Research Paper: Methamphetamine Abuse in the US

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Methamphetamine Abuse in the U.S.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse defines methamphetamine as a drug that stimulates the central nervous system similar to amphetamine. It is classified as a Schedule II drug due to its high potential for abuse and it is available through a non-refillable prescription. Though prescribed by doctors, its uses are limited and the doses they prescribe to their patients are in much smaller doses than the doses that are abused. In America, the methamphetamine that is abused is normally comes from foreign or domestic super labs although, they can also come from small, illegal laboratories with its production posing a danger to those working in them, those living near the lab and the environment surrounding the labs (1). Its high toxicity can cause contamination to the environment. Its effects are usually great that once uncovered, buildings which housed meth labs are usually condemned because the waste products can harm the non-users nearby, (Ferri). Ferri describes crystal methamphetamine as a synthetic stimulant which is easy and fairly inexpensive to manufacture since its ingredients are readily available over the counter through products like ephedrine and drain cleaner. Crystal methamphetamine is known commonly by its street names of "meth," "tina," "ice" and "crank."

According to the DEA report (2009), Georgia is both a final destination point for drug shipments and a corridor for smuggling of drugs that are transported along the East Coast. This is due to the extensive interstate highway, rail and bus transportation networks and international, regional and the private air and marine ports of entry serving the state. With the state located strategically on the 1-95 corridor between New York City and Miami which are the key wholesale level drugs distribution centers on the East Coast, 1-85 toward North and South Carolina and other major drug importation hubs. The Interstate Highway also runs directly into Georgia form drug entry points which are along the southwest border and the Gulf Coast. With these factors in place, Atlanta has become a strategic point for drug trafficking organizations as it is the largest city in the South and it is a nexus for all East/West and North/South travel. The primary source and staging area for cocaine remains the Mexico-U.S. Southwest Border area continues to be the primary source and staging area for the introduction into Georgia into cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana ("Georgia 2009, Factsheet").

The Drug Enforcement Administration factsheet (2009) stated that methamphetamine abuse still continues to be a prime threat throughout Georgia. The most significant methamphetamine seizures since 2002 have been the result of stash or distribution site raids or state or local interdiction stops. The meth labs were also found to be located in the northwestern counties although there has been recent shift, although slight, in laboratory activity near the state's extreme southwestern and eastern counties ("Georgia 2009, Factsheet"). In 2008, the Federal Drug Seizures recorded the seizure of 65 kilograms of methamphetamine. Legislation was enacted in 2005 to restrict the sale of over the counter products which contained pseudoephedrine which is an essential chemical that is used in the production of methamphetamine. This has however resulted in an increase in the availability in the Atlanta metropolitan area of Mexican manufactured crystallized methamphetamine which is also known as ice.

What is Methamphetamine?

Methamphetamine is a white odorless bitter-tasting crystalline powder which easily dissolves in alcohol or water and taken either orally, intranasally, that is through snorting, by injecting it into the body with a needle or by smoking it. Methamphetamine increases the release while blocking the uptake of dopamine which is a brain chemical. This result in high levels of dopamine in the brain, a common action mechanism of most of the drugs abused. Chronic abuse of methamphetamines results in significant change in the brain functions as well as alterations in the activity of the dopamine system which is associated with reduced motor skills and impaired verbal learning (National Institute of Drug Abuse,, 1). Repeated abuse of methamphetamine can result in addiction which is also accompanied by chemical and molecular changes in the body. Some of these problems might persist long after abuse of the drug has stopped and reversing some of the changes brought on with the drug abuse can take sustained periods of abstinence like one year (Winslow et al. 1172).

The Side Effects of Abuse of Methamphetamine

A survey carried out by the Georgia Meth Project in 2010 found that although there was a general disapproval of the drug; there are many teens that are unaware of the risks associated with the use of methamphetamine. A significant number of teens and young adults see potential benefits in taking the drug and discussions were limited between young people and their peers and between young people and their parents. The survey found that 33% of young adults and 20% of teens thought that it was easy to acquire methamphetamine with 49% of parents thought that the case was easier for teens. A suitable number of young adults and teens perceived little risk in taking Meth with many seeing that taking the drug has benefits. These benefits as perceived included that it helped in loss of weight 21% of teens and 32% of young adults, 17% of teens and 26% of young adults thought that meth consumption gave one energy, 19% of teens and 23% of young adults thought that it helped one get the feeling of euphoria or happiness and 16% of teens and 19% of young adults thought that it helps in dealing with boredom, (1 & 3). This survey also showed a relatively low level of disapproval of Meth use among teens and their peers with 39% of them saying that their friends would not give them a hard time for using meth, 46% of them not trying to dissuade their friends from using Meth and 58% of them they have never discussed the subject of Meth with their parents (Langford, 3).

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, taking small amounts of methamphetamine can result in physical effects like those of other stimulants such as cocaine or amphetamines. These effects include increased wakefulness, increased physical activities, decreased appetite, and increase in respiration, blood pressure, rapid heart rate, irregular heartbeat and hyperthermia. Prolonged abuse results in weight loss, severe dental problems like "meth mouth" (characterized by broken teeth, severe gum infections and oral wasting), anxiety, confusion, insomnia, mood disturbances, facial disfigurement and violent behavior. Chronic methamphetamine abusers display a number of psychotic features like paranoia, visual and auditory hallucinations and delusions like the feeling of insects crawling under one's skin (2). Another consequence of methamphetamine abuse is the transmission of HIV and hepatitis B and C (National Institute of Drug Abuse,, 2). Ferri attributes this to the social and sexual inhibition that meth brings about. The users of methamphetamines often have multiple sex partners and do not use condoms while engaging in sexual activity while preferring to go "bareback" or without protection. In men, meth abuse causes an inability to achieve and maintain an erection which causes them to use medication for correcting erectile dysfunction. This results in increase in the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV (Rawson et al. 713).

How much meth costs the U.S. per year

According to a study by RAND in Science Daily, methamphetamines have unique side effects which have been primarily identified as similar to those identified in economic assessments of illicit drugs ("About $23 Billion in 2005, Study Estimates," 2009). Due to uncertainty in the estimated costs, researchers created a range of estimates with the lowest being $16.2 billion in 2005 and the highest being $48.3 billion in the same year. The overall economic burden is estimated at $23.4 billion, according to researchers. This research found that nearly two thirds… [END OF PREVIEW]

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