Alex Hudson/ Drug Information Center
Methamphetamines have generally been considered to be one of the “lowest” forms of drug use, there are lots of myths and stereotypes out there about the nature of meth.
Methamphetamine is a strong stimulant in the amphetamine family. Its cousins include Ritalin, Adderall, ecstasy, and speed. It can be taken orally, smoked, snorted or injected. It has a street value of around $100 a gram and its effects last for around 4-6 hours.
Meth is highly addictive and produces feelings of euphoria, increases alertness, energy, and talkativeness. It decreases a users need and desire to sleep or eat, and increases a person’s desire for sex (in the short term).
Meth users often have visual or auditory hallucinations, itching (which leads people to scratch off parts of their skin), diarrhea, increased blood pressure and heart rate, involuntary body movements like teeth grinding and twitching. It is also extremely destructive to a person’s kidneys, liver, skin, and mouth.
It is believed to be a neurotoxin, meaning it degrades the brain’s ability to function and can also lead people to engage in violent, erratic behavior. Long term meth users often suffer from extreme paranoia and irritability, depression and suicidal tendencies.
Meth overdoses, while rare, do happen. The kidneys go into rapid failure and the circulatory system collapses, which sounds to be extremely painful. Hospitalization is usually associated with heart problems, malnutrition, sleep deprivation, and/or psychosis.
People who chronically use meth are notorious for having a lot of dental problems like gum rot and tooth decay. This is typically referred to as “meth mouth”. Why does it happen? Meth decreases the production of saliva, which is a natural anti-decay substance. Users often forgo dental hygiene, grind their teeth, and have a tendency to drink lots of sugary soda pops. The drug itself is also extremely toxic and the chemicals eat away at the enamel of the tooth. Meth also constricts blood vessels in the mouth which cut off the blood supply to the teeth.
I often hear people refer to meth as being made from poison or a bunch of crap from under the kitchen sink. And guess what, that’s fairly true. You start with pseudoephedrine (which is an ingredient in Sudafed and other similar medicines like that), and then add a bunch of stuff like ammonia, salt, phosphorus, paint thinner, white gasoline, and other household items not usually associated with ingestion. Then the producers do a bunch of science, that we won’t get into, and voila, Meth.
The trouble is, often time the production is done by people who usually aren’t trained chemists. According to the periodic table, this stuff has a tendency to explode. The chemicals are super corrosive and when it blows up and gets on people their skin it causes severe burns. It’s a problem. The cleanup is also extremely hazardous and expensive.
Who wants a history lesson? Meth was first synthesized in 1919 by the Japanese chemist Akira Ogata. It then enjoyed many years of celebrity and fame during World War II when it was used by the allies and the axis powers as a way to keep the troops from getting fatigued. In the 1950s, meth was prescribed widely to fight depression, obesity, alcoholism, asthma, and Parkinson’s. It is still legally prescribed under the name Desoxyn.
Meth abuse became something of a problem and in 1970, the Controlled Substances Act was passed, which made the production, possession, and consumption of methamphetamines illegal. Since then there have been many laws passed which focus on methamphetamine. Rick Larsen (our Congressman) sits as a co-chair of the meth caucus in the House, and was a co-sponsor of the Combat Meth Act of 2005. The bill puts restrictions on the amount of medicine you can buy which contains pseudoephedrine, the main ingredient in meth production.
The media continues to report on the horrors of the meth epidemic. Interestingly, the research done by the Office of National Drug Policy Control (an office of the White House) shows that in almost every demographic, reported use is falling.
There is a lot more to be written on the subject but the basic conclusion is that meth is pretty intense stuff that gets a lot of attention. If you or anyone you know wants/needs more info on the subject don’t hesitate to drop me a line.
Keep on keeping on.