There are few limits to substances people will consume to experience illegal highs, and seemingly no extreme to which drug dealers won’t go to give them what they want. One of the most addictive of the so-called recreational drugs is methamphetamine. Its use is not as prevalent as marijuana, cocaine or prescription narcotics, but the toll “meth” takes is nevertheless substantial.
Meth is especially dangerous, not just because it’s physically damaging and highly addictive, but because withdrawal symptoms can endure for months and make relapse likely. On top of all that, “cooking” meth carries serious risk of internal and external chemical burns, explosions and fires.
Use of meth went into somewhat of a decline in the U.S. about five years ago, but has since leveled off. According to Justice Department statistics there are four times as many cocaine users and twice as many “ecstasy” users nationally, but meth use runs higher than the national average in Ohio and the Great Lakes region. Contributing to its allure is a 60 percent drop in price, coupled with a doubling of average potency, since 2007. The Southeast and Midwest rank at the top of meth use nationally, and Knox County law enforcement agencies place it alongside heroin as a major concern locally.
“Meth is a very serious problem,” said Georgette Burritt, Clinical Director of the Alcohol and Drug Freedom Center of Knox County. “Some of its qualities make it especially destructive, which has to do with how long a person has been using and how sleep-deprived they are. Those factors play a huge role in paranoid and aggressive behavior.”
Meth is a gritty drug with none of the bogus glamour sometimes afforded marijuana and cocaine by music and pop culture. It recognizes no social strata, and lures in average Joes as well as the rich and famous. Amphetamine use contributed to the deaths of Judy Garland and Elvis Presley, and celebrity users who have struggled with meth range from Oscar-nominated actors Ryan O’Neal and Robert Downey Jr. to Grammy-winning singers Fergie and the late Johnny Cash.
Meth causes the brain to produce high levels of dopamine, leading to heightened focus and a euphoric high that may last as long as 12 hours. It makes some people more outgoing socially, and can be a sexual stimulant. Its effects are unpredictable, and meth sometimes elicits delusional and aggressive behavior. It has side effects that result in rotting of teeth and open sores. It also causes elevated heart rates, cardiac arrhythmia and elevated body temperatures. Meth creates broken people with insatiable needs. Overdose deaths usually involve the combination of meth with other drugs, notably heroin.