It’s cheap, its powerful, and its scary. Crystal meth is a highly addictive drug that has made alarmingly rapid inroads into the local drug scene. Regional RCMP report that in 2003, crystal meth comprised 65 percent of all drugs seized from raves and nightclubs. After pot, it is considered the drug of choice for many teens.
Crystal meth is just one of many street names for the powerful nervous system stimulant methamphetamine. Other popular names include Speed, Glass, Ice, Crank, Jib, Shards, and others. The chemical was originally used to treat asthma and later adapted to increase energy, suppress appetite, and reduce the need for sleep. It became popular during World War II to keep pilots and ground troops alert for up to 48 hours and later abused by long-haul truckers, bikers, students, and labourers trying to stave off sleep. It also became a major ingredient of diet pills due to its appetite suppressing properties and due to its ability to counteract depression it became one of the first antidepressants available to physicians.
The effects of crystal meth are similar to that of cocaine but last much longer and it is much cheaper and easier to buy. Although it can be swallowed, snorted or injected, it is generally smoked resulting in an instant feeling of intense euphoria and well-being which can last for many hours. Tolerance develops quickly meaning the user soon requires higher and more frequent doses to gain the same effects. Addiction is reinforced rapidly. For this reason, many dealers will give out free samples of crystal meth knowing they will soon have a steady lucrative customer.
The drugs popularity at raves is understandable. Besides being cheap, available, and easy to ingest, it increases alertness, it decreases fatigue, counteracts feelings of depression, and creates a feeling of endless energy. The euphoria can last for 8 hours or more. Dancing ‘til dawn is no longer just a sentimental saying. Some abusers will go on binges lasting many days and putting a severe strain on cardiovascular and nervous systems. These users may try to deplete their energy in any way possible such as non-stop dancing, cleaning, exercising, or even painting the whole house.
Unfortunately, crystal meth has many negative effects. Any dose level can be extremely dangerous or even fatal due to the unpredictable nature of the drug. Even
short-term exposure is toxic and can damage nerve cells in the brain. As the drug wears off, the user experiences anxiety, depression, and mental confusion. Respiration and body temperature rises. Delusions and hallucinations are common. Long-tern use can cause sleep deprivation, heart and blood vessel toxicity, severe malnutrition and dehydration. Convulsions, strokes, and paranoia are not uncommon. Many users center their lives around the drug to the point of compromising their jobs, finances, schooling, families, health and other responsibilities.
As noted, crystal meth has become popular with many teens. As parents it is important to be aware of abnormal changes in your teen’s behaviour. Unusual behaviours do not necessarily signal the use of crystal meth or any other drug for that matter. Nevertheless, it is wise to consider the possibility of drug use, particularly if some of the following symptoms appear evident: rapid speech or jaw movement, missing school and assignments or work, poor bathing habits, dizziness, depressive state, impaired judgement, stealing money or easily saleable items, rapid mood changes, fidgeting, can’t sleep or excessive sleep, poor appetite, rapid weight loss, unusually high energy, pushes away friends or family, seclusion, obsessive lying, panic attacks, possessing small pipes or pop cans and aluminum foil with scorch marks, extreme fatigue, blank stare or dreamy state, tooth grinding, dry or itchy skin, extreme sweating, chest pain, nose bleeds, sniffing excessively, extreme nervousness, and preoccupation with raves, nightclubs, or weekend sleepovers without adequate controls.
Many parents are intuitive enough to realize when something about their teen just doesn’t seem right. Many teens using drugs will deny it. Many others aren’t using but have other issues which foster their unusual behaviour. It is wise to express your concerns directly without being accusatory or judgemental. Stay informed about your teen’s activities and whereabouts. Stay connected to the parents of their friends. Educate yourself about the symptoms of drug use. If you are worried or uncertain seek professional help. Some teens are frightened and don’t know how to break the drug cycle. Offer to take them to see someone who may be able to help. Most important: Always keep the lines of communication open.