Saturday, May 23, 2009


Go to Health: Methamphetamine

Federal surveys indicate that about 1% of the population over age 12 uses meth in a given year. A rising number of users are smoking meth rather than snorting it or taking it orally. Smoking is said to create a faster, jolting high, quicker addiction and more ill effects. A recent study by the RAND Corporation, published on the Meth Project website, computes the annual costs of meth use in the US at $23.4 billion per year. These costs include health care, drug treatment, rehab, foster care for endangered children, the criminal justice system, injuries and deaths from exploding meth labs and cleanup of the toxic waste these labs produce.

There’s a good website on the use and dangers of methamphetamine: The Meth Project is a large-scale prevention program aimed at reducing first-time meth use among young people through public service messaging, public policy, and community outreach. Their messages are aimed at youth, and their motto is ‘not even once’. They have been active and successful in several rural states, including Montana, Idaho, Arizona, Wyoming and Illinois. Their method is to educate the public against trying meth with TV ads, radio, billboards and murals painted by youth. If you are concerned about the dangers of meth for our youth, check it out.

Taking even small amounts of methamphetamine can result in increased wakefulness, increased physical activity, decreased appetite, increased respiration, rapid heart rate, irregular heartbeat, increased blood pressure, and high body temperature. Long-term use leads to extreme weight loss, severe dental problems, facial scarring, anxiety, confusion, insomnia, mood disturbances, and violent behavior. Users can experience paranoia, visual and auditory hallucinations, and delusions (for example, the sensation of insects creeping under the skin).

Dopamine is a brain chemical with effects on many body systems having to do with activation and pleasure. First time meth users can experience extreme pleasure from an outpouring of dopamine in the brain. After a number of hours, there is an unpleasant crash, leading to a desire for more meth. Repeated use leads to serious addiction; it changes brain chemistry in a way that can take years to reverse. Treatment of meth addiction is a huge problem; there are as yet no effective drugs that decrease the cravings.

Three suggestions:. Parents should know that a dangerous drug mixing meth and ecstacy called Thiz is popular among youth, and has been seen in our local towns. Read the books by David and Nic Sheff on meth addiction - Beautiful Boy and Tweak. Get your dopamine high from working out, coffee, playing music – or whatever drug-free way of being turns you on.

Sadja Greenwood, MD

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