Welcome back! Last week I wrote about the passing of my dad. You all shared this over 900 times. Thank you so much for your care and concerns. I will follow up in a week or so with a blog on Elder Abuse in America, as so many of you requested. If you missed that blog and would like to catch up, click HERE.
Tweekers. Meth heads. Druggies. We’ve all heard the terms, maybe even used them ourselves. For this blog, I will challenge you to put aside your preconceived notions about people who use methamphetamines, and walk with me as we discover why they are used, why they are so addictive, and what we, as a society, can do to reverse the flow of this hideous addiction.
I’ve walked both sides of the issue, not as a user, but as the good friend of a former user. I’ve also been robbed by a user, not once, but three times, and when I say robbed, I mean they started out taking our cans, then moved to stealing a 5k welder in broad daylight, to walking into our house in the middle of the night triggering a 911 call. None of that was fun. I also experienced this from the perspective of a user when I had a bad reaction to a prescription I was given, presented at the ER with jerking motions, and was ignored, put on a gurney in the hallway (they wouldn’t even give me a room) and received no care, because they thought I was in withdrawal from meth and they were “waiting it out“. The doctor apologized profusely when they realized their mistake, but by then the reality had set in. Nobody wants to help an addict.
As a society, any time an illegal drug becomes popular, we pay for it. We pay in ER visits, we pay in violence, we pay in theft…we pay and we pay on multiple levels. That’s why it’s so important to write and to read blogs, articles, and books on what makes these drugs so affordable and addictive. What is it that people are getting from this particular drug that they aren’t getting out of living life on it’s face value?
Society often laments what they are paying and/or losing when there’s a drug addicted population, and little care is given for the addicts. The addicts are losing just as much if not MORE than the rest of us. I might lose a bag of cans, but they lose their dignity, their freedom, the ability to get a job, their children, and ultimately, their lives. One could say, “so just stop using“, but is it really that easy? If it were that easy, wouldn’t they all quit?
The Recovery Village Hotline states, “Meth is an all-too-accessible, highly addictive drug made from a variety of ingredients. As a central nervous system stimulant, it produces a rush, followed by a state of agitation. The relative ease of creating the drug, which is also known as methamphetamine, is the reason why it is one of the most popular illicit substances in the United States. In some areas of the country, meth addiction outpaces the rates for both heroin and cocaine addiction. Meth addiction is a debilitating disease, but there is hope for recovery. Many people successfully quit using the drug, and there is evidence that the brain can return to a normal state after a significant period of sobriety.”
That’s a place to start. There IS a good chance for recovery. The brain CAN return to a normal state after a significant period of sobriety. This is unlike Heroin. So let’s start from a place of hope, shall we?
On condition of anonymity, Amy tells us why she used meth. “I was in a really bad relationship. I had two kids with this man, and even though we were both working, we made just enough to pay the bills. If I had left him, my kids would have been homeless. He would keep me up all night wanting to fight and argue, knowing I had to go to work the next day. It got to the point where I was exhausted and my work ethic was slipping. One of my friends said that when it gets rough for her, she uses a little meth to get through the day, so she gave me some to try. I was very hesitant. I had never used drugs before, but I was desperate. I used what she gave me, and I was shocked. I was able to do three times the amount of work I could normally do. I felt fresh. I felt alive. I felt like I could do anything. And then it wore off and I was depressed. It was just too easy to take another hit and keep going. I had been a big girl my whole life, and suddenly I was slimming down. My self esteem shot through the roof. Eventually I got some help to get off of it because I was lucky enough that my job had insurance, but I would be a liar if I didn’t say there are times I miss it. I want people to understand that the first time you use, you don’t plan on getting addicted. It’s a way to cope with what you are dealing with. We all make mistakes, some are just worse than others”.
So there we have it. The side effects that Amy found to be positive.
- increased wakefulness and physical activity
- decreased appetite
- faster breathing
- rapid and/or irregular heartbeat
- increased blood pressure and body temperature
Amy only used meth for a short period of time. Let’s look at the side effects of using it over a longer period of time. These would be considered negative. They are:
- extreme weight loss
- severe dental problems (“meth mouth”)
- intense itching, leading to skin sores from scratching
- changes in brain structure and function
- memory loss
- sleeping problems
- violent behavior
- paranoia—extreme and unreasonable distrust of others
- hallucinations—sensations and images that seem real though they aren’t
In addition, continued methamphetamine use causes changes in the brain’s dopamine system that are associated with reduced coordination and impaired verbal learning. In studies of people who used methamphetamine over the long term, severe changes also affected areas of the brain involved with emotion and memory. This may explain many of the emotional and cognitive problems seen in those who use methamphetamine.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that there is no government sanctioned treatment for meth addiction. None. The only treatment known to work, is something called CBT, also known as “cognitive-behavioral therapy, which helps patients recognize, avoid, and cope with the situations likely to trigger drug use“. So basically, talk therapy.
Could this be why the ER left me in the hallway to detox? They assumed (wrongly) that I was a meth addict, so what were they really to do? They don’t offer CBT at the hospital. In fact, I called and called trying to find someone, anyone, who would take a meth addicted client for CBT treatment, to no avail. Questions such as “what’s their insurance coverage?” and “do they have stable housing?” were asked of me, and knowing how this drug affects users, I have to say that after using for too long of a period, they eventually can’t hold jobs. That leads to no housing and no insurance. This equals no help.
Once on the hamster wheel, it’s nearly impossible to get off without a support network around the user. While there are charity organizations that help with withdrawal, they seldom offer inpatient treatment due to long wait lists and little funding. If one is lucky enough to actually have insurance that covers rehab, there are numerous organizations that can, and do, help.
Here’s the take away message: Don’t use meth. If you have started using meth, stop as soon as possible. Today. If you know someone who is deep into the addiction of meth, know that their chances of kicking this drug are good ONLY if they receive treatment. Ongoing CBT is the only way known to combat this addiction. Addicts may be upsetting family and friends because they stop, only to start again, but without CBT, that’s a cycle that is to be expected.
This video outlines all aspects of Methamphetamine. It’s worth the watch and is under five minutes in length.