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Month: April 2011

Methamphetamine: Ruining Lives

Methamphetamine: Ruining Lives

Abuse patterns

Methamphetamine abuse has three patterns: low intensity, binge, and high intensity. Low-intensity abuse describes a user who is not psychologically addicted to the drug but uses methamphetamine on a casual basis by swallowing or snorting it. Binge and high-intensity abusers are psychologically addicted and prefer to smoke or inject methamphetamine to achieve a faster and stronger high. Binge abusers use methamphetamine more than low-intensity abusers but less than high-intensity abusers.

Low-Intensity methamphetamine abuse

Low-intensity abusers swallow or snort methamphetamine, using it the same way many people use caffeine or nicotine. Low-intensity abusers want the extra stimulation the methamphetamine provides so that they can stay awake long enough to finish a task or a job, or they want the appetite suppressant effect to lose weight. These people frequently hold jobs, raise families, and otherwise function normally. They may include people such as truck drivers trying to reach their destination, workers trying to stay awake until the end of their normal shift or an overtime shift, and housewives trying to keep a clean house a well as be a perfect mother and wife.

Even though a law enforcement officer is not likely to encounter low-intensity abusers, these individuals are one step away from becoming binge abusers. They already know the stimulating effect that methamphetamine provides them by swallowing or snorting the drug, but they have not experienced the euphoric rush associated with smoking or injecting it and have not encountered clearly defined stages of abuse. However, simple switching to smoking or injecting methamphetamine offers the abusers a quick transition to a binge pattern of abuse.

Binge methamphetamine abuse

Binge abusers smoke or inject methamphetamine and experience euphoric rushes that are psychologically addictive.

Rush: The rush is the initial response the abuser feels when smoking or injecting methamphetamine and is the aspect of the drug that low-intensity abusers do not experience when snorting or swallowing the drug. During the rush, the abuser’s heartbeat aces and metabolism, blood pressure, and pulse sore. Meanwhile, the abuser can experience feelings equivalent to ten orgasms. Unlike the rush associated with crack cocaine, which lasts for approximately 2 – 5 minutes, the methamphetamine rush can continue for 5-30 minutes.

The reason for the methamphetamine rush is that the drug, when smoked or injected, triggers the adrenal gland to release a hormone called epinephrine (adrenaline), which puts the body in a battle mode, fight or flight. In addition, the physical sensation that the rush gives the abuser most likely results from the explosive release of dopamine in the pleasure center of the brain.

High: The rush is followed by the high, sometimes called the shoulder. During the high, the abuser often feels aggressively smarter and becomes argumentative, often interrupting other people and finishing their sentences. The high can last 4-16 hours.

Binge: The binge is the continuation of the high. The abuser maintains the high by smoking or injecting more methamphetamine. Each time the abuser smokes or injects more of the drug, a smaller euphoric rush than the initial rush is experienced until, finally, there is no rush and no high. During the binge, the abuser becomes hyperactive both mentally and physically. The binge can last 3-15 days.

Tweaking: Tweaking occurs at the end of the binge when nothing the abuser does will take away the feeling of emptiness and dysphoria, including taking more methamphetamine. Tweaking is very uncomfortable, and the abuser often takes a depressant to ease the bad feelings. The most popular depressant is alcohol, with heroin a close second.

Tweaking is the most dangerous stage of the methamphetamine abuse cycle to law enforcement officers and other individuals near the abuser. If the abuser is using alcohol to ease the discomfort, the threat to law enforcement officers intensifies. During this stage, law enforcement officers must clearly identify the underlying dangers of the situation and avoid the assumption that the tweaker is just a cocky drunk.

Crash: To a binge abuser, the crash means an incredible amount of sleep. The body’s epinephrine has been depleted, and the body uses the crash to replenish its supply. Even the meanest, most violent abuser becomes almost lifeless during the crash and poses a threat to no one. The crash can last 1-3 days.

Normal: After the crash, the abuser returns to normal–a state that is slightly deteriorated from the normal state before he used methamphetamine. This stage ordinarily lasts between 2 and 14 days. However, as the frequency of binging increases, the duration of the normal stage decreases.

Withdrawal: No acute, immediate symptoms of physical distress are evident with methamphetamine withdrawal, a stage that the abuser may slowly enter. Often 30-90 days must pass after the last drug use before the abuser realizes that he is in withdrawal. First, without really noticing, the individual becomes depressed and loses the ability to experience pleasure. The individual becomes lethargic; he has no energy. Then the craving for more methamphetamine hits, and the abuser often becomes suicidal. If the abuser, however, takes more methamphetamine at any point during the withdrawal, the unpleasant feelings will end. Consequently, the success rate for traditional methamphetamine rehabilitation is very low. Ninety-three percent of those in traditional treatment return to abuse methamphetamine.

High-Intensity methamphetamine abuse

The high-intensity abusers are the addicts, often called speed freaks. Their whole existence focuses on preventing the crash, and they seek that elusive, perfect rush–the rush they had when they first started smoking or injecting methamphetamine.

With high-intensity abuser, each successive rush becomes less euphoric, and it takes more methamphetamine to achieve it. Each high is not quite as high as the one before. During each subsequent binge, the abuser needs more methamphetamine, more often, to get a high that is not as good as the high he wants or remembers.

Tweaking for the high-intensity abuser is still the most dangerous time to confront him because tweakers are extremely unpredictable and short-tempered. The crash is often spoken of in terms of “I never sleep,” or “I sleep with one eye open.” In an attempt to appear normal, perhaps because of an appointment with a doctor, lawyer, or court official, high-intensity abusers will make themselves take short naps; otherwise, they see no need to come down from the high.

Dangerous tweakers

A methamphetamine abuser is most dangerous when tweaking. The fact that a law enforcement officer is confronting the tweaker makes him more dangerous, not just to the officer on the scene but also to anyone nearby. When tweaking, the abuser has probably not slept in 3-15 days and consequently will be extremely irritable. The tweaker craves more methamphetamine, but no dosage will help re-create the euphoric high. The result is a strong feeling of uncontrollable frustration that makes the tweaker unpredictable and dangerous.

If the law enforcement officer on the scene is unfamiliar with the physical signs of a tweaker, the abuser can appear normal. In fact, unlike a person intoxicated on alcohol with glassy eyes, slurred speech, and difficulty even standing up, a tweaker appears super-exaggerated normal. The tweaker’s eyes are clear, his speech concise, and his movements brisk. With a closer look at the tweaker, law enforcement officers will notice that his eyes are moving about ten times faster than normal and may roll. He is talking in a quick, often steady voice with a slight quiver to it, and his movements are quick and jerky. The individual’s movements are often exaggerated because he is overstimulated, and his thinking is scattered and subject to paranoid delusions.

The tweaker does not need provocation to react violently; however, confrontation increases the chance for a violent reaction. Law enforcement officers should consider the potential for violence when determining that a suspect is tweaking. For example, case histories indicate that tweakers react negatively to the sight of a police uniform. Confrontation between the tweaker and law enforcement often results in a verbal or physical assault on the officer.

Besides confrontation, nobody knows for certain what will trigger a tweaker to be irrational and violent. A tweaker exists in his own world, seeing and hearing things that no one else can perceive. His hallucinations are so vivid that they seem real. What law enforcement officers say and do enter into the abuser’s altered reality, and if his paranoia is triggered, law enforcement appears to be a threat to the tweaker’s life.

It is during tweaking that hostage situations can easily occur. If the abuser feels cornered, with no means of escape, the tweaker is likely to take a hostage, often an associate, a relative, or a police officer. In extreme cases, the tweaker may physically assault the hostage.

If the tweaker has chosen to ease his discomfort with alcohol, he becomes a disinhibited tweaker, making reasoning with him or even identifying him as a tweaker more difficult. Physical signs of a tweaker become blurred to an observer when the tweaker is using alcohol. Motor and speech functions, for example, become impaired, but not to the degree of a person using only alcohol. The rapid eye movement and the quick speech of a tweaker might actually slow to an apparently normal speed. However, a tweaker using alcohol can be identified in two ways:

1. First, individuals who can get close enough to see the tweaker’s eyes should look for a horizontal-gaze nystagmus. This phenomenon occurs when the methamphetamine abuser, who is also using alcohol, looks out of the corner of his eyes, and the eyes jerk back and forth.

2. Second, if communication lines are open with the tweaker, ask the tweaker if he is using methamphetamine and then inquire if he is also drinking alcohol.

If a strong smell of alcohol is present, but no signs of drunkenness exist, one should err on the side of caution and approach the person as a tweaker using alcohol rather than assume the person is harmless. Because tweakers using alcohol are ordinarily not concerned with the consequences of their actions, a situation can quickly lead to violence.

Are there any other problems that can occur from methamphetamine addiction?

Regarding domestic disputes, cities across the United States report increased percentages of domestic violence incidents associated with methamphetamine use. Domestic disputes, ordinarily regarded as dangerous situations for law enforcement, become intensified when a tweaker is involved because of that individual’s unpredictability.

Many motor vehicle violations and accidents may also involve tweakers. Paranoid and hallucinating, tweakers may decide to travel in their automobiles. Their delusional state makes moving shapes and shadows appear threatening, and they are very likely to increase their speed and exhibit erratic driving patterns as they attempt to evade the images. An additional threat to society and themselves may stem from tweaker’s tendency to arm themselves for their personal safety. Interviews with methamphetamine abusers have confirmed that these individuals often maintain weapons in their automobiles, as well as in their residences.

Tweakers may also be present at raves or parties. In addition, to support their habit, tweakers often participate in spur-of-the-moment crimes, such as purse snatching, strong-arm robberies, assaults with a weapon, burglaries, and thefts of motor vehicles.

Methamphetamine is readily available and is spreading rapidly across the United States. Unlike the abusers in the 1960s and 1970s, today’s methamphetamine abusers cross ethnic and gender boundaries. Methamphetamine is psychologically addictive during the binge and high-intensity patterns of abuse, with users becoming paranoid and unpredictable.

Information on this page courtesy of National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Heroin: AKA “Dead on Arrival”

Heroin: AKA “Dead on Arrival”

Heroin: Another Name for Death

Heroin is processed from morphine, a naturally occurring substance extracted from the seed pod of certain varieties of poppy plants. Heroin is a highly addictive and rapidly acting opiate. It’s known as: diamorphine, diacetylmorphine, dope, black tar, dust, H, junk, horse, scag or smack. It is made from the drug morphine, an organic substance that arrives from the opium poppy plant. The pure heroin is bitter-tasting, white, fine crystalline powder. The heroin sold on the street varies in color and constancy depending on the system it is prepared and what other materials are mixed to it. It may look like a dark brown muggy gum, a brown gritty substance or a white powder. It can contain a purity of two to ninety eight percent.

Heroin may be;

1.         Dissolved in water then injected into a muscle, vein, or under the skin

2.         Smoked

3.         Snorted

How does it effect our bodies?

After using heroin, it travels throughout our bloodstream and easily reaches the brain. After reaching the brain, it is rehabilitated back into morphine. The morphine interacts with explicit proteins on our brain cells called the opioid receptors. Then, opioid receptors send pointers between our brain cells or neurons and ultimately modify the way the person experiences pain.

Does heroin produce the same effect for everyone?

The effects of heroin are quite unpredictable. It is quite diverse for every individual. The way anyone feels after taking these drugs depends on many issues:

•          Weight and age

•          Mood, environment, and expectations

•          The amount of dose

•          Psychiatric or medical conditions

•          The way heroin is taken

•          How long and how often heroin has been used

•          The use of other drugs

What is the actual effect of using heroin?

Heroin is a precarious drug whose dangerous effects are unpredictable, partially because the consumer does not identify its strength or purity. A person after taking heroin may feel dizzy and confused. It may also momentarily relieve depression and anxiety. When heroin is injected into a vein, it can create a pleasurable rush feeling that lasts for a few minutes depending on the dose. The rush produces an individual sense of happiness, relaxation and a lack of physical and emotional pain. After the early feeling goes away, the user enters a phase of tranquil that can last about an hour.

A short-term use of heroin can produce;

•          Nausea and vomiting

•          Lack of emotion

•          Reduced appetite

•          Impaired night vision and pinpoint pupils

•          Decreased response to pain

•          Constipation

•          Headaches

•          Burning or itching sensation of skin

•          Cold, clammy skin

•          Low blood pressure

•          Shallow and slow breathing

•          Unconsciousness

•          Bluish skin

MDMA: Laced With Meth?

MDMA: Laced With Meth?

MDMA — Ecstasy — users may encounter problems similar to those experienced by amphetamine and cocaine users, including addiction.

In addition to its “rewarding” effects, MDMA’s psychological effects can include confusion, depression, sleep problems, anxiety, and paranoia during, and sometimes weeks after, taking the drug. Physical effects can include muscle tension, involuntary teeth clenching, nausea, blurred vision, faintness, and chills or sweating. Increases in heart rate and blood pressure are a special risk for people with circulatory or heart disease.

Is MDMA Laced with Methamphetamine?

MDMA-related fatalities at raves have been reported. The stimulant effects of the drug, which enable the user to dance for extended periods, combined with the hot, crowded conditions usually found at raves can lead to dehydration, hyperthermia, and heart or kidney failure.

MDMA use damages brain serotonin neurons. Serotonin is thought to play a role in regulating mood, memory, sleep, and appetite. Recent research indicates heavy MDMA use causes persistent memory problems in humans.

Long-term brain injury from use of “ecstasy”

The designer drug “Ecstasy,” or MDMA, causes long-lasting damage to brain areas that are critical for thought and memory, according to new research findings in the June 15 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience. In an experiment with red squirrel monkeys, researchers at The Johns Hopkins University demonstrated that 4 days of exposure to the drug caused damage that persisted 6 to 7 years later. These findings help to validate previous research by the Hopkins team in humans, showing that people who had taken MDMA scored lower on memory tests.

“The serotonin system, which is compromised by MDMA, is fundamental to the brain’s integration of information and emotion,” says Dr. Alan I. Leshner, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), National Institutes of Health, which funded the research. “At the very least, people who take MDMA, even just a few times, are risking long-term, perhaps permanent, problems with learning and memory.”

The researchers found that the nerve cells (neurons) damaged by MDMA are those that use the chemical serotonin to communicate with other neurons. The Hopkins team had also previously conducted brain imaging research in human MDMA users, in collaboration with the National Institute of Mental Health, which showed extensive damage to serotonin neurons.

MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine) has a stimulant effect, causing similar euphoria and increased alertness as cocaine and amphetamine. It also causes mescaline-like psychedelic effects. First used in the 1980s, MDMA is often taken at large, all-night “rave” parties.

In this new study, the Hopkins researchers administered either MDMA or salt water to the monkeys twice a day for 4 days. After 2 weeks, the scientists examined the brains of half of the monkeys. Then, after 6 to 7 years, the brains of the remaining monkeys were examined, along with age-matched controls.

In the brains of the monkeys examined soon after the 2-week period, Dr. George Ricaurte and his colleagues found that MDMA caused more damage to serotonin neurons in some parts of the brain than in others. Areas particularly affected were the neocortex (the outer part of the brain where conscious thought occurs) and the hippocampus (which plays a key role in forming long-term memories).

This damage was also apparent, although to a lesser extent, in the brains of monkeys who had received MDMA during the same 2-week period but who had received no MDMA for 6 to 7 years. In contrast, no damage was noticeable in the brains of those who had received salt water.

“Some recovery of serotonin neurons was apparent in the brains of the monkeys given MDMA 6 to 7 years previously,” says Dr. Ricaurte, “but this recovery occurred only in certain regions, and was not always complete. Other brain regions showed no evidence of recovery whatsoever.”

Ecstasy damages the brain and impairs memory in humans

A NIDA-supported study has provided the first direct evidence that chronic use of MDMA, popularly known as “ecstasy,” causes brain damage in people. Using advanced brain imaging techniques, the study found that MDMA harms neurons that release serotonin, a brain chemical thought to play an important role in regulating memory and other functions. In a related study, researchers found that heavy MDMA users have memory problems that persist for at least 2 weeks after they have stopped using the drug. Both studies suggest that the extent of damage is directly correlated with the amount of MDMA use.

“The message from these studies is that MDMA does change the brain and it looks like there are functional consequences to these changes,” says Dr. Joseph Frascella of NIDA’s Division of Treatment Research and Development. That message is particularly significant for young people who participate in large, all-night dance parties known as “raves,” which are popular in many cities around the nation. NIDA’s epidemiologic studies indicate that MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine) use has escalated in recent years among college students and young adults who attend these social gatherings.

These brain scans show the amount of serotonin activity over a 40-minute period in a non-MDMA user (left) and an MDMA user (right). Dark areas in the MDMA user’s brain show damage due to chronic MDMA use.

In the brain imaging study, researchers used positron emission tomography (PET) to take brain scans of 14 MDMA users who had not used any psychoactive drug, including MDMA, for at least 3 weeks. Brain images also were taken of 15 people who had never used MDMA. Both groups were similar in age and level of education and had comparable numbers of men and women.

In people who had used MDMA, the PET images showed significant reductions in the number of serotonin transporters, the sites on neuron surfaces that reabsorb serotonin from the space between cells after it has completed its work. The lasting reduction of serotonin transporters occurred throughout the brain, and people who had used MDMA more often lost more serotonin transporters than those who had used the drug less.

Previous PET studies with baboons also produced images indicating MDMA had induced long-term reductions in the number of serotonin transporters. Examinations of brain tissue from the animals provided further confirmation that the decrease in serotonin transporters seen in the PET images corresponded to actual loss of serotonin nerve endings containing transporters in the baboons’ brains. “Based on what we found with our animal studies, we maintain that the changes revealed by PET imaging are probably related to damage of serotonin nerve endings in humans who had used MDMA,” says Dr. George Ricaurte of The Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in Baltimore. Dr. Ricaurte is the principal investigator for both studies, which are part of a clinical research project that is assessing the long-term effects of MDMA.

“The real question in all imaging studies is what these changes mean when it comes to functional consequences,” says NIDA’s Dr. Frascella. To help answer that question, a team of researchers, which included scientists from Johns Hopkins and the National Institute of Mental Health who had worked on the imaging study, attempted to assess the effects of chronic MDMA use on memory. In this study, researchers administered several standardized memory tests to 24 MDMA users who had not used the drug for at least 2 weeks and 24 people who had never used the drug. Both groups were matched for age, gender, education, and vocabulary scores.

The study found that, compared to the nonusers, heavy MDMA users had significant impairments in visual and verbal memory. As had been found in the brain imaging study, MDMA’s harmful effects were dose-related and the more MDMA people used, the greater difficulty they had in recalling what they had seen and heard during testing.

The memory impairments found in MDMA users are among the first functional consequences of MDMA-induced damage of serotonin neurons to emerge. Recent studies conducted in the United Kingdom also have reported memory problems in MDMA users assessed within a few days of their last drug use. “Our study extends the MDMA-induced memory impairment to at least 2 weeks since last drug use and thus shows that MDMA’s effects on memory cannot be attributed to withdrawal or residual drug effects,” says Dr. Karen Bolla of Johns Hopkins, who helped conduct the study.

The Johns Hopkins/NIMH researchers also were able to link poorer memory performance by MDMA users to loss of brain serotonin function by measuring the levels of a serotonin metabolite in study participants’ spinal fluid. These measurements showed that MDMA users had lower levels of the metabolite than people who had not used the drug; that the more MDMA they reported using, the lower the level of the metabolite; and that the people with the lowest levels of the metabolite had the poorest memory performance. Taken together, these findings support the conclusion that MDMA-induced brain serotonin neurotoxicity may account for the persistent memory impairment found in MDMA users, Dr. Bolla says.

Research on the functional consequences of MDMA-induced damage of serotonin-producing neurons in humans is at an early stage, and the scientists who conducted the studies cannot say definitively that the harm to brain serotonin neurons shown in the imaging study accounts for the memory impairments found among chronic users of the drug. However, “that’s the concern, and it’s certainly the most obvious basis for the memory problems that some MDMA users have developed,” Dr. Ricaurte says.

Findings from another Johns Hopkins/NIMH study now suggest that MDMA use may lead to impairments in other cognitive functions besides memory, such as the ability to reason verbally or sustain attention. Researchers are continuing to examine the effects of chronic MDMA use on memory and other functions in which serotonin has been implicated, such as mood, impulse control, and sleep cycles. How long MDMA-induced brain damage persists and the long-term consequences of that damage are other questions researchers are trying to answer. Animal studies, which first documented the neurotoxic effects of the drug, suggest that the loss of serotonin neurons in humans may last for many years and possibly be permanent. “We now know that brain damage is still present in monkeys 7 years after discontinuing the drug,” Dr. Ricaurte says. “We don’t know just yet if we’re dealing with such a long-lasting effect in people.”

Information on this page courtesy of National Institute on Drug Abuse.

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What Is Drug Addiction?

What Is Drug Addiction?

If a person takes a drug often enough, the brain will make changes so that it can handle all the extra chemicals that are being put into it. In an attempt to adjust, the brain tells the neurotransmitters to slow down the release of certain chemicals in the pleasure circuit. As a result, normal levels of chemicals are too low. When that happens, a person becomes depressed. The person will then take more of the drug in order to feel better. The drug addict will temporarily feel better. The extra chemicals from the drug again tell the brain to stop producing its own chemicals, which further reduces normal levels. When the drug wears off, the addict feels even worse than before. This is called withdrawal. The person then craves more drugs to help him feel better, and the cycle starts all over again.

The human body has a system of checks and balances that keep us from being too happy, too sad, too stressed out-too anything. In a way, it’s as if we have an electrical circuit board in our brain that determines how much of various neurotransmitters we need in certain situations. When it gets the signal, the brain then produces the correct amount. Drugs and alcohol act like a power surge, overloading the brain with chemicals. Just as an electrical power surge can blow up a computer or turn off all the lights, drugs cause problems with the chemicals in our brains. This causes addiction, in which the brain can no longer function without a drug.

Most people who become addicted to drugs follow a similar pattern of addiction. First, they experiment with drugs. People start to take drugs for many reasons. They may try drugs because of pressures at home, an ache or pain, coaxing from friends, or curiosity about how a drug will make them feel. Their tolerance increases. The more of a chemical they use, the more of that chemical they will need to get the same effect. They may have blackouts. There may be times when they do not remember what they did when drinking or using drugs.

An addict will avoid talking about drugs or alcohol. As the addiction develops, they try to take attention away from anything that will point it out. They become preoccupied with drug use. Spending time thinking about drugs, plan their drug use carefully, and choosing friends based on drugs. Addicts blame others and make excuses for their drug use. They may even cause fights as an excuse to drink or drug. All control of drug use is lost. They cannot control how much is used and are unable stop from taking more. An addict may feel weak or think that they do not have willpower. The drug use affects family, friends, employment, and education. It may destroy the addict’s relationships and abilities to handle even the simple life tasks. The addict may have medical, legal, or emotional difficulties or problems. The addict will lose hope. As the addiction gets worse, they may feel as though there is nothing they can do to stop it. The addict will feel as if life has lost it’s meaning or is not worth living.

Information on this page courtesy of National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Drug Rehabilitation

Drug Rehabilitation

We all have natural chemicals that the body produces to create the feeling of happiness in the brain. Heavy drugs like cocaine, meth and heroin change these normal processes of happiness and once gone, heavy depression sets in.

The Bio-Physical Method is the most effective drug rehabilitation process today with a 75% success rate.