Roughly 11.7 million Americans ages 12 and older tried methamphetamine at least once during their lifetimes – 2004 National Survey on Drug Use and Health
Methamphetamine has become the most commonly abuse substance after alcohol and marijuana in most Western and Midwestern states, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. Despite its adverse short and long-term effects, this stimulant drug is abused for its powerful euphoric response and its potential for weight loss and increased libido. Its highly addictive qualities make it particularly dangerous and increases probability of negative, long-term and potentially permanent side effects including teeth that rot from the inside out (meth mouth), impaired brain function, psychosis and even death.
Meth is easily made with common ingredients and readily available household equipment, making it widely and inexpensively available.
What is Meth?
Methamphetamine is a central nervous system stimulant that has highly addictive and destructive properties making it one of the more dangerous drugs of abuse. It can be taken orally, injected, snorted, or smoked and has different effects depending on the method of use. In 1971 methamphetamine was placed into Schedule II of the Controlled Substance Act (CSA) and injectable formulations were removed from the United States market. Although this and other efforts reduced the rate of abuse for this drug during that time period, it has since become one of the most commonly abused drugs in the United States (DEA). Although methamphetamine can still occasionally be obtained through a prescription, it only has limited medical uses in treating narcolepsy, attention deficit disorders and obesity.
What Meth Looks Like
Methamphetamine may come in the form of a crystal-like powder or rock-like chunks that may brake into shards that look like glass (hence one of the street names, glass). Depending on the purity of the meth, it may be white, yellow, pink or brown. (Photos)
Bikers Coffee, Black Beauties, Chalk, Chicken Feed, Crank, Croak, Crypto, Crystal, Crystal Meth, Fire, Glass, Go-Fast, Ice, Meth, Poor Man’s Cocaine, Speed, Stove Top, Trash, Tweek, Uppers, White Cross and Yellow Bam.
Where Meth is Made
The majority of the illegal meth supply in our country comes from large laboratories in Mexico and Southern California, and the remainder is produced in small labs often found in neighborhoods. It’s these smaller labs that cause a lot of chemical endangerment worries for anyone in the area, but mostly for children living in the vicinity. This is due to highly toxic materials that are used to make the drug. Some of these may include household ingredients such as over-the-counter cold medications containing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, red phosphorous, hydrochloric acid, anhydrous ammonia, drain cleaner, battery acid, lye, lantern fuel and antifreeze.
Some of the short term effects of taking meth, besides the euphoric “rush” or “flash” associated with highs of meth abuse, are increased wakefulness and insomnia, decreased appetite, irritability and aggression, anxiety, nervousness, convulsions, hyperthermia, rapid or irregular heartbeat, and increased blood pressure.
The highly addictive nature of Meth may lead users to neglect things such as hygiene, sleep and food for days at a time. This may continue until the user runs out of the drug or is no longer functional enough to continue obtaining it. Long term use may result in extreme weight loss, paranoia, visual and auditory hallucinations and delusions, repetitive behavior (such as compulsively cleaning or disassembling and assembling objects) or even full-blown toxic psychosis. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, these psychotic symptoms can last long after abuse of the drug has stopped, maybe even years after, and in some cases stress can cause the symptoms to resurface later on.
Long-term, intense use of methamphetamine has also been proven to cause significant and sometimes permanent changes to the brain:
Specifically, brain imaging studies have demonstrated alterations in the activity of the dopamine system that are associated with reduced motor speed and impaired verbal learning. Recent studies in chronic methamphetamine abusers have also revealed severe structural and functional changes in areas of the brain associated with emotion and memory, which may account for many of the emotional and cognitive problems observed in chronic methamphetamine abusers. Fortunately, some of the effects of chronic methamphetamine abuse appear to be, at least partially, reversible. (Drug Enforcement Administration)
There are many other physically harmful effects of meth abuse such as contracting diseases, tooth decay and skin problems:
Contracting HIV and other diseases is a big concern with all drug use. There’s a risk of contracting HIV and hepatitis B and C through methamphetamine abuse in general, but those who inject the drug into their system with needles are at a much higher risk.
Meth Mouth refers to the condition of badly rotted and broken teeth caused by side effects of methamphetamine use. Poor hygiene, dry mouth from chemicals in meth, clenching and grinding of teeth associated with meth use and overall physical neglect result in rotten teeth. Teeth may even be lost consuming ordinary food such as fruit or a sandwich.
Meth Mites or Crank Bugs refer to hallucinations and delusions that parasites or bugs are crawling on top of or under the skin of the meth user. This causes impulsive scratching and picking at the skin resulting in open sores that can get infected.
Treatment options do exist for those struggling with Meth addiction. Research done by the National Institute on Drug Abuse has revealed that the most effective treatments for meth addition are comprehensive cognitive-behavioral interventions. NIDA uses the Matrix Model as an example, which is a behavioral treatment approach that combines behavioral therapy, family education, individual counseling, 12-step support, drug testing, and encouragement for non–drug-related activities. Another effective treatment method is contingency management interventions which utilize incentives for participating in treatment for the addiction and staying off the drug. There are currently no medications that are approved for treating methamphetamine addiction.