Methamphetamine first became popular in the United States with long-haul truckers in the 1950s, and later was picked up in the 1970s and ’80s by athletes looking for a synthetic performance boost. Its next wave – as a party drug popular among gays – started about 20 years ago. It’s now spread beyond that and is one of the few drugs that has high rates of use among women.
Methamphetamine is a synthetic stimulant that can be taken by pill, inhaled through the nose, injected or smoked. It triggers the brain to release high levels of dopamine, which creates an intense feeling of euphoria. But over time, the body becomes resistant to dopamine, and the person needs more of the drug to get the same high.
Because it’s a stimulant, methamphetamine also keeps users awake and often makes them more physically active – many people take it because it makes them feel more productive. Long-term abuse, however, can cause insomnia, severe mood swings, violent behavior and even psychosis.
Meth addicts don’t usually have the same acute withdrawal symptoms that someone suffering from heroin or alcohol addiction might face. But meth addicts may be more psychologically attached, researchers say. When they try to quit, they can fall into a severe depression and find that using again is the only way to feel better.
Methamphetamine is especially popular with people who have psychological disorders like depression or post-traumatic stress disorder, and addiction experts say they often treat women who are victims of domestic abuse. These problems must be addressed if an addict is going to quit the drug, they say.
Many addicts are convinced they need the drug just to get through a day – if only because the drug keeps them awake and makes them feel productive.
One new type of experimental treatment is known as “motivational” therapy, which allows addicts to quit at their own pace. Counselors work with addicts to address why they use methamphetamine – looking at both the benefits of speed and the obvious negatives.
Source: Erin Allday, San Francisco Chronicle July 6, 2010
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