What You Need to Know About Methamphetamines
Methamphetamine is a powerful stimulant that can deeply affect the lives of anyone abusing it. If you, or a friend or family member, need help quitting methamphetamine, there are some facts and information you should know that can assist you on the path of recovery.
A Few Facts:
- Meth is a worldwide issue. In fact, as many as half of people that seek drug treatment in the Czech Republic, Sweden, Finland, Slovakia, and Latvia seek it for addiction to methamphetamine.
- Meth is predominately abused by youth. 78% of meth users are younger than 30, and the largest single demographic is individuals between 18-23 years old.
- Meth releases 12 times the amount of dopamine than is released during sex, but once the short high wears off, people can become depressed and even suicidal.
- In 2011, methamphetamine accounted for about 103,000 ED visits.
- The intense high from meth never lasts more than 20 minutes, no matter how you take the drug.
- The household chemicals that are used in order to produce meth include toxic substances such as drain cleaner, brake fluid, lighter fluid, ephedrine, and lye.
What is Methamphetamine?
Meth is one of the most illicit drugs in the country. Created in the 1800’s, it is an intense stimulant that induces euphoric effects for short periods of time, and then a muddled “high” for hours.
Many users of methamphetamines erroneously believe that it is a “safe” alternative to other stimulants such as cocaine, but it is far more dangerous. Young people are particularly susceptible to the drug, with the vast majority of users (78%) presenting younger than 30 years old. This is mostly due to the fact that it can keep you awake for long periods of time.
Physically, meth appears as small shards of crystal, and when broken down, it forms a white powder that is odorless and slightly bitter to the taste. Methamphetamine goes by many names on the street:
The speed by which the rush is felt and fades, increases the drug’s potential for addiction, as well as the negative effect on the addict’s health. Use of methamphetamines results in the release of extremely high levels of dopamin— the neurotransmitter involved in the feeling of pleasure.
According to recent brain-imaging studies by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), dopamine system activity in chronic users is altered in such a way as to seriously compromise their verbal learning and motor skills. When the “positive” effect of the drug wears off, the abuser will often suffer an immediate “crash” – anxiety and depression – until further use
Much like cocaine and other stimulants, meth can be consumed in a variety of ways:
- Insufflation – Also known as “snorting,” this is the most common method of ingestion and usually involves cutting the drug into a “line” and snorting it with a straw or rolled up bill.
- Injection – A more dangerous form of intake, meth can be mixed with distilled or bottled water, and injected anywhere on the body. This type of use causes an instant effect that only lasts a few minutes.
- Inhalation – Also known as “smoking,” this type of consumption creates an instant and intense high that fades fast. This is usually done with a glass pipe or in a method known as “freebasing,” with tinfoil and a straw.
- Ingestion: Surprisingly, this is a more popular form of intake than people realize. Swallowing meth creates the longest high, but has the least intense effects.
As with other stimulants, a methamphetamine abuser will feel more energetic, confident, sexually aroused, powerful, and restless. The person may want to take on several tasks at once, but will often be unable to concentrate long enough to complete a single one.
During this plateau, the abuser will often become aggressive, talkative, and act with an aire of superiority. It is common for people to binge on methamphetamine, using again and again to maintain the high as long as possible. A binge can go on anywhere from a few days to over two weeks, during which the abuser will rarely eat and possibly never sleep.
Methamphetamine abusers binging like this are said to be “tweaking”. Tweakers can be dangerously paranoid, irritable, and may be unpredictably violent. These negative behaviors are magnified if the individual also is using alcohol. The lack of sleep and proper nutrition, combined with the drug’s effects on the body, causes the user to eventually crash. At this point, people have been known to sleep up to 3 days.
The Role Methamphetamine Plays in Society
Meth was originally developed for war in Japan. The soldiers would use it to stay awake in between battles. Although it plays a very small role medicinally (in rare cases it can be used to treat ADHD and obesity) it is a highly dangerous drug that is toxic to every society in the world.
Generally speaking, meth is a drug that targets certain people and age groups. The youth are particularly at risk to it, but the gay community has also seen a huge spike in users. Meth has created a gay sub-culture known as “party and play,” and this is where the drug has gotten the street name “tina.” There are is also a direct correlation between AIDS and meth in the gay community as well. This is due largely due to the effects the drug has on sexual stimulation.
Methamphetamine in the United States
Much like most illicit drugs in the world, meth presents itself as a major problem for Americans. Since it affects the youth at such a high rate, a large percent of Americans have already tried the drug before they hit 30. The following are some haunting facts about meth in America:
- More than 13 million people over the age of 12 have tried meth in the U.S.
- In 2010, the US had less than 3000 meth labs, but by 2011, it had more than 11,000.
- Over 60% of all meth seizures in the world occurred in Mexico or the United States.
- The 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reports approximately 1.2 million people used meth in the past year, and 440,000 reported using it in the past month.
- Nearly 5% of all 12th graders across America have tried meth at least once over the course of their lives.
Meth in California
Methamphetamine is a prevalent drug in California as well, and is considered to be a major concern to law enforcement. In fact, California has one of the biggest issues with meth in the country. The following are some facts you should know about meth abuse in California:
- Almost 19% of all treatment admissions in the Los Angeles County area in 2013 were for meth (up from less than 17% in 2012).
- In 2013, nearly 1/3 of all drug reports were identified as methamphetamines in Los Angeles County. That number jumped to almost 38% in the San Francisco area.
- In 2011, The Drug Abuse Warning Network reported that emergency room visits involving methamphetamines were at a rate of 139.5 per 100,000 people in San Francisco. At that time, the US rate was only 33 per 100,000, approximately a fourth of San Francisco.
- San Diego has been called the “Meth Capital of America.”
- 85% of all methamphetamine production happens in super-labs found in Mexico and California.
Symptoms of Methamphetamine Abuse
Like any and every drug in the world, the symptoms of abuse generally present themselves through behavior first, with the end result of use causing physical damage.
In chronic cases of meth abuse, the physical and long term effects can lead to a stroke, heart attack, and even death.
When someone is abusing meth, it always presents itself in a person’s behavior first. The following are some behaviors that may indicate meth abuse:
- Excessive talking / Chattiness
- Aggression to the point of violence
- Reckless and risky behavior
- Lack of judgment
- Fidgety / Restlessness
- Bizarre behavior
- Compulsive skin-picking (dermatillomania)
- Repetitive and obsessive behaviors.
- Psychomotor agitation (related to body movements associated with mental activity)
Mental / Emotional
Once an individual begins to lose control, meth will begin to affect their mental and emotional states. This can be seen with symptoms like:
- Intense euphoria or elation
- Increased concentration
- Loss of contact with reality
- Air of superiority
- Wild mood swings
- Psychosomatic disorders – body symptom/ailment caused by a mental disturbance
With chronic use, all drugs eventually take a physical toll on the body. The following are both short term and long term physical effects that meth can have on an individual:
- Dilated pupils
- Itchy and/or dry skin
- Dry mouth
- Pale skin
- Abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia)
- Rapid heartbeat (tachycardia)
- Unusually slow heartbeat (bradycardia)
- Heart palpitations
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Constipation or Diarrhea
- Blurred vision
- Low blood pressure (hypotension)
- Twitching and tremors
- Rapid breathing (tachypnea)
- Elevated body temperature (hyperthermia)
- Profuse sweating (diaphoresis)