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A Parent's Guide to Drugs of Abuse - Part 3 - Methamphetamine (Meth)
This is Part 3 in a series about Drugs of Abuse. Although it is titled "A Parent's Guide" it contains information for anyone who has a loved one or friend who is addicted to drugs. Millions of people worldwide struggle with drug addiction each day. There are wasted lives, broken families, and tragic deaths. In this series I hope to provide some basic info on the more commonly encountered drugs of abuse, including some very new ones that you may not have heard about.
This segment will cover Methamphetamine. It will also discuss a new dangerous trend, the abuse of Bath Salts that cause physical effects similar to Methamphetamine.
Methamphetamine, or meth, is a very highly addictive stimulant. It has been abused in epidemic proportions for years. Meth was often produced locally in clandestine labs, which exposed all who were nearby to many risks due to the dangers of the chemicals and the process involved. Tightened restrictions on the availability of meth making components and increased enforcement has reduced the number of small clandestine labs. Large "super labs" now produce most of the meth that traffickers distribute to dealers and ultimately to end users.
Meth is commonly called Crystal Meth. In powder form meth appears as a white powder. Some slang terms for this type of meth are Crank, Chalk, or Speed. Meth is also found in a form that resembles ice or glass shards. This type of meth is known as Ice, Glass, or Shards.
Meth is most often smoked or sniffed ("snorted"), although it can be injected or ingested orally. Smoking is usually done with the use of glass pipes.
When smoked or injected users feel an initial strong sensation known as a "rush" or "high", which may last from 5 to 30 minutes. The physical effects of meth may include increased heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature, feelings of exhilaration, and increased energy or mental alertness. The user may also experience reduced appetite, irritability and paranoia, aggressive or violent behavior, and insomnia. Meth use can lead to cardiovascular complications, stroke, seizures, severe dental problems and tooth damage or decay, and a pronounced appearance of aging.
Addiction can occur quickly and users are often known to go on a long binge (or "run") where they will take doses every few hours over several days. During this time they do not eat or sleep, and their main focus is on the drug and its effects. After several days the user reaches a point where they can no longer attain the same "high". This causes extreme frustration, hostility, and paranoia. The user's behavior during this very unpredictable period is known as "tweaking". Their actions are extremely irrational and they can be very dangerous to themselves and others. Hallucinations leading to self-mutilation have occurred due to meth use. Fatal overdose is possible.
Once their supply runs out or they have reached a point of disorientation where they can no longer function the binge user may "crash", sleeping for many hours or days without rising. When they do get up they often feel so bad, both physically and emotionally, that their main focus becomes obtaining more meth and getting high again. This is where the addict repeats the whole cycle again. Addicts at this point will often do things they would never have imagined in order to obtain more of the drug.
Some outward signs of meth use are dilated pupils, dry mouth, excessive sweating, insomnia, paranoia, aggressive behavior or talk, violent acts, poor hygiene and significant weight loss, sores and poor dental health, and an overall unhealthy or prematurely aged appearance.
The long term damage to the body caused by meth is significant. Psychotic behavior and emotional problems may remain for years after use has ceased. One issue that many recovering addicts face is intense guilt over the moral depths they had reached in their quest for the drug. Recovery from meth addiction, as with other addictions, involves an entire lifestyle change if there is to be any hope of success. This includes finding new friends and activities that are outside the drug culture. Strictly controlled addiction treatment of at least 6 months has been shown to have some level of success in helping addicts remain drug free. Follow-up treatment and participation in support groups should continue for years.
A new frightening and dangerous trend among drug users, especially teens, is the use of designer Bath Salts as a substitute for methamphetamine or cocaine. These products contain synthetic stimulants and are marketed as Bath Salts. They may be purchased in shops that sell drug paraphernalia ("Head Shops"), in some convenience stores, or through the internet.
Bath Salts are typically sold as a powder in small plastic or foil packages. Some of the names they are marketed under are White Rush, White Lightning, Bliss, Ivory Wave, Hurricane Charlie and Vanilla Sky. While steps are being taken to make as many of these products as possible illegal, the manufacturers often make changes to the compounds in order to avoid newly enacted laws.
Bath Salts are typically sniffed or "snorted", however they may be smoked, injected or ingested as well. The effects are similar to meth and may also include nausea and vomiting. There have been reports of self-mutilations and fatal overdoes from the abuse of Bath Salts.
Since teenagers are not typical users of legitimate specialty bath products, parents should do more checking into the situation if they find Bath Salts in their teen's possession.