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Methamphetamine: Dangerous but Diminishing

However spiritually, mentally and physically self-defeating methamphetamine is understood to be, there are many who will find a reason to indulge in using the drug. Methamphetamine use is most prevalent among the blue-collar working class and is typically manufactured in large-scale chemical laboratories known as “super labs.” There are also small labs that make homemade methamphetamine out of pseudoephedrine, which is a common ingredient in cold medicines. In 2013, the El Paso Intelligence National Seizure System noted the majority of the meth lab incidents in the United States took place in Missouri and Indiana.

According to the Drug Policy Alliance, methamphetamine was discovered in 1943. Methedrine, the trade name of an amphetamine derivative, has been used as a stimulant and also functions as an appetite suppressant. Desoxyn, a medication used to treat ADHD and obesity, contains 5 mg of methamphetamine hydrochloride for oral administration.

After Congress passed the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act in 1971, methamphetamine’s illegal production increased on the black market. Since World War II, blue-collar workers and athletes have used methamphetamine as a way to alter their energy levels, suppress their appetites and heighten their sense of physical strength. In the 1960s, Methedrine was also used to wean drug users off of heroin. Methamphetamine can be smoked, snorted or injected. An increased use of methamphetamine can cause paranoia, psychosis, aggression and even hallucinations. The drug’s chemicals eat away at the body’s immune system, leaving the user susceptible to illness.

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, the human brain and nervous system can become physically addicted to methamphetamine. The drug has the ability to rapidly release dopamine, leading to a rush of euphoric feelings, a quick boost of energy and a suppressed appetite. However, this process blocks the brain’s natural ability to replenish itself with dopamine, causing users to feel sad, slow or depressed. According to the American Journal of Psychiatry, methamphetamine users “showed significant dopamine transporter reduction in the striatum relative to the comparison subjects; this reduction was evident even in abusers who had been detoxified for at least 11 months. Dopamine transporter reduction was associated with motor slowing and memory impairment.”

Research done by the Foundation for a Drug Free World breaks down the seven stages of methamphetamine use:

  1. The Rush – Initial response, metabolism rises, heartbeat races
  2. The High – Sometimes called the rush; an abuser can become argumentative and feels smarter than usual
  3. The Binge – User experiences urge to maintain the high
  4. Tweaking – Can involve hallucinations; user can become aggressive
  5. The Crash – The body shuts down and becomes lifeless
  6. Meth Hangover – User is physically and mentally exhausted
  7. Withdrawal – Depression sets in, usually lasts 30-90 days

The National Institute on Drug Abuse gives information on several typical health risks associated with methamphetamine abuse including rapid or irregular heartbeat, severe structural brain damage, heart attacks, increased sense of physical activity, increased respiration, confusion, tremors, convulsions, anxiety, increased blood pressure and hyperthermia. A recent study done by Brown University showed long-term methamphetamine use can cause increased risk of stroke and severe dental problems. For intravenous methamphetamine users, there is increased risk of hepatitis, HIV infection and endocarditis, or inflammation of the inner layer of the heart.

In 2012, the National Institute on Drug Abuse researched the prevalence of crystal meth, also known as “ice,” among American high school and college students between the years of 1995 and 2012.   According to the sample of people interviewed, the usage of methamphetamine was highest and the most steadily used between the years of 1999 and 2005. After 2005, usage dropped exponentially. Between 1999 and 2005, the annual percentage of users in the research group was 2.3 percent and by 2012 the percentage dropped to 0.6 percent.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there are currently no medications on the market that can counteract the effects or addictive properties of methamphetamine. However, there are treatments that can benefit a methamphetamine addict when he or she is quitting the drug. It is said that the most effective treatments for methamphetamine addiction are cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), motivational incentives, 12-step support and monitored sobriety through drug testing.

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