Other than a few extra, albeit foul, ingredients used to “cut” the final product, methamphetamine (illegal) and pharmaceutical – that is ‘legal’ – amphetamine are pretty closely related, chemically speaking. In fact, the only difference between the two boils down to one molecule that lets meth cross the blood-brain barrier a little faster, giving it that extra ‘kick.’ After that, meth breaks down fast into dextroamphetamine, the dominant salt in Adderall, which just so happens to be America’s leading ADHD drug and favorite study aid.
There are a whole slew of reasons behind the whole “good” amphetamine versus “bad” methamphetamine but, actual chemistry isn’t one of them. There is very little difference between Adderall and street speed that really comes down to politics and the almighty dollar. As you might have guessed, Big Pharma is mostly to blame.
In the earlier part of the twentieth century, Americans consumed a wide variety of patented amphetamines, from the bestselling Benzedrine, Dexedrine and Dexamyl, not to mention a number of generic versions of the drug. What’s noteworthy is that more than a few of these brands also contained methamphetamine.
The 1960s and the Original Speed Epidemic
Post-war era in America saw a boom in amphetamine use as it was widely marketed to housewives as a way to keep trim while keeping up with all of the grueling housework. Let’s face it, being a housewife is a lot of work, even though still today, it is highly under-valued.
However, also during this time, it became painfully clear that this trend of amphetamine use was causing all kinds of problems. In fact, researchers during the ‘60s concluded that habitual amphetamine use produced a more accurate “model psychosis” than LSD.
It was also during this period, what with the U.S. ‘speed’ market peaking at around four billion pills annually, that the then young field of neuroscience began to understand why pharmaceutical speed was so popular yet so dangerous. In the words of one scholar, “given access to enough amphetamine, any rat, monkey, or man would eventually self-destruct.”
The World Health Organization got involved at this point, given that America’s speed crisis was now at its height, and concluded that the dangers of amphetamine use far outweighed their benefits when it came to general medical practices. Indeed, every industrial nation agreed with the WHO’s assessment, including the United States, therefore changing the laws accordingly. This led to a virtual backlash when it came to speed that was prevalent in critical press, public outrage, and even Congressional hearings that led to the creation of limits on the production, marketing, and sale of amphetamines.
The 1970s and American Speed
By 1970, nearly 10% of American women were using or were dependent on some form of amphetamine, most of whom were prescribed the drug for its weight loss properties.
With all the criticism coming to the forefront, even appearing in the form of exposés in women’s magazines, high-profile hearings ensued. These led to the Controlled Substances Act and the classification of amphetamines as a Schedule II drug, defining it with having a high risk of addiction and potential for abuse. For the first time, federal limits were placed on annual speed production.
As you can imagine, there was quite a lot of industry (Big Pharma) resistance, which, with help from their friends in Congress, have led to the steady loosening in recent years of such restrictions. In fact, industry regulations are now more closely reminiscent of those predating the 1970s.
Current Legal Amphetamine Trends
In his book, on Running Ritalin, Dr. Lawrence Diller states that the use of legal speed has surpassed opiate addiction as the leading reason behind admissions to addiction treatment centers in California.
Currently, one-in-five teenage boys in the U.S. have received an ADHD diagnosis – a clear indication that the prescription amphetamine market is in full swing again – as this number is has nearly doubled since 2008. And the number of prescription speed users arriving at ER rooms and rehab facilities is growing at an alarming rate.
Legal speed in America is now a $10 billion market that accounts for more than four-fifths of the world’s pharmaceutical amphetamine. And, by the end of 2015, America’s speed consumption is projected to rise by another quarter.
What Does It All Mean?
The current speed explosion is eerily familiar. As they say, “history repeats itself” and, along with industry projections, it seems as though America’s new trendy pill will soon recreate the same situation we’ve seen in the past – one that will end just as badly.
Now that legal speed has made its comeback as a treatment for Attention Deficit Disorder, it’s the same epidemic, just with a new twist backed by so-called medical diagnoses. The Journal of Neuroscience published a study in which researchers wrote that amphetamine and methamphetamine, such as crystal meth, are “about equipotent” and “produce qualitatively similar behavioral responses.” Both excite the central nervous system in nearly identical ways. That is, the brain responds the same way whether it’s produced by Big Pharma or your friendly neighborhood ‘cook.’
Substance abuse isn’t limited to illicit drugs like crystal meth; even prescription speed such as Adderall, Ritalin, Vyvanse, or Dexedrine can pose a problem. If you or someone you love is being prescribed amphetamines and you feel that it has become a problem, help is available in the form of addiction specialists who are available to speak with you regarding amphetamine and methamphetamine use. If you’re unsure about what constitutes a problem, give Palm Partners a call at 1-800-951-6135.
About 21.8 million Americans, or 8.7 percent of the population age 12 and older, reported using illegal drugs in 2009. That’s the highest level since the survey began in 2002. The previous high was just over 20 million in 2006.
Designer Drugs from the 1990s to the 2000s
Designer drugs are simply variations on drugs that already exist in most cases. The dangers of designer drugs come from the illegal combination and administration of the drugs that have not be properly researched or studied for toxicology or pharmacological research. These drugs are specifically designed to avoid and fall outside of the laws of the DEA in the United States. These drugs have similar effects to the originals, although they do have a different chemical makeup. The variation of the chemical structure allows the drug to be temporarily used and created without the fear or expectation of criminal charges since it does not fall under any current regulations.
The Internet: Major Influence on Drug Abuse in the 2000s
Due to the rapid growth of the Internet, designer drug sales grew rapidly in the 90s and 2000s. These drugs were sometimes referred to as “research drugs” or “research chemicals” to avoid the U.S. drug laws, but this did not prevent the DEA from making arrests.
Anabolic steroids also became popular during this time. These drugs were used by many athletes, but they were unable to be monitored due to the lack of information about the drugs and the inability of drug tests to identify the new anabolic agents. A designer drug called tetrahydrogesterinone (THG) was created to avoid new anabolic steroid tests, and it was, at the time, undetectable.
2005 to Present
Due to the Internet and other methods of communication, the 2000s have seen the growth of designer drugs outside of opioids, hallucinogens, and steroids. Some “legal” alternatives to cannabis have been created from sister plants and those of similar construction. It is important to note that none of these research chemicals have been properly tested for their safety.
The Usual Suspects
Treatment data for 2011 from criminal justice reports like the Department of Justice’s Drug Market Analyses, illustrates the face of current drug use and popularity. Below is a list of America’s top five drugs of choice. The big news is that while they may be the usual suspects, they are not at all in the order you might expect.
There’s a lot of controversy surrounding the fact that marijuana is the number one street drug right now. Treatment admissions for marijuana abuse, especially to outpatient programs, are through the roof.
2. Crystal Meth
Crystal methamphetamine addicts constituted 45,457 cases of addiction treatment in the state of California in 2010—more than the state’s combined number of alcoholics and heroin admissions.
In the 2000’s,the meth epidemic hit hardest in the midwest United States. Meth gained popularity in the Midwest because it is cheap, easy to manufacture at home, and requires no special equipment or expertise. In 2004 alone, nearly 16,000 methamphetamine labs were seized by law enforcement officials across America. Most of these labs were located in the Midwest.
Alcohol will not be denied, ranking a strong second in large urban centers both in terms of treatment admissions and, more important, in percentage of drug-related deaths.
4. Pills – painkillers (such as Oxys and Hydrocodone) and benzos (such as Xanax)
Pill abuse has swept the entire nation, as the incidence of treatment for prescription drug addiction has skyrocketed, doubling, tripling and more over the past 20 years. The ongoing rise in social costs associated with pharmaceutical narcotics puts pills ahead of the remaining street drugs of abuse.
One of the most infamous prescription opiates on the market in the last decade is the powerful narcotic OxyContin. In 1995, the Federal Drug Administration approved the manufacture of OxyContin, a time-release version of oxycodone. When the drug was released, concerns and reports of illicit use and abuse began to increase exponentially. Before the release of OxyContin, all formulations of oxycodone contained an NSAID, which limited its potential for abuse. The NSAID component of the drugs also restricted the routes of administration to oral ingestion. When OxyContin was released, abusers realized that they could crush the pill to release pure oxycodone (up to 80mg in one pill), which allowed larger doses and by additional routes of administrations such as intravenous and intranasal. Due to the widespread abuse, especially in rural areas, OxyContin came to be known as “Hillbilly Heroin,” and reports of its abuse flooded the media in the 2000’s.
Newsof rising overdose rates, “pill mills” prescribing opioid painkillers in return for cash, and a flourishing market for prescription painkillers both online and on the streets prompted lawmakers to crack down. Unfortunately, this means that many addicts simply turned to heroin to fuel their habit.
5. Heroin and Cocaine
These two drugs remain a presence in the nation’s inner cities, especially on the East Coast—for example, ranking third and fourth respectively in total treatment admissions in Philadelphia only behind marijuana and alcohol. And both are still very risky ways to get high, ranking first and third in drug-related deaths.
Not only that, but the last decade has seen a surge of heroin use in suburban areas. Most experts attribute this to the prescription pill epidemic. As officials have cracked down, many addicts have turned to heroin as it is not only cheaper, but much easier to get.
The number of teens dying of heroin overdose skyrocketed in the 2000’s. In 1999, 198 people between the ages of 15 and 24 died of a heroin overdose, compared to 510 deaths in 2009. The number of teens seeking treatment for heroin addiction rose 80 percent in the same 10 year time frame.
If your loved one is in need of heroin addiction treatment please give us a call at 800-951-6135.