How much do you know about meth? Could you recognize the signs and symptoms of someone on meth? What is tweaking and how does it relate to a meth “high”? Should you confront someone when they are tweaking?
Although this quiz sheet is no substitute for professional training in the field, it may give you some fundamental principles about meth to raise your awareness and help you make good decisions moving forward.
1. What is tweaking?
a. A suggestive dance move, the ‘bootie shake.’
b. A slang term for fine-tuning (tweak a device, a machine, a schedule, etc.)
c. A slang term for the signs and symptoms of taking meth.
d. A slang term for the signs and symptoms of coming down from a multi-day meth binge.
Kudos if you answered “b,” “c,” or “d” to the question above. Tweaking means all of these things, depending on the context in which it is used.
If you answered “a” to this question, take a moment to google “twerking.” Twerking is the bootie-shaking dance move; tweaking is a meth response.
In the Oxford Languages Dictionary, the only formal definition of tweaking is “a sharp twist or pull,” as in, “an affectionate tweak” or “I’ll tweak your ear.” However, unless you’ve been reading Dickens lately, you’re much more likely to have heard one of the other definitions.
“He prides himself on firmness, tweaks ears to make his point, and bursts from his chair like Murdstone’s dog.”
-excerpt from David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
Here’s a more contemporary description of tweaking, from Nic Sheff’s 2012 book, “Tweak: Growing up on Crystal Meth”:
“It was like being in a car with the gas pedal slammed down to the floor and nothing to do but hold on and pretend to have some semblance of control. But control was something I’d lost a long time ago.”
Nic Sheff (2012). “Tweak: Growing up on Crystal Meth”, p.17, Simon and Schuster
2. What are the most common signs of tweaking?
a. Dramatic mood swings
b. Changes in eating patterns
c. Tics or repetitive behaviors
d. Irregular sleeping patterns
The correct answer: all of the above. Although symptoms of meth use may be masked by other substances and vary as the amount of meth in the system changes, there are some common signs and symptoms.
● Dramatic mood swings: Shifting suddenly from euphoria to extreme irritability, giddiness to paranoia, is a common sign of tweaking. After the high, a person may enter a more prolonged depressed phase.
● Changes in eating patterns: These changes usually manifest as appetite loss, weight loss, and trouble ‘holding down’ any food. A minority of users, however, gain weight, as they binge-eat after tweaking.
● Tics or repetitive behaviors: Many users seek comfort in repetitive or organizational behaviors during a tweaking episode. They might organize cupboards, take apart a computer, or line things up. Alternatively, repetitive actions (tics) may emerge, such as scratching, bouncing legs, pacing, or excessive masturbation.
● Irregular Sleeping Patterns: Insomnia, or the inability to sleep, is the most common change to sleeping patterns during tweaking. After the drugs wear off, however, a person may sleep longer than usual or during daytime hours.
● Hallucinations: Whether hallucinations are related to the meth or to excessive sleep disturbance, hallucinations make a user unpredictable and possibly dangerous to themselves and others. Jerky eye movements and body shakes may accompany hallucinations. Hallucinations and other signs of psychosis are signs and symptoms of coming off an extended meth binge.
3. What is the difference between tweaking and a meth high?
b. Tweaking lasts longer than a high
c. Tweaking comes after a high
Tweaking is a slang term, not a medical one. Some people use tweaking to describe any meth experience. Other people reserve the term ‘tweaking’ to refer to a post-binge experience.
After prolonged meth use or a multi-day binge, a meth user may no longer be able to experience a high and may enter a unique phase of psychosis, hallucinations, shakes, mental fog, loss of sensation, and extreme craving. This stage of the meth response can be marked by extremely unpredictable and erratic behavior.
Some people refer to this unique let-down phase as tweaking. Other people refer to any meth response – including the initial “high”- as tweaking. Tweaking is a non-precise, non-medical, slang term used to refer to the meth response
4. Does tweaking cause brain damage?
c. Not the first time, but eventually it will
Tweaking doesn’t cause brain damage, but meth does. Ethical considerations make a study about first-time meth use unlikely, but scientists have studied the long-term effects of both meth use and meth recovery. The bad news is that some cognitive functions, including memory, may be permanently affected by meth. The good news is that a human brain can rebuild many of the hormonal pathways and signals which have become altered by meth.
Even after experiencing long-time meth use, a meth user can change and become a healthy, contributing, functional adult. Recovery is possible.
5. Should I confront someone who is tweaking?
a. Yes, tweaking is a vulnerable stage in which a meth user may finally realize that they need to change.
b. No, tweaking is a vulnerable stage in which a meth user does not have the capability to make decisions, recognize problematic behavior, or produce genuine compassion.
The correct answer is – you guessed it – “b.” Confronting someone who is tweaking is unproductive and potentially dangerous. Avoid any combative behavior or gestures. Use a calm tone of voice. In a threatening situation, the best thing you can do is cautiously remove yourself from the situation and call local authorities.
6. Does everyone who uses meth show signs of tweaking?
Anyone who takes meth will have a physiological response. The outward manifestation of that body response, however, may look different for different people. For example, some people may become talkative and other people may become sullen and withdrawn. In either case, the affected person has an altered mental state. The correct answer is “a.”
One meth hit lasts approximately 6-12 hours. Many users binge on meth for several days, and then enter the post-binge phase which can last for another several days or longer.
7. What is “punding,” and what does it have to do with tweaking?
a. Punding is one sign of tweaking
b. Punding is the medical term for tweaking
c. Punding is “tweaking” in British English
Punding is a quasi-medical term which refers to a person’s unnatural fascination with repetitive, complex, nongoal-oriented behavior. Punding has been described in Parkinson’s disease patients, meth and cocaine users, and in patients with other other dopamine dysfunctions such as gambling or sex addictions. An example of punding is a patient who feverishly disassembles and reassembles a clock or who doggedly lines up every item in a catch-all drawer.
The correct answer is “a.” Punding is one sign and symptom of tweaking.
If your life is affected by meth, seeking the help and support you need can make all the difference. Although you may be in a situation you never anticipated and for which you feel under-prepared, you are not the first person to walk this road. Turning to experienced and professional support will allow you to make informed choices and avoid common pitfalls, whether as user or support person. Now is the time to make a change for a better future. Contact our Christian-based rehabilitation center near Salt Lake City for help getting started.