The Deal on Drugs: Meth

Editor's Note: The recent arrests of two Valley City residents for possessing a sellable amount of methampethamine brought attention to the prevalence of drug use in the area. For the next couple of weeks, reporter Bonnie Jo Hanson will examine drug use in and around Valley City and its effects on the community. The first two articles detail the two most common abused drugs locally, methamphetamine and marijuana. In future articles, Hanson will explore what it's like to be an addict, the financial and personal costs of using illegal drugs, and what might done to slow the epidemic.

Drug of Choice: Meth

Drug abuse in North Dakota is prevalent, and small communities like Valley City haven't escaped the scourge. In fact, according to the National Institute of Health, "as in the inner city, illegal drugs have a home in rural America."
Last year, in Valley City alone, police made 28 adult drug/narcotics arrests and eight juvenile drug/narcotics arrests. According to Valley City Police Chief Fred Thompson, the number may actually be higher due to changes in reporting in the past year.
Methamphetamine and marijuana are the most common illegal drugs locally, said Thompson.
Methamphetamine is a synthetic stimulant that affects the central nervous system, The drug goes by a variety of names. Ice, speed, crystal, meth and crank are but a few. It can be found in several forms: a white or yellowish powder, crystals or a pill; and can be snorted, smoked, injected or swallowed.
Meth is extremely addictive, possibly one of the most addictive illicit substances, according to the Meth Project, a non-profit organization that aims to stop meth use.
Meth is made of ingredients that are toxic and highly flammable including acetone, hydrochloric acid, sodium hydroxide and anhydrous ammonia.
A meth high causes the user's heart rate and metabolism to increase. The initial rush can last for up to 30 minutes, according to the Foundation for a Drug-Free World.
Once the rush subsides, the high kicks in when the abuser feels aggressive and becomes delusional, focusing on an insignificant item. The high can last from four to 16 hours. A binge, the abuser's urge to maintain the high, can last for days to a couple of weeks. The abuser may become mentally and physically hyperactive. Every time the abuser uses more meth, he experiences a new, smaller rush and high until there is no more of either.
Addicted abusers go through a phase called tweaking. Tweaking is the end of a drug binge when the meth no longer provides a rush or a high.
According to the Foundation for a Drug-Free World, "A methamphetamine abuser is most dangerous when experiencing a phase of the addiction called tweaking. Unable to relieve the horrible feelings of emptiness and craving, an abuser loses his sense of identity."
It's not uncommon for abusers who are tweaking to believe bugs are crawling under his skin and intense itching is common. Also, since it's likely that the abuser has been awake for days, he can enter a psychotic state and begin hallucinating and may become dangerous to himself or others. During this time, the potential for self-mutilation is high.
Eventually, the meth abuser crashes and may sleep for long periods of times, sometimes several days. After the crash, a meth hangover may set in when the abuser's body is deteriorated, starved, and exhausted and can last for several days or weeks, according to the foundation.
The solution to a meth hangover: more meth.
The effects of methampethamine on the body can be short or long-term.
In the short-term, meth causes a feeling of euphoria and energy, so a person may push his body past its limits. The drug decreases hunger, so extreme weight-loss is common in meth abusers. So are poor sleep patterns, hyperactivity, nausea, delusions of power, increased aggressiveness and irritability, according to the foundation. In addition meth can also cause convulsions that could lead to death.
In the long term, meth can cause increased heart rate and blood pressure. Blood vessels in the brain may be damaged and cause strokes or an irregular heartbeat which, in turn, can lead to death. It can also cause liver, kidney and lung damage.
Other brain damage from the drug can cause mood swings, memory loss and a reduction in cognitive function.
Meth abuse can also cause premature aging, severe tooth decay – a condition often called "meth-mouth," and skin lesions.

Read this story in Thursday's Times-Record.