08 Jul Teen Meth Use: A Dangerous Trend
Nothing is more pressing on the teenage mind than the need to belong and fit in. This drive to be accepted can sometimes lead teens to engage in behaviors like drinking or drug use which they believe will gain them acceptance by their peers. Young people make dangerous decisions because in the moment, being accepted is their greatest concern and because they feel overly confident in their ability to step away from substance use. Some drugs however are powerful enough to hook kids on the very first try. Methamphetamine is that kind of drug.
Methamphetamine, most commonly referred to as meth, also goes by names like “ice,” “speed,” “chalk” or “Tina.” The drug is a stimulant, which means that it excites the central nervous system. For meth users, everything speeds up. The high is fast, the body kicks into overdrive and the downward slope is also a rapid decline.
The drug can be snorted, smoked or injected. Many users prefer smoking meth because they feel the effects of dopamine release almost immediately. Dopamine is the brain chemical responsible for feelings of pleasure, happiness and euphoria. With practically the first puff, meth smokers begin to feel intensely happy. The instantaneous sensations are part of what makes meth so strongly addictive as well.
Other meth users snort the drug. Snorting does not deliver the same intense experience that users get with smoking, but the drug’s pleasurable effects do last longer. In either case, with continued meth use, the number of dopamine receptors goes down, which translates into the need to use more drug in order to achieve the same sensations. This law of diminishing returns, known as tolerance, is what fuels addiction.
As mentioned above, meth stimulates or excites the central nervous system. Inwardly, the person’s blood pressure increases, their heart rate accelerates, even their metabolism rises. As larger and larger doses of meth are used over longer periods of time, users may experience failed breathing, cardiac arrest or death.
Outwardly, the meth user becomes highly energetic. They may talk incessantly. Because their metabolism is up and their appetite is down, the person is often thin. They may appear fidgety, overly alert and anxious.
Meth users often show an increase in violent tendencies, they sometimes hear things that aren’t there and experience paranoia or delusions. At the very least, many become insomniacs, going days at a time without sleeping or eating. Telltale signs of meth use are an unkempt appearance and poor dental hygiene. Dentists frequently pick up on use of the drug when the patient comes into the office with teeth in such bad condition that it is referred to as “meth mouth.”
A National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported in 2005 that more than 10 million young Americans had had at least one experience with meth. By 2006 and 2007, use among 12 to 18 year olds had dropped somewhat, but the drug continued to be prevalent in small Midwest and Western communities. Some fear that meth is beginning to rival marijuana as the youth drug of choice.
If your teen exhibits the following symptoms, take them to the doctor:
- Overly excited or happy
- Sudden drop in weight and appetite
- Anxious behaviors – trembling hands, nervous or fidgety
- Non-stop chattering
- Unexplained aggression
- Dilated (enlarged) pupils
- High body temperature and/or sweating apart from any physical activity
To complicate matters, meth manufacturers sometimes add in other caustic ingredients. Without knowing it, kids are ingesting not only an extremely dangerous drug, but also harmful substances like drain cleaner. The “labs” where meth is created are highly combustible because of the unstable nature of the ingredients used in making the drug.
Meth users face permanent damage to blood vessels, neurologic and psychological harm along with an increased risk for legal troubles and sexual health problems. If they enter treatment, the recovery rate for meth addiction is painfully small.
Methamphetamine is a potent and highly dangerous drug. The tremendous high produced by the drug quickly leads young people into an addiction that just as quickly wrecks their physical and mental health. Recovery from meth addiction is difficult and some of the drug’s ill-effects are irreversible. These dangers are there when the drug is used in its pure form. When the drug is mixed with other toxic ingredients the dangers increase. Teens need to be warned.
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