Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Meth Zombies


Shabu or glass - shards of Crystal Meth
Crystal, Ice, Tina, Meth, it has been around as a street drug since the 1950's. In the US, the drug hit the west coast first and moved east thereafter. Crystal meth used to be a popular drug on the rave scene, but now it's so cheap it's replacing crack as the favourite high of the down and out. However, other reports say that in some parts of the U.S, an ounce of meth is currently more expensive than an ounce of gold. But when there's a glut of it like today - prices fall.

It's an 'upper', a party drug, a super strong type of speed that's 3 and a half times more powerful than cocaine. It can be smoked, snorted, swallowed or injected directly into a vein or under the skin ('popping').

People move from crank to meth to get more 'bang for their buck'. Known as 'poor man's cocaine', a hit of meth can last up to 12 hours making it much more economical to the desperate addict.

It travels through the bloodstream to the nucleus accumbens, a central reward centre for the brain. This is a release site for the neurotransmitter dopamine, the chemical key to human pleasure.

Dopamine is a natural chemical which causes us to feel good. More dopamine means more pleasure. It's one of the ways the brain rewards behaviour that helps us survive. Food and sex being two of the highest natural pleasures. And with crystal meth, there's a sh*t load of dopamine being produced - six times more dopamine is released than the body can do on it's own. However continual use makes it difficult for long term users to get a rush of dopamine with meth or without it.
 
In low doses meth increases energy and in higher doses it can induce euphoria. The initial high (rush) being followed by adrenaline-like effects which kick-in, increases heart rate and can lead to ''endurance levels off the map''. As the old joke goes, 'What's the best part about being a meth addict... Only one sleep till Christmas'.

Meth combines the hyperactivity of cocaine with the delusions of LSD (e.g. 'Meth bugs'). Users often feel paranoid with some feeling that they are under constant police surveillance. Meth abuse can also lead to violent effects. In Thailand hostage situations arising from meth-use led to a crackdown in 2003, but it is still prevalent on the streets of Bangkok.

Meth is engineered to trick your brain, keep you awake, prevent hunger, and make you feel brave. Interestingly, the Japanese created the first type of meth nearly a century ago. Later a perfect opportunity arose for it's use - World War II. It was administered to help soldiers keep fighting for longer and kamikaze pilots were believed to have taken it to keep them stoked for their suicide missions.
                                                   2.5 years later
 
Meth is more physically damaging than crack or heroin. While under it's influence, many users feel a crawling sensation under the skin, which leads to picking and scratching that can cause open sores. Hair becomes brittle. Teeth begin to rot ('meth mouth') due to meth impeding the flow of saliva which makes it easier for bacteria to build up faster. Further, a meth addict will most likely spend their money on a hit at the expense of their dental needs  Addicts are literally like zombies. The average life expectancy for a heavy meth user is 5 to 7 years.
 
Approximately 12 million people in America have tried meth. It is one of the most addictive substances on the planet. As much as 92% of users relapse after treatment. As the meth takes hold, addicts lives fall apart and there is destruction of entire communities. One such example is that of the Tenderloin, situated in San Francisco. San Francisco is notorious for drugs and a city saturated in meth. It was an epicentre of the 60's psychedelic revolution. The Tenderloin is one of the worst drug ghettos in the whole of America.  One young woman who moved to the area was told by a resident that ''people don't come here to live, they come here to die''.
 
The 'loin
A 50 block area, right in the heart of downtown San Francisco, the Tenderloin has long been a notoriously violent drugs supermarket. Meth, heroin, crank, and prescription pills are assigned their own specific corners - what you want, when you want it. Few drugs however have caused as much mayhem as meth and the Tenderloin is plumbing new depths. I once heard a dealer say that ''if you can make chocolate chip cookies then you can cook meth''. Ok we're getting into Walter White territory now, but homemade productions in the US have significantly dropped but the supply has not.

Mexico has stepped up it's production, and there is now the alarming influx of  an extra pure and potent 'Mexican meth' being mass produced in super-labs. This type of meth is not as diluted ('stepped on') as what would be normally found on the streets of the Tenderloin. Cutting agents such as MSM, a nutritional food supplement, is often used to bulk out the drugs size.
 
Asian cartels have been poisoning San Francisco with meth for almost 25 years, however their monopoly on meth is now under increasing threat from Mexico. The Sinaloa Cartel is believed to be moving into meth to reduce it's reliance on Columbian cocaine. The Mexicans sent meth into the US via routes that were already established by the cartels. Their drugs 'super-highway' running from the border of Mexico all the way up to the Bay area.


Mexico
An operation similar to that of a terrorist network. 80% of meth in the US is now supplied by the Mexican cartels, with the Sinaloa cartel estimated to make $3 billion a year from drug trafficking. Between 2007 and 2009, seizures of meth along the Mexican border increased by 87%. But for every batch lost, a dozen are believed to make it through.

It's supply and demand, and with Mexican meth now up to 90% pure and less than half the price - demand is high for 'the Devil's drug'.

A previous meth addict sums up the downfall into his love affair with a drug that is destroying lives worldwide, saying ''The drug won't bring a rapid death...you can see the shame, but you're just so high you don't care....you put your head down and walk away...it's incredible how deep the hooks go''.

1 comment:

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