The Changing Demographics of Meth
Methamphetamine (Meth) is a highly addictive synthetic stimulant that affects the pleasure centers of the brain. It is even considered more addictive than heroin. Meth is sometimes referred to as “Speed,” “Chalk,” “Ice,” “Crystal,” “Glass,” “Crank,” “Yaba,” “Fire,” Tina,” and “Tweak.”
Meth releases high levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which stimulates brain cells, enhances mood and body movement, and regulates feelings of pleasure. With repeated use, Meth can “turn off” the brain’s ability to produce dopamine, leaving users unable to experience any kind of pleasure from anything other than more and more Meth.
Meth is derived from amphetamine, and is commonly made using the base chemicals ephedrine or pseudoephedrine found in over-the-counter medicines. Other common household products can be added to make meth, including: acetone, iodine, anhydrous ammonia (fertilizer), hydrochloric acid (pool supply), lithium (batteries), red phosphorus (matches or road flares), sodium hydroxide (lye), sulfuric acid (drain cleaner), and toluene (brake fluid).
Although there are multiple ways to produce Meth, most involve the use of toxic and volatile substances that can pose a threat to the surrounding area. An odor similar to that of cat urine and other offensive fumes often signify that an illegal Meth lab is in operation. When manufactured by amateurs, the production of Meth can be extremely dangerous and create harmful, toxic gases.
One production method involves heating anhydrous ammonia — an extremely reactive ingredient that is prone to explosion. In fact, many illegal Meth labs are only discovered after fires or explosions occur due to the improper handling of these toxic chemicals. Clean-up is both hazardous and expensive.
Meth can be swallowed, snorted, smoked, injected, or inserted anally. Depending on the method of intake, the high from Meth can last from 6 to 24 hours. Injection, one of the more popular methods of administration, is associated with other serious risks such as skin rashes, often referred to as, “speed bumps,” and infections at the injection site. Sharing needles when injecting Meth can spread deadly diseases such as hepatitis and HIV; additionally, these diseases are further spread through unprotected sex — a common activity among Meth addicts. While it is true that Meth sometimes increases sexual desire and stamina, it ultimately decreases the user’s desirability and performance.
Many Meth users admit the inability to reach an orgasm at all. Users have also reported an increased level of energy, a decrease in appetite, and may be more likely to engage in reckless or unwanted sex while under the influence. Other common side effects include a lack of hygiene and personal care, anxiety, agitation, blurred vision, hallucinations, diarrhea, sleeplessness, and even stroke or heart attack.
Without the drug, many users slip into a deep depression, making the cycle of addiction hard to break. Meth’s parent drug, amphetamine, was widely distributed to army personnel during World War II. Amphetamine-laced chocolate was routinely given to German soldiers. From 1942 to 1945, Adolf Hitler reportedly received daily Methamphetamine injections to treat depression and fatigue. Some attribute his Parkinson’s-like symptoms to his use of this drug.