Drug Addicition: Meth (cont.)

That being said, methamphetamine is highly addicting. It is not uncommon for people to report that they have felt addicted to the substance after the first to the third time of use. Because of its highly addictive qualities, that's what makes it a chemical that is not able to be socially used, like heroin.

MEMBER QUESTION:
Why is it so addictive?

ROSENKER:
There are multiple reasons why it's so addictive. One is the strength of the drug itself, which makes it highly addictive. The addictive toxic chemical in methamphetamine and its combination, make it also incredibly addicting and fast acting. The combination of intensity, fast acting and initial feeling of euphoria and feeling of conquering the world contributes to its highly addictive qualities. But keep in mind, it turns very quickly.

I absolutely agree that it's an epidemic. What's interesting, so to speak, about meth use and its being an epidemic is it truly is an epidemic on the West coast and in some cities in the Midwest. In the East it is just starting to become problematic and in spotty areas, an epidemic.

It also appears to be moving slower from the West to the East than many other drugs have done in the past. Heroin, as one example along with PCP, Ecstasy and recent epidemics for those drugs -- they moved fairly rapidly from West to East coast over a period of a few years.

What's concerning about methamphetamine is that it appears to be literally decimating towns as it moves across the U.S. -- economically, in all areas, from employment, jobs -- everything.

The question about ease of access is absolutely one of the reasons it's become an epidemic and that's the case with every drug that's become an epidemic - it's the ease of access. There have been some attempts recently of restricting sale of over the counter medications that are used as the base but at this point it appears to have had little impact.

MODERATOR:
Who is the typical meth user -- or is there such a thing?

ROSENKER:
At this point there appears to be no typical meth addict. Again, the pattern of this drug is so similar to other drugs -- heroin was also seen as a poor, city drug actually -- it hit that population first and then spread. Ecstasy was seen as a young adult, rich kid drug for a period of time then spread to other populations. Although meth started in the rural areas because that's where some of the labs were located, it's quickly spread to other communities and areas so that there is no typical meth user anymore.

MEMBER QUESTION:
Why does it make you not hungry and not able to sleep?

ROSENKER:
That is part of the side effect of the amphetamine and the quality for the amphetamine drug itself, as I stated earlier, was the original prescription for amphetamine was for weight loss -- it shuts down the appetite center of the brain and makes you less wanting to eat and makes you not hungry. So meth, having that as its base product, that's going to be the No. 1 symptom -- not getting hungry.

In addition, it speeds up your metabolism -- your brain is firing faster than normal. It speeds up your heart rate, respiration, pulse -- all of those body functions quicken, which make it impossible to sleep. The "not eating" and the "not sleeping" are the side effects of methamphetamine use that tends to cause the most damage the soonest. You'll see when people become addictive to meth is they will drop a significant amount of weight, they won't have any regular routines except to get high, their teeth will rot, they don't take care of themselves, tend to get facial and body sores and they tend to look like somebody who has been up months on end, and for some addicts it's been days and weeks.

MODERATOR:
How does meth affect sexual desire and performance? It is known as a "party drug" (sometimes referred to as Partying with Tina). But doesn't it affect sexual functioning?

ROSENKER:
Yes, actually, it does. Again, this is similar to some of the other drugs we spoke of, heroin and Ecstasy. One of the most attractive pieces of a drug that makes it spread rapidly is that it enhances sexual ability, performance, and sense of touch. All three of those drugs, at the beginning, do that -- but emphasis on the beginning -- because once the drug continues to be repeated performance, ability to function sexually, desire to function sexually and sense of touch varies rapidly. As I made reference to earlier about the sense of touch -- you feel itchy, somewhat hypersensitive to touch, it doesn't feel good and you don't want people to touch you period .

The sexual function isn't there because you don't care any more. The desire to be sexually active is almost nil. The "positive" or "euphoric" aspect of drug use, which attracts people to it in the beginning, is the additive cycle and they keep trying to chase those good feelings over and over again. They've been long gone, but the addict thinks if they keep using either more or differently, they'll come back, and they never do, at least not until recovery.

"What is most concerning in the early stages of recovery for meth users and withdrawal is their desire to use and get high is extremely, and I can't overemphasize it, extremely intensive, unlike many other drugs we've seen."