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Maggie Johnson

Health 1050
Research Paper

The Most Dangerous Drug Right Underneath Your Nose

Its 2 a.m. in the sleepy suburban neighborhood where I grew up. My grandmother and
two aunts, visiting from out of town, are sound asleep. Suddenly, loud voices emerge as motion
lights ood the backyard. Startled, I awake disoriented. Go, go, go! I follow the voices from
my second story window to see a birds eye view of a SWAT team funneling through our
backyard, scaling fences, and eventually surrounding the unsuspecting house on the corner. This
is suburbia, a safe, peaceful corner of middle class America. And in it stands a toxic meth house.
Where did meth originate?
Methamphetamine, or meth as it is commonly known, comes from an amphetamine
derived from the brand name Methedrine. The roots of amphetamine date back nearly 5,000
years ago with a Chinese medicinal herb called ma huang used to aid in asthma and respiratory
afictions. In 1887 German chemists isolated the primary ingredient of ma huang and called it
ephedrine. 7 years later, a Japanese chemist named Nagayoshi Nagai synthesized
methamphetamine using ephedrine.
The chemical makeup of an amphetamine requires a particular arrangement of carbon
(C), hydrogen (H), and nitrogen (N) atoms, either in a right-handed or left-handed version
simulating a mirror image. The right-handed version is more powerful and goes by the name
dextroamphetamine or d-amphetamine. Methamphetamine is created by altering the formula of
d-amphetamine by replacing CH3 for H at one end. With this minor adjustment, a greater effect
is achieved as the passage is faster across the blood-brain barrier. (1, pg. 102)
In 1932 the pharmaceutical company Smith, Kline and French Laboratories marketed
the rst synthetically-created ephedrine inhaler called amphetamine under the name Benzedrine.
It was not used extensively until World War II when British, U.S., German and Japanese troops
were administered the drug to ght off fatigue and heighten alertness. (2) Post-war, students,
truck drivers, athletes, and other civilians used amphetamines to enhance daily functions. (3)
In 1965 federal drug laws dictated that wholesalers, manufacturers and pharmacies track
transactions of amphetamines. Illegal distribution manifested itself soon after.
Methamphetamines became popular during the Summer of Love and Peace era in San
Francisco. Meths peak use was around 1967 and while it eventually took a backseat to cocaine
and other drugs as time went on, abuse was still rampant.
In 1970 d-amphetamine was allocated as a Schedule II drug, indicating a formidable
chance abuse would occur. (1, pgs. 103-104)
Why is meth worse than more lethal drugs such as cocaine and heroin?
Imagine giving heroine or cocaine addicts the opportunity to create their own drugs.
Today, meth can be made nearly anywhere. Cooks create labs in hotels, bathtubs, cars, the
aisle of a Walmart and in the case of Walter White, the occasional RV. (4) The ingredients can
be attained easily at the supermarket. It takes only 15 minutes to shake and bake meth
ingredients in a bottle, pending the bottle doesnt explode. Amateurs who took a chemistry class
or two now consider themselves reliable meth-making agents. In turn, they can market their
product to users or use themselves. In effect, unlike users of cocaine and heroine, the user now
becomes the dealer.
Why is meth is worse than natural drugs?
Meth is synthetic and does not originate from a plant. Unlike nature-based drugs such as
marijuana and opium, meth is man-made from man-made ingredients. Similar to a processed
food such as a Pop-Tart, the ingredients list is long and difcult to pronounce. Almost all of the
ingredients in meth are highly ammable and toxic. Among these ingredients are: sodium
hydroxide (found in liquid drain cleaners), lithium (found in batteries), acetone (found in nail
polish remover), red phosphorous (found in matches), anhydrous ammonia (found in fertilizer),
sulfuric acid (found in detergents and fertilizers), hydrochloric acid (found in house cleaners and
used to make PVC), and pseudoephedrine (found in nasal decongestants). (5)
Ingredients for meth are so readily available, larger stores are mandated by federal law to
cap the amount of products purchased containing the active ingredient pseudoephedrine. In the
past, products containing pseudoephedrine could be found over the counter but now must be
requested from a pharmacist.
Meths demographics are widening.
Men and women. Baby Boomers and Millennials, tweens and teens. All are users of
meth. High school and college students use Meth to help stay awake and achieve a potent high.
Bartenders and healthcare professionals working long hours, truckers driving through the night,
and even mothers who are pressed to accomplish daily tasks in a timely manner have reported
using Meth. (1, pg. 108)
The most prevalent use of meth can be found in the rural midwest. In 2012, 11, 210
meth labs and meth lab paraphernalia were seized in the U.S. The greatest concentration of
meth lab activity was in Missouri and Oklahoma. (6) In smaller towns it is easier to buy the
ingredients needed for meth without being tracked because there are more mom-and-pop stores
dotting small towns. Home-grown labs can go more undetected as they are further apart. Many
farms already contain one of the key ingredients of meth: fertilizer. (16) Youth in small towns
may have less opportunities for activities as do youth in an urban sprawl and boredom may
ensue, another proponent to meth use.
Meth ages its users the fastest in the shortest time more than any other drug.
Meth does not deliver a younger visage associated with its youthful bursts of energy. In
fact the opposite is true. Meth users age dramatically after only a few months or years of using
the drug. In some cases hallucinations are prevalent and users fear bugs or parasites have
burrowed in their skin and they cut, claw or even burn their skin to dislodge them. These sores
take longer to heal because meth causes the blood vessels to constrict. Users can appear
emaciated and skeletal because meth is an appetite suppressor. (8, 10)
Meth mouth is a costly side effect, caused by excessive tooth grinding and clenching,
leading to sores and cracked teeth. Because getting a x is the highest priority, hygiene is
routinely neglected and bacteria congregate in the gums, causing gum disease and tooth decay. A
users smile may be alarming to those who see it. (9)

Meth ravages the body and mind.
The bodys organs do not go unscathed under meths harmful effects. An alarmingly
high body temperature can lead to a potential heart attack, stroke, organ failure, brain damage
and even death. (11) Meth can be smoked, injected intravenously, snorted and ingested in pill
form. Intravenously, users share needles and therefore share diseases leading to a higher risk of
hepatitis and HIV/AIDS.
Parkinsons disease and Alzheimers disease symptoms may appear for chronic meth users
later in life due to permanent damage to the blood vessels of the brain. Paranoia may cause
suicidal or homicidal thoughts. Job loss and disintegration of the family unit are common. (7)
Meth and death- not a cool way to die.
How often does death occur with meth use? The media report many drug-related deaths
every year and meth may get lumped into the same category as heroin or barbiturates, which
have gained notoriety with the deaths of many famous celebrities.
Deaths attributed to meth can be described in four categories: the toxicity of meth (such
as those relating to overdoses), the effects of getting high (such as accidental injury and violence),
the physical dependence of meth, and detrimental health effects of continued chronic use, such
as physical diseases. Occasionally home-grown labs present the potential burn trauma or death
from explosive materials used to make meth. (12)
Overall, meth-related deaths are infrequent, and most deaths are not attributed to meth
directly but rather circumstances surrounding the intake of the drug, such as a car crash or
drowning. (13) In the UK, between 1997 and 2007 there were 832 recorded deaths linked to
meth. (14) In 1998, there were 500 deaths linked to meth in the U.S. (15) Rather than being
immortalized at a young and beautiful age, as is the case with many celebrities, meth users
generally deteriorate over time and cause permanent damage to their minds and bodies.
Why is meth addiction so hard to overcome?
Meth is not instantaneously addictive, contrary to popular belief. Many people who use
meth do not become addicted to it. It can be difcult to predict who will become an abuser and
who will not. However, those who do have an addiction nd themselves in similar detoxifying
programs as those who are addicted to cocaine. (7)
Physical symptoms relating to withdrawal of meth have not been sufciently proven, but
mentally meth withdrawal is akin to cocaine withdrawal: anxiety, depression, exhaustion, mood
swings, aggressive behavior, and an all-consuming craving for the drug. (7)
Most meth addicts relapse within the rst 3 years of trying to come clean. There are no
proven pharmacological options for the treatment of meth dependence. Treatment for meth
abuse was less successful than treatment methods for heroin and cocaine. (17) One reason is that
many of the ingredients for meth are still readily available in day-to-day life. It is nearly
impossible to exit out of that environment, one of the key factors in successful rehabilitation of
drug dependency.
In conclusion, because of its propensity to allure users with its go-to list of household
chemical items, cause permanent physical and mental damage, create users while simultaneously
creating dealers, and leading to the disintegration of family, meth is the most dangerous drug
right in our own neighborhood.


1. Drugs, Behavior & Modern Society; Levinthal, Charles, page