Below are real-life stories* of how meth has changed people's lives, as told by users and people who care about them.
I'm 14 years old, and I used meth for about three months. I never thought that it would destroy my life, but soon I was stealing money from my parents and shoplifting, often selling the things I stole to support my horrible habit. I was never at home. I was always lying to my parents. I was so violent. I didn't care about anything—even myself. The only thing that I cared about was meth. Then one night I started seeing and hearing and feeling things that weren't there—and I picked at my skin for hours. It was the most horrible feeling in the world. I thank God every day that my friend helped me quit.
My 20-year-old son passed away as a result of smoking meth. The ephedrine used to make meth opens up the sinuses, and it caused a hole to form in my son's nose. A common sinus infection spread to his brain, causing him to lose the use of the left side of his body. He was admitted to the hospital and placed in intensive care, where he was put on a ventilator [to help him breathe. He also] underwent brain and sinus surgery. Tests also showed he had feel good. Soon, tolerance develops. People need to use more and more of the drug to get the same good feelings that they got the first time they took it. This often leads to "bingeing," in which people abuse large ill
severe, permanent lung damage. The doctors didn't expect him to make it. After 11 days he awoke and was taken off the ventilator and it looked like he was going to come home. Three days later, he pulled his knees to his chest and said he was having a panic attack and began vomiting blood. He died from a blood clot. Meth does kill.
It was about three years ago when I first got introduced to "ice," or crystal meth. I had some friends visiting, and they brought the drug out. They kept [asking me to try it,] going on and on until I tried it. I did. I liked it. As time went by, I lost more and more weight. I got down to 89 pounds and looked like death. In the two-year time frame that I used meth, I lost my family's respect and a best friend thanks to a bad injection of the drug.
I stopped doing meth on September 20, 2004, and have been clean for almost two years. I am happier than I have ever been, but even after being clean this long I know that I could still easily give in to temptation. I still have headaches and even have the taste in my mouth, but I refuse to give in and start using again.
*These stories come from the Office of the Tennessee District Attorney and can be found at MethFreeTN.org.
amounts of the drug for days at a time. In many cases, people are so consumed by using drugs that they do not eat or sleep. "Crashing" happens at the end of a binge, when the user becomes too tired to continue.
AMPHETAMINE'S OTHER EFFECTS
Amphetamine abuse can drastically affect the way you look. It can cause your hair to fall out and your skin to become oily, which can lead to severe acne. Bingeing, not eating much, and eating unhealthy foods leads to extreme and unhealthy weight loss. Some people begin using meth to improve sexual pleasure, but in the long run, using meth can decrease sexual desire and the ability to have sex.
People who abuse amphetamines sometimes experience amphetamine psychosis. They lose touch with reality and the way they see, hear, and understand the world around them. People with amphetamine psychosis see and hear things that aren't real. They also often experience hallucinations and delusions—they see, hear, and believe things that are not true. An example of psychosis common in meth users is delusional parasit-osis. People falsely believe that they are covered in bugs. People with delusional parasitosis will pick through their skin, sometimes right down to the bone, to get rid of the bugs.
When people are high, they may feel the need to repeat certain actions over and over again. This is called tweaking. The most common example of tweaking is when someone repeatedly takes apart and rebuilds an electronic device, such as a stereo or television.
Some of the most dangerous consequences of amphetamine abuse result from intravenous use (injection) of the drug. Street drugs are often "dirty." They contain impurities (or waste products) that are dangerous when
One of the many effects of methamphetamine use is an open sore, also known as a "meth sore" or "crank crater." Oftentimes, when users are high, they pick at their skin, which forms scabs that turn into scars. The apparent effects of this dangerous drug are displayed in the "before" and "after" police mug shots of these methamphetamine users.
injected. These impurities can plug up veins and stop blood from flowing. They can also be poisonous. For example, crystal meth that is not made properly may contain chemicals that can leak out through the veins into the skin and cause burns.
Users often share or reuse needles. This can spread infections. Bacterial infections are common and can be deadly. Endocarditis is an infection of the lining around the heart. It occurs when bacteria on a dirty needle enter the blood and travel to the heart.
Sharing needles also helps to spread blood-borne diseases such as Hepatitis C and HIV (the virus that causes AIDS). Also, because sexual excitement is heightened, people using amphetamines may have unprotected sex or sex with multiple partners. This increases the risk for spreading sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), such as HIV, chlamydia, and gonorrhea.
Two common effects of meth use are "meth mouth" and "speed bumps." Meth mouth refers to serious tooth decay and bad breath. Sometimes, an abuser's teeth become so damaged that they either break off or have to be pulled. Some researchers believe that meth mouth happens because meth users don't eat healthy foods and don't brush their teeth. Others believe that the drug itself causes the problems.
Speed bumps are small red bumps or rashes. They often show up in places where meth has been injected, but they can be found anywhere on the body. They may be caused by impure drugs.
METH'S YOUNGEST VICTIMS
Amphetamines can seriously damage unborn children. If a woman takes amphetamines while she is pregnant, her baby can have birth defects, such as cleft palate (a hole in the roof of the mouth), small head size, eye problems, deformed arms and legs, and brain damage. If a woman uses these drugs near the end of her pregnancy, she may have her baby too soon, and it may be smaller than nor-
It is common for meth users to have dental hygiene problems and tooth decay, symptoms known as "meth mouth." There are many factors that contribute to the dental disease, such as long periods of poor oral hygiene, tooth grinding and clenching, and the drug's tendency to dry out saliva, which protects teeth against rotting. In addition, the corrosive ingredients found in methamphetamines can also contribute to dental decay.
mal. Babies born to women who use amphetamines may be cranky and restless. These babies can experience the same drug-withdrawal symptoms as an adult.
Amphetamines also can pass into breast milk in large enough amounts to affect the baby. This can result in poor feeding, restlessness, and crying. In 2002, a mother was arrested for the murder of her three-month-old son. He died from an overdose of methamphetamine that he received from her breast milk.
Growing up near a meth lab can affect children of any age. In 2003, four Oregon children between the ages of 4 and 15 were removed from a home where methamphetamine was being made. Three of the children had meth in their bloodstreams. This is not unusual for people who are exposed to this drug every day. They may swallow it accidentally, breathe in secondhand meth smoke, or absorb it through their skin. Individuals living in homes where meth is made also can be exposed to other dangerous chemicals that are used in its production. Children and teens are often removed from these homes and placed in protective custody.
METH LABS: CHEMICAL CENTRAL
Illegal methamphetamine is made in secret labs by people called "cooks." These labs can be found almost anywhere: homes, hotel rooms, garages, sheds, campgrounds, and even in the trunks of cars. Large labs, called "superlabs," can make more than 10 pounds (4.5 kg) of meth in 24 hours. Although the number of superlabs is growing, most labs that exist today are "mom-and-pop labs" that produce 1 to 2 ounces (30 to 60g) of meth each day.
Many of the chemicals used to make meth are dangerous. If the meth is not made properly, these chemicals can be left behind in the drug and can kill a user. These are some common ingredients used to make methamphetamine:
• Pseudoephedrine and ephedrine: Ingredients in cold remedies and herbal products
• Acetone: The main ingredient in nail-polish remover
• Toluene: A chemical used to make paint and paint thinner
• Iodine: A product used to disinfect (clean) wounds
• Anhydrous ammonia: A fertilizer
• Lithium: A chemical used in some batteries
• Lye: An ingredient in drain cleaner
An Indiana police officer holds a toy tanker filled with anhydrous ammonia, a nitrogen fertilizer used to make methamphetamine. The anhydrous ammonia is just one of the ingredients found in this homemade meth lab in Crawfordsville, Indiana. Meth labs are highly dangerous and illegal.
• Starter fluid
Meth labs also produce large amounts of dangerous materials and gases. These are harmful to the people inside the lab, and to anyone close by. Some of the gases produced, such as phosphene gas, are odorless and colorless. However, they can kill a person if they are breathed in. Other gases, such as hydrogen gas, are explosive. Many meth labs are discovered only after they have exploded.
Chemicals used and produced in meth labs can seep into walls, carpet, and furniture. They can stay there for years, even after the meth lab is gone. Many buildings that contain meth labs must be torn down or decontaminated (cleaned and detoxified). In a meth lab, chemicals and by-products might be dumped down the sink or toilet, or thrown out with the garbage. This can contaminate water and soil, as well as sewers, ditches, and dumpsters.
Meth labs often are booby-trapped to stop or injure anyone who tries to come inside. Cooks are very protective of their product and are often users themselves. This makes them paranoid. They may set traps using fishhooks, guns, or electrical or chemical barriers.
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