Methamphetamine, which commonly goes by the name “meth, speed, chalk, ice, crystal, glass, crank, yaba, tina, and tweak” (Byker), is a stimulant made from pseudoephedrine or ephedrine. The drug affects pleasure functions of the brain by making it to discharge dopamine (Byker). Meth users have various methods of consuming the drug, which include injection, snorting, swallowing, anal insertion, and smoking.
Meth causes long-lasting effects that range between 6 and 24 hours, but these consequences depend on the method of meth consumption. Some have referred to meth as the worst drug in America today because it is highly addictive, easy to buy, readily available, and cheap for most drug users. Meth is the most abused drug in the world today. As a result, the meth epidemic has turned into a social problem with severe outcomes everywhere.
Meth is a problem because illegal home labs have used key chemicals in the drug (pseudoephedrine or ephedrine) to manufacture highly lethal and addictive substances. Consequently, the consumption of meth has increased tremendously with severe consequences to society.
For instance, the abuse of meth has resulted in child abuse, neglect, health problems, hard economic situations, domestic violence, and environmental problems among others. Moreover, home labs have diluted and adulterated versions of meth, which are highly dangerous substances. Regulators have failed to control the use and abuse of the drug for several decades. Drugs cartels have used such loopholes to supply meth in various states.
Over the years, the number of people who use meth has reached many millions. Initially, there was a linked between meth and white males. However, today, this situation has changed as people of different ages, gender, background, social class, and economic status consume meth. In fact, street children, attorneys, business executives, housekeepers, mothers, actors, and musicians among others all consume meth.
The problem of the meth epidemic originated from the western sides of the US, and later spread to the East Coast. Today, many people who consume meth are people of diverse characteristics in terms of race, age, occupation, gender, social, and economic background. Generally, white males have dominated others in abusing and using the drug.
Government agencies noted that meth was a problem as early as 1980 (Byker). The federal government restricted the use of some chemicals required for making amphetamine. In the 1990s, the use of the drug increased significantly in the West Coast because drug cartels entered the business. Ever since, the use of meth has increased in the US.
The effects of meth epidemic on social institutions
Effects of the meth epidemic on social institutions are appalling. The drug use has affected families, communities, individuals, businesses, technologies, media, and medical firms among others. Today, meth remains the most dangerous and highly abused drug in the US. Hence, it has destructive effects on societies.
The meth epidemic has ruined several families in the US. Among families, meth has resulted in increased cases of domestic violence, child abandonment, violence, and endangerment. This resulted in many broken homes. One must recognize that children and parents may also consume meth in the same home.
Meth addicts may turn to physical and sexual abuse of their partners, as well as children. Today, many parents ‘manufacture’ their own meth at home. This practice has exposed children and neighbors to dangerous toxic and combustible substances from meth ingredients.
Over the years, the federal and state governments have enacted several laws to restrict access and usages of meth and chemicals that are key ingredients of meth. The government has also enacted regulations to control trafficking of the drug. It has increased spending in local authorities and police to help them in fighting the meth epidemic through investigation and cleaning up home labs.
The government has even introduced a special policy in order to control retail and wholesale distributions of pseudoephedrine. The policy has tough penalties for meth trafficking and a control mechanism for pseudoephedrine from other countries.
There is a possibility of controlling the rising number of meth amateur cooks at homes. This is likely to reduce the demand for cough and cold drugs, which contain meth ingredients. States that have enacted these laws have recorded a decline in the number of meth labs at home and over-the-counter demands for meth-containing drugs. However, Mexican cartels have kept the market going by illegal supplies of the drug to home labs. This is a serious concern for local authorities.
Meth involves a dangerous politics to society. The government tried to enact laws to control the use of the drug through the DEA regulations in 1980s. The main challenge back then was resistance from pharmaceutical firms, which only had their focus on sales and profits. They argued that the product were good for treating cold and coughs. However, these firms knew that drug cartels could exploit their products and turn them into the deadly meth.
The DEA had urged the government to enact laws that would restrict the supply of chemicals for making meth since 1990s. Certain pharmaceutical companies reacted by adding elements that would limit extraction of pseudoephedrine from meth. However, this was not successful since the new drug with additive was not friendly to the body. As a result, these drug manufacturers abandoned the additive.
Politicians and other anti-drug agencies have criticized pharmaceutical companies for their long opposition on regulating the retail and wholesale distribution of cold and cough doses with meth ingredients.
Firms have lost talented employees because of meth addiction. They also incur costs associated with medical expenses for their employees. Meth addicts believe that the drug may make people to be active and productive at work. However, it ruins employees’ productivity after continued consumption and make them redundant.
Simple technologies of extracting pseudoephedrine or ephedrine from cold and cough doses have facilitated the growth in illegal home labs. On the other hand, drug manufacturers have failed to improve on technologies in order to prevent drug cartels from extracting pseudoephedrine or ephedrine from their drug supplies. These two scenarios have only led to the rise in consumption of meth.
The new media have key roles in fighting drug abuse. However, this has not been the case because some critics have observed that media have often used alarming tones to describe the issue of meth. For instance, they fail to focus on any improvement on the fight against the meth epidemic, but rather focus on the escalating number of child neglect due to meth.
The new media portray images and several appearances of meth to relate it with its negative outcomes by using hyped languages. They should not present meth has a glamorous and glorified substance. Instead, the new media should teach facts about negative long-term effects of consuming meth. This is critical, especially with much misinformation about the exact role or effects of meth on its users.
Meth gets its main chemicals from pharmaceutical drugs. However, the real reason why people use meth remains controversial and unsubstantiated. Some take meth to increase sexual prowess, concentration at work, self-confidence, to be social and suppress their weight. However, these entire claims remain myths because they do not have any tangible and proven evidence. Medicine experts should explore factors that drive addicts.
Clearly, meth is a highly addictive, dangerous, cheap, and easy to get in most states. This may explain the rapid spread of meth in many states in the last few years. Meth has ruined families and communities. The crime wave is high because meth addicts need money to buy the drug in order to sustain their bodies.
Employers must deal with meth users among their employees while homemakers turn to meth in order to lose weight. Overall, meth has affected a wide range of people in the society. Hence, it would be important to formulate new methods of dealing with the meth epidemic.
Families should have honest and open discussion in case any member may be secretly using meth. It is important for families to know harmful effects of meth. Families can control the use of meth through effective handling of its cases in homes.
As families play their roles, the government has done little to control the use of meth. In some cases, government policies on the use of meth do not rely on realistic assumptions. Such policies could be detrimental in the fight against the meth epidemic. Instead, various government agencies should engage in thorough studies about the meth epidemic and base their policies on facts. This would promote realistic attempts to end the meth social challenges.
In relation to government activities, some critics believe that federal government has the ability to control and contain the meth epidemic. Unfortunately, bad politics has affected policymaking on the meth epidemic. There are two ingredients required to produce meth.
Politicians with stakes in pharmaceutical companies have opposed any attempt to restrict wholesale and retail distribution of cough and asthma drugs with ephedrine or pseudoephedrine. Few firms make and distribute ephedrine and pseudoephedrine globally. Proper laws can regulate the supply of these chemicals. However, this has been a process, which has taken over 20 years to achieve. Moreover, the current laws have weaknesses, which drug lords have exploited to their advantage.
Nevertheless, the government efforts to introduce new laws have resulted in significant changes in the fight against the meth epidemic. Such laws deter home labs and supply of meth. This results in few admissions of meth addicts to rehab centers. What the government and politicians need to do is to ensure effective implementation and sustained control efforts in order to curb the spread of the meth epidemic.
Some of the observers believe that the new media have portrayed the meth epidemic out of proportion. They fail to act on facts, but compare meth to other drugs’ rehab admissions and fatalities. This situation has undermined the fight against the meth epidemic. The new media should use their resources to influence the meth epidemic positively by acting on facts of the problem.
The field of medicine has contributed to the rise of the meth epidemic, particularly pharmaceutical firms. This group has remained indifference to the meth epidemic. Instead, they have focused on profits due to rapid sales of cough and cold drugs with meth chemicals. Lobby groups should not take control of policymaking to control the meth epidemic.
Pharmaceutical firms should use modern technologies in order to find alternatives for making effective cough and cold doses with limited meth chemicals. Such initiatives could result in new drugs without ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, which are the key chemicals that drug cartel extract from cough drugs to make meth. Moreover, it would be useful to investigate what lead people to abuse meth.
The current economic system has allowed pharmaceutical companies not to take responsibilities for their actions. In fact, they lack effective corporate social responsibility programs. It would be prudent for the society to challenge such firms to support meth addicts and conduct awareness about the epidemic. Moreover, the society must also question itself on why it has allowed dangerous drugs to circulate freely in the market under the guise of treating coughs and asthma.
The most important thing is to watch one’s health and avoid sickness, but this might be difficult for most people. The ultimate solution is that meth addiction is curable, and addicts should seek for professional help to handle several complications from the drug. Health care facilities should improve their services because there are far too many meth addicts who require immediate attentions in order to break from the meth addiction and epidemic.
Byker, Carl. dir. The Meth Epidemic. Frontline PBS, 2005. Film.