Over 1.6 million people used illicit meth in 2017. Many states in the southwestern United States say that meth is their law enforcement’s number-one drug concern.

But would you recognize meth if you saw it on the street?

Methamphetamine is a stimulant drug that’s found on the streets or as the prescription drug, Desoxyn. It causes effects like hyperactivity, talkativeness and a rush of euphoria.

You may have seen TV portrayals of Breaking Bad’s blue sky, the super-pure, ocean-blue meth that the show’s Walt and Jesse manufactured en masse. The truth is, most meth doesn’t look like glowing blue Pop Rocks.

Here’s how to recognize meth by its appearance, smell, and taste:

What Does Meth Look Like?

Meth comes in a few forms, so it may look different depending on the type. Not all meth looks like crystals, and sometimes it even appears in pill form.

The main forms of meth look like this:

  • Crystal meth: This processed form of meth looks like crystalline rocks. The size of each granule can range from sand-sized to rock-sized, but it’s often somewhere in between. The color is usually white- to off-white.
  • Powdered meth: You can find meth as a fine powder that’s white to light brown in color. It usually has a slightly crumbly texture. It may be as fine as sugar crystals.
  • Pressed tablets: Some manufacturers mix powdered meth with other additives and press it into tablets. They may look similar to molly tablets, and they’re often blue or brightly-colored.
  • Prescription pills: Desoxyn pills look like white round tablets with the letters OV stamped on one side, and the number 12 stamped on the other side. They only come in one dosage (5 mg) and one bottle size (100).

What Does Meth Smell Like?

The smell of meth itself isn’t too potent. It may smell weakly like ammonia, but it’s usually not too strong on its own.

However, the chemicals that are used to make meth can have a strong scent. Also, additives mixed with meth have their own fragrance.

Some people describe the smell of meth as urine-like, chemical-like, or smelling like burning plastic.

What Does Meth Taste Like?

Users describe meth as having a bitter taste. Like its smell, the taste may have notes of:

  • Ammonia
  • Burned plastic
  • Chemicals

Most of that flavor originates with the solvents that are used to make meth. Making meth involves toxic materials such as benzene, brake cleaner, lithium, cat litter, and lye. Any item that’s used as a meth solvent can leave a bitter taste behind.

Some people don’t use meth by mouth because the taste is hard to tolerate. Smoking meth can expose you to its bitter flavor, too.

Is Powdered Meth Different From Crystal Meth?

Powdered meth and crystal meth are the two main forms of this drug. They both have the same effects on the central nervous system, including:

  • Agitation
  • Compulsive behavior
  • Euphoria
  • Mood changes
  • Need for stimulation
  • Increased sex drive
  • Increased energy

Even though powdered and crystal meth have the same effects, they’re still very different.

You may know powdered meth as speed, or crystal meth as ice.

Speed is the same type of meth that you find in pressed pills. It looks like yellow, brown, or white powder. People use it by snorting, injecting, or swallowing it. Typically, speed is up to 20% pure meth.

Ice is the purest form of meth, which means it’s also the strongest. People smoke it or inject it. It looks like white or yellow crystals, which can vary in size from sand like grains to larger granules. Ice is up to 80% pure.

Because ice is so strong, it comes with strong effects. Both types of meth stimulate your nervous system, but ice is more likely to cause negative side effects or even an overdose.

Speed may be less strong than ice, but the problem with 20% pure meth is the other 80%. It’s common for speed to contain additives that look or feel similar to meth, like cornstarch, caffeine, or research chemicals.

Find Treatment for Meth Addiction

If meth is causing problems in your home, it could be time to seek treatment for meth addiction. Search our rehab directory to find meth treatment near you.

Meth addiction is treatable with the help of evidence-based solutions like:

  • Behavioral treatment, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, counseling, and group therapy
  • Medical detox to get you through the most vulnerable part of recovery safely
  • Outpatient programs to continue your recovery beyond your inpatient stay

Reach out to a rehab near you today! Meth addiction can be a closed chapter in your book tomorrow. 


  1. Methamphetamine: Myths, Effects, Risks, and How to Get Help
  2. How to Recognize a Meth Lab
  3. Methamphetamine (Meth): Risks, Signs & What Parents Should Know
  4. Methamphetamine DrugFacts | National Institute on Drug Abuse

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