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The History and Meteoric Rise of Meth

Methamphetamines are highly addictive stimulants with a complicated history. According to a report by the United States Department of Justice, methamphetamines (meth for short) were first introduced in the early 1900s. Meth was meant to be a bronchial dilator for respiratory problems and was first synthesized by Japanese scientists in 1919. But it was quickly prescribed for other things due to its stimulant properties — including narcolepsy, fatigue, and obesity — and was readily available in the United States by prescription. Some World War II soldiers and pilots were even given methamphetamines to increase their alertness. 

But as meth’s popularity grew, so did its accessibility for recreational use among the public. Meth became a Schedule II substance in the 1970s, meaning that meth was identified as a drug with high abuse risk but could be safely used in medical prescriptions. When meth was no longer legal to use without a prescription, the large boom of illegal production and distribution began.


Production and Distribution

Rather than allowing patients to suffer, doctors in the 1970s and 1980s wanted to be proactive about pain, especially for chronically and terminally ill patients. By the late 1980s, doctors began prescribing harder opiates for patients in extreme pain. While this practice did alleviate pain, it also caused addiction to opiates and other prescription drugs for some patients, regardless of whether they had recovered or still had lingering effects of their condition. Some doctors would renew prescriptions while other doctors would end prescriptions, citing that the ailment was cured. 

Those who could not obtain a prescription or felt they were not being written a large enough prescription would often turn to the streets for opiates, stumbling upon methamphetamines in the process. As a stimulant, meth would provide some pain relief, but mostly euphoria and increased energy levels.

Because meth is cheap to make by using ingredients, including several common household items, the popularity grew even further. Today, meth can be found in most counties of every state, from small “mom and pop” shops making small amounts to larger shops that sell across state lines. 

Although household meth is not “easy” to make, the ingredients are readily available, and demand for meth is high, meaning that sellers can illegally profit. Many states have attempted to slow meth production by passing laws to limit sales of the common household items used in large quantities to make meth, such as pseudoephedrine in cold medicine.


Meth’s Grip on America

Meth is currently most prevalent in the Western, Midwestern, and Southern states. Men and women use meth in equal numbers, but most who are addicted to meth are white and in their 20s and 30s. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), approximately 1.6 million people use meth each year, and the average age of new meth users is just 23 years old.

Meth increases the natural amount of dopamine in the brain, creating a stimulus in the brain’s reward center and increasing the drug’s addictive properties. These addictive properties combined with a high potential of an overdose make meth a dangerous and potentially deadly drug. 


The Health Effects of Meth Abuse

According to NIDA, meth has a variety of short-term effects, some of which appeal to those who abuse the drug and others that can cause lasting damage or death. These include:

  • Increased energy and physical activity
  • Faster breathing
  • Decreased appetite
  • Irregular or rapid heartbeat
  • High blood pressure or increased  body temperature
  • Euphoria
  • Overdose

The long-term effects of meth abuse include:

  • Addiction
  • Extreme weight loss
  • Dental problems
  • Intense itching, leading to sores and scarring on the skin
  • Anxiety
  • Changes in brain structure and function
  • Confusion
  • Memory loss
  • Sleeping problems
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Overdose

Because meth affects brain structure, some of these long-term effects are hard to disperse, even after recovery. The brain has rewired itself to need the drug and also how it functions with and without it. According to NIDA’s Methamphetamine Research Report, meth directly affects non-neural brain cells called microglia. 

Microglia are essentially the brain’s “clean-up crew,” defending the brain from infectious agents and cleaning out damaged or infected neurons. When microglia are stimulated by methamphetamines, they attach to and destroy healthy brain cells. NIDA researchers found that the brains of those who used meth had double the microglia to those who didn’t. The extra microglia in meth-induced brains kills off more good brain cells than bad, creating long-term brain health issues. Getting help for meth addiction as soon as possible is vital for recovery. 


Treatment for meth addiction is vital, and absolute abstinence from meth and other stimulants is necessary. If you’re struggling with an addiction to methamphetamines, seek treatment now. Your life can go on without addiction to meth, and although the thought of withdrawal may seem like a huge hurdle, you can get back to a brighter future at RECO Intensive. At RECO Intensive, we understand that your affiliation with meth or addiction runs deep and might have felt like a natural step at that time in your life. We want to help you get your life back on track without drugs and live for yourself, happy, healthy, and drug-free. At RECO Intensive, we offer treatment for meth and total support as you detox and find methods to heal mentally and physically from your addiction. The professional staff and experienced alumni at RECO Intensive will cater your treatment plan specifically to your needs. Call us today at (561) 464-6533.

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