Methamphetamine in America

Methamphetamine use in the United States is rising steadily. It has increasingly become a popular drug for people of all ages.

Methamphetamine (meth) is a powerful stimulant that affects the central nervous system. It works directly on the brain and spinal cord by interfering with normal neurotransmission. Meth is a synthetic drug and has a high potential for abuse and dependence. Meth was developed during the last century from its parent drug amphetamine. Related names for Meth are speed, crank, chalk, go-fast, zip and cristy. The pure smoke-able form of Methamphetamine hydrochloride is called L.A., ice, crystal, 64 glass and quartz.

Meth is illegally produced and sold in pill form, capsules, powder and chunks. Since the 1980’s, Meth has been smuggled from Taiwan and South Korea into Hawaii. Use became wide spread in 1988. By 1990 the distribution of Meth had spread into the United States Mainland. When Meth is domestically produced and imported into the United States it is already in the processed form. The market of Meth was once dominated by Motorcycle Gangs and other local producers in remote areas of California and the Pacific Northwest. It now includes both local producers and Mexican sources providing a finished product to stateside distributors.

Meth use increases energy and alertness and it decreases appetite. It creates an intense rush that is felt almost immediately when the drug is smoked. Snorting the drug affects the user in about five minutes. Oral ingestion takes about twenty minutes. The intense rush and high felt from Meth is caused by the release of high levels of dopamine into the area of the brain that controls the feeling of pleasure. The effects can last up to twelve hours. Side effects include convulsions, dangerously high body temperature, stroke, cardiac arrhythmia, stomach cramps and shaking.

Chronic meth abuse can result in the inflammation of the heart lining. Users who inject the drug have a risk of damaged blood vessels and skin abscesses. Meth also causes the deterioration of social and occupational connections. Another risk is acute lead poisoning because a common method of production uses acetate as a reagent.

Medical consequences of Meth use can include cardiovascular problems such as rapid heart rate, irregular heart beat, increased blood pressure, and stroke producing damage to small blood vessels in the brain. Chronic Meth abuse can lead to psychotic behavior including intense paranoia, visual and auditory hallucinations and out of control rages that can result in violent episodes. Chronic users develop sores on their bodies from scratching at “crank bugs”. This describes the delusions that bugs are crawling under their skin. Several withdrawal symptoms can occur after Meth use is stopped such as depression, anxiety, fatigue, paranoia, aggression and an intense craving for the drug. Psychotic symptoms can sometimes persist for months or years after the drug is no longer used.

Meth is widely available throughout the Pacific, South west and West Central regions and is increasingly available I the great lakes and Southeast. The National Institute on Drug Abuse’s Community Epidemiology Work Group (CEWG) reported that in 2002, Meth use remained highest in the West Coast areas and parts of the Southwest as well as in Hawaii.

The price of Meth ranges nationally from $3,500 to $23,000 per pound, $350 to $2,200 per ounce and $20 to $300 per gram. The average purity of Meth decreased from 71.9% in 1994 to 40.1% in 2001. International controls have reduced the availability of chemicals used to produce high-purity Meth and this may have contributed to the decrease in purity levels. The Federal Government is preparing regulations to further reduce the diversion of pharmaceutical products containing chemicals such as ephedrine and psuedoephedrine that are used to produce illegal drugs.

Meth is infamous for being a “party” drug, but what happens when the party is over?

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