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Meth Identification

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How many people do you know? According to a professor at the University of Washington, the average person “knows” about 600 people. If this statistic is true, then you likely know almost 60 people who have a substance use disorder right now. 

Nearly 1 in 10 residents of California have a substance use disorder. At Pacific Sands, we offer a comprehensive, solution-focused approach to recovery. One way we tackle this is through educational blogs to help our community learn more about substance use and how to react to it. Today we’re going to look specifically at meth identification, when you might need to know how to spot it, and what to do if you find it.

When Might You Need to Be Able to Identify Meth?

While encountering methamphetamines, commonly referred to as meth, unintentionally is not going to be common that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. The most common scenario where you might encounter an unknown substance and feel compelled to identify it would be if you found it in the possession of a loved one.

If you find an unknown substance while you’re out in a public place, don’t touch it. Just make sure you report it to the proper authorities. 

how can you safely identify meth

How Can You Safely Identify Meth?

So you’ve encountered an unlabelled pill bottle. Maybe it’s a ziploc bag full of a white, powder-like substance. There are no obvious markings on anything.

In some cases, you might find these things left out by accident. Other times you might find it tucked away while looking for something else. The container might be on its own or it might be surrounded by other drug paraphernalia. Either way, you want to figure out what it is – so what are your next steps?

What Does Meth Look Like?

There are two primary forms of meth – regular methamphetamines and crystal meth. They both have their own appearance. Crystal meth comes in a semi-opaque, rock-like form. 

Other forms of meth, on the other hand, most commonly come in pill or powder form. These pills can come in a variety of shapes and sizes but are most often white in color. Powdered meth’s color ranges from white to off-white with some forms rarely appearing to be light pink or light yellow. It can be easy to confuse meth with baking soda or cocaine due to their visual similarities. 

What Does Meth Smell Like?

We must stress the un-sade nature of utilizing smell to determine if a substance is or isn’t meth. Inhalation, even just to smell something, can cause particles of the substance to enter your system. Inhaling an unknown substance can be dangerous, as you don’t know what’s in it.

Methamphetamines are usually produced in labs, commonly referred to as “meth labs.” This is due to the chemical process used to make meth. Because of this, the smell of meth can range from ammonia and window cleaner to sulfur and disinfectant. 

What Does Meth Taste Like?

Oral ingestion is another common way to consume meth, so tasting an unknown powder or pill is ill-advised. 

Those who take meth orally describe the taste as bitter. In some rare cases, methamphetamines might be flavored for oral consumption. The flavors can vary, but this is very uncommon overall. 

Using Context Clues to Properly Identify Meth

If taste and smell are not safe ways to identify meth, and meth visually can look like many other things, what other means can you use to identify meth? 

Common Street Names for Meth

One of the context clues you can use to identify meth is to listen for certain terms and nicknames, referred to commonly as “street names.” These slang terms for meth are used as a way to disguise what a person is talking about to those who aren’t in the know while cluing in people who are. 

Street names can come in both word form and emoji form. Let’s take a look at some of the most commonly used street names and symbols for meth.

  • Biker’s Coffee
  • Chalk
  • Crank
  • Crystal
  • Glass
  • Ice
  • Poor Man’s Cocaine
  • Shards
  • Speed
  • Stove Top
  • Tweak
  • Uppers
  • 🔮 
  • 💎
  • 🧪

Please note that this list might not include every possible word or emoji, as street names can change and shift over time, or even vary by location. 

Spotting the Signs of a Meth Use Disorder

Another way you can identify meth is by looking for the signs of a meth use disorder in your loved one. These side effects can range from the short-term effects experienced during and shortly after a meth high, to the side effects that come from a longer history of meth consumption.

Methamphetamine’s effects normally start 30 minutes after consumption, but they last for many hours after. The half-life of meth is 12 hours, meaning it takes 12 hours for half of the dosage of meth in your body to leave. During this time people will experience side effects such as bursts of energy, euphoria, increased heart rate, increased respiration, decreased appetite, and hyperthermia (the raising of body temperature). 

With long-term consumption comes changes to the body and mind. There are several different symptoms you can look out for in this instance.

  • Meth mouth – The condition known as meth mouth is a combination of dental problems that arise from long-term meth consumption. These stem both from the presence of meth inside of your mouth as well as the decline in self-care that often occurs alongside a substance use disorder. Meth mouth includes symptoms such as dry mouth, cracked teeth, gum disease, and tooth decay.
  • Meth mites – The term “meth mites” refers to a frequent hallucination experienced by people who have a meth use disorder. They hallucinate that bugs or other entities are crawling under their skin, most often their arms. This will lead to scratching and picking, resulting in scabs and marks along their skin. 
  • Mental health changes – As mentioned within meth mites, hallucinations are often a result of regular consumption of meth. Alongside this comes other side effects of aggression, paranoia, mood changes, and memory loss.
  • Physical changes – With the frequent dental problems associated with a meth use disorder, many people with a long history of meth consumption also have a decreased appetite. This leads to weight loss that is often noticeable to those around them.

What to Do if Your Loved One Is in Possession of Meth

If reading this article confirms some of your suspicions, let’s talk about what your next steps are.

When finding out this information, many people want to “confront” their loved one. This is not the best step to take if you want to get positive results. People who are dealing with a substance use disorder often are aware of how others might view them for it, which is why they hide it. If you approach them with anger or judgment, they’re far less likely to listen and open up to you.

Take some time to process the information you’ve learned and learn more about why substance use disorders happen and what the recovery process looks like. When you do approach your loved one about it, remind them that you care and want to see them healthy and happy.

Ask your loved one how they feel about their meth consumption. Learn why they seek it out and if they picture it when they think about planning their future. Many people seek out substances for a specific reason, or don’t picture it as part of their long-term plan but simply aren’t sure how to get out of it.

This is a great place to start. Offer your help with the process. Discuss what options they’re interested in and help them research their choices. Support can be as little as being an ear for them to talk to, to helping them with their treatment lessons.

what does meth smell like

What Are the Treatment Options for Meth Use Disorder in California?

Now that recovery is on the table, let’s talk about how to find a quality recovery center with a meth treatment program that will work for you. You deserve to have a place that works with you on an individual level instead of just being another face in a crowd of dozens of people. Having options for ongoing support that suits your needs should be key.

If this sounds like something you’re interested in, Pacific Sands is here for you. We’re an intimate, high-end facility that has a dedicated team of compassionate professionals. We’re experts in recovery and want to work with you to find a plan that suits your life and goals. There’s no wrong time to get started, so give us a call today at 949-426-7962.

Pacific Sands – The first step towards a new life.


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