Methamphetamine, commonly known as meth, is an addictive stimulant related to amphetamines. Meth is mostly used as a recreational drug. The Foundation for a Drug-Free World estimates that about 13 million Americans have used meth. Abuse of meth has been linked to a wide range of health problems and the manufacture of meth is also extremely dangerous. Due to the alarming popularity of this narcotic, it’s important to understand the dangers it poses to public safety.
What does meth do?
As a stimulant, meth affects the central nervous system by speeding it up, increasing heart rate, breathing rate and blood pressure as well as raising body temperature and causing a feeling of increased energy level. These effects are more sudden and pronounced when the drug is smoked or injected. The drug also causes an increase in dopamine levels, which provides a euphoric sensation that abusers can become addicted to. Due to the fact that the meth high doesn’t last very long, addicts will often take multiple hits of the drug over a single sitting (National Institute on Drug Abuse).
The consequences of chronic meth use are severe. Physical effects include excessive weight loss, skin sores and rotting teeth, a condition sometimes called “meth mouth.” The psychological ramifications are also very serious. Addicts frequently suffer from anxiety, insomnia, violent mood swings, paranoia, delusions and hallucinations. Scientists have discovered that prolonged use of meth can cause actual molecular changes in the areas of the brain associated with emotion and memory. These effects may fade over time if the addict gets clean.
How is meth made?
Meth use has highly increased in recent years because of the ease with which it can be made. While a significant portion of the meth supply is manufactured in large “superlabs” in Mexico, domestic dealers can create meth in their living rooms. The drug is made mostly from over-the-counter chemicals, including pseudoephedrine, an ingredient of some cold medicines. For this reason, pseudoephedrine is often kept in secured areas in drug stores. Even with tightened security on the ingredients, making meth is a cheap process that keeps the black market flooded with the drug.
Most of the ingredients of meth are toxic chemicals, making meth manufacturing dangerous for the maker and the community at large. If the maker botches the chemical process of manufacture, the whole lab can explode, possibly killing the maker and anyone in close proximity. Even without an explosion, meth labs poison the surrounding environment and make it a dangerous place for everyone to live. According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, the United States spent more than $18 million cleaning up hazardous waste from meth labs in 2004 alone.
Meth is a dangerous, toxic drug that poisons both addicts and their communities. If you or someone you know might be addicted to meth, the time to act is now. Call the Arizona Drug Addiction Helpline for information on treatment centers in your area.