How To Tell if Someone Is on Meth?

Last Updated: April 18, 2024

Editorial Policy | Research Policy

Meth is a dangerous drug with the potential for serious, long-lasting damage. Learning these warning signs of meth use is the first step to getting loved ones the help they need.

Meth is a dangerous and devastating drug — and it can be incredibly worrisome when you think a loved one might be using it. But what does meth addiction look like, and how can you spot the signs of meth use? Knowing how to tell if someone is using meth and the signs of meth withdrawal can be the first step in getting your loved one the help they need.

What Is Meth?

Meth is short for methamphetamine. It is a highly potent chemical with intense stimulating effects, and it can be incredibly addictive for people who use it. Methamphetamine has been prescribed as medicine for several different purposes over the years, but today it is only available via prescription to treat ADHD or obesity, under the brand name Desoxyn.

Methamphetamine is a close relative of other stimulant drugs that are commonly prescribed to treat ADHD. Adderall, Dexedrine, and Vyvanse all belong to the drug class “amphetamines” and contain nearly identical chemical structures to methamphetamine. Chemically, the only difference is the addition of a methyl-group, which helps methamphetamine bind to chemical receptors in the brain even stronger than other amphetamines. This leads to methamphetamine having a longer duration of effect than other amphetamines.

Meth goes by several different street names, including:

  • Ice
  • Crystal
  • Crank
  • Speed
  • Glass
  • Yaba

What Does Meth Look Like?

Meth bought off the street can have a variety of appearances, even though the drug is still the same. This is a result of chemical by-products, filler substances and chemical impurity inherent in the manufacturing process.

Most often, meth resembles small shards of cloudy, white glass or ice. It can also appear as a white to brownish powdered substance. Impurities in meth may give the powder or glass a yellow, pink or reddish color.

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How To Tell if Someone Is Using Meth

There are several signs for how to tell if someone is using meth. Meth symptoms can cause greatly exaggerated behavior, significant physical changes and intense withdrawal symptoms if use is suddenly stopped.

Physical Effects of Meth Use

The first sign to look for is the physical effects of meth. Physical effects of meth use include:

  • Sudden weight loss
  • Sores or scabs on the skin
  • Enlarged pupils
  • Dry mouth
  • Insomnia
  • Dark bags under the eyes
  • Restless or frantic energy
  • A rapid heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Overheating
  • Tooth decay

Meth users will often experience drastic physical changes in a brief period of time. As a stimulant, meth suppresses the appetite, promotes wakefulness, and leaves people feeling highly energetic. It can also lead to compulsive behaviors, such as picking at the skin.

Meth Addiction Behavior

Meth addiction behavior refers to the social and psychological consequences of meth addiction. But what does meth addiction look like, and can you learn how to tell if someone is on meth as a result of these behaviors? The signs of meth addiction include:

  • Loss of interest in hobbies or activities
  • Frequent insomnia, followed by extended bouts of sleep
  • Sudden shifts in personality
  • Intense meth cravings
  • Frequently asking for money
  • Emotional outbursts
  • Not being able to cut down or stop meth use

All of these are signs that meth use has become out of control. Meth addiction behavior can be devastating, and often leads to people failing to meet their occupational, social and familial responsibilities.


Another method to tell if someone is on meth is by looking for meth paraphernalia. Meth is typically used in one of three ways: it is smoked, snorted or injected. Each of these routes of administration has different paraphernalia associated with it, including:

  • Smoking: meth pipes are made from glass with a long stem and sphere at the end. They may become coated in white, yellow or brown residue. Smokers carry several lighters to create a long-lasting heat.
  • Snorting: straws, rolled up dollar bills or glass tubes
  • Injecting: needles, tourniquets, spoons and cotton balls

What Does “Tweaking” Mean?

Tweaking is a slang term that refers to the erratic behavior of people under the influence of stimulants such as meth. These behaviors are a reliable way of telling if someone is on meth, particularly if they are well out of character with their regular personality. Tweaking behaviors may include:

  • Rapid speech
  • Racing thoughts
  • Restless movement
  • Fidgeting
  • Making grand plans for the future
  • Obsessively focusing on a small task
  • Paranoia

Signs of a High-Functioning Meth Addict

People who function well while using meth are often highly effective at hiding their meth use. They may be able to keep their positions at work, attend to family responsibilities, and maintain social relationships. Just because they don’t experience visible consequences of meth addiction doesn’t mean that their meth use isn’t a problem.

The signs of a functioning meth addict are typically physical: they may have an unhealthily low weight, a poor sleep schedule and sores on their skin. They may also struggle with emotional regulation and be dependent on methr to feel energized and capable of their daily routines.

Signs of a Meth House

A meth house refers to a residence where meth is used, sold or manufactured regularly. These places will often contain paraphernalia throughout the house, and several other warning signs if meth is being produced there.

There are seven telltale signs of a drug lab that makes meth:

  1. Empty packaging from cold medicines that contain pseudoephedrine
  2. Used coffee filters
  3. Lithium batteries that have been opened up
  4. Several empty chemical containers, such as antifreeze, starter fluid, lye, paint thinner, or acetone
  5. Soda bottles or plastic containers with holes near the top
  6. Rubber hoses, duct tape, and globes
  7. A strong odor of cat urine, rotten eggs, or burnt plastic

There are signs of a tweaker house you can see from outside, as well. This could include covered windows, elaborate security and excessive trash. They may open all their windows even when it is extremely cold outside, and the vegetation near their house may be dead as a result of dumped chemicals.

Signs of Meth Withdrawal

Spotting the signs of meth withdrawal is another way to determine if somebody is using meth. Meth withdrawal can be intensely uncomfortable, and has several symptoms:

  • Excessive sleepiness
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Strong meth cravings
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Chills
  • Weight gain

When experiencing withdrawal, many people will isolate themselves from others. It can appear as though they have suddenly become intensely depressed.

Getting Help for Meth Addiction in New Jersey

If you or a loved one is struggling with a meth addiction, there is hope for recovery, no matter how bleak it may seem. The symptoms of meth withdrawal are temporary, and people can recover fully provided they receive quality addiction treatment from professionals who are trained to help.

The Recovery Village Cherry Hill at Cooper is New Jersey’s premier addiction treatment facility and provides the best in evidence-based therapies for people who need help to achieve sobriety. With expert medical staff, personalized treatment and compassionate clinical professionals, you can break free from meth addiction. Take the next step on your journey toward recovery, contact us today.


Drug Enforcement Administration. “Methamphetamine.” March 2020. Accessed August 12, 2022.

Food and Drug Administration. “Desoxyn® (methamphetamine hydrochlor[…]de tablets, USP).” March 2019. Accessed August 22, 2022.

Foundation for a Drug-Free World. “The Truth About Crystal Meth and Methamphetamine.” 2015. Accessed August 12, 2022.

Health Direct. “Ice (crystal meth).” January 2021. Accessed August 12, 2022.

Kirkpatrick, Matthew G., et al. “Comparison of Intranasal Methamphetamine[…]istration by Humans.” Addiction, April 2012. Accessed August 8, 2022.

Martin, Dustin, and Jacqueline K. Le. “Amphetamine.” StatPearls, August 3, 2021. Accessed August 8, 2022.

Moszczynska, Anna, and Sean Patrick Callan. “Molecular, Behavioral, and Physiologi[…]ns for Treatment.” Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, September 2017. Accessed August 22, 2022.

National Drug Intelligence Center. “Drug Paraphernalia Fast Facts.” Accessed August 12, 2022.

Nevada Attorney General. “Recognizing a Meth House or Structure.” Accessed August 8, 2022.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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