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Meth 101

Methamphetamine use has taken off in the U.S., but what makes it such a hot commodity?

Meth Sex continued...

In a study published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, Rawson surveyed 464 alcohol, opiate, cocaine, and methamphetamine users about how their drug of choice related to their sexual thoughts, feelings, and behavior. Eighty percent of the male meth users identified themselves as heterosexual.

Meth users were the most likely to say their drug use heightened their sexual pleasure, that it made them obsessed with sex, and that they had sex more often while using the drug. They were also the most likely to say they had engaged in risky sexual behavior and sex acts that were unusual for them while on meth. Many also said that sex was so closely tied to their drug use that they would have difficulty separating the two.

There wasn't much difference between the answers of men and women who used meth, but among cocaine users there was a significant gender difference, even though the two drugs have similar effects.

Meth enhances the sexual experience, but that's not all. "Because it has such a long effect, of 8-12 hours, and it can delay orgasms, people have these sexual marathons," Rawson says.

Sleep doesn't get in the way, either, as long as there's a supply of meth. "You can get high and party for 24, 48, 72 hours without stopping," Siever says.

Shutting Off the Tap

In an effort to put a clamp on meth production, Congress passed the Methamphetamine Control Act in 1996. The law tightened restrictions on the sale of chemicals used in making methamphetamine, particularly pseudoephedrine, the nasal decongestant in Sudafed and other over-the-counter cold medicines. The process of meth cooking turns pseudoephedrine into methamphetamine.

An amendment to the law, passed in 2000, further restricted the amount of pseudoephedrine that consumers are allowed to buy at one time.

States have been busy passing their own laws regulating the sale of pseudoephedrine. In July 2005, state lawmakers in Oregon, where meth treatment admission rates are six times the national average, passed a law requiring a doctor's prescription for pseudoephedrine. In Oklahoma, another state dealing with widespread meth use, you have to show ID and give your signature to buy products containing pseudoephedrine.

In many other states, pharmacies have voluntarily put pseudoephedrine products behind the counter, and other stores, such as gas stations and convenience stores, have stopped carrying them.

Do these kinds of restrictions help curb meth use? Rawson says that in the short term, they seem to. Choking local production may dry up the market temporarily, but he says, "once the market is there, it will seek out the supply from the larger bulk traffickers."

So-called "super labs" across the border, in Mexico, now supply as much as 65% of America's meth. Another new bill, aimed at Mexico, was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives in July 2005. The bill calls for the U.S. to withdraw foreign aid to any country that imports more pseudoephedrine than it needs for manufacturing cold medicine. Reporters at the Oregonian in Portland found that Mexico imports twice the amount it legitimately needs.

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