Sunday, February 29, 2004

Speed Kills

The UK Telegraph reports on a disturbing trend in Hollywood. It seems crystal meth has become the drug of choice for the glitterati. It's not good news that this drug is now fashionable in spite of its clear health risks.

At first, crystal methamphetamine increases productivity and elicits rapid euphoria, enabling the user to feel they can finish that script even if they have been up all night. The main high may only last six to 10 hours but it takes almost seven appetite-suppressing days for the final effects to wear off (thinness being an added virtue in this most image-conscious of cities).

The down side is at least one in seven get addicted - physically not just emotionally - and it quickly triggers a descent into the psychotic. It alters the dopamine in the brain, permanently changing a person's decision-making system. It is no accident that it got the name "trailer trash drug" as it pulls people into the gutter.

I know this to be true from personal experience. I experimented with it briefly in the early 70s but fortunately didn't really like it enough to get hooked. I knew others who weren't so lucky.

My college chum 'Rick', died of it and it was horrifying to witness his plunge into psychosis. He became delusional, prowling his property looking for DEA agents in the trees and at one point had scabs running the length of both his arms where he had been picking at imaginary bugs with forceps. By the end he was shooting it in alarming doses because he could no longer get the high by inhaling it. He denied his addiction right up to the end.

He had everything going for him. He was attractive, intelligent and came from a good family. His father was a physician. But nothing could save him. As I recall the reported cause of his death was heart failure; he was 22 years old. It may have even been true that his heart failed, but no one who knew him doubted that it was the meth that killed him.


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