Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Drug recovery rates and socioeconomics - Methamphetamines

I just finished watching (as a 'fun' break from law books) the HBO documentary "Crank: Made in America." Filmed in rural Iowa, the documentary delivers a powerful punch - focusing on three families with varying degrees of methamphetamine usage. At the end of the documentary, it quoted a frightening statistics - only 6% of methamphetamine addicts get and stay sober, the lowest recovery rate of any drug.

This reminded me of something I've been thinking a lot about - different drug and alcohol abuse patterns among different socioeconomic groups. In particular, I had been thinking about rural American use of methamphetamines and why it has spread so rapidly and with such virulence and also why recovery rates are so low.

First of all, meth is really easy to manufacture at home or in makeshift labs. Nothing needs to be imported from foreign countries. This makes its cost lower and its availability and rapid spread greater.

Second, meth is highly addictive - I'm not disputing this point at all.

Third, and I think most importantly, meth is mainly affecting a population group that has had no previous experience with real drug problems - the rural American population. Known as "white crack," meth plagues a largely white rural population that is naive to the effects and treatments for drugs. Like crack, it is primarily found in lower income areas.

So what we have are poor people who don't have the access to treatment facilities that rich people have, who haven't dealt with the multigenerational effects of drugs in the ways the urban poor communities have and therefore have no idea how to deal with them and don't have an established community network to combat their spread.

And unlike in urban areas, where the population is dense and community efforts are usually concentrated within walking distance of the high risk areas, there is no such geographical closeness in rural America making prevention and treatment programs more difficult.

While I'm all for legalizing marijuana, and even have fairly open views as to personal drug use of any kind, crank is scary. Maybe if we hadn't illegalized marijuana, folks in Iowa would just be hanging out and getting stoned today, rather than destroying their brains, families, futures and lives, and increasing incidences of drug-fueled violence.

Next up - alcohol use among white Anglo-Saxon middle and upper class people of my grandparents' generation (people born in the 20s) as compared to subsequent generations.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are we sure that it isn't just yet another media scare about yet another hyped drug 'epidemic' ?

As for it being addictive or difficult to quit, when the dot bomb bubble hit in 98-99 in Seattle me and a bunch of friends got laid off. A lot of stocks were starting to tank then as well. So what happened was instead of continuing to invest in the stock market, we "invested" in meth .. and had all night TV parties, Magic tournaments, you name it. Kind of like our weird regression to high school after a hard 5 years of work ended in so much dust, if you will.

Well, make a long story short, I used meth fairly often for the next 2 years.

To be honest, it hurt my career a little. Instead of long term employment I was more able to only land short term jobs. But this suited me too, cause in between contracts I was working on my career, studying, staying up for days writing code or redesigning my web sites. Meth facilitated that -- sort of. It also gave the illusion of productivity when in fact only really spinning in circles was occurring.

However, I remember the time fondly. I got a lot of experience on repetitive code writing and software configuring I would never have done otherwise. It jump started my career. While I didn't make the mad cash I deluded myself into thinking I would make, I didn't starve either. By 2000 I was back working full time, and had given up meth, pretty much for good.

Of our group that was heavily into it back then, one of them is living with me and we're engaged. Neither of us has had any drugs in 5 years now. Another is still a friend. Some others we lost track of, but this happens in any social group. Most are all still employed, except for 1 or 2, who were chronic unemployed already anyway.

So of our little Meth Club you can say nobody was long-term damaged that I can tell. I still crave the drug -- but the same could be said of a good strong cup of coffee, a hit of Ecstacy, or a line of coke. Of *course* I crave them. They're all alkaloids, my brain goes gaga for alkaloids. But I stay away from illegal ones since now I own property, am earning again, work downtown again, and have returned to stable life.

But what I am trying to make a point of saying is meth didn't destroy my brain. It kept me artificially thin for a while, so that when I quit, I immediately gained 30 lbs (slowly workin that off now). It made me a slave for Ben and Jerries and Mountain Dew as a balanced meal. I ate like a diseased lab rat. But over all there don't seem to have been any lasting ill effects.

The media, the legal and penal industries, and the religious will always attack any "illegal drug user" with a variety of means, from media blitzes and made up / non normalized statistics, to mandatory sentencing, to a bunch of collateral damage laws that hurt more than they help, like property forfeiture. The War On Drugs is as old as I am (I'm 44 now, my 'meth binge' was during age 38-40).. the War on Drugs is as old as I am, and has resulted in more misery to people than any drug use has ever resulted.

I've seen that HBO special too, and the points I observed that were unlike our groups' use are these:

1) Those people didn't recognize the power of the drug, and set limits to stay within it. My group had rules -- legend / lore that we still followed, like "don't go past the 3rd day." Meaning, don't stay up more than 3 days in a row, you make yourself too crazy with sleep loss. These people don't seem to do that.

2) We never injected. Big difference, that. The human body can filter and defend itself pretty well, and even can limit your intake / absorption a bit . You still get high, but you don't get psycho. These guys injecting, the body never sees it coming, one minute you're fine the next you're cranked off the chart high. We only snorted or sometimes dissolved. Much less stupid way to injest the stuff.

3) We looked out for one another as a group. If someone was up for a few days then crashed, we had friends making sure he was not suicidal. We also had enough people into it that someone always had enough to share. So while we blew through easily thousands (tens of thousands probably) of dollars on our collective habit, we never had to steal, or break laws. Other than the laws of common sense, which we broke with impunity :)

So to sum up this rambling diatribe I just wanted to share my experience with you. I am pretty certain that the meth addict woes you are hearing reported constantly now are more a product of media hype and / or inbreds that can't handle their substances, rather than a big problem with the substance itself. Rather, if you injest substances, you must endeavor to respect them, and know limits and have moderation. Rather like alcohol, for that matter. Unfortunately, we never will know in our society what legal drug use would be like, because too much is invested in keeping them illegal. But I just wanted to say it is quite easy to use meth for months / years and not turn out like a trailer park whore with cigarette burns on her legs and awful terricloth shorts and bad teeth, dull hair, glassy eyes and a stupid stare.

That was our dealer that looked like that....


generation_d on fark

5:02 PM  
Anonymous south coast recovery said...

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11:04 AM  

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