Meth to death

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 27, 2002

By Kevin Carpenter, Bayou Council on Alcoholism, Thibodaux

The Bayou Council On Alcoholism nd Drug Abuse wants you to be aware that abuse of methamphetamine (“meth”) is a growing problem in the U.S. In 1999, there were 10,447 emergency room visits nationwide involving meth, as reported to the Drug Abuse Warning Network By 2000, that figure had increased by 29 percent, to 13,505 emergency room episodes.

Meth is a highly addictive stimulant closely related to amphetamine, but with greater effect on the central nervous system. Meth’s purest form is odorless and colorless. But, the drug can be white, brown, purple, yellow, pink, red, pale green, or have a chunky, crystal appearance. Method of manufacture, and ingredients used, affect the appearance of the drug. Meth can be smoked, inhaled or injected, and can be taken orally when pressed into pill form.

Meth users tend to go on binges for days or weeks at a time. During the binge, users keep taking the drug and don’t eat or sleep. Profound weight loss, and lack of personal hygiene characterizes chronic users. Meth psychosis, or paranoid delusions, can occur during long binges. For instance: The users may believe that the police are constantly watching them, or imaginary people are following their every move. Meth users can lose all track of time, and repeat useless activities, such as scrubbing the same individual tile on a floor over and over again with a toothbrush, or attempting to mow the lawn with scissors. Some users scratch or pick open sores into their bodies while trying to remove imaginary “crank bugs.” These “crank bugs” are caused by nerve endings dying from meth use. At the end of a binge, the user can’t do anything to stop their discomfort, not even taking more meth helps. Often, the user will turn to a depressant, such as alcohol, for relief. After a binge, the user will crash for days, often resulting in long periods asleep, intense cravings for more of the drug, and possibly deep depression. Tolerance develops quickly, requiring more of the drug to reach the same high.

Other effects of meth use include: loss of appetite, increased alertness, physical energy boost, insomnia, paranoia, distorted audio and visual perceptions, sweating, palpitations, tremors, increased heart rate, higher blood pressure, convulsuions, agitation, and possible death due to heart attack or stroke. Plus, meth use is often associated with tendencies to violent behavior.

Meth causes release of high levels of dopamine, which stimulates brain cells enhancing mood and body movement. It damages brain cells that contain dopamine and serotonin. Over time, meth causes reduced levels of dopamine, which results in several body movement dysfuction, similar to Parkinson’s Disease. And, some users suffer from lead poisoning caused by ingredients in homemade meth.

Meth is manufactured in illegal, clandestine labs from chemicals that are readily available. Labs can be set up quickly by amateur chemists and can be taken down just as quickly after a batch is cooked. Consequences of cooking meth are severe for the chemist and their surroundings. The vapors released are toxic. The volitile chemicals can explode. And, the waste and residue left over from the process are hazardous. For every pound of meth created, there are five to six pounds of hazardous materials left over. The makers often pour these chemicals down the drain, and/or bury them. This damages the environment, and endangers anyone who comes in contact with the contaminated area.

Law enforcement officials are exposed to toxic chemicals while raiding labs. Cancer and other chronic health problems can be traced directly to chemicals used in these labs. Cleanup of even a small lab can cost thousands of dollars. Meth is a danger for users, makers, police, public and the environment. For more information, call (985) 446-0643 in Thibodaux.