What You Didn’t Know About Meth
Methamphetamine commonly known as crystal meth, Ice, speed among other names is a stimulant drug usually in a white crystalline form. It is taken by snorting it through the nose, smoking it or injecting it with a needle. When taken into the body due to its potency it first acts as a stimulant, but slowly starts to destroy the body. It takes both a physical and mental toll on the user and is classified in the same category as cocaine and heroin in terms of its addiction and has a high prevalence among the youth in the society. The drug has been found to be taken with a variety of other drugs such as alcohol, cannabis and even tobacco.
Where it came from
It comes from a group of shrubs known as ephedra. The plant is found in many parts of the world and has been used since the 1800s in parts of Asia such as China and India. In 1887, ephedrine was first isolated from the plant and was later developed into amphetamine. In 1919 methamphetamine was crystallized using iodine and red phosphorous. It was found that methamphetamine was easier to make and more potent compared to amphetamine.
How it was initially used
At around 1887 it was first used in the Americas and Asia to make teas that helped treat asthma and coughs as well as open up airways of the respiratory system. In the early 1900’s it was used as a general pick-me-up and antidepressant. It was during the second world war era by soldiers to fight hunger and terror as well as fatigue. It was available to the general population as well. It was possible to buy amphetamine over the counter to treat nasal congestion. At the time it was named Benzedrine.
In the second world war, Nazi leaders distributed amphetamine tablets to their infantry, sailors, and airmen as it helped them realize the Nazi dream of creating super soldiers. The Americas and British also consumed large amounts of Amphetamine named Dexedrine. After the war amphetamine was manufactured and sold in the united states and much of the world often in the form of diet pills. After some time in circulation, it became harder for the medical community to ignore the growing number of the masses that were hooked on the drug then called Dexedrine. Concern over the addiction led to the American government restricting its use in 1971. The ban led to the people cooking up their own forms of the drug.
How it works
Methamphetamine increases the natural chemical dopamine levels in the brain. Dopamine is the chemical responsible for the rewarding feeling as well as motivation. The drug releases high levels of dopamine in reward areas making the user want to repeat the experience as it gives a false sense of well-being. Once ingested over a long period of time it has various adverse effects on the mental as well as the physical health of the user. The effects can be viewed in two broad categories which are long and short-term effects.
The short term effects of Meth
One of the short-term effects of continuous use of the drug includes an increase in wakefulness and physical activity where one pushes the body farther than it can normally take hence after the effects wear off one may find themselves in a state of exhaustion due to the overexertion of effort beyond their limits.
A decrease in appetite is also a common sign of the effects of the drug as one rarely feels the urge to eat as the body is filled with dopamine giving the user a fall sense of being alright and not requiring to replenish their lost strength by eating but rather more use of the drug.
The use also causes a variety of cardiovascular-related problems such as rapid heart rate, irregular, and increased blood pressure. The increase in heart rate is mainly caused by the increase in the levels of dopamine being produced beyond the normal levels causing the heart to pump at a higher rate to facilitate the level of alertness that comes with the use of the drug. As the drug wears off it also leads to irregular heartbeats as the dopamine levels also fluctuate affecting the heart palpitations. The increase in palpitation which also varies at some points due to overexertion may lead to very high blood pressure which adversely affects the user. Hyperthermia also is known as elevated body temperature arises from continuous use of the drug and may lead to death if not treated immediately. Insomnia, as well as confusion, are also common mental effects that come with continuous use of the drug due to the distortion of the normal brain functions.
The long term effects of Meth
Long-term use has both physical and mental tolls on the user. Long-term use may cause irreversible damage to the user. Some of the physical effects include effects in the cardiovascular system where it leads to heart diseases such as heart failure. The lungs also are adversely affected when meth is snorted causing diseases such as lung cancer and Bronchitis.
Kidney damage is also a major effect of long-term use due to the deteriorating level of body fluids as well as the breakdown of muscle tissue causing the kidneys to be greatly affected leading to kidney failure which is life-threatening.
Liver damage is also caused by the long-term use of the drug and is made even more severe when taken with other alcoholic drinks. The liver failure is commonly caused by dehydration.
Gastrointestinal damage is also a major physical effect. The damage to the gastrointestinal system is caused by decay in the stomach or intestines due to poor health practices common among many users. It may lead to chronic pain, acid reflux, and constipation.
Weight loss is also a major effect of the drug use as there is a decrease in the natural feelings of hunger hence there is a loss of appetite leading to the decrease in the weight of the user.
The drug also takes a mental toll on the user in the long term. Some of the long-term issues include impaired cognitive function. The impairment is caused by the brain trying to compensate, glutamate levels. Glutamate is a neurotransmitter chemical involved in the rewarding process.
Memory lapse is also a common mental effect of long-term use. The long-term use causes a change in the connection between neurons. Some connections develop while in other areas decrease causing a lapse in memory.
People who inject the drug into their system also fall prey and are more likely to contract infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDs due to sharing of injection tools.
Destruction of brain cells is also a major effect caused by the toxicity of the drug. The cells are damaged and at times destroyed and the damage is permanent. The mental effects though adverse the users still have a chance at rehabilitation. The brain can recover and be able to function without dependence on the drug.
The major reasons for meth use
There are a variety of reasons as to why people find themselves using the drug. Initially, as stated earlier the drug was first used by soldiers in the second world war as a stimulant but after the war, there have been a variety of reasons as to why people started using the drug. Some of the main reasons for the user include peer pressure which is mainly associated with the younger demographic in society. This is where a group of friends may decide to use it and a member who is not comfortable using is forced to do so in order to fit in and succumbs to the pressure enforced by their peers. This is mainly associated with the young in society who try to be cool and end up addicted to the drug.
Some users started using the drug to boost their confidence due to the increase in the dopamine levels that comes with the use of the drug. The use of methamphetamine was initially found to boost the attention and motivation with which a person may carry out a given task.
Other users start out with the drug experimentally or out of curiosity and find themselves hooked. This is common with the younger demographic where the need to know more about the drug gets the best of them. Younger people and the general public may use it when trying to understand the so-called ‘high’.
Methamphetamine like many other drugs is also used by people trying to drown out sorrow or a sad reality. When initially introduced to the market it had pain relieving qualities which are now abused by people seeking an escape from their immediate state of mind and find it’s used as a remedy leading to continuous use in the long term. It is found to help people with depression escape the feeling but during the withdrawal the effect may cause the re-use of the drug leading to addiction.
Due to the availability of the drug some users accredit boredom as a reason. As the jobless and idle in society find themselves in need of something to do and end up trying the drug. This is a major cause for use among the younger people in the society who find themselves idle during holidays and may start experimenting with the drug among many others.
Methamphetamine in its conception was used to enhance work performance and to this day this is a major reason for the continuous use of the drug. Some users claim it increases their work output as it increases dopamine levels and hence they have a higher level of motivation which boosts their output. This may help in one way but when it wears off it takes a mental as well as a physical toll on the user and the effects get more serious in the long term.
Some users have claimed it enhances their sexual experiences as well as increase the level of intimacy with their significant other. The intimacy may be caused by the increase in dopamine levels responsible for causing an increased feeling of intimacy.
Social media and television networks also have played a major role in normalizing the use. This is done in various ways such as movies and even in social media posts influencing people to try it out and not see the harm that befalls all that use the drug.
Clubs and parties also facilitate the use and dispersion of the drug among people as it is one of the major sale points of the drug and this is well known to the general public.
After use of the drug, during the wearing off commonly known as the ‘relax’ phase users find themselves feeling down or depressed. This is usually the worst part of the experience as it may cause the user to reuse it just to get the ‘high’ feeling back leading to addiction in the long term.
The production of Methamphetamine
The main country affected with the meth epidemic is the United States of America. Due to the growing crisis, they decided to regulate the sale of the major components of its production. This lead to the movement of major production down south. The production of the drug in large scale is mainly conducted in super labs mainly found in Mexico. Large-scale labs are often located in abandoned warehouses or barns established specifically for the purpose of factory-line production of methamphetamine.
Those unable to practice the large-scale production of the drug tend to have small labs of their own where they make it. The main small-scale labs have been found to be in trailers and motel rooms.
The crystal methamphetamine can be made by a number of different methods such as the “one-pot” process. The entire process can use as many as 32 different chemicals. In the production of the drug, there is a major component required. This is Ephedrine or Pseudoephedrine. It is mainly found in cold medicine tablets where it is separated and converted into powder form. To do this the cold medicine is mixed with a given solvent and the solution formed is then filtered and later exposed to low temperatures. The low temperature helps separate and remove the inert material of the cold tablet. The pseudoephedrine is then mixed with red phosphorous and hydrochloric acid where the phosphorous is later filtered out and reused. The remaining filtrate is then neutralized by addition of a metal hydroxide solution.
A substance is then added that binds itself to the meth and the liquid meth is flushed out. Hydrogen chloride gas is bubbled through the liquid methamphetamine leading to the formation of a crystalline hydrochloride salt. It is then filtered through a piece of cloth where the filtrate is then collected and dried. Once it dries up some inert fillers are added to increase profits and then it is taken weighed and packaged ready for sale to the general population. The whole process may take about two days to complete.
Children and the general public may be affected by the fumes from the labs operating in or near neighborhoods. During the production of the drug, there is a large emission of waste products. Environmental researchers have found that approximately six pounds of toxic waste are produced for every pound cooked.
Places used as meth labs are usually uninhabitable if not properly ventilated due to the fumes associated in the production of the drug. Production sites that are seized during drug busts are not seized by the authorities responsible since they are uninhabitable.
Social impact of Methamphetamine
The use of the drug has severe social effects in the community. The user also greatly affects the people around them as well as the society in general. The continuous use of the drug comes with various effects requiring financial and emotional support from the community. The societal effects that come with the abuse are such as an increase in the crime rate, sexual assault, child abuse, and even work-related injuries and the funding required to deal with the effects are mainly settled using community funds that would have been used in a better more productive way.
The drug use greatly affects the family unit in a major way. This, in turn, has a bad effect on the upbringing and unity of the family members. It greatly affects the children in the family who do not get sufficient emotional support. This in turns leads to deteriorated health as well as academic performance. In the long run, the children may also find themselves abusing the drug as well.
Drug users have also been known to be child abusers as well where they beat their children. Some of the mental effects that come with the continuous use of the drug such as mood changes may lead the drug using parent to badly wound a child for a mistake they may have done unwittingly.
The long-term use of the drug leads to some parents being seen as unfit to parent and their children were taken into foster care which greatly affects the child’s mental health as well as general wellness of the child in terms of morale who may find him/herself moving from one home to another.
When a user is strongly hooked on the drug and has no money to purchase it they frequently turn to crime. A large increase in the crime rate can be associated with drug users who turn to a life of crime to sustain their drug addiction.
The use of the drug along with many others lead to monopolization of health care resources which are consumed in rehabilitation programs and services and injuries related to drug abuse.
The continuous use of the drug may bring about brain drain in the society where bright individuals are incapable of having an impact in society as they would have if not under the influence of the drug.
Steps taken to combat the menace
The American government which is the most affected has come up with various methods to combat the methamphetamine menace. One of the main solutions was to control the availability of the main components used in its production.
The government also legalized the production of methamphetamine drugs prescribed for people with ADHD. They regulated the number of times one may buy the drug over a given period of time.
The provision of easily accessible naloxone has helped reduce the number of users who overdose under the influence of the drug. Naloxone is a nasal spray which blocks the deadly respiratory suppression caused by the toxicity of the drug. The product has been made more accessible to first respondents and families with a user.
A heavy crackdown on the prescribers who give large amounts of the ephedrine in pills. Community watchers have started raising awareness of chemists who sell large amounts of the substance.
The use of tv, radio and social media platforms to spread awareness to people on the dangers and how to cope with and rehabilitate people in society with the drug problem. Media has played a large role in increasing awareness especially among the youth which reduced the amount of youth taking the drug.
The standardization of drug screening when a patient is getting primary care. This may help detect the user and help find them treatment before addiction and adverse health complications develop. The method is found to be effective especially in teenagers who may have tried the drug and have not yet gotten hooked.
An increase in the availability and affordability of drug treatment programs as well as facilities. A survey conducted found that approximately 80% of the people who require treatment are unable to access the medical help due to not having sufficient financial capability. The affordable care act was put in place to ensure insurance benefits for addiction must be equivalent to any other general medical condition.