Why do I ask for women who use meth IV to contact me? Well, I ask for people struggling with methamphetamine, especially women who are using meth IV, to write to me. I answer each and every e-mail I receive, and never judge anyone for what they may share with me. I also never reveal the identity of anyone who contacts me (or even where they live), and I try to answer each e-mail with compassion and with any useful information that I may be able to provide.
However, I once received an e-mail that accused me of being part of a vast conspiracy – that I was using my column and my website to “brainwash” people. It was never exactly clear what conspiracy group I belonged to, but the tirade made references to government, law enforcement and finally society in general. Wow!
I answered the e-mail, but I started to think, if this person feels this way, others may feel the same – that this is all “Bill shot” (the author’s words not mine) – some type of brainwashing conspiracy aimed at controlling people.
I’m no sociologist, but Merriam-Webster defines “society” as “people in general thought of as living together in organized communities with shared laws, traditions, and values.” Society comes from the Latin word “societas” which translates to “society (association of people).” So the people in our society today (and around the world for that matter) are brainwashing who? Each other? The people using drugs?
The author of the e-mail also said that people using drugs don’t want to stop; they just want to “get high.” OK, maybe they do want to get high, but once their drug use takes over their lives and they wake up one day and find that their bodies are broken from long-term drug use and that their children are hungry and neglected, they often want help. If they find themselves with nowhere to live, no job and no money, they often do indeed want help. If they have to rob, steal or prostitute themselves for that next fix, they often want help – and so does society.
And who profits from drug use? Not the user! No, it’s the supplier, these days more often than not the head of some drug cartel down in Mexico, and his minions. Do a Google search of “Mexican drug cartel violence” and see what your drug money supports.
Does everyone who uses methamphetamine (or any drug for that matter) go on to become a thief or child abuser or violent rapist? Of course not. But some people who just use methamphetamine just to “get high” may eventually decide that they don’t like living in the grips of a drug anymore. Methamphetamine artificially alters brain chemistry, providing drug-induced feelings of euphoria, pleasure and self-confidence. But over time it becomes more difficult to feel life’s pleasures naturally. And the effects of the drug also slowly wane so that more and more has to be used to “get high.” What fun is it to be a slave to a drug?
The author of the e-mail also talked about legalization. I am all for decriminalization – for users only, not for those manufacturing and selling the drug. Treatment rather than long prison sentences is more appropriate for some people simply using meth.
But the author claims that the only reason people seek treatment is because methamphetamine possession is illegal. They try and stay clean because they have to provide clean urine samples or face revocation of probation and prison time or because Child Protective Services will take away their children. That may motivate some people, but to make the claim that that is the only reason is simply “Bill shot,” to use the authors own words.
Are there long waiting lists at treatment centers across the United States simply because methamphetamine is illegal? No! People actually want help. They want to stop. They don’t like being under the control of a drug.
I’ve been in the addiction field for 35 years, trying to better understand how drugs like methamphetamine and cocaine alter brain chemistry and affect the body. A significant part of that time has been spent investigating stress and how stress can trigger cravings that lead to relapse. I also study how other triggers in the environment can activate similar systems in the brain and body.
I truly want to help!
But my experience with addiction began long before my professional career. My parents were alcoholics – addicted to a “legal” substance that is still portrayed in advertisements as something that makes all people young and beautiful and full of energy (a particular pet peeve of mine). At least that is the glamorized image depicted.
Alcoholics can neglect their children – I know. They can get into auto accidents and lose their jobs. But they just want to “get high,” right?
Chronic alcohol use can kill. I watched it happen – painfully slowly! I wish that I could have convinced my parents to stop drinking – or maybe just slow down! So don’t try and tell me that all of our problems with methamphetamine will be solved by legalization! That’s just pure “Bill shot.”
A close high school friend and college roommate of mine suffered a back injury and soon found himself addicted to pain pills (oxycodone). Another “legal” drug! My friend wanted help, but he overdosed and died before he could get into treatment. And I cried!
Outside of the laboratory, I meet with methamphetamine users all the time, and I actually listen to them. I don’t represent authority – I am just a simple scientist. But they tell me that they want to stop using. And those who have been able to break free of the grips of meth tell me how happy they are to finally be truly free.
Through my life’s experiences, my education and my research, I have discovered the true face of addiction. So don’t try and rationalize your drug use to me.
Finally, to the best of my knowledge I have never called a meth user evil. However, some users have done evil things and I often highlight the more sensational activities here. I do that to get people to pay attention and learn what meth use can do, not to hurt anyone’s feelings. If just one person decides to finally stop using meth – or even better does not start using in the first place – because of something I have written, then it has all been worthwhile.
So why women?
That’s a legitimate question.
Like I said. I have been studying drug addiction, primarily cocaine and more recently meth, for about 35 years. Much of my work has been in a research laboratory, but a few years ago I started going out into the local community to speak to meth users face-to-face. I have met with them in treatment centers, in prisons, and even in my office. I have talked to men as well as women. I can honestly say that I have learned so much more from talking to meth users, and actually listening to them, than I ever did from all the medical books and journals I read.
First, let me assure that I want to help everyone struggling with meth, men as well as women. I don’t discriminate.
But there are several reasons for my specific interest in women.
Methamphetamine is a drug used by people all around the world. And while men are two to three times more likely to use most other drugs, women are as likely to use meth as men are.
The reasons for this are not really clear.
Historically, at least until relatively recently, medical and scientific research focused on males only, unless it was research on a female-specific disease such as endometriosis. There were a variety of reasons for this (including bias), but the result was that many diseases were not studied in women for many years.
The same holds true for methamphetamine. This is starting to change now, but if you really dig into the medical and scientific research on meth, you will soon discover that the vast majority of this research has been conducted in men.
One very significant line of research is meth use in men who have sex with men. This research has been conducted because meth is often associated with sex (more about that in a sec). Meth tends to increase sexual arousal while decreasing inhibitions. Therefore, safe sex is not often practiced.
Doctors and scientists soon realized that the rate of HIV/AIDS was higher in men who have sex with men and who also use meth. Some research even suggested that meth makes it easier to be infected with the virus that causes AIDS.
So there has been a lot of research focusing on the effects of meth in men compared to research on its effects in women. But there are other reasons for my interest in women.
In my opinion, drug addiction, whether it is meth or even some another drug, is especially difficult for women.
We all know that a woman can become pregnant, whether intentional or not. And when she becomes a mother, she also becomes responsible for her child. In an ideal world, the father would share in the care of the child that he shares with the mother.
But we also know the reality. In far too many cases, the mother becomes the primary caregiver for her baby. What if this mother is also struggling with meth or other drugs? Who is going to take care of her baby if mom is on a three-day meth binge?
Who makes sure that her baby is fed? Who gives her a bath? When she is older, who helps her with her homework and gets her ready for school? Too often the child depends solely on her mother.
So my interest in women is, in part, because of the innocent children that often become victims of meth.
Meth often starts being used as a means to survive. A mother can take care of her children and work a full-time job and become “supermom” if she can just find the energy. Many people unwittingly fall into the clutches of meth because they initially turned to this insidious chemical as an energy boost, and they usually start by smoking it.
And then she tries injecting meth for the first time in an attempt to really boost her energy levels. She can handle it, right?
But then everything changes.
As already suggested, more than most other drugs, injected meth is so often associated with sex. Some women claim that meth produces sexual desire and/or arousal and reduces inhibitions. Some even claim than the euphoria associated with an injection of meth, when it is of sufficient purity and dosage, is very similar to sexual pleasure.
But it is never quite as good as that first time ever again. It can still be quite euphoric – for a while, but just not quite as good. So she continues to use meth, seeking that first high.
It’s as though the drug is calling out to her – but lying to her. Inside her head a little voice tells her that all she needs to do is to inject just a little bit more meth. Maybe she just needs to make the meth solution in the syringe a little thicker. Maybe if she can just find that dealer that sold her the “really good dope” that time…
But as with most things, too much of a good thing often becomes harmful. I think that God created us this way.
Meth increases levels of the brain pleasure chemical called dopamine more than any other pleasurable activity. Other drugs also increase dopamine – that’s why people enjoy using them too. But meth increases dopamine three or four times more than even cocaine or morphine.
However, the massive amounts of dopamine that meth releases in the brain actually begin to damage the very nerve cells that release the pleasure chemical. So over time, the user realizes that meth doesn’t make her feel as good as it used to. So she uses more and more of the drug, trying to find that euphoria she covets. But it’s to no avail. The more she uses, the more her dopamine cells are damaged.
Eventually she gets to the point that she feels like she has to slam meth just to feel normal – just to get out of bed.
She feels helpless and lost and so afraid.
But there’s more.
If a man first “introduced” a woman to meth, sometimes he can gain tremendous control over her. The euphoria is so sexual, women often resort to sex to get meth. In addition, men are typically bigger and physically stronger than women to begin with, and if a man is the source for meth, women will often do anything to get more meth.
I have talked to men as well as women. Many of the men were in prison and told me about their exploits with women. But men on the outside told me many of the same things. I often heard of instances where a man was able to convince women to do literally anything that he wished or demanded – all for just another shot of meth. They’ve shared their stories with me – men and women alike.
I have heard of so many cases where women ended up as prostitutes or in other forms of sex trafficking after becoming addicted to meth. That’s slavery and it’s wrong! Sex trafficking is a real and growing problem in the United States – and meth is often a contributing factor.
I have also heard, primarily from women, about how slamming meth is different from smoking or snorting the drug – especially with respect to the sexual effects I mentioned above. That is why I specifically ask for women with experience slamming meth to contact me. Everyone tells me about this difference, but you won’t find it mentioned in any medical book or journal. I intend to change that.
Most people in this field, unfortunately, do not take the time to actually listen to the people that they are trying to help. They just run more tests and prescribe drugs. How sad!
I have asked some of the women I have talked to if they had ever discussed many of the things that we talked about with their counselors. They almost always say no. When I ask why not, they tell me that they were never asked.
In my opinion, that’s just tragic. I want to make a difference and change things. Women matter to me – people matter to me! And like I always say, if I can just help one person, then it has all been worth it.
I honestly believe that God has placed this mission in my heart.