Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Methamphetamine use in the United States

Methamphetamine has been a recurring problem in the United States since the 1930s. There is a complicated history of periodic increases and declines in meth usage since meth was outlawed in 1970.

Use as a Medication

Amphetamine was discovered in 1887 in Germany. The chemical was synthesized, meaning that it is not naturally-occurring in nature, unlike many other medications in use at the time. No use for the chemical was discovered until the 1920s. In the 1930s, amphetamine was widely used as a medication for asthma and some cold symptoms such as sinus congestion. It was sold in the form of an inhaler under the trade name Benzadrine. People began abusing it when a pill form was created in 1937. A powder form of amphetamine known as methamphetamine was created in 1919. This powder was much more powerful while being cheaper and easier to produce than the inhalant and pill forms. The powder form was used during World War II as an injectable stimulant to keep soldiers awake and alert during combat, which was physically and emotionally exhausting.

During the 1950s, as soldiers returning from the war either entered college or joined the civilian workforce, more people began abusing methamphetamine. The drug became popular among students, athletes and people in physically demanding jobs such as trucking. Methamphetamine was easy to find and cheap to purchase, since it was still used as over-the-counter medicine for a variety of conditions. It was still used as cold medicine, but it was also marketed as a pep pill for people who were depressed or lethargic. It was also recommended for people who wanted to lose weight.


Common abuse of the pill form of methamphetamine led many people to try the powder form as well. Injecting meth led to a stronger high with a much quicker onset. When meth is injected, it only takes a few seconds for the user to feel the effects. In response to the widespread abuse of meth and increasing rates of addiction, the U.S. government outlawed the powder form of meth under the Controlled Substances Act in 1970. This curtailed some of the widespread abuse of the drug. However, it also created an illegal drug trade that gained momentum in the 1980s, involving drug cartels bringing meth into the U.S. through Mexico. This was also when people began smoking the drug to get high.

Federal and state government agencies responded to the thriving meth trade with a series of laws restricting the purchase of the ingredients used to make meth, including cold medicines that contain ephedrine and pseudoephedrine and fertilizers that are used in the manufacturing process. Meth can be manufactured easily in homes and abandoned buildings. The domestic meth trade increased in response to the federal government's attempt to intervene in the international meth trade. In 2012, there were a total of 12,088 meth-related incidents in the U.S., a dramatic increase from 2011, when there 10,238 incidents. These incidents included raids of meth labs, seizing equipment and the discovery of dump sites.


  • One gram of meth has a street value between $25-75. It is much cheaper than other drugs that have comparable effects such as cocaine, which starts at about $100 per gram.
  • Meth use has been increasing throughout the late 2000s and early 2010s, after a sharp decline in 2007. In 2010, the number of meth-related emergency room visits increased from the previous year to the highest since 2005.
  • 65% of methamphetamine in the U.S. comes from cartels trafficking the drug through Mexico.
  • Methamphetamine withdrawal symptoms are often delayed, sometimes taking one to three months to appear after a person's last time using meth. Because of the delay, as many as 93% of people in rehab for meth addiction have a relapse. Many treatment programs last from 30-45 days, while withdrawal symptoms may not occur until three months after the last drug use.
  • Numbers of new meth users and teenage meth users are decreasing, but numbers of regular users remain about the same.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Methamphetamine Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal Symptoms

The symptoms of methamphetamine withdrawal vary wildly, and the depth of a person's addiction will often guide the severity of the torture involved in quitting this lethal drug. The effects of methamphetamine addiction often include convulsions, paranoia, and tremors, as well as eventual death. Each time a methamphetamine addict falls back into drug use, the potential for stopping that addiction recedes. Meth addiction is considered one of the most difficult types of drug abuse to stop due to the physical dependence of the body upon the drug once a person has started using. Before the withdrawal symptoms even truly begin when the last remnants of the drug are wearing off, immediate feelings of panic, irritability, and even depression may set in and cause the addict to inflict harm if more drugs cannot be obtained. Despite the chance to exhibit violent and psychotic behavior while abusing methamphetamines and the long-term effects like the potential for stroke and epilepsy, the problems of active use pale in comparison to the pain and torture of withdrawal. Unfortunately, many addicts choose to keep using rather than risk experiencing methamphetamine withdrawal.

Destruction of Mind and Body

Symptoms of methamphetamine withdrawal range from physical symptoms that wrack the body and cause pain to psychological problems that make it incredibly difficult to resist using the drug again. Some of the worst physical symptoms an individual might experience while in withdrawal include:
  • Hyperventilating
  • Nausea
  • Palpitations
  • Shaking
  • Sweating
The further mental trauma a meth addict might experience while he is attempting to quit the drug may include:
  • Depression
  • Exhaustion
  • Fearfulness
  • Irritability
Methamphetamine addicts with a long history of using drugs are at an extraordinarily increased risk of death, and even after a person gathers the strength to stop using the drug, the body's chemical balance may never return to normal. Meth addicts in recovery often can't even feel normal due to the physical impact of the drug on the body's production of natural chemicals like dopamine.

Frightening Statistics

Unfortunately, statistics from the United States National Institute on Drug Abuse suggest that illicit drug use is on an upward trend with many new addicts experiencing their first exposure to drugs like meth when they're still in high school. A survey in 2009 suggested that over 20 million people in the United States had used drugs in the month the survey was taken. Meth addiction crosses all social and racial boundaries with almost a million and a half meth users currently addicted across the United States. According to the National Association of Counties, addiction ranges from blue collar workers to white collar workers, and also occurs in many demographics and age groups. Meth use began in the west, but has since made its way across the country into the communities of middle-America and to the East Coast. In addition, according to information from the United States Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration's Center for Behavior Health Statistics and Quality, drug treatment admissions for methamphetamine use over the past several decades have skyrocketed. Medical professionals have good reason to call this rise in abuse an epidemic with more people choosing to try meth each year.

Repairing the Mind

Quitting an addiction to methamphetamines may be one of the most difficult experiences of a person's life, but the news isn't all bad when it comes to living a life in recovery. A study at the University of California in 2011 suggested that some of the nerve damage sustained by people addicted to methamphetamines reversed itself after a person stopped abusing meth for at least a year.

Modern Methamphetamine Addiction Recovery Options

The reality of recovering from a methamphetamine addiction is that the process takes years, and the potential for relapse may always exist to a certain degree. Although doctors once felt that addicts would never truly recover from their addiction and that relapse was all but certain, intense techniques today include medication and strong cognitive behavior therapy. Many people do not realize until it's too late the devastating effects of methamphetamines on the body and become addicted with no hope of recovery. The symptoms of meth addiction withdrawal for methamphetamines are some of the worst of any drug, and preventing new addicts can only happen if vulnerable individuals are aware of the dangers of this addiction.


  1. National Association of Countries
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse
  3. United States Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration's Center for Behavior Health Statistics and Quality