Batu, Biker’s Coffee, Black Beauties, Blade, Chalk, Chiken Feed , Crank, Christy, Crystal, Crystal Glass, Glass, Go-Fast, Hanyak, Hiropon, Hot Ice, Ice , Kaksonjae, LA Glass, LA Ice, Methlies Quick, Poor Man’s Cocaine, Quartz, Shabu, Shard’s Speed, Stove Top, Super Ice, Tina, Trash, Tweak, Uppers, Ventana, Vedria, Yaba, Yellow Bam…
Did you know the expressions above? All of these terms are synonymous with Crystal Meth. Each phrase may look and sound unique, yet they all embody one of today’s greatest killers. The above terms are just some of the ‘street’ names that have been assigned to this heinous drug that has damaged so many lives, and which continues to terrorize a sizeable segment of the population.
SOME BACKGROUND ON CRYSTAL METH:
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) defines methamphetamine as the following:
Methamphetamine is a central nervous system stimulant drug that is similar in structure to amphetamine. Due to its high potential for abuse, methamphetamine is classified as a Schedule II (high abuse risk) drug and is available only through a prescription that cannot be refilled. Although methamphetamine can be prescribed by a doctor, its medical uses are limited, and the doses that are prescribed are much lower than those typically abused. Most of the methamphetamine abused in this country comes from foreign or domestic superlabs, although it can also be made in small, illegal laboratories, where its production endangers the people in the labs, neighbors, and the environment.
The use of methamphetamines in the United States has been lawfully accepted as a mode of treatment for narcolepsy (a sleeping disorder), types of Parkinson’s disease, alcoholism, obesity, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The drug was initially manufactured in Japan, and was commonly used by Adolf Hitler and German pilots and soldiers in World War II. The United States saw a significant boost in the use of meth in the 1950s, and its use for recreational purposes began cresting in the late 1980s. It has often been called a “party drug” because of its ability to enhance the senses and to cause a euphoric high. It is said that after using meth, people often go days without sleep and engage in high-risk sexual activity.
The authorized form of methamphetamine is odorless, though other forms of the drug often smell of ammonia, as a result of chemicals used during the production process. In 1983, the United States passed laws banning ownership of any type of contraband or instruments that would be used for methamphetamine production. Laws passed by federal and state governments limited the manufacture of crystal meth. The Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005 was one such law. The problem of rampant meth production was acknowledged by the U.S. Department of Justice through the declaration of Methamphetamine Awareness Day on November 30, 2006.
WHO USES METH AND WHY:
Methamphetamine is also known as metamfetamine, dextromethamphetamine, methyl amphetamine, Nmethylamphetamine, desoxyephedrine, and (informally) as meth or crystal meth. It is a psychoactive stimulant drug that increases attentiveness and vigor. If taken in high doses, it can create a state of elation and enhance one’s self-esteem. Moreover, it increases sexual pleasure, which creates an elevated possibility for frequent abuse. Methamphetamine has been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of ADHD and obesity.
Methamphetamine (aka crystal meth) originated in some bewildering places. Military pilots were known to use this substance to stay alert during lengthy journeys to bombing locations during wartime. College students were known to use the drug to stay awake all night for exam preparation. The 1960s showed many individuals using this substance for entertainment purposes, until stringent laws surfaced in the 1970s that made the possession of amphetamines more complicated. Regrettably, however, use of amphetamines has once again imposed itself forcibly upon the population in recent years.
Years ago, the use of meth was routinely linked with white, male, blue-collar workers. This profile has changed radically, and now includes a diverse range of racial and economic groups throughout the United States. According to Sandy Marte-Brouwer, an MA candidate in counseling and a community service worker employed by the Maryland’s Montgomery County Prison system, incarceration is one of the few ways that a meth addict can become “clean”. Staying clean, however, is another issue entirely. As stated by Brouwer:
“Voluntary treatment has not been very productive, and has a very low success rate, so many addicts tend to relapse. Crystal meth is extremely addictive, and users become hooked instantly because of its chemical makeup. I work with women who suffer with addiction. Their ages range from 18 to 69. The problem of meth addiction has created major devastation, managing (at times) to wipe out entire families. Treatment and recovery are extremely difficult.”
Although crystal meth has been referred to as “poor man’s cocaine”, it transcends all strata of society. Recently, actor Michael Douglas’ son Cameron was apprehended on charges of possession of crystal meth. He was found with eight ounces and more than $10,000 in cash, and was charged with possession with intent to sell. Cameron holds a previous record, and was charged with purchasing drugs in 1999.
Interestingly, the number of female meth users often appears to surpass that of male users. Females, particularly teenage girls, tend to be attracted to meth use because the drug acts as an appetite suppressant. It has been noted that high-concentration users have often lost over 100 pounds.
WHAT IS “METH MOUTH?”
Prior to a meth user developing severe blood pressure issues or seizures, the individual often experiences decaying teeth. The drying up of the salivary glands as a result of meth use deprives the mouth and teeth of saliva’s bacteria-fighting safeguards. Additionally, a meth user might develop a strong desire for sweets. Sodas are a common remedy for satisfying this need, and can further aggravate the meth user’s unprotected teeth and gums. Grinding one’s teeth is a common symptom of “meth mouth”, as the user rarely takes the time to floss and brush his or her teeth.
David Lowe, a British columnist, illustrates the haunting physical decay of the meth user in a case study concerning a young woman named Clea Myers:
“After good results at boarding school and an Ivy League degree, the English Rose [Myers] followed her dream to work in Hollywood and had the world at her feet. But within months of arriving in Los Angeles, she plunged into the abyss of an addiction to killer drug crystal meth that was to last three years. Her career was forgotten, she had turned to crime and, as her prison mugshot shows, her features had been ravaged—she was emaciated and her eyes had a lifeless stare. Weighing just over six stone, Myers displayed rotting teeth, her skin was pock-marked and, inside battered trainers, her feet were constantly bleeding from her compulsive picking.” (The Sun, 13 Aug 2009)
SOME DAUNTING STATISTICS:
Based on statistics reported by the 2005 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), approximately 10.4 million people age 12 or older have tried methamphetamine at some point in their lives. Additionally, an assessed 1.3 million stated that they had used methamphetamine that same year. The 2005 Monitoring the Future survey was created for the purpose of studying drug use and attitudes and reported the following: 4.5% of high school seniors had used meth, 4.1% of tenth-graders had used meth and 3.1% of eighth-graders had used meth. Admission to methamphetamine treatment programs represented 8% of all admission to drug rehabilitation in 2004. In 2002 more than a third of the country (21 states) reported high numbers of methamphetamine abuse as the primary concern at admission, a greater than 400% increase in ten years. Some experts say that it is impossible not to become addicted to crystal meth, and studies have shown that nine out of ten people who inject crystal meth just once will become addicted.
In 2008, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, found that 850,000 Americans age 12 and older had abused methamphetamine at least once in the year prior to the survey. Also that year, a NIDA-funded, Monitoring the Future Study reflected that 1.2% of 8th graders, 1.5% of 10th graders, and 1.2% of 12th graders had abused methamphetamine at least once in the year prior to having been surveyed.
THE EFFECTS OF METHAMPHETAMINE:
Methamphetamine is a powerful central nervous system stimulant that affects the body’s mechanisms for regulating heart rate, body temperature, blood pressure, appetite, attention, mood, alertness and panic responses. It can be ingested in a variety of ways including swallowing, snorting, smoking, anal injection, and injection into the urethra. Snorting generates a more immediate high than does swallowing and smoking generates a more immediate high than does snorting.
Meth alters the user’s mood in various ways, creating a reaction that is largely dependent upon the individual and how the drug is administered. The immediate outcome after smoking meth or injecting it intravenously is a powerful charge or “spark” that lasts for only a few minutes. This reaction has been described by users as extremely satisfying. In contrast to this method, snorting or swallowing meth produces a state of euphoria. This altered state can be described as a “high”, but is not necessarily a “rush”. The effects of smoking and intravenous injection of meth are immediate. Smoking meth produces results within three to five minutes, while oral injections can take up to 20 minutes to produce a high.
The pleasing effects of crystal meth vanish very quickly. For this reason, greater and greater amounts of meth and an increased rate of recurrence are crucial in order for a user to sustain the ultimate “high”. Hard-core meth users participate in what is known as “binge” behavior. This conduct can “play out” for days at a time. During this cycle, the individual often tends to sacrifice food, hygiene, sleep and other necessities.
Research shows that methamphetamine misuse and reliance can be linked with long-term shifts in the brain’s electrical function. These changes in the brain are similar to those seen in people with degenerative brain diseases.
Side effects commonly related to meth overdose include brain damage, meningitis, neurotoxicity, sensations that the flesh is crawling with bugs, compulsive picking and infecting sores, severe headaches, muscle breakdown, and kidney failure. There are currently no medications available to treat methamphetamine overdose.
MANUFACTURING CRYSTAL METH:
Crystal meth is “cooked” in labs. These labs are often found in abandoned homes, warehouses, and kitchens. Household chemicals and solvents purchased in grocery and hardware stores, medications such as pseudophed, and ordinary items such as pots and pans are used to manufacture this killer drug. When these commonplace ingredients are combined, a toxic form of amphetamine results. The concoction often taints the air and can cause illness and death. It is also substantially unpredictable, and can easily detonate without prior warning. When meth labs are found and shut down, they must be properly dismantled by highlytrained hazardous materials units in order to protect homes and people.
METH REHABILITATION AND TREATMENT:
Prevention strategies aimed at local communities are the most effective means of combating the methamphetamine problem. A holistic family approach appears to be more effective than approaches which focus just on one individual, as a positive support system is an integral piece of the healing process. Long-term cognitive behavioral interventions which are designed to alter thinking behaviors and increase coping skills are considered promising, but most short-term treatment strategies have yielded little if any results, due to the drug’s deteriorating effects on the brain.
One particularly therapeutic approach for meth rehabilitation is known as the “matrix model”—a behavioral treatment methodology that combines behavioral therapy, family education, individual counseling, twelve-step support, drug testing, and encouragement for non drug-related activities. The matrix model has proven to be effective in reducing methamphetamine abuse and contingency management interventions have been known to provide concrete inducements for treatment and for the maintenance of abstinence from the drug.
Beverly McWilliams Jones, LICSW, is a Washington, DC based clinical social worker with 33 years experience in the mental health profession. According to Jones, very few meth users are able to overcome their addiction without intensive, long-term interventions.
Jones views one’s social inabilities, environment, and personal chemistry as factors contributing to the problem of relapse. If an individual astutely avoids the issues that initially brought him to his addictive state, Jones says, he has a better chance for success at rehabilitation. One’s mental health, a desire to belong to a group, and feelings of inadequacy are some of the factors which frequently contribute to the initial use of substances. If a person is presented with good interventions, motivation, and ample treatment for the client, then positive outcomes can often be achieved.
In an attempt to curb meth production, some states have limited the purchase of over-the-counter pseudophed, one of the common ingredients in crystal meth. Additionally, measures have been taken to provide prevention messages to at-risk populations and law enforcement officials have become more aggressive in closing down neighborhood meth labs. However, all experts agree that the most effective way to thwart the crystal meth problem is to avoid this dangerous marauder at all costs.
by Gale Alexander Kamen, PhD
Publicly funded treatment facilities by State findtreatment.samhsa.gov
Dr. Kamen is an Educational Consultant and Education & Training Specialist living in Washington, DC. She is the author of The Status, Survival, and Dilemma of a Female Dalit Cobbler of India, which can be found on amazon.com