What are the physical and social effects of methamphetamine and who is using it?
Methamphetamine is a chemical that has stimulant properties similar to adrenaline. Methamphetamine (or meth), is a powerfully addictive stimulant that dramatically effects the central nervous system. On the street, meth is also referred to as crank, crystal, speed ice, and glass.
The drug is made easily in clandestine laboratories with mostly inexpensive ingredients. Meth has been the most prevalent clandestinely produced controlled substance in the United States since the 1970’s. This combination makes meth a drug with a very high potential for widespread distribution and abuse.
As a powerful stimulant, meth can increase wakefulness and physical activity while decreasing appetite. A brief, intense sensation is reported by users who snort or inject the drug. Both the rush and the high are believed to result from the release of very high levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine into areas of the brain that regulate feelings of pleasure (Drug Information).
Initially, the effects of meth can be characterized by increased mental and physical well-being. With increased doses and/or chronic use, the risk of toxicity increases and the user may experience irritation, outbursts of anger, paranoia, delusional thinking and visual or auditory hallucinations.
Significant numbers of American youth engage in heavy meth use and these numbers continue to increase. Causing damage to property and causing injury to themselves are among the most common problems associated with meth use. Tolerance for meth can develop with chronic use. In an effort to intensify the desired effects, users will take higher doses more frequently. In many cases, abusers go without food and sleep while indulging in a form of binging known as a “run,” injecting as much as a gram every two to three hours over a several day period. This will continue until the user runs out of the drug or is too disoriented to continue. Chronic meth abuse can result in inflammation of the heart lining as well as progressive social and occupational deterioration. Psychotic symptoms can sometimes persist for months or years after use has ceased (drug info).
Fetal exposure to meth is a significant problem in the United States. Extensive research has indicated that abusing meth during pregnancy may result in increased rates of premature delivery, abnormal reflexes and extreme irritability. Congenital deformities have also been linked to meth abuse during pregnancy. A potential risk to meth users is the possibility of lead poisoning. Lead acetate is often used as a reagent in illegal meth production.
Statistics show that between 1998 and 2002, death from methamphetamine overdoses rose 125 percent. Between 1998 and 2000, meth related emergency room visits doubled. In the past few years, the use of this drug has increased dramatically in teenagers from 12 to 17 years old. The internet has hundreds of web sites that provide the recipes and places to purchase ingredients for manufacturing the drug. Toxic ingredients, such as battery acid and drain cleaner are often used to produce meth (NCADI).
A key explanation for the increase in use is the proliferation of a youth rave culture that encourages hard drug use as a means to personal freedom, self-discovery, and peer acceptance. Adding to this problem is the “non-alcohol” after hour’s club. These all night rave clubs are not subject to standard law enforcement procedures. Police have no legal authority to enter these premises as they do in the case of regularly licensed alcohol serving establishments, without first obtaining a search warrant or receiving permission from the owner or operator.
Experimentation with crystal meth has become commonplace for socially active young people irrespective of their economic status and social background. We live in a society where being thin and beautiful has become increasingly important to many of our youth.
One of the reasons for using meth is the misguided idea these kids have regarding weight loss. Adolescents do have dramatic weight loss when using meth for any substantial length of time. Since meth decreases the appetite, the weight loss seems almost effortless. However, this is an extremely dangerous way to try to control their weight. As soon as these youth stop using meth, the weight comes back on very quickly. The youth begins an increased usage of the drug in an attempt to control their weight, as they try to live up to an impossible standard the media and advertisers have pushed on upon them.
Prevalence and patterns of substance abuse by urban street youth vary from city to city but appear to be much higher than student use. A pattern of increased use with age is clearly related to adolescent psychological development, during which peer relationships assume greater importance. Transition between school levels clearly represents a point of vulnerability for some students (Preventing Substance Use Problems Among Young People).
Through its stimulant effects, meth produces a positive feeling, but when it wears off, it leaves a person with the opposite feelings. This is because of the suppression by the drug of the normal production of adrenaline. A chemical imbalance is created and the result is irritability, which physically demands more of the drug to feel normal. This pleasure/tension cycle leads to a loss of control over meth and the end result can be full blown addiction (Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, 349).
Usually a person who uses meth never gets as big a “high” as he or she did the first time. As tolerance develops to the euphoric effects, larger and larger doses of the drug are needed to get a pleasurable effect. This increases the risk of toxicity, overdose, and death. When the pleasure areas in the brain are artificially stimulated it leads to increased confidence in meth, and less confidence in the normal rewards of life.
The things that used to be interesting are replaced by people, places, and activities involved with using meth. More and more confidence is placed in the drug and the result is a lack of interest in other areas of life. The subconscious memory learns that the drug is not something that is just pleasurable, but something that is needed just in order to function and make it through the day.
Bratter, Thomas E., and Gary G. Forrest. Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Strategies for Clinical Intervention. New York: The Free Press, 2000.
“Drug Information” Narconon International 2002. 17, Nov. 2004 http://www.narconon.org/druginfo/methamphetamine_meth.html
Marcelle, George. National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information. Maryland: Prentice Hall, 1999.
“Preventing Substance Use Problems Among Young People” Health Information 2003.17, Nov. 2004 http://sesc/eds/publications/substanceyoungpeople/chapter2.htm
Teen Drug Abuse Articles
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