Methamphetamine, commonly called “Crystal Meth” because of its crystalline appearance, is a powerful stimulant that is illegal in the United States under the Controlled Substances Act. It is in the same legal category as cocaine and PCP, drugs also known for their stimulative effects, and is considered to have a high potential for abuse leading to addiction. Indeed, the statistics involving Methamphetamine are alarming, with it being considered among the drugs most likely to cause both psychological and physical addiction.
Methamphetamine first appeared on the illegal drug market in the 1960s. It quickly developed a reputation as an exceptionally dangerous drug, resulting in a highly effective anti-crystal meth campaign under the slogan, “Speed Kills.” One reason this anti-drug campaign succeeded where most fail is probably because it arose from within the drug-using community itself, instead of through an outside source such as the government.
Unfortunately, this success with reducing methamphetamine use was only temporary. By the 1990s, it had re-emerged on the west coast of the U.S.A. and quickly swept America, and then the world. Today it is one of the most widely abused illegal drugs, with much of the drug on the world market being manufactured in Europe. Part of Meth’s popularity is based on its low price, ranging from $5 to $20 for a dose.
In the United States, an estimated 12 million people have used methamphetamine at least once. More than a million and a half Americans are estimated to use methamphetamine in any given year, with about a third of that number using it at least once per month. This includes at least 5% of high school seniors, according to a survey by the University of Michigan.
Some solid statistics about the level of interest in Methamphetamine can be found in search engine results, which show that there are 15,000 searches for “crystal meth” online each year, as well as over 3,000 searches for “crystal meth addiction treatment.” Although it is not possible to know exactly why people search for a specific subject online, the popularity of these search terms suggests that the subject of methamphetamine, its addictive properties, and treatment are of concern to a large number of people.
Another factor behind the popularity of Methamphetamine is that besides being cheap in cost, it is also long lasting. Depending on quality and purity, one dose can produce a euphoric high that lasts from four to twelve hours. Even after the high dissipates, traces of the drug remain in the body for a full day, resulting in a speedy afterglow.
Meth Use And Health Problems
The health statistics involving chronic methamphetamine use are not encouraging. Use of Crystal Meth is linked to an array of serious health problems, especially heart disease. One of the most common side effects of using methamphetamine is elevated blood pressure, resulting in all the risk factors that are typically associated with hypertension. This increased blood pressure can cause deterioration of the small blood vessels in the brain, which in time can result in a stroke. High blood pressure also strains the heart, resulting in heart inflammation and increased risk of heart attacks, including sudden cardiac arrest resulting in death.
Other health hazards associated with methamphetamine include a dangerous elevation of body temperature, which if sustained for too long can cause convulsions that can lead to death. These risks are especially associated with high doses. Taking the drug by injection only increases the risks in all categories, including ones not associated with taking it by mouth. These include contracting the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) which is the precursor to AIDS, hepatitis B and C, plus any other diseases associated with viruses that thrive in blood. Like all intravenous use of drugs, chronic usage can cause damaged or collapsed veins, various infections, abscesses, and diseases of the kidney and liver.
Perhaps the most notorious negative physical effect of methamphetamine is so-called “meth mouth.” This refers to dental issues created by the tendency of meth to give you chronic “dry mouth” where it is difficult for the body to produce sufficient liquid in the mouth. Such wetness is protective of the teeth, and when the mouth is too dry for too long, tooth decay and gum sores are common. The high level of tension created by meth can also cause a destructive level of teeth grinding and jaw clenching that wear down the teeth.
Skin problems are also common with methamphetamine use. Because of dehydration and hyperactivity because of the drug’s speedy effects, the skin of a meth user is often pale and even greyish looking. The skin may also feel itchy, almost as if there were bugs crawling under the skin, resulting in frequent and damaging scratching. Acne and nail biting are also encouraged by meth use. The same dehydration that causes tooth decay also damages the sinuses, resulting in breathing problems and nosebleeds.
As late as 2004, nearly 8,000 laboratories for the manufacture of methamphetamine were shut down by law enforcement agencies in the United States. However, tighter restrictions on the use of substances that can be used to make methamphetamine from common cold medications resulted in a two-thirds drop in the number of labs by 2006. Manufacture of the drug is highly profitable, with about a thousand dollars of ingredients producing about twenty thousand dollars of Crystal Meth.
A nationwide survey of law enforcement agencies rated methamphetamine as the most serious illegal drug problem in the United States. The National Association of Counties surveyed 500 law enforcement organizations and found nearly 60% claiming Crystal Meth as their worst drug enforcement problem, compared to less than five percent who listed heroin as number one. Social Service agencies estimate that as many as 3,000 children per year are removed from their parent’s custody because of their parent’s methamphetamine use.
After dramatic increases in the use of methamphetamine in the past twenty years, indications are that use has stabilized at approximately 1.5 million users. Only about a third of those users are full-blown addicts. However, because it has such destructive effects, the use of methamphetamine doesn’t have to be very widespread to do tremendous harm to both society and to those who are addicted to it.