If you’ve watched the news lately, you may have noticed a dip in stories about meth. However, while it may not be the “drug of the moment” for the media, meth is still a huge problem for Arizonans. According to the Arizona High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) Program and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), methamphetamine is the most pervasive drug in the state.
Meth in Arizona
Methamphetamine is readily available across the U.S., but the highest availability continues to be in the midwestern and western regions of the country. According to the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission, the task force seized 4,561lbs of methamphetamine in 2019, a 123% increase from the previous fiscal year. This spike comes despite multiple recent actions on the federal and state levels taken to restrict the manufacturing and distribution of this highly addictive drug.
In 2005, Congress passed its Combat Methamphetamine Act to reduce the prevalence of homegrown meth labs. It set into place restrictions on consumer purchases of pseudoephedrine. At the time, over-the-counter pseudoephedrine products like Sudafed were the main ingredients used to manufacture methamphetamine. Pharmacies began tracking sales of these products, and the number of home labs began to decline. Mexico later followed suit and restricted the sale of pseudoephedrine there. Unfortunately, the response by illegal drug manufacturers was to simply change the formula to include a more readily available ingredient that was even easier to mask.
Understanding the reasons for the continuing high prevalence of the drug in the state is an important part of determining what can be done to combat its harmful impact on the residents of Arizona.
What Is Crystal Meth?
Methamphetamine is a powerful drug in the stimulant category, meaning it has an extremely vigorous effect on the central nervous system. The drug goes by a variety of alternative street names such as crystal meth, ice, crank, and speed, among many others, depending on the region. Methamphetamine is typically a bitter-tasting, white, odorless, crystalline powder that easily dissolves in alcohol or water.
Originally developed from amphetamine (also known as speed) for oral or nasal use to fight conditions like ADHD and congestion, the drug causes increased talkativeness and activity, decreased appetite, and a state of euphoria. Dose for dose, meth results in longer-lasting and more severe impacts on the central nervous system. Since higher percentages of methamphetamine gain access to the brain, it is considered a severe stimulant and results in a much higher potential for misuse. Methamphetamine is a Class II stimulant, making it available through prescription only.
Why Is Meth More Dangerous?
Methamphetamine and its associated forms are usually smuggled into the United States from Mexico. They arrive in a liquid or powder form and make their way to clandestine conversion laboratories for transformation to crystal methamphetamine. Recently, illegal drug manufacturers have begun pressing methamphetamines into a pill form that resembles ecstasy to make it more appealing to inexperienced users. Unfortunately, for inexperienced users, it is often difficult to tell the difference between the two drugs.
Worse, much like other illegal drugs such as cocaine and heroin, methamphetamine is occasionally laced with fentanyl, making it extremely dangerous. In addition, the introduction of P2P (phenyl-2-propanone) to assuage the lack of Sudafed and other OTC versions of pseudoephedrine makes the methamphetamine available today even more potent than ever. Unfortunately, replacing pseudoephedrine with P2P means methamphetamine is now sold in nearly pure form.
Why is Speed-Crystal Meth Addiction Prominent in Arizona?
One reason that drugs such as speed and crystal meth are so prominent in Arizona is the state’s proximity to Mexico. Several border states like Texas, California, and Arizona have seen a huge increase in the amount of methamphetamine coming into the country from Mexico. Smugglers are currently bringing in more than 24 times the amount of product smuggled in 10 years ago for two reasons: profits and concealability. For drug cartels, meth is much more profitable and easier to access than heroin or cocaine. Due to its ability to go from crystal to liquid form and back again so easily, methamphetamine can be easily camouflaged in liquids such as tea or shampoo.
As a result, Arizona is now a major distribution hub for methamphetamine from Mexico. Some of the drugs make their way from Arizona to markets throughout the United States. In fact, crystal meth is recognized as one of the most prevalent drugs in the country since many Mexican cartels have focused their cocaine trafficking into Europe. However, a great deal of meth stays in the state, where it continues to wreak havoc on the lives of those it touches. As access to cocaine has decreased in Arizona and meth users have switched to drugs that provide a similar stimulating effect, affluent areas such as Chandler, Phoenix, and Scottsdale have experienced an increase in speed and methamphetamine use.
The fact that meth is extremely cheap has also made it extremely attractive to many Arizona drug users, who may find themselves unable to afford preferable drugs. Another reason for the rise in popularity of the drug is that it can be used in several ways, whether through injecting, smoking, or snorting. Meth can even be eaten, further contributing to the prevalence of abuse.
Signs of Meth Use
For most people in the U.S., the word “meth” is associated with someone who experiences addiction, exhibits erratic, out-of-control behavior, and has a sickly appearance or inadequate personal hygiene. Since meth is a drug that can quickly cause a user to evolve from casual use to full-on addiction, the health of those using the drug tends to deteriorate quickly. As a result, meth is commonly known as the “dirty drug” since those who struggle with addiction often show a rapid decline in their health and outward appearance.
It only takes one hit of methamphetamine for a person to experience a days-long sensation of jittery energy. The potent stimulant causes the brain and body to perform at an extremely rapid pace. This overstimulation increases the heart rate and can cause extensive damage over a brief period. Meanwhile, thought processes become distorted with high levels of anxiety and paranoia. Together, these effects lead to multiple physical and neurological signs.
Physical Signs Associated with Meth Use
- Dilated pupils and rapid eye movement
- Meth mouth, which refers to the widespread tooth decay and tooth loss experienced by meth users.
- Skin lesions, caused by hallucinations of insects crawling all over the skin and the resulting scratching and picking that can cause lesions, infections, and scarring
- Low body weight, which may cause the appearance of being sick due to the extreme weight loss prompted by the drug
- Strong body odor, referring to a strong, unpleasant, ammonia-like smell from the pores as the liver attempts to break down methamphetamines
- Spastic body movements, such as twitching, tics, or other jerking body movements
- Excessive talking, including instances of senseless babble during periods of brain overactivity
- Repetitive motor activity
- Prolonged periods of time between rest
- Unwillingness to eat
Neurological / Emotional Signs of Meth Use
- Impaired learning
- Memory loss
- Impaired decision-making ability
- Easy distractibility
- Anxiety and paranoia
- Visual and audio hallucinations
- Mood imbalances and excessive confusion
- Irrational outbursts and violent behavior
The face of meth addiction is changing. It is no longer just a drug of choice for someone who is struggling with a drug addiction looking for a cheap high. In fact, many doctors, lawyers, and other professionals tempted to experiment are finding themselves quickly addicted to this powerful drug. Not only is methamphetamine inexpensive and easily available, but some people misguidedly turn to meth to lose weight or because they believe that they are more productive when using it. Other issues such as abuse or trauma, co-occurring disorders, and peer pressure can make a person more susceptible to drug abuse and result in eventual dependency.
Those who struggle with meth addiction often have exaggerated emotional responses to situations that can make interpersonal communication difficult and lead them to misread a situation or to misinterpret cues that can put them in harm’s way. Abusers of amphetamines are among the highest risk group for drug psychosis, a condition caused by heavy drug use that results in hallucinations, delusions, and psychotic behavior.
Meth users may also exhibit violent tendencies as part of drug psychosis. This puts them at higher risk for self-injury or injuring others. People who suffer from meth addiction issues may experience psychosis both during active addiction and occasionally while going through the recovery process.
Are You or a Loved One Struggling with Meth?
Whether you think you may be struggling with meth addiction or have a loved one whose experiences with methamphetamines concern you, a professional drug dependency treatment center can help. The first step in breaking the cycle of drug addiction is recognizing you have a problem. You can begin to determine whether you are struggling with a methamphetamine addiction by taking an addiction quiz.
If your concerns are legitimate, it is important to remember that methamphetamine addiction is accompanied by many behavioral abnormalities and potentially even ongoing drug psychosis. To safely treat these symptoms, it is critical to have expert, professional help. The team at Illuminate Recovery is here to provide the compassionate help you need throughout each step of your recovery journey. We understand that substance dependency is a disease with deep roots. We will help you to fully explore and resolve any underlying mental health issues to ensure the success of your recovery process.
Our team of licensed medical professionals will be there to support you through detoxification and aid you in developing a personalized treatment plan. Our experienced therapists provide individual and group therapy, along with both inpatient and outpatient care. After initial therapy, we will continue to support your recovery journey with sober housing and relapse prevention services.
To begin your addiction treatment recovery journey, contact Illuminate Recovery today to speak privately with a treatment advisor.
Having been on both sides of active addition, both the person using, and the person affected by a loved one using drugs and alcohol, Lucas has been involved in recovery since 2009. He has been working in the treatment industry since 2013. Using his personal experience and wealth of knowledge learned from professional development and immersion in the recovery field, he has spoken with thousands of families and helped hundreds of people attain long-term sobriety. In 2020, the opportunity presented to join in and start Illuminate Recovery. Understanding the importance of personalized treatment plans and the complex nature between substance abuse and co-occurring disorders, has helped Illuminate Recovery build a strong curriculum and a phenomenal staff. Illuminate Recovery now has a medical doctor who is board certified in addiction medicine and a psychiatric medical doctor who works side by side with independently licensed therapists to provide compassionate and effective treatment.