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By We Level Up NJ Treatment Center | Editor Yamilla Francese | Clinically Reviewed By Lauren Barry, LMFT, MCAP, QS, Director of Quality Assurance | Editorial Policy | Research Policy | Last Updated: December 9, 2022

6 Signs Of A Meth Head

Methamphetamine is a drug that does not allow much room for casual use. Users quickly become addicts. Users’ health quickly deteriorates, as does their ability to tend to basic personal hygiene. Meth is often referred to as the “dirty drug.” The physical signs of meth abuse include:

  1. Eye Movement: Rapid eye movement and dilated pupils.
  2. Low Body Weight: Users lose weight rapidly and often appear sick.
  3. Dental Problems: Meth use causes severe tooth decay.
  4. Skin Sores: Users often pick at imaginary bugs under their skin (“meth bugs”), causing open sores, infections, and skin scarring.
  5. Body Odor: Chemicals are emitted from the skin of meth users, often producing strong and unpleasant odors.
  6. Pale Facial Appearance: Users’ faces often appear pale or splotchy and may be sweaty.

Methamphetamine users will also be paranoid, jittery, and anxiety-ridden. They may communicate with senseless and irrational babble, and their speech may be impaired. They are prone to moodiness and violent outbursts.

What Is A Meth Head?

Methhead is a methamphetamine addict (also referred to as a “tweaker.”) Methheads are known for their extreme paranoia, flagrant dishonesty, and lack of non-methhead friends. The stereotypical definition of meth is that a meth head will steal your stuff and help you look for it.

Others say that “Meth Head” is used by law enforcement and those out there who have no clue what using meth is like and therefore have no first-hand knowledge of what meth does to the human mind and body. They use the term only to label meth users. It’s the same as calling a group of young men with baggy pants on thugs, or a group of young men with their heads shaved skinheads.

Just because someone has sores on their face doesn’t mean they use meth, that person has probably never used a day in their life, and their skin irritation can be caused by cancer, eczema, a bacterial infection, or allergic reaction.

Some people automatically think they must be on meth because they have messed up teeth. Bad teeth stem from genetics and or bad personal hygiene, and just because you see someone with bad teeth doesn’t mean they are on meth.

Your “typical” meth head likes to get high and often smokes throughout the day. They never stay in one place for too long because they are always on the go. They house surf and carry a backpack with all their belongings. They will sell whatever they have to get a pipe load and may appear dirty because they typically neglect their hygiene while addicted to meth.

What Is A Functioning Addict?

Functioning addicts are the ones you don’t and won’t even suspect are meth users. They are not the stereotypical meth heads. They are your rugged, clean-cut men and your prim and proper women that actively use meth every day and hold down good jobs. There is no look to a meth head. Meth head is like a label put on people by people who don’t know what they are talking about.

 

To say meth head is similar to stereotyping a group of people based on a characteristic. It, along with many other terms like crack head or nerd is not only derogatory, but it can make one not come across in a manner to be taken seriously.
To say meth head is similar to stereotyping a group of people based on a characteristic. It, along with many other terms like crack head or nerd, is not only derogatory, but it can make one not come across in a manner to be taken seriously.

Methamphetamine Fact Sheet

Methamphetamine is intended to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Unfortunately, methamphetamine – meth for short – is a very addictive stimulant drug.


Methamphetamine Stimulant

When medically supervised, it can help treat ADHD. It can also aid in the weight loss of obese patients.


Methamphetamine Controlled Substance

It can lead to heart failure, delirium, panic attacks, rapid or irregular heartbeat, and psychosis.

Methamphetamine is a Schedule II stimulant under the Controlled Substances Act, which means that it has a high potential for abuse and a currently accepted medical use (in FDA-approved products). It is available only through a prescription that cannot be refilled. Today there is only one legal meth product, Desoxyn®.

Methamphetamine Availability

For legal use, it’s only available on prescription only.


Methamphetamine & Pregnancy

Consult a physician.


Methamphetamine & Alcohol

Avoid. There may be severe interactions.

Meth Addiction Statistics

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, from 2015 to 2018, an estimated 1.6 million U.S. adults aged 18 years and above, on average, reported past-year meth use; 52.9% had a meth addiction, and 22.3% reported injecting meth within the past year. In addition, co-occurring substance use and mental illness were everyday struggles among those who used meth within the past year.


2.6 million

In 2020, 0.9%, or around 2.6 million people, reported taking methamphetamine in the previous 12 months.

Source: National Institute On Drug Abuse

0.2%

In 2021, it is projected that 0.2% of eighth-graders, 0.2% of tenth-graders, and 0.2% of twelfth-graders used methamphetamine in the previous year.

Source: National Institute On Drug Abuse

1.5 million

A methamphetamine use problem in the previous 12 months affected a projected 0.6% (or 1.5 million) of individuals aged 12 or older in 2020.

Source: National Institute On Drug Abuse


What Is Meth?

Methamphetamine, commonly known as meth, crystal meth, and methamphetamine tablets, is the most widely used synthetic drug globally [1]. It’s a highly addictive illegal stimulant that dramatically affects the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). Meth addiction has devastating effects, which cause lung disorders, kidney damage, hyperthermia, stroke, and cardiac arrest. Oral or dental disease, including meth mouth, was one of the most prevalent (41.3 percent) medical comorbidities in meth heads [2].

These psychoactive drugs give “meth heads” a rush of energy and intense feelings of pleasure. It is made from a mixture of household products and agricultural chemicals with pseudoephedrine or ephedrine, a decongestant in over-the-counter cold remedies like Sudafed. Meth is popular and very addictive because of the euphoric effects it gives its users. However, it’s illicit because its continuous consumption has been proven to alter and destroy brain functions, resulting in a stroke, psychosis, or even death. 

Meth has been classified by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) [3] as a Schedule II controlled substance, making it legally available only through prescription. Medically it may be used for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and as a short-term component of weight-loss treatments. However, these uses are limited, and it is rarely prescribed. Also, the prescribed doses are far lower than those typically misused. The FDA-approved brand-name medication is Desoxyn. 

There is no look to a meth head. Meth head is like a label put on people by people who don't know what they are talking about.
There is no look to a meth head. Meth head is like a label put on people by people who don’t know what they are talking about.
Ryan Zofay forming a circle and hugging friends.

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The Dangers Of Meth

  • Even taking small amounts of meth can cause harmful health effects, including:
    • Increased blood pressure and body temperature
    • Faster breathing
    • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
    • Loss of appetite, disturbed sleep patterns, or nausea
    • Erratic, aggressive, irritable, or violent behavior
  • Chronic meth use can lead to many damaging, long-term health effects, even when people stop taking meth, including:
    • Permanent damage to the heart and brain
    • High blood pressure leads to heart attacks, strokes, and death.
    • Liver, kidney, and lung damage
    • Anxiety, confusion, and insomnia
    • Paranoia, hallucinations, mood disturbances, delusions, or violent behavior (psychotic symptoms can sometimes last for months or years after meth use)
    • Intense itching, causing skin sores from scratching
    • Premature osteoporosis
    • Severe dental problems 
What do meth heads look like? Pictures of meth heads before and after from Justice.gov. Before and after pictures of meth heads show the adverse effect of meth. Why do meth heads have sores? A typical hallucination experienced by meth users is the so-called crank bug. The user gets the sensation that insects are creeping on top of, or underneath, her skin. The user will pick at or scratch her skin to eliminate the imaginary bugs. This scratching can create open sores that may become infected.
What do meth heads look like? Pictures of meth heads before and after from Justice.gov. Before and after pictures of meth heads show the adverse effect of meth. Why do meth heads have sores? A typical hallucination experienced by meth users is the so-called crank bug. The user gets the sensation that insects are creeping on top of, or underneath, her skin. The user will pick at or scratch her skin to eliminate the imaginary bugs. This scratching can create open sores that may become infected.

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Meth Rewires The Brain

Heavy or long-term methamphetamine use damages the brain both functionally and structurally. In addition, a person’s brain becomes accustomed to the drug during addiction.

This altered biochemical activity may take time to normalize once the drug is stopped. In most cases, it will—as some dysfunction in the brain’s neurons can eventually right itself.

From a brain structure standpoint, reversal is not always so easy. Ultimately, meth causes damage to brain cells. The ability to reverse the damage largely depends on where the injury occurred.

If damage occurs in an area where other brain cells can compensate, improvement in a person’s symptoms is likely. If damage occurs where cells are more specialized and have fewer redundancies, the repair can be difficult—if not impossible.

There are three ways that long-term meth use can damage the brain:

  • Causing acute neurotransmitter changes
  • Causing brain cell death
  • Rewiring the brain’s reward system

Heavy meth use is known to cause cell death in parts of the brain associated with self-control, including the frontal lobe, caudate nucleus, and hippocampus. Damage in these areas can manifest in a variety of psychiatric symptoms.

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Brain Damage From Meth Abuse

Long-term meth users may develop life-long problems with verbal skills and memory. They may even develop Parkinson’s disease, an incurable nervous disorder with symptoms of trembling hands and extreme muscle stiffness. Animal studies show as much as 50 percent of the dopamine-producing cells in the brain can be damaged after long-term exposure to relatively low levels of methamphetamine [4]. In other animal studies, a single high dose of the drug has been shown to damage nerve endings in the dopamine-containing regions of the brain. The nerve endings do not die but do not grow back to their original sizes.

Meth Head Teeth

Why do meth heads have bad teeth? Meth mouth is a term used to describe the visible effects of oral disease in an individual who uses meth because of the widespread tooth decay that often happens with the drug’s use. People who use meth may have stained, blackened, broken, or rotting teeth, both due to side effects of the drug itself and related lifestyle factors.

Meth head before and after image shows the teeth can eventually fall out of meth users’ mouths—even as they do simple things like eating a sandwich.

Meth head before and after image shows the teeth can eventually fall out of meth users’ mouths—even as they do simple things like eating a sandwich.

Recognizing A Meth Addiction

If an individual is regularly using meth, when they try to stop, they will experience severe withdrawal symptoms. This may be a clue to an addiction when the individual hasn’t been able to score any drugs or is attempting to detox alone. Although the withdrawal is not as threatening as other drugs, it is still uncomfortable. 

Symptoms of meth withdrawal will include exhaustion, cold sweats, anxiety, cravings, suicidal thoughts, and nausea. An individual attempting to detox from meth should experience withdrawal symptoms in a medical detox facility so that they are overlooked by a medical professional during the process. This enhances the comfort of the patient and ensures their safety.

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  1. Why Do Meth Heads Dig At Their Skin?

    If you are wondering, “do meth heads like to dig?”, the answer is that meth heads digging at the skin is typically a symptom of methamphetamine psychosis since the person is imagining something on their skin that isn’t actually there.

  2. Does Meth Affect Women Differently?

    According to recent studies, meth usage has a stronger negative effect on a meth head woman than a meth head man. According to a study by the RSNA, meth-using women had significantly less gray matter volume (GMV) in their brains.

  3. What Does A Meth Head Face Look Like?

    If you are wondering, “what does a meth head look like?”, the answer is that meth addicts may experience “meth mites,” or the sensation of bugs crawling under the skin, which may cause them to scratch themselves constantly, leading to meth head sores and meth head scabs.

  4. What Is The Typical Meth Head Meaning?

    The meaning of meth head is slang for an addict of methamphetamine (also known as “tweeker”.) Since methamphetamine misuse leads to irreparable brain and central nervous system damage, which results in a lack of impulse control, extreme paranoia, extreme lack of empathy, and extreme lack of cognitive ability, meth addiction is typically a hopeless condition without proper treatment.

  5. How Do Meth Heads Act?

    Meth users frequently have particular bodily meth head symptoms. If you’re wondering how to spot meth users, meth head behavior may include increased vigor or physical activity as well as decreased hunger.

  6. Why Do Meth Heads Lose Teeth?

    If you are wondering, “why do meth heads lose their teeth?”, the answer is that meth addiction has major oral side effects, including poor tooth health, which are referred to as “meth mouth.” A meth user’s oral health will rapidly deteriorate, starting with discoloration, followed by teeth that are rotting and decaying, severe gum disease, and eventually losing all of their teeth.

Find Treatment For Meth Addiction 

First and foremost, if you think a loved one is using meth, you should research the drug and addiction to understand better what your loved one needs. Next, you must plan an intervention to provide your loved one with options to battle their addiction in a supportive environment. During this intervention, offer support and compassion instead of judgment. Lastly, offer your support throughout the entire treatment process.

Clearing meth from the body and overcoming withdrawal symptoms is the goal of detox, which is the first step of treatment for meth addiction. Here at We Level Up NJ, a comprehensive team prescribing medications can alleviate your withdrawal pains while monitoring your health 24 hours during the detox. We prioritize your safety and comfort because this is a fragile and challenging time for you.

Once detox is complete, a new treatment doorway opens up, referred to as a residential level of care. Our residential care program slowly and effectively introduces the individual into an atmosphere of therapeutic growth, marked by master’s level therapists, clinicians, group counselors, psychiatrists, and a community of like-minded individuals with the same aim: to attain sobriety and live a great life.

Some of the many modalities applied and practiced within our residential treatment facility are:

Addictions counselor who will work with you one-on-one in private sessions for your stay. Contact We Level Up New Jersey today for methhead treatment resources.
Addictions counselor who will work with you one-on-one in private sessions for your stay. Contact We Level Up New Jersey today for methhead treatment resources.

Our treatment tailors the program to the individual and the individual to the program of recovery. We begin by assessing our client’s history of mental health, drugs, and alcohol-related past. The needs of each patient are specific and personalized because we aim to provide comprehensive support for mental health, addiction, and dual diagnosis treatment. Our supportive environment is designed accordingly to give patients 24-hour care for sobriety. Most importantly, we hope to have our patients live comfortably within the facility during this crucial and fragile time.

To say “meth head” is similar to stereotyping a group of people based on a characteristic. It, along with many other terms like “crack head” or “nerd,” is derogatory and can make one not come across in a manner to be taken seriously. One shouldn’t stereotype substance users just as one shouldn’t stereotype race, gender, age, etc.

We prioritize removing the stigma and temptations for relapse and applying an air of recovery into every component of the treatment timeline. At We Level Up NJ, we find that clients living in a supportive community, especially during their early recovery process, can truly focus on what matters most: their recovery. 

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Sources

[1] Karila L, Weinstein A, Aubin HJ, Benyamina A, Reynaud M, Batki SL. Pharmacological approaches to methamphetamine dependence: a focused review. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2010 Jun;69(6):578-92. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2125.2010.03639.x. PMID: 20565449; PMCID: PMC2883750.

[2] Galbraith N. The methamphetamine problem: Commentary on … Psychiatric morbidity and socio-occupational dysfunction in residents of a drug rehabilitation center. BJPsych Bull. 2015 Oct;39(5):218-20. doi: 10.1192/PB.bp.115.050930. PMID: 26755964; PMCID: PMC4706185.

[3] Patterns and Characteristics of Methamphetamine Use Among Adults — United States, 2015–2018 – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

[4] MethamphetamineU.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Institutes of Health

[5] Yasaei R, Saadabadi A. Methamphetamine. [Updated 2022 May 8]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK535356/

[6] Richards JR, Laurin EG. Methamphetamine Toxicity. [Updated 2022 Oct 10]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430895/

[7] Methamphetamine DrugFacts – National Institute on Drug Abuse

[8] Methamphetamine – DEA.gov

[9] Drug Fact Sheet: Methamphetamine – DEA.gov

[10] Know the Risks of Meth – SAMHSA