Matt was a young man of seventeen whom I first meet in my medical clinic in 1996. His mother brought him to me to address his drug use. Matt had been smoking, drinking, and sniffing glue since junior high. He then graduated to marijuana and a “little” cocaine in his early high school years. He had recently dropped out of school because he could no longer “make the grade.” His girlfriend had turned him on to crystal methamphetamine (ice) within the past two months. The change in his behavior alarmed his mother and resulted in a visit to my office.
Matt told me that after using ice, he was not the same. He thought that his brain had been damaged and wondered if I had any medicine to “fix it.” He promised me he would never use it again, but he did. In fact, he started to use it more and more until he lost his job, his girlfriend, and his mother threw him out of the house.
I saw him one other time soon after these events transpired. Something was dramatically different. His short term memory was gone. He would forget what he was talking about in mid-sentence. But, what concerned me the most was this penetrating paranoia that permeated his being. He was hyper-vigilant, scanning the waiting room, as he paced the room like a caged animal. He kept mentioning to me that “people” were out to get him.
I called his mother, and together we made every attempt to help Matt. Unfortunately, to no avail. Approximately three weeks later, his mother called me and informed me that Matt had found a gun and killed himself at age of eighteen.
This is a tragic story, but not an isolated one. Matt was a real person who learned the devastating consequences of ice use. This is a drug that is highly addictive and highly destructive. It is sweeping across our nation and will be knocking at the door of your RU chapter or church if it hasn’t already. Let me describe this drug they call, “Ice.”
“Ice” is ‘crystalline methamphetamine hydrochloride,’ and can be smoked or injected intravenously, whereas plain methamphetamine powder is snorted or taken orally. The ice form of the drug gives a more intense high, or “rush,” than the powder form of the drug. It is many times more addictive than the powder form. The powder form is frequently cut or diluted with other harmful substances, but ice crystals are usually pure drug, which is much more potent and destructive. The high is longer lasting than either cocaine or meth powder. Ice is by far the most addictive substance known to man. Almost nobody, like Matt, tries ice just once.
The high Matt and others received from ice gives them a sense of energy and alertness, competence and intelligence, power and control. Loss of appetite, hyperactivity, and endurance are common as well. Matt would go days without feeling tired or needing to sleep or eat. The euphoria is associated with delusions of power and invincibility.
The long-term consequences of ice or methamphetamine abuse include memory loss, hallucinations, delusions, panic, and rage. The later stages of addiction are characterized by a form of dementia – mothers abandon their babies, teenagers shoot their parents, families are destroyed, and communities are crippled. Addicts are unable to hold a job or care for their families; they are consumed with their drug use and cannot do anything else.
The real harm with ice is not only its highly addictive potential but its neuro-toxicity (neuro – brain, toxicity – damaging.) Ice is much more toxic to brain cells than cocaine. As devastating as the crack cocaine problem has been, ice promises to be much worse. Ice addicts sustain significant brain damage. Matt suffered from ‘methamphetamine psychosis’ with severe paranoia. He felt as if the whole world was “out to get him.” Homicide, trauma, and suicide (as was the case with Matt) are the most common causes of death for ice addicts. Within five years, 90% of addicts are either brain-damaged, dead, or in prison.
Ice is burning down homes (meth labs), destroying families, polluting the environment, and corrupting our neighborhoods. Ice is destroying our workforce and flooding our prisons, hospitals, and rehab centers with brain-damaged people. It is infiltrating our schools and churches and killing our young people. It is an epidemic that will touch millions.
We must kneel before our God and ask for His grace to help those in need, then stand and demonstrate the compassion of Christ to them. There is no answer to the ice epidemic outside of Jesus. The medical field can offer assistance in dealing with the complications caused by the damage done to the physical body (and this can be extensive); but the Answer is the TRUTH. We must reach out and freely offer to them the “Cure” which is Christ. The addict needs to exchange the methamphetamine for the Messiah!