Monday, February 6, 2017

Meth: and the walking dead 2

Meth: and the walking dead.
When we human beings first walked the Earth, we lived as hunter-gatherers in small migratory, nomadic groups – moving with the blessings of the environment for our mere survival. There were a few times that we almost didn’t make it. But as the climate became more temperate and stable, human kind flourished. The act of intoxication was undoubtedly discovered by chance – as in observing drunken animals – or in fact by eating fermented fruit from the vine or tree, ourselves. So too, was the tangential discovery of psychoactive plants and fungus. And throughout the millennia, we collected information on the medicinal, pharmacological benefits of various plants – wisdom passed by fireside tale from generation to generation.
How these observations made their way from chance discoveries into the recreational or addictive use of intoxicating substances is not fully known, but does exist in the historical record when the earliest records were kept. Neolithic peoples were taking drugs derived from cacti in 8,600BC. Cannabis was cultivated in China for food and fiber as early as 6000BC. It became widely used for its medicinal qualities in 2700BC.A Sumerian pictogram from 5000BC has been translated to describe the use of Opium, meaning “joy” or “rejoicing”.  The earliest record of alcohol production for widespread consumption was in Egypt in 3500 BC. The ingestion of psychoactive plants by priests and shaman has been recorded for millennia – sometimes referred to as “entheogenic” from the Greek words:  en” – inside, “theo” – God,  gen” to create.  Alexander the Great is thought to have died from chronic alcoholism. Greek philosopher Aristotle in 350BC recorded the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal and warned of the deleterious health effects of alcohol on the unborn child.

As human culture became more organized and pastoral, plants that contained compounds like “Caffeine” and “Nicotine”, were recognized by humans for their use as stimulants - coffee, tea and tobacco. From an evolutionary perspective, these natural compounds originated in plants to deter infestation by insects.

Man’s ingenuity quickly devised more efficient methods to manifest drug potency or methods of administration for enhanced effect. Alcohol, caffeine and nicotine being palatable for their mild psychotropic properties, are examples of widely used drugs - permeating human culture, and serving as a vehicle for social interaction and the shaping of our urban landscape. Cannabis has also been largely used by Islamic and Asian cultures throughout history – intricately interwoven with myth, and bearing witness to man’s predilection for psychotropic substances. There have been mistakes, of course, with experimentation. Just as we discovered helpful plants, so too, did we find deadly varieties as well.

With the advent of civilization, science and chemistry, and therein the synthesis of fantastic life saving compounds – the chaw of Coca leaves, gently chewed by the Inca to sooth the pangs of tooth decay or altitude sickness became the Cocaine we know today. The Opium of the Sumerians became the Morphine, Tramadol, Oxycodone, Fentanyl and Heroin we know today.  And the test tube would bring forth LSD, Ecstacy, Amphetamines, Methamphetamines, as well as new synthetic marijuana as Spice or K2, and the deadly stimulant sold as “Bath Salts”.   “Morman Tea”, from the Ephedra Plant – growing wild in West Texas and the Big Bend, was used by indigenous peoples for the treatment of asthma, hay fever and the common cold with constituents of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine  - the origin of the Methamphetamine we know today.

Methamphetamine was first synthesized in 1887. It was first used as a medication in Japan in 1919 to alleviate fatigue and brought on feelings of alertness and well being. In the 1930’s, doctors in the United State started using Methamphetamine to treat Asthma and Narcolepsy. During World War II, Allied pilots were given Amphetamines and Methamphetamines to help with alertness on long flights. It was soon apparent that soldiers could not channel their aggression and the experiment was discontinued. The Kamikaze pilots however were given Methamphetamine before embarking on their fatal flights. From 1945 to 1950, post-war Japan experienced the first meth epidemic, which quickly spread to Guam, the US Marshall Islands and the US West Coast. In the 1950’s, Meth pills were still marketed for non-medical purposes, as “Pep-pills” and “Bennies” – sometimes referred to as “truckers speed”, truckers, homemakers, students and athletes to stay alert and active used it.  In the 1960’s, meth injections were prescribed for heroin addiction and became a more widely abused drug.

In the 1960’s, and for the first time in human history, the use of mind-altering substances was well beyond morning coffee. Man’s fondness for drugs had became abusive and destructive both, and addiction an epidemic in its impact on the health and welfare of society. It was one thing for a Rosie cheeked housewife to finish off a gallon of wine every afternoon, but Alchemy was over a real science had produced a cacophony of abusable, mood altering drugs and pain killers. The now prevalent culture of taking a pill for anything that ails us had begun. Ad into the mix the unpopular Vietnam War and the Woodstock ethos of young America, this set in motion what we have today – Parents who started the drug culture, who have kids who are its victims in a more perilous landscape.  
With an emerging drug culture, a new and deeply engrained and pervasive component of the human experience, it became evident that Government intervention and regulation was necessary to help save people from themselves. On October 27, 1970, passed into Law by President Richard Nixon - Title 21, of the US Code, “The Controlled Substances Act” - and then

Title II of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act, was the federal U.S. drug policy under which the manufacture, importation, possession, use and distribution of certain narcotics, stimulants, depressants, hallucinogens, anabolic steroids and other chemicals became regulated.

In the 1980’s and early 1990’s, the abuse of Methamphetamine had not waned, with new smoke-able forms of the drug, and new cooking and manufacturing processes that introduced versions of the drug that were four to six times more potent.

In 1996, Congress passes the Comprehensive Methamphetamine Control Act, which sought to control the precursor chemicals used in the manufacture of these illicit drugs. For example, people who buy large quantities of red phosphorous, iodine and hydrochloric acid must show they will use them for legitimate purposes. Law enforcement agents were allowed to track large mail order purchases of pseudoephedrine, another precursor chemical. Chemical supply companies are punished if they sell chemicals to people who make methamphetamine. This is why you have to sign at the pharmacy for otherwise over the counter cold medicines that contain ephedrine or pseudoephedrine.

By the year 2000, “Ice” (Crystal Meth) made its appearance in Hawaii – the most potent form of the drug to date, which quickly spread across the United States – becoming the favored hard drug, surpassing crack, cocaine and heroin.
The regulation of precursor chemicals has been an effective strategy by the US Government in eliminating the domestic production of drugs like Ecstasy and Methamphetamines in this, a generally law-abiding nation. The third World is not so forthcoming in its devotion to goodness and good things. American companies do business in third world countries for this very reason, the lack of regulation or moral consequence. Chemistry is an ever-innovative process and the synthesis of nearly anything can be done in many different ways. Prohibition has always been a controversial solution, which has heretofore produced unforeseen consequences. A convincing argument can be made that outright prohibition results in the production of more dangerous drugs – and certainly, a crime syndicate to manage them.

Instead of manufacturing Methamphetamine with components made at a refinery or in a distillation column in a pristine lab, the meth “cook” extracts ingredients from ephedrine or pseudoephedrine (amphetamines) found in cold pills, to increase its strength by combining these substances with chemicals like battery acid, drain cleaner, lantern fuel and antifreeze. Every one-pound of Methamphetamine produced, creates five pounds of toxic waste – most of which are both dangerous and poisonous.

The Recipe: Acetone- found in nail polish remover and paint thinners, Lithium- from batteries, Toluene- a solvent used as a fuel additive, in paint thinners, nail polish, brake cleaner, Hydrochloric Acid- highly corrosive mineral acid used to remove rust from steel and refine metal, muriatic acid for pools, Pseudoephedrine- found in cold medications, Red Phosphorus- found in explosives such as road flares and on matchboxes, Sodium Hydroxide- also known as lye, in drain cleaners, Sulfuric Acid- found in toilet bowl and drain cleaners, Anhydrous Ammonia- found in fertilizer and countertop cleaners, Lantern fuel or lighter fluid, Ether - found in engine starting fluid, Antifreeze – Ethylene Glycol, and Iodine crystals.

It is indeed a tenuous landscape that young people today must navigate – affixed to pharmaceutical marketeering that takes full advantage of our penchant weakness for medicinal intervention for nearly everything. The global illicit drug trade is worth about $400 billion annually, a full third of which is driven by the United States. The use of illicit drugs has become a cultural trait of modern humanity, the consequences of which have not overcome its quiet, tacit approval by much of society.  There are people out there who, for whatever reason, can elude addiction. Some among us are not so fortunate – and even the breath of Methamphetamine will set in motion a roller coaster of personal destruction and collateral damage to friends and family that is more than disheartening. But drug dealers have no conscience and no endearing ethics either. With cigarettes, if you start them young, you are hooked for life at $5.90 a pack. With meth – you start it any time and not only is the relapse rate 90%, these poor folks will Meth themselves into prison, mental illness or an early grave and not even know it. 

Meth: and the walking dead 1

Meth: and the walking dead.
It is not unlike having a child who falls off the second floor balcony and splits their head open on the sidewalk below. No matter how much you hope, no matter how much you wish, no matter how much you pray – they will never be the same. And for the rest of your life, you will cling to the memories of your fishing trip together, or their basketball games, camping trips, or the long table at Thanksgiving with your family and friends and smiles. On the day that someone you care about tries Meth for the first time, you will look back on that moment as the turning point in your life with him or her, and its devastating turn for the worse. With a foreboding sense of sorrow and loss, you will become the victim and persecutor both.
Australian Prime minister Tony Abbott in 2015: “The trouble with ice is that it’s far more potent, far more dangerous, far more addictive than any previous illicit drug. It’s worse than heroin, it’s worse than cocaine, it’s worse than LSD, it’s worst than ecstasy – it’s much more addictive, much more dangerous, much more damaging, The chances of being able to function while being a serious ice user are almost zero.  This is a drug epidemic way beyond anything we have seen before now”. In South Africa – Ice, called “Tik”  is so powerful in its ability to destabilize communities of users, it is peddled by foreign governments as a strategy. 
On July 27, 2016 Federal Officers at the Reynosa, Mexico/Texas border crossing seized 72 pounds of Methamphetamine worth about 1.5 million on the street. And as they must, they pat themselves on the back for what they found, have a press conference to tout their success, and give thanks to all involved. On August 27, 2016, another 91 pounds in Brownsville – another press release – but the reality, of course, is far bleaker. Ok – we got a load, but the other twenty plus plus made it through that week.  The press conference from the cartel, “It’s just the cost of doing business.”
Meth is a global problem and instead of just smuggled bails of moldy weed or sailing across the Gulf in a semi-submersible boat hauling cocaine – Meth is on the cartels fancy menu of big loads.  With cigarettes, if you start them young, you are  hooked for life at $5.90 a pack. With meth – you start it any time and not only is the relapse rate 90%, these poor folks will Meth themselves into prison, mental illness or an early grave and not even know it.  The systems our governments have in place to deal with it all are wholly inadequate.  Families are left to wing it.
Meth is a global problem; it’s a problem for our Nation, for Texas and Hays County too. 
Unlike cocaine, unlike heroin, and unlike any other illicit drug – Methamphetamine causes permanent damage to the brain and its intricate balance of chemistry that makes us who we are. The human brain is the most fantastic creation we can possibly imagine. Is the seat of our personality, of our perceptions, feelings, dreams and loves and it is the motivator of everything that we do throughout our entire lifetime. It’s the most important and the most complex set of biochemical reactions our universe can offer. Yes, we are indeed resilient, and these old bodies can take a lifetime of abuse and somehow keep on going for a little bit longer. Our brain, however; is not so keen to repair itself.  Once you damage your brain’s chemistry – and then you look across the landscape, it just isn’t the same any more. You can’t smile, can’t laugh, can’t remember, don’t perceive things right, have a short temper, don’t really know who your friends are, who you can trust, can’t feel joy, pleasure and happiness. You just can’t enjoy the gift of life anymore.
When taking Methamphetamine, the user feels a rush of pleasure, an instant euphoria of energy and alertness, a heightened sense of confidence or feeling of improved intellect and ability to solve problems, and a higher motivation to accomplish goals – caused by a massive release of the neurotransmitter Dopamine. Even short-term use, however; can include erratic, agitated or violent behavior.
Dopamine is the brain chemical that motivates movement, gives us feelings of joy and happiness, self-confidence, pleasure, love, compassion and a calm temperament.  Long-term use of Methamphetamine depletes the brain of Dopamine. Unlike cocaine, which also causes similar actions in the brain, Methamphetamine prevents the reuptake of Dopamine, facilitates its metabolisms, damages and sometimes destroys both dopamine production and dopamine receptors in the brain.  
With a brain void of a useful compliment of Dopamine, users are left to live in our world without the benefit of the feelings of happiness, joy, pleasure, love, compassion and a calm nature. And without the gift of a placid disposition, behavior becomes unpredictable, agitated, angry, and prone to hostile, primitive outbursts and violence – and much less keen is the ability to manage money, pay the bills on time, maintain a healthy diet, make it to work, maintain relationships, clean the house, or keep the landlord happy.
More persistent psychological symptoms include delusions, paranoia, hallucinations, depression, anxiety, and social isolation (abandoning family and longtime friends to find solace and acceptance among like minded, like behaving people – other meth users). Meth psychosis includes extreme delusional paranoia, the perceptions of being pestered by bugs, wrapped or caught in fishing line, or choking on food, believing phones and computers are hacked or bugged, or that people are talking disparagingly behind their back.  The tragedy for the addicted long-term meth user is also the damage that is done to the body. Manufactured clandestinely with deadly toxic chemicals, chronic toxicity in the organs eventually results in their failure. 
What is not written in the volumes of testimonials, research or documentaries about Meth is what it does to the moral and ethical tenants of character. Chronic Meth users lie and they steal - and they don’t know it and can’t remember it either. Nearly everything coming out of the mouth of a chronic meth user is a lie, or a ruse, or a scheme to get more meth. Eventually, more meth is not enough and smoking or snorting leads to needles and injecting – and then injecting directly into the carotid arteries leading to the brain.

Lying and stealing is not as bad as it can get. There has always been a correlation between addiction and crime. Touting “this is not how you were raised” will seem almost comical when what you thought was bad is one-upped time and time again.
Why does any of this matter to you? Meth is here – and we often carelessly invite people we don’t know into our homes and businesses to keep the garden, clean the pool, trim the trees, clean the house, ad on the extra room, work on the car, weld the fence – or we employ workers or contractors at our businesses for the same - and we do so with little regard or a keen enough perception to recognize what danger this represents to us, our family, or our property.
If a meth user is lucky and finds sobriety through intervention – they will have lost  their home, their car, their dog, their friends, their family, their children and their trust. And alas, for them, it takes two years of complete sobriety to recover to the extent that the brain can. There is no guarantee that once a user actually recovers, that they will not suffer from depression, anxiety, memory loss, or early onset Parkinson’s symptoms forever. And again, even with the best intentions, the relapse rate is 90 percent.
Meth addiction and the brain damage it causes, the human potential it extinguishes, the families it tears apart is not unlike the consequences of traumatic brain injury or clinical mental illness in its impact on the health and welfare of our society

Part one of Three – Meth: and the walking dead.