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Dissecting the Delusion

Can something as unreal as a hallucination cause real physical damage to a person’s body?

View the skin cross-section

Scars, scabs, and weeping sores are common with Meth users as they pick at their arms, chest, or face. But what are they digging for?

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Meth use can lead to tactile hallucinations—feeling things that aren't really there. Users imagine they feel sensations on or under their skin.

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Combined with the delusions that Meth causes, users are certain that there are insects crawling under their skin. This hallucination is called "formication," which is Latin for "creep like an ant."

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Scabs and Scars

Meth users are often left with serious scars after trying to dig out imaginary insects known as “crank bugs.”

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In your opinion, which one of these common Meth delusions or hallucinations is the most disturbing?

  • 0%
    1692
    Feeling like there are bugs crawling under your skin
  • 0%
    951
    Believing you see "shadow people" who aren't really there
  • 0%
    1057
    Feeling like you're under constant surveillance or being watched
  • 0%
    6875
    Thinking that your friends and family are plotting against you
  • 0%
    6875
    Hearing voices and other phantom sounds

For some Meth users, flashbacks, recurring delusions and paranoia will continue even after abstaining from methamphetamine for a year or more. As many as two-thirds of Meth users will experience some form of psychosis, which can begin within the first few months of use.

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Terms

  • Common nickname for the imaginary insects that methamphetamine users sometimes think are crawling under their skin. Also called “Meth mites,” users obsessively pick at their skin trying to dig them out, leaving open sores and scars. Chauncey's Story

  • An idea or thought that a person believes in completely, even if there is no evidence to support it or it has been proven false. Methamphetamine distorts a user’s ability to tell what is real and what is not. "They're Out There"

  • Medical term for the often-cited tactile hallucination that makes Meth users think there are insects crawling under their skin. Formication may cause itchiness, tingling, pins and needles, burning, or even pain.

  • Doing the same thing over and over again for hours. Common tweaking behaviors exhibited by Meth users include repetitively picking at one’s face or arms, obsessive cleaning, or taking things apart for no apparent reason. "Looks Horrible"

© Meth Project Foundation, Inc., 2013. All rights reserved.