Tuesday, September 8, 2009

No Speed Limit; The Highs and Lows of Meth, by Frank Owen

My husband asked, "What possessed you to check THAT one out?"

My response was, "Ever since we moved here to this state, the news has been 'meth this' and 'meth that'. This seemed to be a brief history of meth, so I thought I would learn more about it."

I have never tried methamphetamine. I have never tried to take more Sudafed than the proper dose stated on the package those times I used it for cold symptoms. To my knowledge, my children have never tried meth, and I want that situation to continue.

The author is a native of Great Britain, who moved to the United States to go to school and work as a writer. He briefly gives his experience with the drug amongst the more nitty gritty research into how the drug developed in this country, how the U.S. government has attempted to regulate it/outlaw it and the success rates of people who seek treatment for meth addiction.

I'll give you a brief summary of what I learned from the book.

Ephedra/ephedrine is used to make amphetamine; methamphetamine is an artificially synthesized amphetamine that was developed when ephedrine was scarce.

Amphetamine has been around since the early 1920's. It boosts energy and aids cold symptoms. It was once used as an inhalant, later it was put into pills, and later methamphetamine was developed into a liquid form. Inhaling gives you less of a high than pills, pills less of a high than injecting the liquid.

The downside to meth use includes extreme weight loss, loss of teeth, lack of proper sleep, frightening real hallucinations, and obsession with routine tasks or meaningless rituals.

Meth cooks/chemists are constantly changing the recipe/formula depending on the availability of basic ingredients. The fumes and residues that result are toxic and can make those exposed ill.

The DEA's efforts to stop the import of ingredients to make meth has reduced the number of local manufacturers, but drug makers in South America are uninhibited and make great profits making, distributing, and selling the drugs in the U.S.

Drug treatment programs, whether secularly or religiously based, have low rates of success (defining "success" as "never using the illicit drug again"). Getting off meth is just as hard as getting off heroin, or cocaine or any other addictive substance. Getting clean will always be hard. It's not unheard of for addicts to go through multiple programs before getting clean. Many drop out of the programs part way through. At a basic level, the person has to sincerely decide they don't want the drugs anymore before a treatment program will work.

There are media cycles where one drug or another is portrayed as the "epidemic dujour". People who are likely to use meth are likely to use other drugs too. Meth is now a wide spread drug. It's not just a "blue-collar" or a "white-collar" drug.

Let me warn you that I would NOT let a teenager read this book indiscriminately. The general attitude of the author, not that he ever comes out and says it, is that if the U.S. government had not cracked down on meth ingredients, meth might only be a more watered down version of the illicit drug asit is found now, that it would be just another prescription drug that is sometimes abused but not to the extent that a lot of people die from it. The author doesn't seem to want to say that occasional recreational use is harmful. He seems to put himself out as a "responsible user" and that these drugs are better regulated as alcohol is regulated. I think alcohol is bad enough, but it's hard to disagree with him when the DEA's efforts to control meth have essentially backfired and not improved the situation over the longterm.

Another reason I would not let a teenager read the book is that there is a chapter that looks at the drug's effect on homosexual men, particularly in the New York clubbing community. There are graphic references and a general permissiveness that I feel would be dangerous to a teen's susceptibility to try new things without considering the consequences.

The importance of parents' guidance to their children regarding drugs cannot be understated. I think this book would help parents who have never experienced meth to see how some of the drug trade operates, how it affects children and communities, how one never knows exactly what one is getting when purchasing such drugs, etc. I think parents can talk to their children with frankness and reinforce the idea that never taking illicit drugs in the first place is the safest course for anyone.

All the instructions for making meth is easily available on the web and elsewhere. Parents can't control their children's lives completely, they can only teach their children of the possible consequences for risky behavior and to set boundaries for behavior at home and school and keeping in touch with their kids. After that, we have to trust that after everything we do to arm them against such dangers will be enough when they have to make critical choices for themselves.

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