The Meth War: Combating Addiction with Knowledge and Technology
It hasn’t been until recently that the number of methamphetamine users has decreased. Still, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), approximately 1.2 million people used meth in 2012; the Meth War is far from over. This dangerous drug has ruined too many lives to stop combating its use, especially among young adults. The variety of knowledge and tools we have today help us educate people about meth, and keep them from using this highly addictive drug.
The NIDA describes methamphetamine as a “white, odorless, bitter-tasting crystalline powder that easily dissolves in water or alcohol.” It can be swallowed, snorted, injected, or smoked depending on the user’s preference. Once ingested, it increases the release of certain brain chemicals, namely dopamine and norepinephrine, and disrupts the breaking down of those chemicals. At normal, healthy levels those chemicals trigger the brain’s reward system which, among other things, affects motivation and the experience of pleasure. Meth rapidly floods the brain with these chemicals, and inhibits the brains ability to reabsorb them, causing a euphoria, or ‘rush’. Think of the happiest moment of your life and increase it ten fold. This is possibly what being on methamphetamine feels like.
The euphoria of meth comes at a heavy price. Meth alters brain chemistry that affects mental psycohological, mental, and biological well-being. Most people become addicted to meth after their first use. In addition they experience increased anxiety, depression, sleep loss, extreme weight loss, obsessive behavior, psychosis and hallucinations. These conditions give those who abuse meth a distinct appearance, even over a short period of time. It is possible that this rapid change in appearance is the most effective tools in the Meth War.
The internet has numerous heartbreaking photos and videos of individuals who once looked healthy. Photos, often mug shots from multiple arrests, chronologically show how meth destroys a person. The individuals look far older than their age, are obscenely skinny, have marks from obsessive skin picking, have missing and rotten teeth, and a sunken jaw (“meth mouth”). A powerful weapon of the Meth War is computer software that can imitate the effects of meth on a healthy person’s photo now exists. Such innovative persistent psychosis, cardiovascular problems, and Parkinson’s disease because of meth use, nothing is quite as powerful as seeing yourself wither away.
For some of those who have brain chemical imbalances, methamphetamine can be medically useful when taken properly, but when abused, it is a devastatingly destructive drug that takes a tremendous toll on a meth addict’s body and mind. Meth has become such an insidious drug because many addicts make their own with commonly found substances. As a result, we now have to show ID and sign for pseudoephedrine-based products, such as some cold and allergy products, and many have lost their homes or lives to the unstable chemical interactions in meth labs. While difficult to treat, the right rehabilitation program can manage the difficult withdrawal process and hopefully reverse the meth addiction. As with any chemical substance abuse, the Meth War will most likely persist, but with some knowledge and innovative thinking, we are making significant progress, one person at a time.