Methamphetamine became a problem in the 1980’s in Oregon. At that time, the use of the drug was identified as being an epidemic, just as heroin and prescription drug use is seen as a national epidemic today. Beginning in the 1980’s, Interstate 5, a highway that runs north/south from Mexico up through the Western states of the country, has become a route for transporting and distributing meth. Since first appearing in Oregon, meth has been mostly used throughout the Western states. However, high meth rates among teens and young adults have also been seen in the Midwest and in New England.
Methamphetamine (meth) is a very toxic and incredibly addictive substance that can cause severe damage to the brain and central nervous system. It can be smoked, snorted, injected, or ingested orally. The high that meth produces includes excited speech, decreased appetite, increased physical activity, and elevated levels of energy. Consequences of meth use include memory loss, aggression, violence, psychotic behavior, and agitation. Meth can also cause irreversible damage to blood vessels in the brain which can lead to strokes. These are only some of the severe health consequences associated with this drug.
Because of the kind of high that methamphetamine can give to someone, the drug is highly addictive. For this reason, meth has been classified as a Schedule II drug and is legally only available through prescription. When prescribed by a doctor for medical use, its dosages are significantly lower than when the drug is abused. This drug is man-made and produced in laboratories for medical purposes. However, those who abuse the drug mimic its production in small, unsafe laboratories, which are illegal.
According to a 2012 survey from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 6% of teens, ages 12-17, used the drug at least once in their lifetime, 3% of teens used the drug in the last year, and 2% of teens used meth in the last month. Fortunately, the abuse rates for methamphetamine have decreased in the last year. The rate for lifetime use among 10th graders decreased from 18% in 2012 to 16% in 2013, and among 12th graders the rate for lifetime use also decreased from 17% in 2012 to 15% in 2013. Furthermore, the abuse rate among 8th, 10th, and 12th graders declined significantly between 1999-2007.
Yet, because of the severe damage that meth can have on a teen’s psychological, cognitive, emotional, and physical well being, it’s considered to be a problem among American youth. Despite the decrease in the use of meth among teens, the drug’s potential for creating significant damage poses a threat to the well being of teens. In fact, meth use continues to be a pressing concern among many communities across the country.
It is clear that long-term use of the drug leads to significant impairment, and the use of meth during adolescence could lead to an addiction and continued use in adulthood. For instance, many teens who use the drug experience permanent and substantial damage. Meth significantly rots teeth, can damage blood vessels in the brain, and can lead to strokes, heart attacks, tremors, and convulsions.
If you or someone you know is using meth, contact a mental health provider right away. Or talk to an adult you trust. An addiction to meth is treatable – with the right support.
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