Archive for the ‘Meth use’ Category

Meth Madness: Part 2

Sunday, January 1st, 2012

Users of both genders and all ages abuse this drug

I want to be perfectly clear: methamphetamine use is a terrible plague in our society.  Although overall numbers are down over the past decade, we’re still talking about a million plus people in the United States, many of whom are young and heterosexual. But, of course, that’s not the only population group with members who abuse the drug; The CDC factsheet on its risk for HIV/AIDS stresses it can contribute to sexual risk behaviors, regardless of the sexual orientation of the user. I spoke recently to a long-term friend who is gay.  I asked him about its use in the gay community and he replied, “Everyone I ever knew about who used meth is dead.”

There’s a brain chemical called dopamine that affects how we experience pleasurable activities. Lab experiments show this highly addictive and illegal drug can lead to considerably greater dopamine being released than either eating or having sex.

A user experiences a high, a “rush” much more intense than from any normal activity. But there’s a problem; it doesn’t last more than eight to 24 hours. And it’s not as intense in succeeding uses. So that leads to a pattern of addiction, the need for not only repeated  drug use, but more and more of the substance.

Chronic, repeated meth exposure, whether by oral ingestion, ‘snorting”, smoking or injection, clearly leads to damage in the brain, the teeth and the skin.

An online review by the  National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes of Health, says imaging studies (e.g., MRIs) done on meth addicts show alterations in parts of the brain involved in motor skills, verbal learning, emotion and memory.

I went back to the PBS special, “How Meth Destroys the Body” and was stuck by the graphic photos of “meth mouth.” A common sign of abuse of this drug is severe tooth decay. The cause is uncertain, but meth does lead to shrinkage of a user’s blood vessels and the mouth requires an adequate blood supply to stay healthy. The addicts often binge on high-sugar foods and drinks; their mouths lack sufficient saliva to maintain optimal healthy oral tissue and, on a high, meth users often grind their teeth and, of course, forget to brush or floss.

Between the tooth decay, the increased physical activity frequently experienced and the failure to eat adequately, meth users lose weight and look older.

the model of meth's structure looks benign; it's not, though!

They also lose interest in any activities other than those related to obtaining and snorting or injecting the drug. Men may become impotent; women may lose their interest in sex.

So why don’t we require simply prescriptions for the cold and allergy pills that contain psudoephedrine, the chemical I mentioned in my last post that is used in the production of methamphetamine? I read an article in the 20 December 2011 edition of the Annals of Internal Medicine which told of the widespread abuse of controlled substances in the United States. It wasn’t describing illegal drugs, just ones that normally do require a doctor’s prescription. Many of these can now be purchased on the Internet.

That series of photos of meth users mouths and “before” and “after” photos of addicts may be one place to start.

 

 

 

 

 

Meth Madness: Part 1

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

Some people just pop pills

Recently our local paper, the Fort Collins Coloradoan, published a USA Today article titled “Missouri grapples with meth.” I read about the nearly 7,000 law-enforcement seizures of laboratories and methamphetamine-related material in 2011 (through late November), saw that Colorado wasn’t in the top ten states involved (at least in methamphetamine lab seizures) and wondered why Missouri, with 1,744 confiscations, was clearly the hot spot for this drug

A contentious issue is whether state law requires a  doctor’s prescriptions for over-the-counter medications containing pseudoephedrine, a chemical also used for meth production. That’s not true in Missouri where, at present the rules vary from county to county. Oregon and Mississippi have already passed such laws with impressive declines in meth seizures as a result. Fifteen other states have proposed similar legislation.

Then I found a series of articles that brought this issue squarely home to my state. In April 2011  the Denver Post published  two articles about proposed Colorado legislation that, if passed by the state Senate, would have made a number of pseudoephedrine-containing medications, used to treat the symptoms of colds and allergies, available only by prescription; eventually the potential new law went down to defeat by a 7 to 2 vote.

Yet the Colorado Meth Project, part of a much larger, multi-state prevention program whose focus is reducing the usage of this drug, said my home state ranked 7th in the U.S. in total number of “past-year meth users” aged 12 and up in a national survey on drug use during the 2006 to 2009 time frame. Did the “12 and up” catch your attention? This campaign, named the world’s 3rd most effective charitable endeavour by a national magazine, was started in 2005 and works in three arenas: public service messages, public policy and community outreach.

It’s been given credit for marked reduction of methamphetamine use in a number of states. As part of an ongoing CDC surveillance system, monitoring six types of health-risk behaviors that contribute to the leading causes of death and disability among youth and adults, the 2010 Youth Risk Behavior Survey saw a highly significant decline of teen meth use: 52% in Idaho, 63% in Montana and 65% in Arizona.

But we’re not just speaking about teens. In late November of 2011, a 68-year-old former Colorado county sheriff was arrested; he allegedly was trading meth for gay sex. If proven guilty, he clearly wasn’t alone in his drug-related activities.

Others inject their drug of choice

So returning to the question of why is this particular illegal substance so important? It’s a highly addictive stimulant responsible for risky sexual behavior and extreme violence. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), published an extensive  2007 review on methamphetamine use and the risk for HIV/Aids. After discussing research indicating that meth-using gay men may increase their risk factors, they mentioned that heterosexual adults and adolescents who use meth may also engage in sexual practices that markedly increase their possibility of developing STDs including HIV.

That’s by no means all that methamphetamine does to its users, but I’ll write more concerning the chemistry and effects of the drug in my next post.