crystal meth and gay menCrystal methamphetamine has a long and storied history.  From its discovery in 1893 to World War II where it was used by Hitler to energize the German troops  to the 1960’s where it became commonly used among motorcycle gangs, crystal meth is highly addictive and wreaks havoc on whoever uses it. More recently, it has become problematic, in the rural areas of the United States as well as in the LGBT community, most notably with gay men.  Chicago has been hard hit by the crystal meth epidemic.

What is crystal meth, what are the characteristics of meth usage and what does addiction to meth look like?

Methamphetamine – also known as tina, speed, glass, crystal, tweak – is like a typical amphetamine times 10 because the rate of addiction is astronomical.  People often describe being “hooked” or addicted the first time they use it.

It can be smoked, snorted and/or injected.  Any method of ingestion has its unique medical challenges but nowhere is the impact more dangerous than with IV usage due to the potential for the spread of STD’s/HIV/AIDS.

Methamphetamine itself looks yellowish or white, has no odor, looks like shards of ice and dissolves easily with liquids.  Methamphetamine is a Schedule II controlled substance in the US, which means the potential for abuse and addiction is high.

What are the physical symptoms that could indicate  meth usage?

  • Chronic nasal problems – i.e. deviated septum, nosebleeds
  • Bad breath
  • Dilated pupils
  • Dry, cracked lips and fingertips
  • Dark circles under the eyes due to fatigue
  • Extreme weight loss – the appearance of bones sticking out
  • Skin sores/abscesses (consistent with IV usage)
  • “Meth mouth” – rotting teeth/tooth loss due to the impact of the chemicals in meth on tooth enamel

The most common effects of methamphetamine usage are increased alertness and energy, decreased appetite, difficulty sleeping, irritability and high rates of anxiety.

What are the long term effects of meth usage? These signs indicate the more disturbing aspects of meth use:

  • Paranoia
  • Erratic hyperactive behavior
  • Aggression and violence
  • Picking of skin– an individual feels like there is something under their skin i.e. spiders
  • Severe mood swings/disturbances
  • Repetitive nonsensical behaviors – “tweaking”
  • Psychosis – hallucinations and delusional thought processes
  • Body tics – may appear similar to Parkinson’s

With the ability to make and distribute meth becoming easier, it appears the increase in meth use won’t stop anytime soon.

While addiction to meth doesn’t discriminate, gay men seem to be highly impacted by the use of this particular drug.  If you or someone you love is impacted by crystal meth, please contact New Hope at 773-883-3916 or  Our “New Hope With Pride” program focuses on the unique needs of LGBT individuals  and the impact of addiction on the LGBT Community.

Written by Jeff Zacharias LCSW, CAADC, RDDP