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How to Identify Meth by Look, Taste, and Smell

Medically Verified: 2/1/24

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All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Methamphetamine is an extremely potent stimulant drug that causes people to become addicted after only one or two uses. Chemically, this drug is similar to amphetamine, which is a medication that is used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy. While methamphetamine may be prescribed for the same conditions, it is rarely used medicinally due to its potential for addiction and the dangerous effects it can cause.[1]

People may smoke, swallow, snort, or inject meth to experience a rush of energy and euphoria. It is important to note that methamphetamine is a drug that is often adulterated, meaning other substances are added to the drug. This may change the way that meth looks, smells, or tastes.

When someone suspects that a person they love is using meth, knowing how to identify meth can help them provide their loved one with the addiction support they need.

What Does Meth Look Like?

Methamphetamine comes in a variety of forms, each having its own unique appearance. Most of the time, people purchase meth that looks like pieces of broken glass that may be clear, white, gray, or bluish-white in color. Some of the street names for meth are “shard”, “crystal”, or “glass” due to the way the drug looks.

Meth also comes in three other forms: powder, tablets, or pills. Let’s take a look at how to identify each type:

  • Powdered meth- Powdered meth tends to look like fine crystals of sugar. It may appear to be white or light brown. Sometimes, there are larger rocks of meth mixed in with the powder.
  • Tablets- Some drug dealers may sell powdered or crystalline meth inside capsules. Oftentimes, this form of meth is mixed with other drugs. These capsules often look very similar to MDMA, causing many people to accidentally buy meth. The capsules may come in all shapes, sizes, and colors.
  • Pills- Methamphetamine may be obtained legally with a prescription in rare cases. In these circumstances, people receive a pill known as Desoxyn. This pill is white and round, with the letters “OV” stamped on one side and the number “12” on the other.

How Does Meth Taste?

Typically, people describe meth as having a bitter taste. It may have hints of sweetness alongside the taste of bitter chemicals. Meth may also taste like rotten eggs, ammonia, burning plastic, or other inorganic chemicals depending on how it was made.

Meth is known to taste very bad, which is why many people smoke, snort, or inject the drug instead of swallowing it. When someone smokes meth, they may experience a bitter chemical taste in their mouth for the minutes after.

In some cases, methamphetamine may be flavored. Drug dealers do this to make meth seem more appetizing to new users. Oftentimes, the color of the meth reflects the taste. For example, someone may dye their meth pink and make it taste strawberry-flavored.

What Does Meth Smell Like?

While pure methamphetamine doesn’t have much of a smell, the meth people buy on the street is seldom pure. Meth is manufactured using a large range of chemicals, including:

  • Ammonia
  • Ether
  • Acetone
  • Lithium
  • Battery acid
  • Red phosphorus
  • Paint thinner
  • Cleaning products like Drano

A lot of the previously mentioned substances have a very strong scent. For example, ammonia is often described as smelling like cat urine. Because of this, some people report that when they smoke meth it smells like cat pee.

Other ways that meth might smell include a metallic chemical smell, rotten eggs, burning plastic, or sulfur. It is important to note that people should never attempt to smell a substance to identify it as meth, as someone could accidentally become exposed to the substance. The only way to safely identify meth by smell is if someone were to notice it in a room already.

How Does Meth Feel?

Like many addictive substances, meth can produce a pleasurable high. Some of the feelings associated with meth use are euphoria, high levels of energy, and inflated confidence. However, meth addiction is also known to cause an array of adverse effects.

While some people experience euphoria, others feel emotionally blunted. This means that they do not feel any emotions at all. Someone may abuse meth to purposefully numb their emotions, leading to addiction.

Other effects of meth may include:

  • Increased attention
  • Decreased fatigue
  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased activity and energy
  • Loss of sleep
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Paranoia or extreme anger
  • Hallucinations and delusions
  • Erratic behavior
  • Skin picking, leading to sores and scarring
  • Rapid breathing
  • Excessive sweating
  • Increased talkativeness
  • Nonsensical speaking
  • Weird body movements or tremors

Methamphetamine use can lead to psychosis, a mental condition that is characterized by a disconnection from reality. People may experience symptoms of delusions, hallucinations, incoherent speaking, and agitation or hostility.[2]

Finding Help for Methamphetamine Abuse and Addiction

If you or a loved one abuses methamphetamine, you are at extreme risk of developing an addiction to the drug. This substance can lead to an array of health complications, including severe malnutrition, loss of sleep, and tooth decay. However, there is help available.

South Carolina Addiction Treatment and its affiliates exist to give individuals and their loved ones quality care to recover from substance abuse through education, counseling, and compassion by our experienced and trained professionals. Contact us today for more information on our meth addiction treatment center in South Carolina.