The abuse of methamphetamine - a potent psycho stimulant - is an
extremely serious and growing problem. Methamphetamine is a powerfully
addictive stimulant associated with serious health conditions, including
memory loss, aggression, psychotic behavior, and potential heart
and brain damage; it also contributes to increased transmission
of hepatitis and HIV/AIDS.
Methamphetamine is a powerfully addictive stimulant that dramatically
affects the central nervous system. The drug is made easily in clandestine
laboratories with relatively inexpensive over-the-counter ingredients.
These factors combine to make methamphetamine a drug with high potential
for widespread abuse.
Methamphetamine is commonly known as "speed," "meth,"
and "chalk." In its smoked form it is often referred to
as "ice," "crystal," "crank," and
"glass." It is a white, odorless, bitter-tasting crystalline
powder that easily dissolves in water or alcohol. The drug was developed
early in this century from its parent drug, amphetamine, and was
used originally in nasal decongestants and bronchial inhalers. Methamphetamine's
chemical structure is similar to that of amphetamine, but it has
more pronounced effects on the central nervous system. Like amphetamine,
it causes increased activity, decreased appetite, and a general
sense of well-being.
The effects of methamphetamine can last 6 to 8 hours. After the
initial "rush," there is typically a state of high agitation
that in some individuals can lead to violent behavior. Methamphetamine
is a Schedule II stimulant, which means it has a high potential
for abuse and is available only through a prescription that cannot
be refilled. There are a few accepted medical reasons for its use,
such as the treatment of narcolepsy, attention deficit disorder,
and -- for short-term use - obesity, but these medical uses are
According to the 1996 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse,
an estimated 4.9 million people (2.3 percent of the population)
have tried methamphetamine at some time in their lives. In 1994,
the estimate was 3.8 million (1.8 percent), and in 1995 it was 4.7
million (2.2 percent). Data from the 1996 Drug Abuse Warning Network
(DAWN), which collects information on drug-related episodes from
hospital emergency departments in 21 metropolitan areas, reported
that methamphetamine-related episodes decreased by 39 percent between
1994 and 1996, after a 237 percent increase between 1990 and 1994.
There was a statistically significant decrease in methamphetamine-related
episodes between 1995 (16,200) and 1996 (10,800). However, there
was a significant increase of 71 percent between the first half
of 1996 and the second half of 1996 (from 4,000 to 6,800).
Drug abuse treatment admissions reported in December 1996 showed
that methamphetamine remained the leading drug of abuse among treatment
clients in the San Diego area and was second only to marijuana in
Hawaii. Stimulants, including methamphetamine, accounted for smaller
percentages of treatment admissions in other states and metropolitan
areas of the West.
Methamphetamine comes in many forms and can be smoked, snorted,
orally ingested, or injected. The drug alters moods in different
ways, depending on how it is taken. Immediately after smoking the
drug or injecting it intravenously, the user experiences an intense
rush or "flash" that lasts only a few minutes and is described
as extremely pleasurable. Snorting or oral ingestion produces euphoria
-- a high but not an intense rush. Snorting produces effects within
3 to 5 minutes, and oral ingestion produces effects within 15 to
As with similar stimulants, methamphetamine most often is used
in a "binge and crash" pattern. Because tolerance for
methamphetamine occurs within minutes -- meaning that the pleasurable
effects disappear even before the drug concentration in the blood
falls significantly -- users try to maintain the high by binging
on the drug. In the 1980's, "ice," a smokeable form of
methamphetamine, came into use. Ice is a large, usually clear crystal
of high purity that is smoked in a glass pipe like crack cocaine.
The smoke is odorless, leaves a residue that can be resmoked, and
produces effects that may continue for 12 hours or more.
As a powerful stimulant, methamphetamine, even in small doses,
can increase wakefulness and physical activity and decrease appetite.
A brief, intense sensation, or rush, is reported by those who smoke
or inject methamphetamine. Oral ingestion or snorting produces a
long-lasting high instead of a rush, which reportedly can continue
for as long as half a day. Both the rush and the high are believed
to result from the release of very high levels of the neurotransmitter
dopamine into areas of the brain that regulate feelings of pleasure.
Methamphetamine has toxic effects. In animals, a single high dose
of the drug has been shown to damage nerve terminals in the dopamine-containing
regions of the brain. The large release of dopamine produced by
methamphetamine is thought to contribute to the drug's toxic effects
on nerve terminals in the brain. High doses can elevate body temperature
to dangerous, sometimes lethal, levels, as well as cause convulsions.
Long-term methamphetamine abuse results in many damaging effects,
including addiction. Addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease,
characterized by compulsive drug-seeking and drug use which is accompanied
by functional and molecular changes in the brain. In addition to
being addicted to methamphetamine, chronic methamphetamine abusers
exhibit symptoms that can include violent behavior, anxiety, confusion,
and insomnia. Chronic abuse can also lead to psychotic behavior,
characterized by intense paranoia, visual and auditory hallucinations,
and out-of-control rages that can be coupled with extremely violent
behavior. Heavy users show progressive social and occupational deterioration
with psychotic symptoms sometimes persisting for months or years
after use has ceased.
With chronic use, tolerance for methamphetamine can develop. In
an effort to intensify the desired effects, users may take higher
doses of the drug, take it more frequently, or change their method
of drug intake. In some cases, abusers forego food and sleep while
indulging in a form of binging known as a "run," injecting
as much as a gram of the drug every 2 to 3 hours over several days
until the user runs out of the drug or is too disorganized to continue.
Although there are no physical manifestations of a withdrawal syndrome
when methamphetamine use is stopped, there are several symptoms
that occur when a chronic user stops taking the drug. These include
depression, anxiety, fatigue, paranoia, aggression, and an intense
craving for the drug. In scientific studies examining the consequences
of long-term methamphetamine exposure in animals, concern has arisen
over its toxic effects on the brain. Researchers have reported that
as much as 50 percent of the dopamine-producing cells in the brain
can be damaged after prolonged exposure to relatively low levels
of methamphetamine. Researchers also have found that serotonin containing
nerve cells may be damaged even more extensively. Whether this toxicity
is related to the psychosis seen in some long-term methamphetamine
abusers is still an open question.
- Increased attention
- Increased activity
- Decreased fatigue
- Decreased appetite
- Euphoria and rush
- Increased respiration
- Repetitive motor activity
- Weight Loss
- Dependence and addiction
- Serious skin conditions
- Tooth decay and loss
- Mood disturbances
Methamphetamine is classified as a psycho stimulant as are other
drugs of abuse such as amphetamine and cocaine. We know that methamphetamine
is structurally similar to amphetamine and the neurotransmitter
dopamine, but it is quite different from cocaine. In contrast to
cocaine, which is quickly removed and almost completely metabolized
in the body, methamphetamine has a much longer duration of action
and a larger percentage of the drug remains unchanged in the body.
This results in methamphetamine being present in the brain longer,
which ultimately leads to prolonged stimulant effects.
Methamphetamine can cause a variety of cardiovascular problems.
These include rapid heart rate, irregular heartbeat, increased blood
pressure, and irreversible, stroke-producing damage to small blood
vessels in the brain. Hyperthermia (elevated body temperature) and
convulsions occur with methamphetamine overdoses, and if not treated
immediately, can result in death. Chronic meth abuse can result
in inflammation of the heart lining, and among users who inject
the drug, damaged blood vessels and skin abscesses.
A common method of illegal methamphetamine production uses lead
acetate as a reagent. Production errors may therefore result in
methamphetamine contaminated with lead. There have been documented
cases of acute lead poisoning in intravenous methamphetamine abusers.
Fetal exposure to methamphetamine also is a significant problem
in the United States. At present, research indicates that methamphetamine
abuse during pregnancy may result in prenatal complications, increased
rates of premature delivery, and altered neonatal behavioral patterns,
such as abnormal reflexes and congenital deformities.
Increased HIV/AIDS and hepatitis B and C transmission are likely
consequences of increased methamphetamine abuse, particularly in
individuals who inject the drug and share injection equipment. Infection
with HIV and other infectious diseases is spread among injection
drug users primarily through the reuse of contaminated syringes,
needles, or other paraphernalia by more than one person. In nearly
one-third of Americans infected with HIV, injection drug use is
a risk factor, making drug abuse the fastest growing vector for
the spread of HIV in the nation.
At this time the most effective treatments for methamphetamine
addiction are cognitive behavioral interventions. These approaches
are designed to help modify the patient's thinking, expectancies,
and behaviors and to increase skills in coping with various life
stressors. Methamphetamine recovery support groups also appear to
be effective adjuncts to behavioral interventions that can lead
to long-term recovery.
There are currently no particular pharmacological treatments for
dependence on amphetamine or amphetamine-like drugs such as methamphetamine.
Antidepressant medications are helpful in combating the depressive
symptoms frequently seen in methamphetamine users who recently have
There are established protocols that physicians use to treat individuals
who have had a methamphetamine overdose. Because hyperthermia and
convulsions are common and often fatal complications of such overdoses,
emergency room treatment focuses on the immediate physical symptoms.
Overdose patients are cooled off in ice baths, and anticonvulsant
drugs may be administered also.
Acute methamphetamine intoxication can often be handled by observation
in a safe, medically supervised environment. In cases of extreme
excitement or panic, treatment with anti-anxiety agents such as
benzodiazepines has been helpful, and in cases of methamphetamine-induced
psychoses, short-term use of neuroleptics has also proven successful.
For further information on Serenity Lane's treatment of methamphetamine
abuse, call 1-800-543-9905 or (541) 687-1110
The photos you see here are all of the same
She was approximately 38 years old at the time the
Jan 1989 photograph was taken.
These are Department Of Justice photos taken at the
time of arrest(s).
She is now deceased.
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