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Substance Abuse and Addiction Health Center

Meth 101

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

According to these statistics, published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Northeast is the only region that appears to have had uniformly low rates and little change.

Nevertheless, "treatment admissions are a lagging indicator," Rawson says. "One of the things that has been documented in the data is that meth users generally will use for on average seven years before they hit the treatment system."

Another way to track the spread of methamphetamine is by looking at police and DEA busts. For example, in Florida, 15 meth labs were raided in 2000, compared with 215 in 2004. In Vermont, there were zero busts from 2000-2003, and one in 2004.

Why We Use

Methamphetamine lacks the glamour that movies and music have imparted to cocaine and heroin. Typical users still tend to be low-income and white.

"They take it because they want to work more hours and lose weight," Rawson says. "It's looked at as a functional tool, not a status symbol."

Increase in sexually transmitted infections via meth-fueled gay orgies has gotten a lot of attention, but heterosexual men and women use it for sex, too.

Meth Sex

"Methamphetamine is associated with sexual behavior like no other drug," Rawson says.

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.

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