A dead giveaway that someone has been smoking meth: A calloused thumb-tip

I shouldn’t still smoke cigarettes, but I do. Buying a new lighter reminded me of this, since I hadn’t found one of these for some time. Old habits die hard and I still prefer them.

If you suspect that someone is smoking meth, but don’t know for sure, there is one easily noticeable dead giveaway: Look no further than the tip of their thumb.


Above is the preferred type of lighter for someone who smokes meth.

When smoking meth, one must maintain a steady flame a centimetre or two from the glass meth pipe (called a lolly here) so that the meth can remain in a liquid state, as one inhales the vapour. Clipper lighters are preferred because they can be refilled when they run out of lighter fuel, and the flints can be replaced.

But when anyone holds the button down to keep the lighter burning for a long time, it heats up. The metal wheel that strikes the flint is right in front of the thumb-tip, and the result of doing this frequently for long periods, is a painful and obvious callous on the thumb-tip. Tweakers can’t escape this, because the lighter gets so hot, even holding the thumb away from the metal doesn’t prevent their thumbs burning – and in any case, they have to touch the wheel when striking the lighter, because that’s how these lighters light. Under normal circumstances, as in when not smoking meth, nobody would ever hold the button down for so long. (And tweakers who hold that button down for too long, destroy their lighters… The metal wheel continues to heat up until it expands and the whole top part of the lighter bursts apart. It’s not unusual for the wheel and flint casing to explode, leaving the tweaker with a lighter than cannot strike, and then he or she will sit with two lighters – one that can’t strike but contains lighter gas, and an empty one that can strike but not burn, which is used to light the other lighter. It makes for a comedy of errors while tweaking.)

So if you already suspect that somebody is smoking meth, or if they used in the past but deny using currently, just look at their thumb. If the callous is there, then you know they are using.


About Jerome

I am a senior C# developer in Johannesburg, South Africa. I am also a recovering addict, who spent nearly eight years using methamphetamine. I write on my recovery blog about my lessons learned and sometimes give advice to others who have made similar mistakes, often from my viewpoint as an atheist, and I also write some C# programming articles on my programming blog.
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