Facts About Meth Addiction

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Methamphetamine is a highly addictive synthetic nervous system stimulant. Often referred to as meth, crystal, chalk, and ice in a social context, it’s available in the form of an odorless crystalline powder that’s bitter to the taste and can be easily dissolved in water. Methamphetamine is a Schedule II drug that is used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and obesity in some people. Outside legal manufacturing methods, the drug is also produced illegally in laboratories (nicknamed “superlabs”) across the United States. Popular areas for these facilities include Utah, Arizona, California, and Texas. Though many of these labs are operated locally, most of the larger labs are controlled by Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations according to the United States Department of Justice.

The History of Methamphetamine

Methamphetamine was initially derived from the ephedra plant that was used for a variety of medical purposes in different parts of the world; India, Pakistan, China, and the Americas. Ephedrine, an amphetamine, was first isolated from the plant in 1887 and further developed into crystallized methamphetamine years later in 1919. Initially it served no specific purpose and was used for various illnesses until it became the pick-me-up for depression and people who were overweight. Later on, during World War II, Meth became a weapon for both sides to keep their soldiers awake. Extremely high dosages were given to Japanese kamikaze pilots prior to suicide missions. By 1934, a pharmaceutical company in Germany had begun introducing it to the consumer market. Five years later they introduced Pervitin, a methamphetamine tablet which was advertise to the public as a remedy for sleepiness and lack of concentration.

It was not until the 1930’s that Methamphetamine was introduced in the United States as drug use began to rise. During the 1950s it was prescribed as an antidepressant and appetite suppressor. Following this, many people in different areas of the country started abusing the drug: truck drivers, college students, athletes, soldiers, and more. By the 1960s the problem became more threatening as injectable methamphetamine became more easily accessible.

Consequently, the drug was banned later in 1970 as a part of the U.S. Drug Abuse and Regulation Control Act but in the 1990’s manufacturing and distribution of the drug increased between Mexico and the United States.  Motorcycle gangs were the main distributors during this period and they targeted buyers who could not afford cocaine.   From there, methamphetamine spread across the country.

How is Methamphetamine Made

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “most of the methamphetamine abused in this country is manufactured in “superlabs” here or usually in Mexico.” It is one of the most easily accessible drugs because it can be easily manufactured in secluded facilities using relatively affordable ingredients such as pseudoephedrine, which is available in over-the-counter cough medicines.  A variety of other chemicals that can be easily purchased, such as anhydrous ammonia (fertilizer), acetone, lithium, red phosphorus, and ether, are also included in the manufacturing of methamphetamine. Illegal laboratories, that use these toxic and potentially explosive chemicals to manufacture meth, pose a serious threat to the environment. Many states have taken precautions to lower the presence of meth laboratories by making one of the most essential ingredients; pseudoephedrine, available only with a prescription. Sadly, many manufacturers go around these restrictions by sourcing pseudoephedrine from a variety of places in smaller portions. Some key ingredients in meth are listed below:

  • Acetone
  • Sodium Hydroxide
  • Hydrochloric Acid
  • Lithium
  • Toluene
  • Pseudoephedrine
  • Red Phosphorus
  • Sulfuric Acid

Who Uses Meth?

Methamphetamine does not discriminate. It is used by both men and women from various social settings and age groups and is often referred to as a “club drug.” Though according to the National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS), most users tend to be “white and in their 20s and 30s.” Overall, meth abuse remains a problem among the different age groups and ethnicities in the United States.

  • Based on the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 1.2 million people had taken meth since 2011.
  • A Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey dome in 2012 also revealed meth use among 1 percent of teenagers in the 8th, 10th, and 12th grade in the previous year.
  • Methamphetamine accounted for 5.6 percent of admissions to treatment facilities in 2011.
  • In 2011 the number of meth related emergency room visits exceeded 100,000.

 

How Do You Use Crystal Meth?

Methamphetamine is taken using several different methods.  It can be injected, smoked, snorted or taken orally. How it i used varies in each region and may switch from one to the next. Smoking remains the most common method among addicts according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Most abusers find that smoking the drug provides a more immediate and intense high because it enters the bloodstream more quickly. While snorting, the drug will produce a high but it does not give the intense rush most abusers desire. Because of its intense effect, smoking methamphetamine increases the chances of addiction and other health issues related to meth abuse. When ingested orally the effects of the drug can be delayed for up t0 20 minutes.

As revealed by  the Center for Substance Abuse Research, “abuse of amphetamines, which can lead to tolerance and physical and psychological dependence, is characterized by consuming increasingly higher dosages, and by the ‘binge and crash’ cycle.” So, most users will take the drug repeatedly, in larger doses, to increase the effect and then go through a withdrawal period of severe depression and anxiety. In some cases, users, will perform a form of bingeing referred to as “run,” in which they neglect eating and sleeping to continue using the drug for a few days straight.

 

What Meth Does

When it’s ingested, methamphetamine floods the brain with dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is responsible for feelings of enjoyment and happiness during pleasurable experiences. The result is an intensive exhilarating high. Dopamine plays a role various brain functions, such as working memory, attention, and reinforced learning. That immense pleasure you feel after working out or eating an ice cream is dopamine at work. It facilitates positive-reinforcement, motivates us to do, or to continue doing activities that make of feel good and this is why continuous use is so habit-forming. The intense “rush” and feelings of pleasure a user experiences from the increased dopamine is what pushes them to continue usage of the drug at risk of addiction – a serious brain disease characterized by the inability to quit the drug despite social, financial or health problems that may arise.

As addiction sets in and the user begin to increase the dosage and the frequency at which the drug is taken, the body will begin to rely on meth as the main source of dopamine.  Consequently, the natural dopamine levels will decrease and as a result the user may experience severe withdrawal symptoms that often brings on an agonizing depression when not on the drug. Withdrawal symptoms for meth include:

  • Intense cravings
  • Poor sleeping habits
  • Tremors
  • Fever and sweating
  • Vomiting and nauseated
  • Hypertension
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Respiratory issues.
  • Death
  • Coma

Effects of Methamphetamine

Addiction isn’t the only threat methamphetamine usage poses to users. It can also have several health effects. Though initially the drug produces a burst of confidence, excitement and energy, the fallout can be unbearable. Chronic usage has been linked to poor mental health. Paranoia, obsession, nervousness, irritability are just a few of the problems meth users encounter. Some develop severe mental conditions similar to schizophrenia in which the user picks continuously at his/her skin, experience visual and auditory hallucinations, act paranoid, and often have episodes of violence. The following are some of the effects of meth abuse.

  • Increased blood pressure
  • Dangerously elevated body temperature
  • Extreme weight loss
  • Paranoia, irritability
  • Unpredictable violent behavior
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Tremors
  • Dry mouth, bad breath
  • Headache
  • Jaw clenching
  • Seizures
  • Sudden death
  • Damaged nerve terminals in the brain
  • Brain damage characterized by symptoms similar to Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s Diseases
  • Prolonged anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Psychotic behavior, violence, auditory hallucinations and delusions
  • Homicidal or suicidal thoughts
  • Weakened immune system
  • Tooth Decay
  • Sores, skin infections, acne
  • Strokes
  • Heart infections
  • Lung disease
  • Kidney damage
  • Liver damage
  • Premature birth for pregnant women
  • Death

Treatment for Meth Abuse

Seeking refuge at a professional rehabilitation facility that is experienced in handling meth addiction is the best way to overcome drug abuse. There are a number of treatment programs offered at facilities that can help individuals in need tackle the root cause of their addiction and well as cope with new life changes that may have occurred as a result.

At Blvd Treatment Centers, we offer effective and personalize methamphetamine addiction treatment programs. Our programs are designed to modify behavior and thought pattern of each patient while improving their physical and mental health. Learn more about how we can help you today when you contact (888) 534-4699.
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Sources

  1. The National Institute of Drug Abuse: What is the scope of methamphetamine abuse in the United States
  2. National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS): Methamphetamine Use
  3. The National Institute of Drug Abuse: How is methamphetamine abused?
  4. United States Department of Justice: Meth Awareness
  5. Drug Enforcement Administration. (2006). Meth in the City.

Facts About Meth.