03 Mar Crystal Meth’s Transparent Addiction
Crystal methamphetamine is a synthetic drug most commonly created in illegal labs, which often concealed in normal houses within nondescript neighborhoods. It’s a blend of various amphetamines-a nervous system stimulant-and myriad other chemicals, mostly poisons, to boost potency. These additives can be anything from rat poison to drain cleaner, to antifreeze and worse. Each batch can vary in strength and ingredients, from a proprietary blend to a haphazard concoction of battery acid and phosphorous, usually mixed by people high on meth themselves. It doesn’t take a genius to understand the dangers inherent in both using the drug and making it. More than one innocent life has ended in a fireball explosion when a meth lab, masquerading as a neighboring home, turned into a blazing inferno. Crystal meth is as life threatening to create as it is to abuse.
The Makings of Meth
It’s comprised of ingredients that are legally obtained, though amounts purchased are restricted. Psuedophedrine used to fight colds and runny noses, diet pills to stymie the appetite and raise energy levels, ephedrine to keep drivers awake: these are used in the making of meth. The pill forms are crushed and boiled with a combination of other solvents like lighter fluid and ammonia. It is a highly dangerous, unstable, and flammable process that produces five pounds of toxic waste to every pound of product. ‘Toxic waste’ means the byproducts are lethal. Crank, speed, ice, tina, tweak, glass, chalk… however it’s called, the effects are the same.
Meth’s Effect on the Body
Almost everyone has heard of ‘meth mouth’ or seen the ‘faces of meth’, those horrible, pity-inducing photos of meth abusers who once looked so much healthier or had a lovely smile. It is often such a stark difference that the viewer can only wonder exactly what meth does to the human body. Obviously, it’s not pretty and due to the bone loss and reduced skin integrity, it is rarely reversible without massive amounts of help.
While crystal meth is considered a great diet drug as it turns off the body’s hunger responses, the rapid weight loss is due to starvation, which also causes the body to eat into lean muscle as it cannibalizes itself to survive. The weight loss is temporary, however, and once off meth the body no longer suppresses the urge to eat. Weight gain out of the starvation mode is fast and often excessive. Skin loses its elasticity and glow and is often riddled with acne and sores from prolonged dehydration, malnutrition, low blood flow, destroyed blood vessels, and poor hygiene. It also depletes the salivary glands, preventing the creation of saliva and leading to the immediate effect of dry mouth (xerostomia), a leading cause in tooth decay. Usage of the drug often causes bruxism, or the grinding of teeth and involuntary jaw clenching, that ruins tooth structure. Combined with improper dental care and malnutrition, ‘meth mouth’ almost invariably occurs in heavy crystal meth abusers. This ends in destroyed enamel, rotted gums, tooth roots, blackened teeth, and exposed roots. It is distinctly unpleasant to view the inside of such a mouth and one can only imagine it does not feel good, either.
All of that only compounds with the other effects of meth abuse, a substance almost instantly addictive. ‘Crank bugs’-hallucinations of bugs crawling under the skin, can make the user pick and tear at the flesh anywhere on the body to leave behind open sores that easily get infected. Crystal meth lowers inhibitions; often leading to shared needles, multiple sexual partners, lack of judgment, and increased exposure to STDs and blood born diseases such as HIV and hepatitis. Meth is often injected, but can be inhaled, snorted, or inserted rectally as a suppository.
The Allure of Meth
A racing heartbeat, a sudden jolt of adrenalin, mental clarity, boundless energy, and a sense of strength, increased sexual arousal; all these instant sensations draw users to meth. It shuts down the body’s realization of exceeding its own limits, meaning a person on meth can go for hours without noticing dehydration, fatigue, and hyperthermia (high body temperature). This is a deadly blend that can end in death via exhaustion and heat stroke. Because of its ‘fatigue-eliminating’ properties, it is often used as a party drug for endless dancing. Most notably, and immediately, meth creates a sudden euphoric rush in a massive release of dopamine, the pleasure reward chemical in the human brain. Meth also eventually prevents the body from responding to dopamine, meaning the user will wind up unable to feel anything at all. While sex seems magnified at first, subsequent drug use makes sexual pleasure unobtainable without it and finally makes the sexual organs, especially in males, completely unresponsive. Crystal meth induces anger, paranoia, panic, violence, confusion, obsessive fascination with repetitive tasks, tremors, insomnia, bruxism, depression, psychosis, talkativeness, diarrhea, and sweating. Newer meth users may sleep for alarmingly extended periods thanks to the crash when the high wears off, but addicts can go days without sleep, caught in the vicious cycle of taking more and more of the drug to combat the crash. These binges can end with serious brain and physical damage, often in hospitalization when the body is too exhausted to function, or even in prison after a scene of psychotic violence.
Meth Use: Up or Down?
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, as of 2010 there are fewer first-time users of crystal meth in the United States than previous years. Despite there being less new meth users, the number of drug abusers or drug dependent persons remains a fair constant. Meth usage is stable in the population preferring it over other drugs.
Recognizing the Signs
Aside from sudden, tremendous weight loss and rotting teeth, addicts to meth find it harder to conceal symptoms than most, and generally don’t bother trying. The nervous energy and euphoric high that can last for 12 hours is the polar opposite of the depression, fatigue, and irritability they display between highs. They can become violent or withdrawn, ghosts in their own lives and unable to cope with everyday demands. Theft, prostitution, drug dealing, lying to loved ones, and depleting their monetary resources are all signs of meth dependency. Getting help is imperative but difficult; the withdrawals are so severe and painful that few make recoveries and over 90 percent return to chronic drug use.
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