This article is an actual e-mail sent from Mr. Mark Scheeren, the Chairman of the St. Jude Retreats, to a friend...it discusses some key points for anyone looking for information on crystal meth and addiction in general...
I was on the web doing research and it occurred to me that you had asked for more information about the disease concept and the different types of physical addiction of drugs like crystal meth and cocaine and alcohol and such. I had stated that crystal meth and cocaine were similar, and that crystal meth did not have a physical addiction, contrary to the consistent barrage of media and research groups saying it does. But rather than just having me make claims like this, let me go through and explain some of this, as I believe this is very important while helping thousands of misinformed drug users.
Methamphetamine, like cocaine, is used medically to treat certain conditions and has been since the 1940's in a pharmaceutical grade called Desoxyn. Since the ratification of the Schedules of Controlled Substances in 1970, the generic name and brand names for methamphetamine have been on Schedule II. (Ref: 21 U.S.C. > CHAPTER 13 > SUBCHAPTER I > Part B > Ã‚Â§ 812) Drugs on Schedule II must meet the following criteria:
There doesn't seem to be any rational explanation for the United States Government's preoccupation and paranoia with respect to drugs. Since the late 1950's the government has played an increasingly greater role in controlling what is good for it constituency and what it has decided, most often without scientific justification, is bad. Moreover, the government determinations with respect to drug use apparently have more to do with the economics of the drug and little to do with the actual affect of the substance. For example:
Thus, there is no question that nicotine is a Schedule II substance. In fact, one could easily argue that because of its annual mortality rate it should designated Schedule I. This substance that does more harm to the populous annually than all the other drugs (in aggregate) that are controlled by the Schedule is not on the Schedule. How can that be? Clearly nicotine meets the A, B, C criteria to be on Schedule II.
The answer is Schedule II is not Schedule II, is not Schedule II. There is a criterion "D." Of course, D is not written out in so many words, but it goes something like this: If a substance is being produced here in the US and has economic implications for farmers, and if the substance is currently being used by so many voters that a politician could loose the next election based on his vote to make the substance illegal and finally if the substance is taxed by the government to the extent that making the substance illegal would cause certain financial collapse of overseeing and regulatory agencies, it really doesn't matter that the substance has a high probability for abuse, or that its medical use is limited or that it may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence. With that said, who could blame those government officials who decide what is on Schedule II and what is not; after all they are just protecting their phony-baloney jobs.
But now to the subject at hand: methamphetamine. How dangerous is it and if it is dangerous what is the source of the danger? Hundreds of thousands of children have been on methamphetamine for years at a time with no ill affects. And even though the DEA has classified methamphetamine as a Schedule II drug, there are no verifiable studies that indicate methamphetamine has a high potential for heavy use. In fact the clinical data indicates that patients can take methamphetamine for long periods of time, including children, with little or no risk of liberal usage. It does have medical uses, but so does heroin and aspirin and neither one of those are on Schedule II. And, what about the "severe psychological or physical dependence" that is required to get a Schedule II designation? In recent years methamphetamine users constitute less than five tenths of one percent of the population, the majority of whom are taking the drug legally. If this stuff develops into "severe psychological or physical dependence" where are all these psychological and physically dependent users? Point of fact, methamphetamine may, in a select few, build up a psychological (but no physical) habit. Most frequently this is among compulsive dieters who tend to use any substance that helps them lose weight.
So again we ask; why is it so dangerous? The answer is: In and of itself, it isn't. People have taken it and used it successfully and safely for decades. But once the United States government began its demonizing propaganda, like it has with a multitude of other drugs, methamphetamine came into its own. By demonizing methamphetamine, the government actually created a market for the substance. The more the government agencies cracked down (focused) on the illegal manufacture of methamphetamine, the greater the popularity it received among the younger population (under 30 years old.)
But, what about Meth Mouth you may ask, isn't that a clear danger? It is well documented that methamphetamine users loose their teeth and experience a multitude of soft tissue problems. That, of course, is true. But it is equally true for alcohol abusers and people who are mouth breathers and those who ignore dental hygiene. According to the American Dental Association, meth mouth "is probably caused by a combination of drug-induced psychological and physiological changes resulting in xerostomia (dry mouth), extended periods of poor oral hygiene, frequent consumption of high calorie, carbonated beverages and tooth grinding and clenching" Similar, though far less severe symptoms have been reported in clinical use of other amphetamines, where effects are not exacerbated by a lack of oral hygiene for extended periods. Ergo, meth mouth is not the result of using methamphetamines. It is primarily caused by "lack of oral hygiene." Wow! What an important discovery: If you don't take care of your teeth, you will probably loose them. A dentist friend has a poster in his office that says: "You don't have to floss all of your teeth. You only have to floss the ones you want to keep." Whether a person takes methamphetamine or not, if you want to have healthy teeth-take care of them!
Whether the use methamphetamine is legal or illegal, it is important to bear in mind that the pharmaceutical grade was and is just as powerful, if not more so than the street version of today. In the late 1970's methamphetamines were further restricted (controlled) for widespread public use simply because the stimulants such as "black beauties" and Desoxyn were found on the illegal market. Despite the demonizing of all amphetamines by the federal and state governments, many people used amphetamines, including methamphetamine, for years with few or no ill effects. Anecdotally, Jerry Brown, a coauthor of the St. Jude Program, used amphetamines for several years during his early adulthood and prior to his decision to stop his liberal use of drugs and alcohol. He often jokes that he is baffled as to why anyone would smoke crack, where the high only lasts an hour (or less) when you can stay absolutely ripped on speed for 10 or 12 hours for a fraction the cost. Well, that is, after all, the argument for the popularity of meth, as that is what speed was and still is. After the designation of methamphetamine as a controlled substance, its popularity diminished somewhat. And, shortly after the government put tight controls on the legal sale of methamphetamines, a "bathtub" version of the drug, now known as crystal meth came on the scene.
Here in the United States methamphetamines were first popularized by the GI's coming home from WWII. Many, perhaps all, of the allied troops in the field and certainly all the troops of the Third Reich were given amphetamines in chocolate and in a variety of other preparations. Even though these troops took methamphetamine and other amphetamines for extended periods of time, heavy use of the substance during that time was not reported. Considering that during World War II hundreds of thousands of troops were given a variety of amphetamines, few continued using the drug after the war and fewer still experienced problems relating to amphetamine use.
A few decades later, in the 1970's, a street version was created by the Hells Angels, a biker organization. The Hells Angels distributed meth by transporting it inside the open dry clutch covers in the crankcases of their Harley-Davidson Motorcycles, hence the nickname "crank." This became the Hells Angels source of funding for their membership explosion in the 1970's. This black market speed was a cultural mirror image of what happened to the booze industry through the 1920's and in the early 1930's during alcohol prohibition. Once booze was outlawed, people made what was then called "bathtub gin" (the generic name for illegal homemade moonshine of any sort) which was filled with toxins and blinded and killed hundreds. It is still produced in the south in many "dry" counties. During prohibition, this illegal market funded the first publicly open criminal organization - the mob. It made the daily newspapers, and after a few years of increased crime rates, in 1933 the Eighteenth Amendment (prohibition) was repealed. Predictably organized crime moved on to other drugs, as did most of the trouble and newspaper media hype. Alcohol dropped into the background to the same status it holds today.
Drugs are a popularity contest. For people who are members of the drug culture, certain drugs gain favor for a period of time. Heroin has had three major popularity cycles in the last century - the 1920's, the late 1950's, (also a small cultural influx after Vietnam with the vets in the 1970's) and the late 1990's to the present. Cocaine and its various forms ran its cycle (1975 to 1990) for fifteen years prior to heroin. Most everyone will recall the massive hype during the 1980's where "crack was an epidemic that is going to take over our youth." It didn't.
The truth is that all the notoriety surrounding crack/cocaine during those years was government propaganda to fund its "War on Drugs." We Americans are always ready to sign up for a righteous fight against evil. The federal and state governments mushroomed, particularly law enforcement, during this period of time as the people accepted the notion that this evil force, crack/cocaine, was going to steal away our children, something like the Pied Piper. As a people, we cold not stand by and let this happen. However, the truth, at that time was simply this: The vast majority of our youth never saw crack. (Anecdotally, I never did. In my teen years I was seriously involved in the drug culture. I did a lot of drugs, but I never did crack, nor did any of my friends.) Nevertheless, the government's propaganda, the media hype and the fear mongering only added to the drug's mystique and popularity - and was completely unfounded and certainly did not help to slow the drug's popularity!
Do you remember the term "crack babies," those children born addicted to crack? Well, this, too, was pure bunk! Cocaine is water soluble; there is no physical addiction. The experts knew that then, and so did the majority of the media, but the "addiction of crack" was an emotional story, as is so much of the media news. It was not that the media was in a conspiracy, it was the governments' preying on the people's emotions and fear of a new drug that seemed out of control for, what turned out to be, a small minority. Yet, this small minority is what fueled the explosive growth in law enforcement. Additionally, this small minority caught the attention of the media. It must be understood that the media does not report science-it reports emotion. If a story does not provoke some emotional response, chances are it will be largely ignored by the media. Today, crack cocaine is an old story and the rates of use are much lower than when the drug surfaced. It peaked in 1986, and its use has steadily declined since. The same is now happening with crystal meth. Methamphetamine use has fallen off precipitously during the last two years. The reasons for the decline are two: First, as a function of time, the government lost its interest in demonizing the drug because the media lost interest in sensationalizing the drug (i.e. it's an old story.) The media lost its interest because the population at large got tired of hearing about the drug. Second and as a direct result of the first reason, the cycle of the drug entered into its final stage of dwindling popularity characterized by deteriorating demand. Demand decreases as current users stop using, usually on their own, during the waning years of the drug's cultural life cycle, 15 - 20 years. During the end of the drug's cultural life cycle most active users at the time will stop within five years, or less, and the number of new users decline until the drug once again returns to obscurity from whence it came.
Sociologists and researchers know and can predict what drugs will gain popularity. It is not a mystery. For the most part, the Federal Government determines the popularity of illicit drugs and actually creates markets for these products. Anytime a law is put in force to control a substance, and where the control is strictly enforced, a "bathtub" version is created to fill the market demand. And, the more media hype the drug gets, the greater the demand. Still, per capita, very, very few have ever used methamphetamine, and fewer yet have used illicit concoctions of methamphetamine. This minority is made up of people who use the substance to extreme proportions as compared to the larger user population who legally used the drug in moderation. In the case of methamphetamine, the minority who actually use the drug heavily is less than two tenths of one percent of the population. Yet, there are 484,560 internet sites reporting the epidemic horrors of methamphetamine use. That is more than one website per amphetamine abuser.
All of this media hype makes little sense when the total methamphetamine dangers are put into perspective. Consider that rarely do people die from methamphetamine use. Those that do, in nearly all cases, are the result of overdoses. However, there is no way of determining the number who intentionally overdose in a successful suicide attempt. Keep in mind that far more people commit suicide overdosing on over-the-counter drugs each year than by methamphetamine overdose. Of methamphetamine users the, the number of overdose deaths from (only) methamphetamine is approximately the suicide rate of the population at large, which is one percent.
Still, others die, not from using methamphetamine, but as a direct result of the methamphetamine illicit market. Criminalization of making and using methamphetamines has created a market in which criminals can prosper. Most anyone that can follow a recipe for cooking up a batch of chili can cook up a batch of meth. However, making chili is far more benign, versus cooking up a batch of crystal meth which is extremely dangerous. Toxic and highly combustible gases are given off in the production of crystal meth. While there is no hard and fast statistics as to how many people die each year from meth lab mishaps, it is thought to be significantly greater than those who die from using methamphetamine. Then, too, a certain number of people are injured and killed each year simply because they were unlucky enough to stay at a motel in which a meth lab was operating and which caused an explosion and/or fire. Some meth users die, not as a result of methamphetamine use, but as a result of lethal contaminates in methamphetamine. Finally, the criminal element that is responsible for the production of meth, kill each other from time to time, kill law enforcement employees and occasionally innocent bystanders are injured or killed. Thus, the number of lives lost to methamphetamine use pales by comparison to those who die simple because of the criminalization of methamphetamines. De-criminalization of methamphetamine saves lives.
Setting aside the reality of the drug culture, the government is relentless in its (glorifying) demonizing of methamphetamine. The governments' and the media's public statements and policies actually causes price increases, crime, followed by horrific stories, fear, mystique and thus popularity for the fifteen to twenty year cycle. Crystal meth is the current media baby - and according to CNN just last night you would think that every kid in a mid west town was about to jump out a window "tweeking" from hallucinations and withdrawal that alleged result from crystal meth use.
The reason I go into this is quite simple. Our guests believe what they hear, and it furthers their awful experiences with the drugs. So being informed about the culture of drug cycles takes half the battle away. We need to put things into proper perspective culturally and then personally.
Finally, the intent of this paper is not to promote methamphetamine use, but rather to provide a non-hysterical-accurate-assessment of methamphetamine use and heavy use. It is of vital importance to come to the understanding that the suppliers of illicit drugs do not make the market for the drug. Governments and media are largely responsible for a drug's popularity. The more control the government puts on a drug, the more hype the media gives it, the more alluring it becomes to people (particularly young people), and the more the demand. Suppliers of illicit drugs only exist because there is a demand. Remove the demand and the suppliers go away. Suppliers do nothing in the creation of the market; they simply meet the market demands. To understand this cause and affect is very basic economics. If we learned nothing else from the days of Prohibition, we should have learned this. But, apparently, we didn't.
Please save this e-mail, as I will send you the studies Dan has been researching once he has it complete. So far there are over thirty pages of bibliography of supporting our studies. You can then read the material, and if you have questions I can tailor some training on these items for you.
I could write about this forever, but what started out as a short e-mail is turning out to be an idea for another book. Yikes! Take care, and talk soon.
Mark W. Scheeren, Chairman Baldwin Research Institute, Inc.