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Substance Abuse - Methamphetamines

Commonly Known As: meth, speed, crystal, glass, crank, yaba, road dope, ice, rosa, uppers. Methamphetamine is one of several types of amphetamines, distinguishable by the method of manufacturing and strength.

Access to Drug: Easily accessible at parties, raves, dances, schools, nightclubs, and street dealers. It is easily processed in home labs and distributed. Legal methamphetamines such as Desoxyn (for ADD) and diet pills are also available through prescriptions and tend to be easily abused due to the addictive nature of the drug.

Scientific Name: a-Dimethylbenzene-ethanamine; d-n-mathylamphetamine. It is a synthetic stimulant in powder form, usually white or off-white in color, odorless, and bitter tasting.

Interesting Facts: Illegal methamphetamine use grew out of the speed craze of the 1960’s when amphetamines became a controlled substance and difficult to buy legally. People discovered they could illegally process meth in home labs from cold remedies with other chemicals. It’s popularity declined with the surge of Cocaine but made a comeback in the 1990’s because of the cheaper price than Cocaine and the longer duration of effects. California is known for its meth labs which have been in the news often, either due to explosions or drug raids. Meth currently rates high on the list of commonly abused drugs, due to its low price, increasing availability and current drug fads. It is very popular with adolescents and older teenagers because of its availability and cheap price. It is also remains popular with men and women who suffer from eating/body image disorders. Meth cases account for 80% of all domestic violence cases.

Methods of Use: Frequently snorted; used orally in pill, gel capsules, or tab form, injected, or smoked. The DEA estimates that street chemists have discovered over three hundred ways to manufacture methamphetamine, making it difficult for users to know what they are actually buying.

Common Effects When Intoxicated: Increased heart rate, raised body temperature, rapid respiration, extra energy, insomnia, agitation, poor judgment, delusions of grandeur, and appetite suppression. With heavy use, there is paranoia, auditory and visual hallucinations, aggressive and erratic behavior, extreme weight loss, mood swings and picking at the skin on the face and arms. Users believe they are achieving positive qualities such as creativity, alertness, motivation, and the ability to work long hours; however, the use quickly backfires, leading to depression, paranoia and antisocial behavior.

Duration of Intoxication: Intoxication develops rapidly if injected or smoked and in about 20 minutes if swallowed. The effects last from 4 to 8 hours with a lingering increase in energy for up to ten hours. Meth abusers tend to go on binges and stay up for three to four days at a time, or more, until the body crashes or they abuse other drugs such alcohol, heroin or sedative-barbiturates to sleep. Cravings for the drug are common about five days after a run.

Withdrawal: Because meth use heavily impacts the Serotonin neurotransmitters in the brain, the brain chemistry is altered leading to depression and cravings. This effect can take a week to years to rebalance. Other symptoms include an inability to concentrate, sleep or disturbed sleep for up to 48 hours, irritability, paranoia, extreme hunger and anxiety reactions. Treatment with anti-depressants has been effective for compulsive meth users in combination with counseling.

Effects of Long Term Use: Long term use can cause sleep deprivation, heart and blood vessel toxicity and severe malnutrition. Users can also experience strokes, develop heart arrhythmias, seizures, damage to nose muceus/septum deviation, and bad or rotted teeth due to loss of calcium. An amphetamine psychosis can develop that is similar to paranoid schizophrenia and is manifested by hallucinations, bizarre and/or violent behavior, and extreme depression. Because of the effects on the brain, some long term users experience brain damage with untreatable depression or other permanent psychological problems.

Abuse, Dependence, and Addiction: Typically, Meth is abused by students cramming at school, truck drivers (although the industry is more tightly regulated now), weight conscious individuals party goers, and people who feel they can be more “creative” under the influence of speed. A psychological dependence can develop and because a tolerance level develops, more meth is needed to achieve the effects. The addiction is psychological and related to cravings induced by altered brain chemistry.

Associated Risks: Meth overdoses can occur leading to heart attack, stroke, seizures and even death. Fatal traffic accidents or accidents caused by users suffering from sleep deprivation can occur. Prolonged use can lead to violent, suicidal and even homicidal thoughts.