Northern California’s Meth Abuse Problem
The United States faces a major health risk in the form of epidemic substance abuse. The problem has escalated to the point that drug overdose has become the leading cause of accidental death in the country. Prescription opioids and heroin have claimed the most lives, but each state faces unique challenges with regard to illegal drug abuse. As this tragic development has gained steady momentum over the last decade, it has become clear that Northern California’s most glaring drug problems revolve around methamphetamine.
Risks Associated with Methamphetamine
Methamphetamine, often referred to as “meth,” has terrorized the West Coast for years. Recently, the price of meth has decreased, causing availability to skyrocket. Undercover law enforcement agents reported in 2008 that a pound of meth cost between $8,000 and $10,000. The price plummeted to roughly $3,500 per pound by 2015.
Most Americans are unaware that the dangers posed by meth go beyond health risks to the user. Laboratories dedicated to meth production are typically dirty, hazardous and exude toxic chemicals into the surrounding community. Additionally, due to the nature of the meth production process, meth laboratories are prone to violent explosions. The force of such a blast is incredibly dangerous, and the chemicals released by such an explosion are equally hazardous.
METH’S IMPACT ON USERS IN NORTHERN CALIFORNIA
Methamphetamine users face lasting, potentially fatal health risks. Most users snort or smoke the drug in search of an intense feeling of euphoria. Other users report feelings of boundless energy and superhuman strength, related to the drug’s ability to stimulate the dopamine and adrenaline centers of the brain.
While meth users feel increased energy and alertness, this temporary high comes with an increased rate of breathing and an accelerated heartbeat. This condition can greatly increase a meth user’s risk of succumbing to hyperthermia, a potentially fatal condition if the user does not seek medical treatment. Additionally, once the immediate effects of meth use wear off, the “come down” experienced by those struggling with meth addiction is dramatic. Most users report severe nausea, sleep problems and disorientation. This physical and emotional down spiral spurs users into securing another dose as quickly as possible, strengthening the grip of their dependency on methamphetamine.
Meth use also perpetuates long-term health problems beyond the immediate effects of the drug. Methamphetamine interferes with the dopamine production center of the brain, and eventually those struggling with addiction will develop a resistance to the dopamine they produce in their bodies. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter responsible for “reward” feelings, such as excitement and happiness, and some users are unable to naturally experience these emotions ever again.
STUDYING BEHAVIORAL PATTERNS IN METH USERS
California law enforcement agencies and drug enforcement organizations such as the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) have tracked methamphetamine use in the state for decades. Meth use spiked in the late 1990s and has continued an upward trend since. Likewise, the number of people seeking treatment for meth abuse has seen an increase as well.
Northern California Drug Crime Is Pervasive
Research from the DEA, DAWN and law enforcement at the local level indicates that the Northern California meth trade is responsible for countless domestic disturbances and violent incidents. Not only can users become aggressive while under the effects of meth, but those suffering from withdrawal have a propensity for lashing out violently and unpredictably.
Drug crime is often closely tied to gang activity, and most gangs in California operate out of specific territories. This status quo inevitably leads to turf wars between gang members as they encroach on each other’s boundaries. The most organized criminal organizations arm their laboratories both with booby traps for interlopers and law enforcement, creating even greater risks for members of the surrounding community.
Tragically, widespread methamphetamine has also had major impacts on children living in Northern California. Parents who use meth typically fail to keep their homes in suitable condition, forcing their children to fend for themselves. Law enforcement responding to domestic issues related to methamphetamine use commonly report deplorable living arraignments and neglected children.
DRUG CARTELS ENSURE METH IS AVAILABLE
The close proximity of Mexican drug cartels to Northern California is a major factor contributing to the region’s struggles with methamphetamine addiction. The state has long been regarded as a gateway for illicit drugs entering the U.S., primarily through the southern border. Drug cartels have enormous influence in Mexico, and most are armed and operated like private militaries. Additionally, most cartels have been in operation for years and have vast experience in eluding law enforcement.
The drug trafficking network between Mexico and the United States extends across the country, including Northern California. The region’s massive population and higher-than-average cost of living help to encourage widespread drug use. The presence of multiple trafficking channels and such a large population of potential users prevent law enforcement from efficiently tracing meth shipments, even with the sophisticated techniques and technologies at their disposal.
Combating Meth Use
While law enforcement and drug oversight agencies ramp up their efforts to stop the illegal meth trade, drug addiction treatment specialists and advocacy groups are making significant efforts to help those affected by meth abuse get the help they need. Meth addiction is extremely difficult to overcome without the proper care and supervision. Many users are in dire need of an intervention from social services and affordable legal representation. Additionally, recovering meth users may still face long-term health complications in the form of brain and nerve damage, heart problems and respiration issues.
Numerous social stigmas deter those struggling with methamphetamine addiction from seeking care and rehabilitation. That’s why it’s so vital for users to connect with a reputable, experienced treatment center. Any addictive substance can cause significant health problems, and drugs like prescription opioids and heroin are causing an increasing number of overdose deaths across the nation. However, those in Northern California are at an uncommonly high risk for falling down the dark path of meth addiction.
At Elevate Addiction Services, we understand that methamphetamine abuse is best treated in a holistic fashion that replaces the need for the drug’s effects and experience, replacing the rush of methamphetamine with a rush of exhilaration from experiencing life and sobriety