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Health Dangers

Health Dangers

Why should we be concerned about meth?

Meth use has a severe and costly impact on human health, the environment, and rates of crime in communities. It also costs human lives. Communities suffer when the drug devastates the lives of individuals who use it. Anyone can become addicted, regardless of their profession, race, gender, or socioeconomic class. Straight-A students will steal from their parents to get meth. Children who live in households where meth is used are often endangered, hungry, and neglected.

Meth is accessible—it’s often cheaper to buy than cocaine. Even though the key ingredients used to make meth are no longer readily available in the United States, they can be smuggled from China or India to Mexico. The drug is illegally manufactured in Mexico, and then Mexican cartels smuggle it into the United States across the southwestern border using established supply networks for other drugs. Meth crystals that are smuggled into the United States in liquids are recrystallized in illegal conversion labs. Conversion labs don’t produce meth; instead, they convert powder meth into crystal meth or recrystallize meth that has been dissolved in water, alcohol, or vehicle fluids.

Meth samples seized by the DEA have proven increasingly pure and potent. In 2001, the samples were 40 percent pure meth combined with solvents and other chemicals. Since 2013, the samples have become about 95 percent pure. The more potent samples cause smaller amounts of the drug to have a more significant effect on the human body.

How meth affects the body

Brain: Using meth releases a flood of dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine causing an intense high for hours. However, the high is followed by a crash, which leaves users irritable, depressed, and unable to sleep. After a binge, the individual may not sleep for days, leading to hallucinations, paranoia, depression, and anxiety.

Experts estimate that the “new meth” made from P2P may cause psychosis much quicker than methamphetamines made from ephedrine. Either way, meth use kills your brain’s dopamine cells, leading to psychosis. While some of this damage can eventually be undone with treatment, it takes about a year without substance use.

Heart: Heart disease is the second leading cause of death for meth users. “Meth can raise your blood pressure, constrict blood vessels, speed up heart rate, and cause your heart’s muscles to collapse.”

Immune System: Meth use weakens the immune system.

Kidneys: Likely due to toxins in meth, long-term meth use can cause your kidneys to break down.

Teeth: The derogatory term “meth mouth” refers to advanced gum disease and tooth decay which causes teeth to crumble or fall out. It is unclear to what degree this phenomenon is due to ingesting chemicals in meth or from long periods of poor oral hygiene.

Skin: Meth use can cause extreme itching, leading people who use meth to scratch sores into their face and skin. This type of hallucination is called formication, or the physical hallucination leading users to think they are covered in insects. When under the influence of meth, users have a higher pain threshold, allowing them to scratch more aggressively than if they were sober.