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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Why People Take Meth and Become Physically Deformed

A gaunt body with damaged tissue and blood vessels, severe acne, dull skin pocked with sores, and a mouth full of rotting, broken teeth -- a meth addict can be a monstrous sight.

We all have seen the horrible physical effects due to meth addiction. The transformations are often so dramatic that striking changes to an addict's face and body draw shocking reactions. Now, a group of scientists from the Italian Institute of Technology and U.C. Irvine claim they have found exactly what happens to the cells to cause these striking changes.

Their research shows that meth causes abnormalities in the fat metabolism of cells and this triggers a rise in a type of molecule which promotes cell death.

( G. Astarita, A. Avanesian, B. Grimaldi, et al. "Methamphetamine Accelerates Cellular Senescence through Stimulation of De Novo Ceramide Biosynthesis." PLOS ONE. 2015)

Meth accelerates "cellular senescence" -- arrested cell growth -- and influences inflammation and other processes of cell regulation.It seems to be a "chemical cascade" within each cell that involves a specific protein, known as "nuclear factor kappa beta."

Susan Scutti of MSN Medical Daily says, "Under healthy conditions, this protein helps regulate other proteins that keep our bodies functioning. However, as each individual cell is overwhelmed by meth-induced signaling, nuclear factor kappa beta begins its own excessive signaling, which triggers a dramatic increase in the production of ceramide. Normally, this lipid molecule regulates energy production and nutrient use within a cell, so when it’s suddenly amplified, every aspect of metabolism speeds up as well."

“We found this signaling process to be key for advanced cellular aging,” Dr. Daniele Piomelli, the Louise Turner Arnold Chair in the Neurosciences at UCI.

Scientists reasoned if they could stop nuclear factor kappa beta by increasing the body's natural inhibitors of that protein, then they could limit the production of ceramide. This, in turn will prevent the harmful effects of meth fast-forwarded cell aging and systemic inflammation.

(Susan Scutti. "Science Explains Why Meth Addicts Look The Way They Do."
MSN Medical Daily. February 11, 2015)

Meth releases a surge of dopamine, causing an intense rush of pleasure or prolonged sense of euphoria -- a euphoric high that lasts between six and 12 hours. Then, when the drug wears off, users experience profound depression and feel the need to keep taking the drug to avoid the crash.

Meth, like all stimulants, also causes the brain to release high doses of adrenaline, the body's "fight or flight" mechanism, inducing anxiety, wakefulness and intensely focused attention, called "tweaking." When users are tweaking, they exhibit hyperactive and obsessive behavior which can lead to disturbing and violent behaviors.

Over time, meth destroys dopamine receptors, making it impossible to feel pleasure. And, although these pleasure centers can heal over time, research suggests that damage to users' cognitive abilities may be permanent.

A paper published by Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, examined brain scans of several meth abusers who, after 14 months of abstinence from the drug, had regrown most of their damaged dopamine receptors; however, they showed no improvement in the cognitive abilities damaged by the drug. After more than a year's sobriety, these former meth users still showed severe impairment in memory, judgment and motor coordination, similar to symptoms seen in individuals suffering from Parkinson's Disease.

Chronic abuse of meth can lead to psychotic behavior, including paranoia, insomnia, anxiety, extreme aggression, delusions and hallucinations, and even death.

We, in the land of the living, shake our heads and wonder how anyone could become desperate enough to take crystal methamphetamine and risk becoming zombies enslaved in the horrible, debilitating addiction. I don't know, but I found "25 Reasons Why People Use Meth" from an ant-meth site at The question was given to clients in conjunction with a local treatment facility. Here are their most popular answers:

1. The high. The most obvious reason.

2. The rush. Similar to #1, but more about the thrill as it hits you.

3. The euphoria.

4. The sense of power, or the sense of being powerful.

5. The SEX! For some, sex is synonymous with speed

6. The "freaky sex", going places you would never go without speed. Whatever that means to each of us!

7. The sexual endurance to "take it" longer, harder, faster than usual.

8. To be a bottom. Some guys claim they relax and enjoy receptive anal sex more easily while on crystal meth.

9. To handle feelings of loneliness.

10. To relieve feelings of low self-esteem; such as not feeling worthy of relationships, or other factors that affect self-esteem.

11. To relieve boredom.

12. To cope with depression.

13. The weight loss. Not recommended by any health plan! Crystal meth may curb your appetite. Stimulants like crystal meth cause increases in body temperature that burn more calories, too.

14. To dance all night. Or all weekend.

15. To make the most of leisure time, such as weekends.

16. To stay awake.

17. To help night people to be more like day people. Or day people to be like night people.

18. To relieve feelings of internalized homophobia ("straights" men who were outright homophobes, except when they used meth).

19. To ease social anxiety. Some people choose drug use instead of building or improving social skills.

20. To be part of the club scene.

21. To fit in with people when it seems like "everybody" is doing it.

22. To feel confident.

23. To some of us, crystal meth "brings you out of yourself."

24. To boost creativity or productivity at work, hobbies, art, etc.

25. To do housecleaning or other repetitive tasks.

(KCI The Anti-Meth Site. 1999-2015) 

Maybe with more knowledge about meth, we can fight this particularly ugly type of drug abuse more effectively. It is my hope that education will serve prevention. Opening eyes and minds to facts before dependency and addiction occur can save bodies and lives.
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