Much has been written about “Crystal Meth(amphetamine)” also known as Tina, Crank, Shabu, Ice and Glass.
Although crystal meth has been around since World War II (it has been documented the Adolf Hitler injected the drug daily), its emergence in mainstream society has only become prevalent in the last 25 years.
Meth use has exploded worldwide in the last decade. In the US, meth use has spiraled out if control and is now the fastest-growing drug abuse problem.
In Australia, there are over 73,000 ice addicts*. Former NSW Police Commissioner Ken Moroney said “I don’t know in the time I’ve been a Policeman, which is 41 years, of a greater scourge on the community. The physical and mental manifestations of ice are absolutely horrific. It has the potential to destroy generations.”
Is Ice just another drug?
No. Unlike other drugs such as cocaine and heroin, ice has severe effects on the brain and body. Methamphetamine causes the body to release large amounts of dopamine, a neurotransmitter, resulting in a prolonged sense of pleasure or euphoria for the user; however, over time, this causes severe side effects.
With repeated use, meth depletes the brain’s stores of dopamine and actually destroys the wiring of the dopamine receptors.
This is a major reason why users become so addicted to the drug; without it they are no longer able to experience pleasure (a condition known as anhedonia), and they usually slip into a deep depression.
Although dopamine receptors can grow back over time, studies have suggested that chronic meth use can cause other permanent brain damage, such as declines in reasoning, judgment and motor skills.
In addition, meth is a powerful stimulant that causes the heart to race and the blood vessels to constrict, which can lead to a number of serious medical problems, including heart attack, stroke and even death. During these energy-fueled meth “runs,” which can last days, users generally exhibit poor judgment and dangerous, hyperactive behavior. For instance, many addicts have committed petty and violent crime when high on the drug, and even for casual users the drug can increase the libido and lead them to engage in risky, unprotected sex. Long-time users have been known to develop symptoms of psychosis, including paranoia, aggression, hallucinations and delusions.
The drug has become popular because it is cheap, readily available and gives users a rush of euphoria, sense of being invincible and increases libido. It is also being blamed for a dramatic rise in HIV infections both in Australia, the US and Europe.
Is the idea of an “ice epidemic” just media hype?
No. You can check out its growth in the US here.
The Aids Council of NSW (ACON) has been severely criticized for its lack of response to the epidemic in the Australian gay community, and even today, its website looks more like an advertisement for a “how to take crystal meth” instruction guide, rather than encouraging abstinence, rehabilitation or prevention.
In the last twelve months, ice use in Australia has started to decline, in part some suspect, due to the extent of negative press, and also anecdotal evidence that some users are beginning to turn away from drug after a bad experience.
Nevertheless it remains one of the most destructive and addictive drugs available today.
*Source: Scattered – The Inside Story of Ice in Australia, by Malcolm Knox (Allen & Unwin 2008)