It’s no surprise that almost 11 million people have tried methamphetamines at least once, 637,800 people use it on a semi-regular basis. Instead of the sensationalized versions of meth we so often see, it’s time for the real faces, voices, and words of meth to take center stage — where they belong.
What is Meth? What Does it Do?
Methamphetamine (commonly known as meth, chalk, ice, and crystal) is a stimulant created originally in the early 20th century to be used in decongestants and inhalers. It’s generally made from either pseudoephedrine (found in many cold medicines) or phenyl-2-propanone combined with chemicals like acetone, fertilizer, ether, red phosphorus, and lithium.
Immediate effects include:
- Lack of tiredness.
- Increased activity.
- Euphoria caused by high levels of dopamine in the brain.
This is often what first interests people in meth: the feeling of being high, alert, focused, and motivated.
The Beginnings of Addiction
According to Carren Clem, the daughter of a police officer in the narcotics division, she began to use drugs after she’d been raped, “to deal with the shame.” She was first offered meth at a party after work, to give her more energy. She said:
“I smoked it all weekend. The high was so intense it was unbelievable. I felt like Superwoman.”
Christine Suhan, on the other hand, knew what she was getting into:
“When I tried meth for the first time, I knew the nature of my disease. I knew that the minute I put the drugs in my body my brain would respond with an uncontrollable obsession. I knew that the meth would hijack my frontal lobe and instead of having access to survival skills such as the need for food or the fight/flight response, getting more drugs would become my one and only concern. I knew all about addiction; I had already been to treatment for alcoholism and “soft” drugs. I knew that picking up hard drugs would catapult me into a new dimension of hell but I didn’t care. I needed something to change the way I felt.”
According to s0ck, a Reddit user, this is why he started using meth:
“I had a job overnight stocking, and my job performance improved due to the meth. No exhaustion, no need for breaks, easily occupied with mundane tasks.”
Elizabeth Fish explained her reasons for starting:
“A few puffs gave me the energy to clean the apartment, do Cameren’s [her baby’s] laundry, run some errands, and still be wide awake whenever she cried. I was very careful, though, never to smoke around Cameren. I’d wait until Derek got home, and the two of us would put our baby down securely in her crib, turn on an air purifer to keep smoke away from her, and go downstairs to light up. I somehow managed to convince myself that by doing it this way, I could take care of my habit — and my baby.”
matsangak95, another Reddit user, described the high like this (Note: the text has been unedited except to censor cursing):
“i took about 2-3 hits and Oh my lord, the feeling is f****ng great. I feel like doing things, talking to everyone, saying ‘hi’ to everyone in my contacts ( luckily i didnt). They said do you have anything to do? I suddenly remembered i had a f****ng proposal that i have been delaying for a while. I then went to open my laptop and started doing it. Oh lord, the words and phrases just came out from my mind like a piece of cake and by the time i was so into that, i realised that the work is done. i was like “Wow, it this fucking real?” The 2-months-work was done in a night.”
What are the Long-Term Effects?
As with any substance use, long-term meth use can lead to addiction. Addicts develop tolerance, which pushes them to use meth more often and in larger quantities to avoid withdrawal. The more serious the addiction is, the likelier it is for an addict to feel pleasure in a context outside of drug use.
Carren put the need for meth like this:
“I would do anything with anyone to get drugs — steal car stereos, have sex, whatever. Often when I woke up I didn’t know where I was or how I had gotten there.”
Christine talked about her desperation:
“I once spent an entire day crouched down on my bedroom floor holding a flashlight and picking through my carpet. An entire day. I can’t even tell you how many little rocks, crumbs, pieces of dirt, and granules of salt I ate hoping to find the specks of crystal meth I was convinced I had dropped the night before.”
She also admitted that “two days [after hospitalization for meth overdose], I overdosed again. The following week I started injecting meth instead of snorting, smoking, and swallowing it like I had been. I couldn’t stop.”
s0ck said this was his greatest shame:
“I traded meth for [oral sex]. It’s my greatest shame, that I would do something like that. And I don’t mean that these girls were willing and eager and into me, I mean that it was purely an exchange for drugs.”
Elizabeth said that even after her baby was taken away from her, she continued to use:
“Still, I kept on smoking meth. It was crazy: The drug was what had caused all the problems, yet I turned to it to take away the pain. On the bad nights, I stayed up, talking to my mom on the phone, and aching from missing my baby.”
This was matsangak95’s experience with addiction (again, edited only for cursing):
“Smoked again, need more than usual now (was starting to miss the first time feeling)and literally did nothing useful. My body is now in pain, lost a lot of weight, getting insomnia, and my emotions are f****ng unstable when sober. Sometime feel just fine, sometimes feels like shit that i need meth to feel good. I started to find more meth-friends. Spend like half of my scholarship on meth.”
The longer you use meth, the more likely you are to experience:
- Violent behavior.
- Memory loss.
- Dental problems, including tooth decay and loss (“meth mouth“).
- Weight loss.
It can even affect microglia cells in the brain, which fight infect and get rid of damaged neurons. Meth can cause these cells to attack healthy neurons, causing neurotoxicity (damage to the nervous system) and death. The reality is that an addict needs to get serious about getting clean, or they will die.
Carren attempted suicide because of her addiction:
“My “friends” tried to help me commit suicide by giving me a huge amount of drugs and alcohol. I didn’t die — but when I woke up I was so sick I finally knew I needed help. I called the youth pastor at our church. He called my parents and they got me into a treatment program.”
Christine faced the eventuality of her demise if she never got sober:
“I stopped using because I had no choice. I was going to die.”
s0ck never faced death, but meth use provided an eye-opening situation about the reality of his addiction (edited only for cursing):
“In the end, what lead me to quit was a moment of clarity. When I took a look at my situation. I used to be a straight As kid, with a future. Now I was a high school drop out, working at a dead end job where I never spoke to anyone, and at that moment I was sitting in a trailer with five other filthy guys. One was missing an eye, telling me about how he [performed oral sex] in jail. The other was a gay man who had his relationship destroyed by meth, and he was busy picking at a sore on his forehead that had grown to the size of a half dollar. No one had bathed in days. Everyone had been up for days on end. There was a bunny that someone had caught decaying in the back room, under the bed. Where the f**k was I? What the f**k was I doing there?”
For Elizabeth, it was a matter of choosing her family or her addiction:
“DHS assigned us a new caseworker. She immediately suspected that I was still on meth, and warned me that if I didn’t get my act together, I could lose my parental rights permanently. That scared me enough to say, “Just tell me what to do.””
matsangak95 was able to weigh the consequences of their addiction against the brief pleasure it provided:
“Meth has given me the best feeling i have ever had in my life. That huge confidence, alertness, socializing, etc. Its hard to say goodbye when im thinking that im not gonna feel these feelings again but at the same time it given me the lost of weight, sucken face, unstable emotions, lost of my girlfriend, insomnia and many more. It got me thinking, does it really worth it? All those bad effects for just a few hours of the europhia. No, it doesnt.”
In the end, all that matter is that you stop. The reason can be your death, loss of your future, wanting your child, or simply reclaiming your health. But quitting is the most powerful thing you can do.
What Getting Clean Can Do for You
After getting sober:
- Carren started working for a fitness center and for an organization that helps educate kids about meth. She is married and has a daughter.
- Christina regained the trust of her family and friends and met her husband through a twelve-step program. They have three sons.
- s0ck has been clean since 2005 and is still active on Reddit, mainly commenting about politics and gaming.
- Elizabeth regained custody of her daughter, went back to college, and helped her boyfriend (and fellow user) stay sober.
- matsangak95 hasn’t posted on Reddit since s/he announced his/her sobriety, but I hope s/he has stayed sober in the nine months since.
If you need further proof of what sobriety can do, watch this video of Fergie talking about her journey meth addict to international pop star, and what turned her around:
Finding Help for Meth Use
Clem, Carren and Smith, Michael W., M.D. “Conquering Meth Addiction: Carren Clem’s Story.” Substance Abuse and Addiction Health Center. WebMD, 28 May 2010. 4 September 2016.
“How is methamphetamine manufactured?” Methamphetamine. National Institute on Drug Abuse, September 2013. 4 September 2016.
matsangak95. “My meth addict story.” Drugs. Reddit, 6 December 2015. 9 September 2016.
matsangak95. “Stopping myself from using meth.” Drug. Reddit, 7 December 2015. 9 September 2016.
“Methamphetamine Facts.” Drug Facts. The Drug Policy Alliance, 2016. 4 September 2016.
s0ck. “IAmA former meth addict, clean for six years. AMA.” IAmA. Reddit, 16 June 2011. 9 September 2016.
Suhan, Christine. “Meth Addiction Nearly Took My Life.” Health & Fitness. Marie Claire, 27 October 2015. 4 September 2016.
“What are the long-term effects of methamphetamine abuse?” Methamphetamine. National Institute on Drug Abuse, September 2013. 4 September 2016.
“What are the immediate (short-term) effects of methamphetamine abuse?” Methamphetamine. National Institute on Drug Abuse, September 2013. 4 September 2016.
“What is methamphetamine?” Methamphetamine. National Institute on Drug Abuse, September 2013. 4 September 2016.