’ve noticed that he does a lot of twitching while asleep, he has varies of sores on his stomach, arms and I’m concern about this. Can this be signs of him still on Meth?

    • anon

      definitely sounds like meth addiction, seek help yourself before you confront your friend. Stay supported.

  • Anonymous1

    I’ve recently left my bf we have 2 kids together and he’s just changed so much lately and I just couldn’t take the lies and sneaking around any longer I know he has struggled with addiction most of his life and I started searching about meth and found this blog and everyone’s story’s sound like I wrote them it’s exactly how he acts. The problem I face is he wants to see our kids and now seeing this I’m sure he is using and I don’t want my kids around him if that’s the case is it fine to just not allow him to have them even without proof??? All this is so much harder with kids it’s easier for me to move on and take him out of my life but my kids put a whole new spin on things any thoughts or advice would be so appreciated

    • waffles

      Yes, it is tricky when you have kids. There are things you can do, like try to gauge how good or bad of a day he’s having before letting him see them. Or moving to a location that isn’t as convenient for him. If he gets into any legal trouble, you may want to consult a lawyer and use that as an opportunity to limit his custody or visitation. Your kids and your safety are your top priorities.

  • Anonymous1

    You’ve all made this so much clearer for me all the signs I saw were real and not me just imagining them I’m so happy I made the choice to leave now I just have to figure everything else out thank you all soo much

  • no name

    My mother in law is a user and she has used for at least 10 years. My father in law has been in recovery for 14 yesrs and also works for a clean and sober house’s. It bothers me that they just play blind and ignore the fact that she is using. Shes a good grandma to my kids. But I cant stand they allow her to just continue using and just turn a blind eye. Can anyone help me understand why they just let this happen?

    • waffles

      While everyone is different, my opinion is that some people just don’t want to deal with it and face the problem. It’s easier to just act like everything is normal rather than “rock the boat” and confront such a problem.

  • anon

    My bf was using for years, he had all of these signs. He constantly betrayed my trust, lied to me and becasme abusive. He hit ‘rock bottom’ a few times, lost everything. By being true to myself and having the strength to leave him, he has come back to me in recovery. Addiction is an illness. My advice is No.1 support yourself, as hard as it is don’t get sucked into their behaviour and lies, keep in check of reality by listening to your friends and family or getting involved in a group that supports ‘families of meth users’, No2. when the user is ready to change, as hard as it it will be given all of the pain they have caused try to give them all of the unconditional love and support they need. Lastly, until they admit they are an addict and are ready to change, be strong- give yourself all of the love and support you can by distancing yourself from their destruction.

  • Kayla

    I’m actually going through this right at the moment. My husband is not a constant user, but it’s bad enough that he’s a complete dick to me and our 8 month old son. I dont want to give up on him because I know this is the time where he needs us the most but I just dont know what to do anymore.

  • Megan Turner

    I don’t know if my bf is a user or not I don’t ever find any pipes or straws no evidence or any thing and the symptoms that you name he is diagnased with he is 51/50 and his mother did method while pregnant with him and he has depression ptsd paranoia skitos bi polar and other mental illiness and memory loss because of a brain injury dry skin and acne cause its in his family and I thought it was heritary he’s only 24 and I just want to know if he does so maybe a random drug test or something

    • tfaulk13

      Do you know for sure that he has all of the mental disorders that you indicate. With all of his issues and history it almost seems like every item on a checklist that lists the risk factors for becoming a meth addict. What I mean is that just one or two of the issues he has would make him more likely to become a meth user. Since you have listed nearly every risk factor, then the likelihood of meth use is higher. The question is… Are all of these things risk factors for potential meth use or are they symptomatic of meth use. There are compelling arguements for both points of view.
      Either way, the outcome is not easy and the road to treatment and recovery often fail many times and put so many loved ones through hell so many times that it can have an impact on the mental health of the family or loved one. Do not allow this to happen in your life. Do not walk; run away as fast and as far as you can from the impending hell. Do not feel that you can be strong enough to get them clean and sober if they are not admitting to being an addict and very willing to discuss the drug and actively comment on what wrong actions they do while using. Any denial at all is an indicator that they for sure are not ready to quit and until they decide that they want to truly get help, any actions to help will be a total waste of time. You cannot make someone want to quit. You cannot say, ” if you love me, you will quit”. You cannot say, “if you love your child you will quit.” Because it is comparing apples to oranges. To say that if an addict has love for someone they will quit only works if the sole reason the addict began using is because of that person. Do you see how it works now ? Do not ever expect an addict to stop if they love you. It will not and has not ever worked in any situation I have heard of. It actually makes it more difficult for the addict to seek help because they do have the ability to love. They have just lost the ability to express it due to the brain alterations of meth. The meth makes them self centered. All of their actions are like a choreographed scene from a movie that repeats over and over. The desires, urgency and dependency on the drug consumes many hours and it gets worse.

  • Sandy M

    my son has been a meth user for 20 years. He has been in jail and rehab many times. He has been on life support 3 times. He has heb c now and brain damage. He has lost every thing and yet he continues to use. The only time I have any peace is when he is in jail or committed. My advice to everyone is it will NOT get better – you can’t fix him…..Run as fast as you can away from him. We have lost the war on drugs and a whole generation to meth. His life is so sad….don’t make his life your life. You deserve better.

    • waffles

      I’m sorry to hear of this tragedy. You are right that you can’t fix someone – at least unless they want to be fixed. Meth does not let go of people very easily.

  • waffles

    It’s sad seeing how far people let themselves go, blinded by drug use. Best of luck to you.