Metamphetamine, sold on the street as 'Ice', is
the drug of choice for today's party-going teenagers. Australia has the
unhappy privilege of leading the world in metamphetamine usage
(followed closely by New Zealand) but most parents and community
leaders don't have a clue what they are dealing with.
Methamphetamine is an addictive stimulant that is
closely related to amphetamine, but has longer lasting and more toxic
effects on the central nervous system. It has a high potential for
abuse and addiction. Methamphetamine use is on the rise around the
country. It has reached epidemic proportions mainly because it is easy
to make using common household items.
Meth is often referred to as speed, chalk, ice,
crystal, and glass.
The drug increases wakefulness and physical
activity and decreases appetite. Chronic, long-term use can lead to
psychotic behavior, hallucinations, and stroke. People who use meth
often don't sleep, sometimes for days on end. They lose weight quickly
because the drug suppresses appetite.
Meth addicts often have lost some of their teeth,
look gaunt, and will have sores on their body from nervous energy they
are trying to get rid of.
National health statistics in America report that
over 12 million persons have tried methamphetamine, with many of them
quickly becoming addicted to the drug.
Methamphetamine is taken orally, intra-nasally
(snorting the powder), by needle injection, or by smoking. Abusers may
become addicted quickly, needing higher doses and more often.
Methamphetamine increases the release of very high
levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which stimulates brain cells,
enhancing mood and body movement. Chronic methamphetamine abuse
significantly changes how the brain functions.
Animal research going back more than 30 years
shows that high doses of methamphetamine damage neuron cell endings.
Dopamine and serotonin-containing neurons do not die after
methamphetamine use, but their nerve endings ("terminals") are cut
back, and re-growth appears to be limited.
Human brain imaging studies have shown alterations
in the activity of the dopamine system. These alterations are
associated with reduced motor speed and impaired verbal learning.
Recent studies in chronic methamphetamine abusers
have also revealed severe structural and functional changes in areas of
the brain associated with emotion and memory, which may account for
many of the emotional and cognitive problems observed in chronic
methamphetamine abusers. Taking even small amounts of methamphetamine
can result in increased respiration, rapid heart rate, irregular
heartbeat, increased blood pressure, and hyperthermia. Other effects of
methamphetamine abuse may include irritability, anxiety, insomnia,
confusion, tremors, convulsions, and cardiovascular collapse and death.
As we've already indicated, long-term effects may
include paranoia, aggressiveness, extreme anorexia, memory loss, visual
and auditory hallucinations, delusions, and severe dental problems.
Also, transmission of HIV and hepatitis B and C can be a consequence of
methamphetamine abuse. Among abusers who inject the drug, infection
with HIV and other infectious diseases is spread mainly through the
re-use of contaminated syringes, needles, and other injection equipment
by more than one person.
The intoxicating effects of methamphetamine,
however, whether it is injected or taken other ways, can alter judgment
and inhibition and lead people to engage in unsafe behaviors.
Methamphetamine abuse actually may worsen the progression of HIV and
its consequences; studies with methamphetamine abusers who have HIV
indicate that the HIV causes greater neuronal injury and cognitive
impairment compared with HIV-positive people who do not use drugs.
Meth is a scary drug with horrible health
implications. It is easy to manufacture, relatively cheap to buy, and
one of the most deadly forms of illicit drug ever to hit the streets.
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