About Crystal Meth
What meth is made of and why it is so addictive

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Nicknames | Methods of Introduction | Effects | Types | What Crystal is | History
Short-term side effects | Long-term side effects | HIV and Crystal | Who's at risk
Quitting the habit | Recovery & Resources


Methamphetamine is a highly potent stimulant with a notable role in history. The following information is factual and has been gleaned in part from the many reliable sources listed under "Recovery & Resources".




"...So here is a drug that hits the reinforcement and punishment systems in the brain, producing an amazing high followed by a painful low... Many a person has not been able to kick this drug, and it can ruin any chance a person might have had to have a normal life..."

~ from "Cell Assemblies & Drugs", a study done by UCSB students in 2001.



CRYSTAL METHAMPHETAMINE

The poor man's cocaine

Also known as:
Crystal, Meth, CMA, Tina, Christine, Chrissy, Crank, Party Favors, Ice, Glass, Hydra, Waterford, Chandelier, Quartz, Amp, CriCri, Speed, Tweak, (Speedy) Gonzales, Energy, Go-fast, Devil's Dandruff, Chalk, Zip, Batu, The Shit, Tweak.

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METHODS OF INTRODUCTION

Crystal Methamphetamine can be introduced to the body by four primary means: snorting powdered meth through the nose, smoking the drug through a pipe, taking the drug orally, or delivery by injection. Recently, a new method is becoming popular... that of using a plastic syringe or turkey baster to inject a solution of crystal meth directly into the rectum (called a "butt rocket" or a "booty bump"), thereby introducing the drug into the bloodstream rapidly through the rectal lining.

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EFFECTS OF THE HIGH

Upon ingestion or injection, crystal must enter the bloodstream to be effective. Once in the bloodstream, it works its way rapidly to the brain, creating the chemical dopamine in larger than normal quantities.

The initial effect is that of a "rush", followed by a long period (24 to 36 hours in some cases) of intensity. The heart rate increases, and the user finds it difficult to keep still for periods of time. He may feel compelled to do any number of activities or perform tasks, but completion of tasks can be difficult. In the gay world, meth is used as a sex drug and it can give the user the ability to perform sexual feats he likely wouldn't perform when sober.

The come-down period can hit hard, bring about mood swings, or cause the user's temper to flare. Periods of use are usually followed by long periods of rest in the body's attempt to recover.

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TYPES

Depending on how it is manufactured and its purity, crystal meth comes in two basic "varieties", namely Glass (or Window Pane), and Hydra.

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WHAT IT IS AND WHAT'S IN IT

Crystal Meth is a supercharged crystallized (or powdered) stimulant based on Methamphetamine. It is entirely man-made in nature, using various toxic and caustic household chemicals which are cooked down to a crystalline form. Manufacture of crystal meth is hazardous, and is usually performed in makeshift "labs" (bathtubs, kitchens, basements and closets) in private homes, trailer homes, and public storage vaults. Meth producers have to use protection (solvent-resistant gloves, respirator masks and other coverings) when making crystal to prevent caustic burns and asphyxiation. A HAZMAT team is usually required to clean up a meth lab after it has been busted.

Over-the-counter cold and asthma medications containing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine serve as the base ingredient in meth. The other chemicals used to produce meth include high-flash solvents like acetone, lantern fuel, battery acid, sodium hydroxide, and red phosphorous. Poisons include iodine, salts, and heavy metals. Common household agents can include hydrochloric acid, lye (drain cleaner), anhydrous ammonia, and antifreeze. Anther ingredient sometimes used is lead acetate, which is known to have caused lead poisoning in meth injectors.

Not one of these ingredients (excepting, of course, the sinus medications) is safe to take internally.

Crystal Meth is not the same as regular amphetamines which are manufactured in high-quality sterile laboratories and dispensed by prescription. Crystal Meth is a controlled substance, and is not legal to make, sell, or use. And because of the usually unsanitary, unregulated way crystal is produced, it isn't wise to take it. The ingredients are varied; numerous toxic chemicals and products can be combined to produce the same effect.

REALITY CHECK: Since there is no one standard formula for making crystal meth, you do not know what is in any given supply of this drug.

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THE HISTORY OF METH

Amphetamines first came on the scene in the late 1800's. A derivative, called Meth-amphetamine, was developed early in the twentieth century, but did not become widely used until around World War II. Under Hitler, German army leaders are said to have given methamphetamine to their storm troopers in order to make them more alert and physically capable of performing their duties over extended periods without tiring. It is also believed Hitler himself received up to five injections of methamphetamine in solution per day by the time Germany was defeated.

Methamphetamine is also reported to have been used by the Japanese as a stimulant for their Kamikazes during the war.

Following the war, methamphetamine found its use as a mild prescription stimulant and made its way into many a housewife's medicine cabinet. In the sixties, methamphetamine fell out of favor as a general panacea due to its highly addictive nature. It was not a part of the American drug subculture until the '80's, when illicit chemists began making a derivative of methamphetamine in their homes. This derivative became known as Crystal Meth, and replaced cocaine as the drug of choice among users, largely because of its availability, low cost, and long-lasting high. It delivered what cocaine promised, as the saying goes... for a whole lot less.

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SHORT TERM SIDE EFFECTS

As a common sex drug in the gay population, crystal initially gives the user a sense of euphoria from the sudden overproduction of dopamine in the brain. However, because it is a supercharged stimulant, crystal also can cause temporary impotence, making it difficult and/or impossible to achieve an erection. Some senses are heightened during a crystal high, though many users report a reduction in pain perception. This can give the user the ability to be anally receptive for long periods, regardless of any trauma to the rectum that might occur as a result. Repetitive motion (tics) is also a short-term effect, and can cause the user to gnash his teeth, pick at scabs (or imagine scabs and pick at them), pull out hair, talk rapidly and incessantly, move involuntarily, and more.

Other short-term side effects include a substantial lowering of the immune system response, paranoia, disregard of responsibility, lack of dependability, ignorance of the passage of time, inability to get or maintain an erection, and loss of appetite.

Dangerous short-term side effects include Hyperthermia, or the raising of the body temperature, and Hypertension. Hyperthermia can bring about body temperatures as high as 108 degrees (f) and may result in convulsions that can lead to death. Hypertension can cause cardiovascular collapse and death.

Physical exertion can increase the likelihood of these side effects.

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LONG TERM SIDE EFFECTS

Over a period of time (dependent on the individual and the level and frequency of use), the user can develop a series of physical and emotional maladies. The primary malady conccerns the overproduction of dopamine (a natural chemical in the brain which stimulates the pleasure center of the brain). As a result of this overload, damage occurs to the nerve endings which take the dopamine and convert it to a signal to the brain. When the nerve endings burn out from this overload, the damage may take years to repair if at all. Depression can result, since the brain no longer receives the "normal" stimuli from an average production of natural dopamine.

Additionally, other damage to the brain and body occurs over extended usage. Because crystal causes the heart rate to increase, severe trauma to the heart can ensue, and the heart can literally cease functioning. Tissue in the body is affected, and gum loss can result. Skin problems and irregular hair and nail growth are also potential maladies. Sores can appear on the skin where the body is attempting to purge itself of the toxins.

Due to the alteration of brain chemistry that occurs during a crystal high, the user's emotional range can be altered. Flaky behavior, loss of time awareness, anger and hostility, recklessness in all aspects, and potential violence are definite side effects of crystal use. Extreme paranoia is a common side effect as well. And the loss of appetite found in the short-term side effects can lead over time to malnutrition and vitamin deficiency, which can adversely affect every aspect of the body. The sleeplessness which accompanies a crystal high can produce hallucinations and a general look of fatigue and/or illness. Continual use can produce a mental condition called "Toxic Psychosis" It is conceivable that Hitler developed toxic psychosis from heavy use of meth, and this may have been a contributing factor in his sociopathic behavior as well as his suicide.

Another possible long term result from taking the drug is Parkinson's Disease. And there are a number of other unfortunate and lasting illnesses that can result as well.

The most common long-term side effect is that of dependence, or addiction. Amphetamines, and specifically crystal, are extremely addictive drugs, and their effect on the brain can be devastating.

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HIV AND CRYSTAL

While using crystal will not of itself give the user HIV, alterations in behavior and self-responsibility which may lead a user into situations that amplify receptivity to HIV transmission are common. These "situations" include a lack of concern over safer-sex practices, excessive trauma to the rectum, desire for extended and/or many anonymous sexual encounters, and the lowering of the immune system response. Those who inject crystal are at severe risk of receiving HIV and/or hepatitis through shared or unclean needles.

Because the crystal epidemic is relatively new (within the last 10-12 years), and because of the difficulty in getting honest and/or accurate information from meth users, the medical profession is only now beginning to piece together relationships between crystal meth and other diseases. But one common theme that is surfacing among meth users who sero-converted during their addiction is that many feel they would not have become HIV positive if they had never used the drug.

Recent information shows a direct correlation between crystal use and new HIV infections.

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WHO IS MOST AT RISK FOR BECOMING ADDICTED AND/OR ACQUIRING HIV?

Right now, the highest level of risk reported belongs to the under-40 gay population in the western states, with the highest usage belonging to gay men between the ages of 17 and 29. This risk includes both risk of crystal addiction and risk of acquiring HIV. Reports from AIDS organizations indicate a recent upward turn in new HIV infections among younger gay adults. This is perhaps surprising in light of the fact most of these men were born around the time HIV became known, and they have lived in a world dominated by safer-sex messages. It is no coincidence, however, that this same group is the largest consumer of "party" drugs, including Special K, Poppers, GHB, Ecstacy, and Crystal Meth.

For persons who are HIV negative, using crystal meth is almost a foolproof way of changing your HIV status. While I haven't seen any concrete figures yet, personal experience has shown me that nearly every gay man who uses crystal with any regularity is already ~ or will become ~ HIV positive. For men who are already HIV positive, using crystal meth will further damage their body and mind. Even with drug cocktails and other drug therapies for HIV, POZ people are still susceptible to a host of brain and body illnesses, including KS, CMV, weight loss and other physical deterioration, and AIDS dementia. Adding crystal meth to an already compromised body and mind can only speed up the deterioration of the brain, body and immune system, resulting in a lessened quality of life and/or quicker death.

Recent concern has surfaced regarding the role crystal meth may play in either creating a virulent strain of HIV (or "SuperVirus"), and/or severely reducing the efficacy of HIV medications while speeding up the onset of AIDS. Until more information is known about the exact role meth plays in these situations it is best to assume that using crystal meth if you are HIV+Positive can result in tremendously harmful consequences.

According to information on www.lifeormeth.com, the combination of crystal meth and viagra has now been shown to escalate HIV production in the brain.

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QUITTING METH

Ask anyone who has been a regular user of crystal... It's way too easy to become addicted and near impossible to get off the stuff. Because of how it damages the neurons and receptors in the brain, and how it alters dopamine levels, meth causes extreme dependence in the user. So extreme, in fact, that there is no "weaning-off" of this drug. There are no medications that are known to eliminate the intense cravings that accompany withdrawal. The best bet is to quit cold turkey. But... as any ex-user will tell you, quitting crystal cold turkey is one nasty-ass motherfucker.

The body will crave crystal for a long time. Some people report getting these cravings years after quitting. If irrepairable damage has been done to the neuron receptors in the brain, the ex-user will probably live the rest of his/her life battling depression because their brain no longer responds to normal levels of dopamine. People who have quit crystal after long-term or intense use often report that they find it difficult to form and maintain relationships with other people. These problems again lead back to the craving symptoms... one little bump will take away the depression or the anxiety, or restore a false sense of "normalcy"... as will the next little bump, and then the next...etc.

When you quit, you should set up a support circle for yourself. Go to support groups or recovery programs, or if you can afford it, check into a rehab facility. Try and make friends who do not use crystal or similar drugs. That way, there won't be a domino effect should one of you fall off the wagon. Crystal users like to tweak with almost anyone who they can turn on, and for the ex-user the temptation to do even one line can be overpowering. It is best to divorce yourself from others who allow the drug into their lives. Tweakers will not respect your desire or your need to quit, and will more than likely offer you "just a little bump" to tempt you back into the partying lifestyle again.

Also, it is best to avoid those locations and venues where crystal is freely used: bars, sex clubs, bath houses, etc. Sometimes even returning to these places can trigger cravings that are impossible to beat, and there is always the possibility someone there will offer it to you again... especially if they know you to have been a user.

The DT's are harsh. Many who try to get off crystal do not succeed. It is estimated that only 7% of ex-meth users ever fully quit; 93% become re-addicted, even years after quitting. Of course, it is best to never start using it in the first place. But if you are using it, quit now before damaging your body and mind any further. And once you quit, do whatever it takes to stay off the stuff. The more times you try to quit and fail, the easier it will be to fail again. Your success in quitting belongs exclusively to your willpower. And your willpower comes from your mind. If your brain is fried, quitting permanently will probably be impossible.

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It is the opinion of this author that the medical profession needs to evaluate the gay community's drug abuse situation with more seriousness if they are at all interested in reducing the growing number of new HIV cases or quelling an outbreak of a more serious form of HIV. While bareback sex is indeed a contributing factor in many HIV conversions, it is not, in most cases, the exclusive or primary factor. To put the blame on barebacking as the sole cause of HIV transmission is in most cases to focus attention on the symptom and not on the cause.




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