With the rise of Crystal Meth, our communities are facing a substance abuse epidemic of national proportions.
It has found its way into our neighborhoods and our homes, creeping like a silent predator along the back alleyways and street corners. It has broken up families and destroyed lives. It has turned friends and brothers against each other. It has become a living nightmare for millions of people. What probably began as a “little innocent fun” has quickly turned those pleasure seekers into shadows of their former selves, having little to no concern for anybody else’s safety or emotional well-being. Methamphetamine, particularly the form known as “Crystal Meth”, has ravaged our country, from the smallest rural community to the largest metropolitan area.
A Brief History of Meth
Developed by a chemist in Japan in the 1930’s, methamphetamine, or “meth”, was originally used for the treatment of asthma, bronchial congestion and narcolepsy. Because of its stimulating effects, allied forces during World War II used meth as a way to keep pilots and soldiers awake and alert during wartime battles. Before too long, however, the detrimental effects of methamphetamine use and abuse became evident, and military use ceased. Less potent forms of meth were developed for use in weight loss programs and the treatment of Attention Deficit Disorder, and are still prescribed for medical purposes in one form or another.
Even in these more innocent roles, this drug has too many opportunities for abuse. High school and college students across our nation throw “study parties”, where amphetamine-based stimulants are taken in mass quantities to help the user “focus” and “cram” for an upcoming exam or power through a long and difficult research paper. Of course, this leads to even more substances being abused, since after the “study session”, the over-stimulated students then take to binge drinking or using other depressants in order to “come down”.
Then, there are the forms of meth that are used for recreational use, also called “club drugs”. All night raves and nightclub parties see pills and powders being passed around like candy, often very much in the open. As the user continues to abuse these drugs, their tolerance level rises and it takes more potent chemicals at a higher quantity to produce the desired effects. It starts to get quite expensive, and with addiction taking hold, the user will often look for a cheaper substitute.
This is where Crystal Meth comes in. All forms of methamphetamine are dangerous and deadly, with plenty of opportunity for abuse and addiction. But Crystal Meth is probably the most dangerous and addictive of them all, for many different reasons. From production to cost to health and social issues, Crystal Meth has been destroying our communities for years.
A Dangerous Game – Effects of Crystal Meth on the User
The effects and dangers of Crystal Meth are widespread. It not only destroys lives and families, it damages our neighborhoods and communities. The social problems that arise from the production and use of meth are just as extreme as the personal problems that arise in the user’s life.
The short-term effects of Crystal Meth come in seven distinct stages:
- The initial “high” that the user feels is a result of dopamine flooding the brain, leading to feelings of euphoria.
- Next, after about 30 minutes, the euphoric sensations start to subside and the user begins to experience feelings of extreme alertness and a false sense of “hyper-intelligence”. After a while, those effects also begin to wear off.
- Known as the “binge” stage, since it takes a larger quantity of the drug ingested more often to sustain the “high”. Alcohol and other substances are often used during this stage as well, until nothing will produce the desired feelings.
- The fourth stage is often called “tweaking” (those addicted to meth are sometimes referred to as “tweakers”). This is when the terrible effects of Crystal Meth become most evident. During this stage, the user becomes irritable and paranoid, often suffering from hallucinations and uncontrollable anger, which leads to violence.
- Following the “tweak”, the body simply can’t take anymore and it begins to shut down as the user enters the hibernation stage. This usually occurs after being awake and “tweaked” for several days in a row, and sleep can last for one to three days, or even longer in extreme cases.
- When they regain consciousness, the “hangover” stage begins. After sleeping with no food or water for days, exhaustion, malnutrition and dehydration cause physical damage and feelings of illness, which in turn effect the user’s mental state.
- The final stage is withdrawal, which is often too much for the user to bear, and they begin the cycle all over again.
But these aren’t the only effects. Long-term use causes brain damage resulting in loss of memory and other cognitive functions. Open sores and lesions on the body result from constantly itching skin, which is caused by dehydration. And then there is “Meth Mouth”, where rot and decay cause the users teeth to break and fall out, a result of characteristic grinding of the teeth and a lack of proper dental hygiene.
Social Effects of Crystal Meth
In addition, those addicted to meth, without professional help, often end up losing their jobs, going broke, losing their families, and, in many cases, finding themselves homeless. This contributes to urban blight and causes a drag on our economy, with hospitalization and incarceration costs absorbed by taxpayers.
Crystal Meth’s Rise to Popularity
Even in the light of these numerous extreme dangers, meth maintains a level of popularity that is truly alarming. In a national survey of teens and young adults, around 35% of people aged 18-23 said that they had used methamphetamine. This same age group reported only around 7% had used cocaine and 12.5% had used heroin. That is a staggering disparity that can be explained by a couple of different factors.
The first thing we can look at to explain Crystal Meth’s popularity is the cost. Meth’s cost is significantly cheaper per gram than cocaine, and while the cost is similar for heroin, the effects of meth last much longer per dose, which ends up making heroin more expensive. This is because Crystal Meth is usually produced using easy to obtain chemicals that can be found in most grocery and hardware stores. Manufacturing this drug is not expensive, and an increased demand in this case does not drive up the cost, only the production level.
The second thing that we examine is the widespread availability and the ease of production. Since Meth is so cheap to make, many users move from buying it from a dealer to manufacturing it themselves. Unlike heroin and cocaine, which are mostly produced outside the US and smuggled into the country, a large portion of the Crystal Meth used by Americans is produced right there in the US, making it extremely easy to find for those who are looking. There seems to be no end to the supply. When a dealer gets busted or a meth lab gets shut down, ten more are ready to take its place.
Fighting Meth Use and Production in the US
On the community level, education about the dangers of drugs and alcohol has always been our biggest tool in the fight against addiction. By spreading knowledge and information, raising awareness, and offering support and assistance wherever and whenever you can, even average people can help greatly in the battle against Crystal Meth. Know the facts, speak out, raise awareness, and support others in need. Together, we can beat Meth addiction, and all other forms of addiction.
If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction to methamphetamine or any other substance, please, pick up the phone and call us now. We can help.