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PBS Frontline The Meth Epidemic Documentary

man smoking crystal meth

Video and transcript by PBS Frontline. Read our special report on Crystal Meth Treatment.

man smoking crystal methSpeed. Meth. Glass. Crystal. On the street, methamphetamine has many names. What started as a fad among West Coast motorcycle gangs in the 1970s has spread across the United States, and despite lawmakers’ calls for action, the drug is now more potent, and more destructive, than at any time in the past decade. In The Meth Epidemic, FRONTLINE, in association with The Oregonian, investigates the meth rampage in America: the appalling impact on individuals, families and communities, and the difficulty of controlling an essential ingredient in meth—ephedrine and pseudoephedrine—sold legally in over-the-counter cold remedies…

Meth’s destructive power comes from its impact on the user’s brain. “Dopamine is the brain’s primary pleasure chemical,” says UCLA professor and meth expert Dr. Richard Rawson. “If you take a hit on a pipe or an injection of methamphetamine, you get an increase from zero to about 1,250 units. … This produces an extreme peak of euphoria that people describe as something like they’ve never experienced.” Researchers have found that meth creates this high by destroying the very part of the brain that generates dopamine, which makes them unable to feel pleasure from anything except more meth. “It actually changes how the brain operates,” Rawson continues. “It’s a wonder anyone ever gets off meth.” According to the World Health Organization, meth abuse worldwide is worse than that of cocaine and heroin combined.

“The Meth Epidemic” tells the story of two potential solutions to the crisis and examines why neither was fully tried. In the mid-80s, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration first proposed controlling the retail sale of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine in cold medicines by having customers register at the counter and limiting how much they could buy. Pharmaceutical companies, however, resisted the DEA’s plan. Allan Rexinger, a lobbyist for the pharmaceutical industry, felt the DEA was overreacting and unfairly punishing a legitimate business: “They have a different way of thinking. DEA agents carry guns; DEA agents are killed in the jungles of South America. But when you’re working in Congress, you don’t need to carry a gun. We felt like we were being treated just like a Colombian drug lord.” Meanwhile, Gene Haislip, a former deputy administrator at the DEA, says: “They live in the business community, where the name of the game is to make money and sell product. They’re highly skilled, very well organized and very well funded, and they can be quite formidable.” Faced with a choice, the White House and Congress ultimately exempted cold medication from the regulatory proposals.

Read our special reports Crystal Meth Addiction and What is Crystal Meth

And if you or a loved one is tangle in Crystal Meth use, please call our hotline.  Help is one phone call away.  877-794-9934



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Signs Of Crystal Meth Addiction

help for crystal meth addicts

There are endless images of before and after photos of meth users online, and each tells a horror story.  We have elected to not republish images of people who’s lives and bodies have been decimated by crystal meth use and instead simply provide and educational guide in this post. 

help for crystal meth addicts
There is always hope

The toll crystal meth takes on a users body is profound and its not something that is easy to hide.  The physical signs of crystal meth addiction are distinct and explicit.  The meth users appearance and overall health can often take a very bad turn for the worse which can increase their sense of shame and guilt about their drug use, which all too often feeds their perceived need to get high.   In some cases, however, the deterioration of their body become a wake up call for them to reach out for help.

Physical Symptoms

Skin legions

Chronic users often have a gray or yellowish appearance, and often show signs of sweating due to dehydration and overexertion.  Another sign of meth abuse is the presence of what is called “meth mites.” A user will sometimes experience the sensation of insects crawling on or underneath the skin and they begin to itch and scratch at them resulting in pock marks and open sores that can leave permanent scars.  Acne and skin rashes also result from poor hygiene, poor diet, and dehydration. Skin around the nails is often infected Compulsive nail biting is not uncommon.

Nasal Issues

Snorting (inhaling through the nostrils) methamphetamine will quickly dry out the mucous membranes and increase dehydration.  Sinus infections are common as are nosebleeds.  Advanced stages include a deviated and punctured the septum.

Dental problems

One of the more telling  signs of methamphetamine use is “meth mouth” which consists of tooth decay and gum disease which is brought on by chronic use of crystal meth. It causes a drying effect on the mouth, yet saliva is critical to healthy teeth and gums.  Dental/oral sores are caused by dehydration and compounded by a lack of oral hygiene. Heightened adrenaline levels also lead to teeth grinding, jaw clenching, which further wears down the teeth and gums.

Anxiety and restlessness

Crystal meth causes a rush of adrenaline which brings on repetitive motions such as rocking or even twitching. Involuntary muscle movements and hand wringing are common.

Heart problems

Cardiac problems are common, including  irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia), rapid heartbeat (tachycardia) and severe chest pains.  Sometimes the addict is convinced they are experiencing a heart attack.

Respiratory issues

Those who freebase the drug will often experience chronic bronchitis and “smoker’s cough” resulting in damaged lungs.

Summary of the physical signs of crystal meth addiction

The use of this drug can be devastating to one’s health and the downward spiral can be rapid, however no matter how far someone has gone, or how bad off they are, there is always hope and always help.  If you’re tangled in crystal meth use, or know of a loved one who is, reach out for help.  Learn about help resources in your own community and you can also call our hotline at any time.

Our phones are answered by those who understand addiction and can provide guidance and and help you determine treatment options.  The call is free 877-794-9934

Learn more about Crystal Meth Treatment in our special report.

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Suboxone Treatment


Naxolene is the added ingredient on a variation of subutex which is called suboxone. This is the normally given to patients. Its effects are the same as Subutex. Like subutex, it is used as a pain reliever and a medication drug in treating opioid addiction.


Effects of Suboxone

In determining the effects of suboxone to it’s users, numerous studies have been made. Suboxone tablets have been studied in 575 patients, Subutex tablets in 1834 patients and buprenorphine sublingual solutions in 2470 patients. A total of 1270 females have received buprenorphine in clinical trials. Dosing recommendations are based on statistics from one trial of both tablet formulations and two trials of the ethanolic solution. All trials used buprenorphine in conjunction with psychosocial counseling as component of a complete addiction treatment program. There have been no clinical studies conducted to review the effectiveness of buprenorphine as the only component of treatment.

In a double blind placebo and active controlled study, 326 heroin-addicted subjects were randomly assigned to either Suboxone 16 mg per day, 16 mg Subutex per day or placebo tablets. The primary study comparison was to assess the efficacy of Subutex and Suboxone individually alongside placebo. The fraction of thrice-weekly urine samples that were negative for non-study opioids was statistically higher for both Subutex and Suboxone, than for placebo.

What is Suboxone?

Since suboxone is a mixture of two presently marketed medications, buprenorphine and naloxone, it offers a combination of a weak narcotic (buprenorphine) and a narcotic antagonist (naloxone). The latter is supplemented to put off addicts from injecting the tablets intravenously, as has happened with tablets only containing buprenorphine; because it contains naloxone, Suboxone is very likely to generate intense withdrawal symptoms if misused intravenously by opioid-addicted individuals. Buprenorphine is a partial agonist at the mu-opioid receptor and an antagonist at the kappaopioid receptor. Naloxone is an antagonist at the mu-opioid receptor.

Like most addictions, suboxone or subutex addiction is quite unavoidable. The drug is not supposed to be used occasionally. It should be used as a continuous treatment method and thus, may become dangerous if usage is stopped too quickly. Like heroin, suboxone could result to a “euphoric” feeling. It cannot be denied that the person who is continuously taking the drug has a very high risk of becoming dependent and addicted to the drug. It has a mechanism that imitates the actions of naturally occurring pain-reducing chemicals called endorphins. Endorphins are found in the brain and spinal cord and decrease pain by combining with opioid receptors. However, opioids also act in the brain to cause feelings of euphoria and hallucinations. This very much illustrates their addictive inclination among people who are taking them in a long-term basis.

Moreover, in taking in suboxone, one should be very careful. As much as possible this should be taken with great regulation by a medical expert. This medicine may cause drowsiness. If affected, do not drive or operate machinery. Drowsiness will be made worse by alcohol, tranquilizers, sedatives and sleeping tablets such as benzodiazepines. Taking these in mixture with buprenorphine can also cause potentially dangerous problems with breathing and so should be avoided while taking this medicine. The liver function should be frequently monitored while receiving treatment with this medicine.

Supervision and Monitoring is Recommended

In substance addiction, it is very excellent to use drugs such as subutex and suboxone. However, there has not at all been a substance that has been found to be an effective medication for addiction that is at the same time non-addictive. Science may have been in the route of trying to find the perfect drug that would provide us with the two benefits.

Substances, therefore, must be taken with caution and appropriate supervision from medical professionals. In addition, it is the liability of the person himself to look after his in-take of a drug. He should be the one controlling the drug, not the other way around.

See our special report “Crystal Meth Treatment“.

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Is Ecstasy Addictive?

MDMA Ecstasy tablets

What Is Ecstasy?

MDMA Ecstasy tablets
MDMA Ecstasy tablets

Ecstasy-like properties. It is also a powerful hallucinogenic. Inspiration is usually used for recreational purposes so that you can experience feelings of intense fervor. Those that use this drug recreationally often do so when participating ‘raves’, groups or parties. Those that use ecstasy for these purposes experience visions, hallucinations, and an amount and extreme closeness of intimacy with the people around them. In the simplest terms possible, ecstasy creates a powerful number of joy and pleasure in people who abuse the drug for these purposes.

Ecstasy can also be used for medical purposes in psychotherapy. You will find doctors who have used ecstasy for all those experiencing cancer to provide relief of both that’s both physical and emotional. Needless to say, ecstasy is most widely used and viewed as a recreational drug, most commonly used by younger people throughout the Usa and Europe. This was one of the most popular drugs in the late 1960’s and remains popular to-day.


As mentioned, Ecstasy, or MDMA is observed as very enjoyable and can produce such results as:

* General and subjective alteration of consciousness

* Inner peace

* Self-acceptance

* Diminished frustration and violence

* Diminished fear and anxiety

* Euphoria and severe mood lift

* Feelings of empathy and sympathy

* Feelings of intimacy

* Self confidence boost

* Intensification of most senses: look, hear, odor, contact, style

* Heightened appreciation of music

* Visions, hallucinations, and distortions

* Stimulation, arousal, and pleasure

* Increased need and drive


It is mostly agreed upon that Ecstasy doesn’t always produce tolerance or dependence in users. Nevertheless, many people may become dependent on using the drug. Although it is not regarded as physically addictive, many people might form a dependence on the drug. Drug-users are drawn to Ecstasy, because it provides this kind of feeling. It’s properties that are nearly the same as amphetamines and we all know that amphetamines are highly addictive. It is easy to understand what sort of person can become dependent on the material that makes things look wonderful and creates euphoria. It will deplete serotonin within the head after continued use. Studies produced in the 1990’s claimed that Ecstasy could cause Parkinsons disease after just one serving. Further study concluded that it generally does not cause the disease.

If you or a loved one is trying to get off of ecstasy reach out for help.  In your own community, or you can call our 24/7 hotline and talk to someone who can provide some guidance.  The call is free 877-794-9934

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Inpatient Treatment for Oxycontin

Oxycontin tablets

What is Oxycontin?

Oxycontin tablets
Oxycontin tablets

Oxycontin may be the brand-name for a drug referred to as Oxycodone. This drug is an analgesic, opiate medication that was first created in 1916 with the objective of improving upon present opiate analgesic drugs. Oxycontin is often prescribed and given in hospitals to deal with moderate to severe pain dilemmas. Oxycontin has which can be very successful in the pain relief concerns and is considered by many to be less addictive than other opiate drugs such as for example morphine. But, Oxycontin, or Oxycodone, is still an opiate drug; this means it still has strong addiction potential.

Effects of Oxycontin

All opiate medications come from the opium poppy plant. Many of these drugs have been found to be addictive as they bind to the opiate receptors in the brain, slowing down the sign of nerves through the central nervous system, causing large releases of dopamine, and providing enjoyable effects such as pain-relief and even excitement. Oxycontin is one of those drugs that folks use to treat pain, but could become tolerant of after a time, which leads to abuse, which leads to the development of addiction.

Oxycontin habit is extremely common for those who have been getting the elements for the treatment of pain. Many people find ways to get more Oxycontin due to their own use and delight and abuse this drug in ways that may harm them eventually. Moreover, Oxycontin addiction often contributes to the growth of heroin addiction as many folks who develop this addiction turn to heroin, still another opiate medicine, if they can not obtain ‘fix’ from Oxycontin.

Treatment for Oxycontin Addiction

As there are now many cases of Oxycontin addiction In-patient treatment for Oxycontin has become highly popular. In-patient treatment for Oxycontin addiction is treatment by which patients live in a rehabilitation center for an extended time period and are placed on plan of therapy sessions and activities to help combat addiction.

It’s suggested that Oxycontin users receive in-patient treatment for Oxycontin addiction as this addiction may usually lead to the development of others. It is thought that this degree of addiction needs to be addressed and treated in an intimate environment that’s free of distractions from the surface world in order to be successful.


Inpatient treatment of Oxycontin is found throughout the United States in a number of rehabilitation centers. There are various programs which were created for this treatment as it is becoming such a huge problem. Through the appropriate treatment, people may over come Oxycontin addiction, and opiate addiction generally, and enter a fresh and sober life.

If you have problem with Oxycontin abuse, or have a family member who does, reach out for help.  Call a qualified medical specialist in your community and get some guidance and hopefully treatment.  You can call our hotline anytime, we’re here 24/7 and the call is free. 877-794-9934