Meth’s Rise in Popularity

LaFayette JSHS: Codee Y.
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Methamphetamine. Meth is deadly. Meth causes unattractive characteristics of the body as well—methamorphosis. This drug is the difference between a twenty-year-old and and a twenty-year-old that looks fifty. A change in appearance is a change in where you lay—a bed or a casket. It’s your choice. Don’t try it.
Methamphetamine is a stimulant, or a drug that increases the activity of the body’s nervous system. Stimulants act on a person’s central nervous system, making a user feel more energetic, alert, and productive. Some stimulants, such as caffeine, are perfectly legal. Other stimulants, such as cocaine, crack, ecstasy, and methamphetamine, are illegal. Methamphetamine, commonly known as meth or crystal meth, is one of the most popular illicit drugs in the United States. It is simple to make, profitable for dealers, and highly addictive.

Meth is now considered to be one of the most dangerous drugs in the United States. At one time, it was considered a drug that mainly appealed to low-income white men living in rural areas. Although meth is still popular with this group, today all sorts of people use methamphetamine. In November 2020 Oregon became the first state in the U.S. to decriminalize the possession and personal use of small amounts of methamphetamine, as well as other street drugs like MDMA (ecstasy), cocaine, heroin, LSD, and oxycodone. Instead of going to trial and facing possible jail time, people can choose to pay a $100 fee or undergo a substance abuse evaluation and attend a free addiction treatment program.

Why Do People Use Meth?

Many of the first addicts of amphetamine, a substance that is chemically related to meth, and methamphetamine were people who were taking the medication for other purposes, such as to stay awake or control their diet. Today, some people still use meth to get through commonplace tasks. They might use meth before a long shift at work, or during an all-night study session. According to Quest Diagnostics, a company that performs drug tests for employers and businesses, there was a 196 percent rise in the number of employees who tested positive for methamphetamine and amphetamine in the United States in 2012 (the last year for which data is available).

The most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 68 percent of adult drug abusers ages eighteen and older had jobs. Many people who are under the influence of meth during work just think that they’re being productive, which is why the drug is becoming more popular among people in competitive and stressful lines of work. For instance, the California Bar Association has reported that one in four lawyers who seeks treatment for drug addiction is a habitual meth user. Even though these meth users may have what appear to be normal lives, they are still harming themselves.

When people turn to meth to help them meet their deadlines and work long hours, they push their bodies to the limits of their endurance. However, meth isn’t a drug like caffeine, and while it may increase wakefulness, too much meth will disrupt the central nervous system, making it difficult for a user to think clearly. Students who use meth or other illegal stimulants in an effort to finish writing term papers may complete their work, only to find the next day that it is nonsensical. In some industries, such as construction or farming, this disorientation can lead to workplace injuries.

The Dangers of Meth

A saliva test can be used to detect methamphetamine use
A saliva test can be used to detect methamphetamine use.
Mark Dadswell/Getty Images
Meth can be swallowed, snorted, smoked, or injected directly into a user’s veins. A person using meth feels euphoria, or intense pleasure, called a rush or flash soon after taking it. This rush generally occurs within just five to twenty minutes and gradually fades away. The effects of the drug can last for a very long time, sometimes as long as twelve hours. During this time, the user’s body temperature rises and the heart rate increases. The user experiences increased wakefulness and energy, and the appetite decreases.

Meth’s most significant effect, however, is the extreme amount of energy and wakefulness that the user experiences. The effects of meth last for a long time, anywhere from four to twelve hours. The intense high is one of the main reasons meth users like taking the drug so much. It is also one of the reasons people can become addicted to meth so quickly. Few other drugs have such an intense and long-lasting effect on users. Then again, few drugs cause as much harm to users as meth.

All illicit drugs take a toll on those who use them, but meth is especially damaging. Once meth’s initial rush wears off, the user often feels intense depression, coupled with an intense desire to consume more of the drug. Some meth users go into violent rages, making them dangerous to themselves and others. Chronic long-term use of methamphetamine can result in paranoia, hallucinations, convulsions, heart attack, brain damage, stroke, and eventually death. Even if meth users are aware that they are becoming addicts, they are often powerless to stop their downward spiral.

Addiction

Lasting only a few minutes, the initial rush often becomes more and more elusive for meth users as their bodies build up tolerance to the drug. Users sometimes find themselves using meth over an entire weekend, staying awake the whole time, and trying to relive that initial rush. The longer the meth user stays awake, the more out of control he or she becomes, often growing confused, irritable, and extremely paranoid. Some users begin to have minor hallucinations.

Repeatedly using meth can keep a user from sleeping for well over a week. Users often keep taking more and more meth to try and stay awake, but they are unable to recapture the euphoric effects of the first hit. This stage of meth use is known as tweaking. While tweaking, the user is likely to engage in simple, repetitive tasks. These tasks can include taking something apart and then putting it back together again, or repeatedly cleaning his or her room.

It’s not uncommon for meth users to pick at the skin of their arms and face while tweaking, or hallucinate that there are insects (sometimes referred to as “crank bugs”) underneath their skin. At this point, their judgment is severely impaired, and there is an increased chance that they may harm themselves or others.

Even though chronic meth users can stay awake for days at a time, no one can stay awake forever. Eventually, users will give in to fatigue and depression. After staying awake for several days, meth users will crash, their body and brain completely exhausted. Users may sleep for several days straight following a meth binge.

When people first use meth, they usually don’t think that they’re going to end up a meth addict. People often start using meth recreationally at parties and social gatherings. Before long they begin using it alone. As time passes, they find that they are unable to stop. Many users start using meth by snorting it. They then progress to smoking it, and then to injecting it directly into their veins. Methamphetamine is so addictive that it can become more important than the user’s job, friends, and loved ones. It can destroy the user’s professional, social, and family life, and finally destroy the mind and body.