Over the past few decades, the rapid rise in use and subsequent appearances popular culture has made crystal meth a household word – synonymous with speed but reputed to be even more intense. “Meth” labs have made their way into small towns and popular crime television shows, and meth addiction is a real problem particularly among teens and young adults.
What is Crystal Meth?
“Meth” is short for methamphetamine. Drugs with the –drine suffix (benzadrine, dexadrine, methadrine, etc.) are amphetamines, commonly known as speed or uppers. These substances speed up or increase all metabolic processes, from heart rate to digestion to hair growth. That means that they also speed up the aging process.
Crystal meth is the crystalline form of methamphetamine. Methamphetamine is a legal pharmaceutical substance that has been prescribed over the past few decades and used legally. Weight loss was one common reason for prescribing, as the “speeding up” effect of the drug helped people both feel less hungry and burn off calories more quickly. Methamphetamines used to be also prescribed for alcoholism and depression. The speeding up of brain and cardiovascular activity can feel like euphoria to some people, and this “mood elevating” effect was why it was prescribed to offset cravings and lift mood post withdrawals. It is very rarely prescribed nowadays due to the high likelihood of abuse or addiction, and the obvious physiological risks of heart attack or other cardiovascular complications.
Currently, methamphetamine is approved by the FDA and prescribed for ADHD. It has also been shown to be effective in the treatment of narcolepsy.
Where Does it Come From?
Crystal meth is made or synthesized in “laboratories” – often crude basement or bathroom set-ups all over the United States. Just as crack cocaine is made from powder cocaine, crystal meth is made from methamphetamine. Steven King’s novel, “The Dome,” provides an accurate description of what these labs are like: dangerous, highly polluting, and illegal.
Making crystal meth involves the use of dangerous substances such as corrosive chemicals and flammable or explosive substances. Different methods have evolved in different geographic areas based on availability of the solvents or chemicals. Thus in areas where farm chemicals such as ammonia (from fertilizers) are available, the ammonia method is common. In other areas, the “shake and bake” method, in which small amounts of crystal meth can be produced using legal and easily obtainable items. The process however, is extremely dangerous with a high risk of fire and explosion.
How is it Used?
Crystal meth is most commonly smoked, but it can be taken in a number of ways: snorted, as a suppository (anal or vaginal), or injected.
What are Common Meth Addiction Signs?
Because crystal meth is a strong amphetamine (speed), it is a highly reinforcing drug. This means that it acts very quickly – you don’t have to wait to start feeling the high. When a drug makes you feel the high quickly, the sense of need or craving for the drug is very closely linked with the relief of that craving – and thus the drug is considered highly reinforcing or very highly addictive. Addiction can happen fast – from first use to physical and psychological dependence in as short a time period as a few weeks.
Meth addiction symptoms to watch out for:
• Is your skin breaking out? Meth will cause acne.
• Does your sweat smell different and really bad (almost like cat pee)? This is also a sign of meth addiction.
• Weight loss. This is a dead giveaway: if you are using enough to lose weight, you are in trouble. Weight loss is due to both loss of appetite and increased metabolism, and happens quickly with regular use.
• What’s going on with your teeth? “Meth mouth” is a side effect from addiction to meth that involves rotting teeth and gum damage. If you have developed dental problems seek help immediately.
• Can’t sleep? Any amphetamine use will interfere with sleep. The more you use, and the more frequently you use, the more severe your sleep problems will be.
• Meth for breakfast? If you can’t start your day without using, your use has progressed to addiction.
• Are you chasing your first high? Do you need more in order to get high? Developing a tolerance is another sign that you are addicted.
What are the Consequences of Meth Addiction?
Physical, psychological and legal consequences to using crystal meth are significant and happen frighteningly quickly. Physical deterioration can be severe, with impacts on nearly every body system: skin, bones, heart, blood vessels, lungs, etc. Psychological impacts are also significant, with psychosis often occurring and continuing after drug use has stopped. All the amphetamines are very hard on the body and cause damage quickly, but crystal meth, due to its street manufacture and the potential for contamination, can be even more damaging.
In addition, crystal meth is illegal to produce and to possess.
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