Crystal Meth and the Gay Community
In recent years, crystal meth has become the drug of choice in the gay men’s party scene. Like the mainstream use of crystal meth, this trend spread from west to east – San Francisco to New York and Vancouver to Toronto. At “PNP” parties (shorthand for “party and play” – meaning sex and drugs), crystal meth, known as “tina,” increases energy and reduces sexual inhibition. The superhuman feeling that often comes with a crystal meth high means the sex is often unprotected.
The dangerous mix of crystal meth and unprotected sex got the world’s attention in February 2005 when it was revealed that a New York City man who is a frequent crystal meth user and had unprotected sex with numerous other men contracted a highly virulent strain of HIV. The virus with which he is infected is resistant to three out of the four classes of commonly used HIV drug treatments, and is so fast-acting that it progressed from initial infection to full-blown AIDS within three months.
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What is crystal methamphetamine?
Methamphetamine is a chemical stimulant that is similar to amphetamine, but creates a much stronger effect on the central nervous system. In low doses, it can be used to treat ADD, narcolepsy and, for short periods of time, obesity. It became a common street drug known as “speed” in the 1960s, usually taken in pill form, but lost popularity after a number of incidents that spread the warning that “speed kills.”
“Meth” was not a drug of choice through much of the 1970s and 1980s. In the late 1980s, a smokable, crystal form was created, perhaps in Asia, and then surfaced in California in the 1990s. It has increased in popularity among drug users in the past decade-and-a-half.
How does crystal methamphetamine work?
Methamphetamine releases high levels of dopamine in the brain, a neurotransmitter that is associated with pleasurable or rewarding experiences.
After it is taken in oral form, the user experiences increased wakefulness and physical activity, and decreased appetite. For some people, even low doses can be addictive.
With higher doses of crystal meth, especially if it is smoked or injected, the user immediately experiences an intense “rush” (also called a “flash”) that causes intense pleasure but only lasts a few minutes. Users can become addicted and dependent quickly, needing more and higher doses as the addiction progresses. One of the other reasons people continually return to crystal meth use is found in the “crash”. When the effects of the crystal meth high wear off, it leaves the person feeling so low, they want to return to the previous state of elation.
In high doses, crystal methamphetamine causes irritability, insomnia, confusion, hallucinations, anxiety, paranoia and increased aggression. In even higher doses, hypothermia and convulsions can cause death.
When the body is stimulated by crystal methamphetamine, the drug can cause irreversible damage. The increased heart rate and blood pressure damage blood vessels in the brain, which can cause strokes, or irregular heart beat, which can cause cardiovascular collapse and death. By vastly increasing the release of dopamine, methamphetamine appears to damage brain cells, eventually reducing the amount of dopamine available to the brain, causing symptoms similar to Parkinson’s disease and severe depression, or both.
Treatment for Crystal Meth Addiction
In almost every case, treatment for crystal meth addiction should occur in an inpatient drug rehab or addiction treatment program. The intense cravings that are associated with discontinuing the use of crystal meth are best managed in a medical detox unit on the drug rehab. In conjunction with these cravings, there are ussually a number of medical problems associated with crystal meth addiction that are best dealt in drug rehab. Most drug rehab’s have their own detox unit’s and physicians which are capable of managing the medical and psycholobgical issues associated with detox from crystal meth.