Crystal meth addiction and the reason for its existence

The use of crystal meth as a drug has been widespread all over the world, with people suffering from severe addictive syndromes and physiological disorders.

Treatment with crystal meth has gained a lot of importance nowadays. The United States has seen a rise in the number of individuals addicted to crystal meth. As per our research, the current number of crystal meth users has exceeded almost 1.5 million addicts.

Crystal meth is considered to be an extremely addictive drug, besides being highly resistant to treatment forms involving the use of crystal meth. Some steps have to be taken to alter the treatment methods of crystal meth addiction, and only then can this epidemic be curbed. For years now, the judicial system has failed in prohibiting the possession and use of crystal meth; hence there has absolutely been no betterment in this drug related epidemic. Addicts nowadays have easy access to crystal meth, which is slowly leading to the rise in the number of addicts.

The main problematic issue associated with the rise in crystal meth usage is the fact that it is quite easily available and very cheap and affordable as well. Heroin and cocaine can’t be found so easily, and the cost is very high. But crystal meth is like a candy bar – cheap and easily available. The Crystal meth is locally known as ice or crank, and is being considered as an enormous threat for drug addicts and their health. Their body and mind can be severely affected, which becomes hard to cure even with crystal meth treatment, simply due long term usage.

A person’s appearance can be drastically changed with regular use of crystal meth. The addict may suffer from chronic itching, the symptoms of which are red and scratched skin. The jaw may collapse, making your face look disfigured. These addicts often suffer from another form of physiological disorder known as Meth Lice, which can be diagnosed by analysing self inflected wounds.

Crystal meth leads to several mental disorders

The effects of crystal meth, better known as ice or crack, on an addicts mind can be extremely dangerous, and must be cured right away using the right treatment processes.

The adverse effects suffered by people addicted to crystal meth can easily be diagnosed with just your naked eye. These effects can prove to be fatal for any addict and his or her entire family. The drug, also known as crack or ice, can dry up your gums and skin, which ultimately leads to tooth decay and a scarred face, caused by continuous scratching.

Such symptoms and adverse effects can only be reversed by crystal meth treatment, which can help the addict to gradually regain his normalcy. The problem is much more complicated, because addiction to crystal meth is quite difficult to prevent or cure. The form of crystal meth treatment that is required has to be compassionate as well knowledgeable about the circumstances that led the person towards the world of addiction in the first place.

As per our studies, many emotional and mental effects can arise from addiction to crystal meth. The addict may become irresponsible and may not have any love and compassion for his or her family, including the children. Often, due to this addiction, these people are led towards the path of a criminal, simply because they need to buy crack.

A single crystal meth puff gives approximately a 24 hour hallucinogenic effect, and this sets it apart from the one or two hours high given by cocaine and heroin. These long periods of hallucinating leads several mental disorders such violence, suicidal beliefs, suicidal tendencies, paranoia, dissociative identity disorder, etc.

These mental problems must be cured with proper crystal meth treatment processes, or else the addict may go into a stage where he or she cannot be treated anymore. We at news psychology have conducted social experiments and have come to the conclusion that, the addict’s family must always be beside him or her and help out during the treatment process. This will not only increase the rate of the treatment, but will also ensure that no future addiction occurs.

Fruit flies on methamphetamine die largely as a result of anorexia

A new study finds that, like humans, fruit flies exposed to methamphetamine drastically reduce their food intake and increase their physical activity. The study, which tracked metabolic and behavioral changes in fruit flies on meth, indicates that starvation is a primary driver of methamphetamine-related death in the insects.

The new findings are described in The Journal of Toxicological Sciences.

The abuse of methamphetamine can have significant harmful side effects in humans. It burdens the body with toxic metabolic byproducts and weakens the heart, muscles and bones. It alters energy metabolism in the brain and kills brain cells.

Previous studies have shown that the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster is a good model organism for studying the effects of methamphetamine on the body and brain. Researchers have found that meth exposure has similar toxicological effects in fruit flies and in humans and other mammals.

Some studies found that supplementing the fly's diet with added glucose or other metabolic precursors slowed the damaging effects of exposure to methamphetamine, suggesting that meth has a profoundly negative effect on metabolism. Human meth users are known to crave sugary drinks, an indication that their sugar metabolism, too, is altered by methamphetamine use.

"But previous research has not spelled out exactly how methamphetamine use affects energy metabolism," said University of Illinois entomology professor Barry Pittendrigh, who led the new study with postdoctoral researcher Kent Walters. "Either it alters the expression of metabolic genes and/or the function of proteins, or it changes behaviors related to feeding and activity."

To test these competing hypotheses, the researchers monitored the fruit flies' energy reserves and other byproducts of metabolism in response to meth exposure — with and without the addition of dietary glucose. They also tracked how meth affected the flies' feeding behavior, activity levels and respiration rates.

"We found that methamphetamine in the diet increased the flies' locomotor activity two-fold and decreased their food consumption by 60 to 80 percent," Walters said. Levels of triglycerides and glycogen, the two predominant energy storage molecules in animals, decreased steadily with meth exposure over a 48-hour period, suggesting that meth induced a negative caloric balance.

"This is very similar to what has been observed in humans for whom amphetamines can cause increased physical activity and decreased appetite," Walters said.

The flies' metabolic rate also declined in response to meth exposure, the opposite of what would be expected if metabolic changes were driving the depletion of triglycerides and glycogen.

Adding glucose to the diet slowed the rate of decline and death in meth-fed flies, Walters said.

"While methamphetamine exposure has a lot of other toxic effects that also undermine an animal's health, we show that meth exposure leads to anorexia and the resulting caloric deficit exhausts the animal's metabolic reserves," he said. "This is likely a primary factor in meth-induced mortality."

The new findings further support the usefulness of the fruit fly as a model system to study the effects of methamphetamines, Pittendrigh said.

Journal Reference:

  1. Kent R. Walters, Jr., S. Indu Rupassara, R.J. Cody Markelz, Andrew D.B. Leakey, William M. Muir, Barry R. Pittendrigh. Methamphetamine causes anorexia in Drosophila melanogaster, exhausting metabolic reserves and contributing to mortality. The Journal of Toxicological Sciences, 2012; 37 (4): 773 DOI: 10.2131/jts.37.773

Methamphetamine Drastically Increases Virus' Ability To Replicate In Brain Tissue

 COLUMBUS, Ohio – A controversial research study here has found that exposing cells infected with feline immunodeficiency virus – a surrogate for HIV – to methamphetamine increases those cells' ability to replicate the deadly virus as much as 15-fold.

The finding, if confirmed by ongoing animal studies, could answer important questions about how lentiviruses such as FIV and HIV can gain a foothold in the brain. That knowledge is vital in slowing or lessening the dementia that often accompanies AIDS and similar diseases.

Ohio State University researchers reported this finding in a paper to be published in the next issue of the Journal of NeuroVirology.

The paper also reports that before a nerve cell can become infected with the virus, it must be associated with a specific type of lymphocyte, or immune cell. Lastly, the researchers discovered that once the virus infects the cells, it mutates into a form that no longer needs this immune-cell association to reproduce.

"We found that after about two weeks of chronic methamphetamine exposure, the ability of these infected cell lines to mass-produce virus increases dramatically," explained Michael Podell, a professor of veterinary clinical sciences and neurosciences.

The concentration of the drug the cells were exposed to was equal to an average level of methamphetamine in an adult abuser's bloodstream, Podell said.

Like HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, FIV belongs to a family of pathogens called lentiviruses. Lentivirus infections are particularly problematic since these viruses can escape detection by a healthy immune system, mutate quickly and lead to life-long infections in the host, Podell said.

FIV is one of the principal stand-ins for studies of HIV since the viruses are closely related. Studies of this kind using HIV cannot be done safely or ethically in humans.

Viruses spread within the body by first breaching the cell wall and taking up residence within the cellular environment. Once there, the virus begins replicating, or reproducing, until its numbers are so great the cell literally bursts, spreading the virus to nearby cells and throughout the bloodstream.

The Ohio State researchers focused on astrocytes, nerve cells that may make up as much as half of the brain but which for a long time were thought to play a minimal role. Recent research has shown that astrocytes are among the most important cells in the brain and may play a key role in immunity. While scientists had known that FIV and HIV could infect astrocytes, they believed the infection was merely a latent one with the virus remaining almost in dormancy.

Podell, along with colleagues Lawrence Mathes, professor of veterinary biosciences and director of OSU's Center for Retroviral Research, and Mikhail A. Gavrilin, a research scientist in the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, found that FIV is only able to infect astrocytes when they are associated with a peripheral blood mononuclear cell, or PBMC.

A receptor molecule on the astrocyte's cell membrane allows the virus to enter the astrocyte, the researchers found. Both FIV and HIV are able to use the same receptor – CXCR4 – on astrocytes and on immune system cells. They believe CXCR4 may be the principal receptor for all lentiviruses on astrocytes.

The researchers noticed that once it had infected the astrocytes, the virus began to rapidly reproduce – an observation that was contrary to scientists' belief that FIV resulted only in a latent infection. "We found that the reason the virus multiplies so rapidly is that it mutates into a different strain," Podell said, one that isn't dependent on the presence of the other PBMC cells.

This virus strain – MD-A – appears to be completely independent of any immune system interaction. "That means that any drugs intended to interfere with, or influence the immune system may have absolutely no effect on the astrocyte infection in the brain," Podell said.

The experiments with methamphetamine exposure to the cells were surprising to the researchers.

"We found that if you treat these astrocyte cell lines with methamphetamine at the time that they are infected with FIV, and if you continuously expose them to the drug, you can see as much as a 15-fold increase in viral replication," Podell said.

"You can basically take this cell that normally has a limited ability to consistantly replicate virus and just dramatically turn it on, simply by adding methamphetamine."

The research team is now analyzing data obtained from as series of experiments that used cats as an animal model. If the findings are corroborated in the animals, Podell and his colleagues will try to unravel the precise mechanisms that are controlling FIV infection in these cells.

"The most difficult issue lies ahead, and that is understanding what mechanism is occurring and potentially discovering how to stop or block viral infection and replication in this environment," he said.


Potential target for anti-craving medications identified

Scientists at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) have identified a potential target for the development of anti-craving medications for people with addictions to stimulants such as methamphetamine.

The discovery centres on a brain receptor related to the chemical dopamine, which has a complex role in addictive behaviours.

Using brain scans and a novel chemical probe developed in CAMH's Research Imaging Centre, CAMH scientists found that the probe had high levels of binding to the dopamine D3 receptor in some people with methamphetamine addiction, compared with those who had no addiction. Higher levels of D3 were also linked to participants' reported motivation to take drugs.

"This is the first time, to our knowledge, that anyone has shown that D3 receptor levels are high in people with an active addiction to methamphetamine," says Dr. Isabelle Boileau, a scientist in the Research Imaging Centre, part of the new Campbell Family Research Institute at CAMH. Boileau led the study that appears in the January 25, 2012 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience.

Using positron emission tomography (PET), Boileau's team looked at D3 levels in 16 people who were dependent on methamphetamine. Participants abstained from methamphetamine use for 14 days prior to brain scans. Their results were compared with scans from 16 participants with no addiction. On a separate day after scanning, participants were given a low dose of amphetamine, and they had to report how much they wanted to use drugs.

D3 receptors appear to have a role in craving, but it is not fully established how they are related to drug-related behaviours. The new chemical probe developed at CAMH, called 11C-(+)-PHNO, binds to dopamine D3 receptors. This probe allows researchers to study D3 in people for the first time, using PET scans, in order to answer questions about its role in stimulant addiction.

Understanding the role of brain receptors in addiction has enabled researchers to develop treatment medications, such as nicotine replacement therapy for smoking. So far, therapeutic strategies for stimulant addiction have focused on increasing activity with D2 receptors, where binding levels have been low.

"We can now suggest that any therapeutic approach aimed at increasing activity with D2 receptors should consider being selective at targeting D2, and not increasing D3 levels," says Boileau. "Our finding also supports the idea that D3 should be considered another target for anti-craving medications."

Boileau is also looking at the role of D3 in different types of addictions, including cocaine and gambling.

Journal Reference:

  1. I. Boileau, D. Payer, S. Houle, A. Behzadi, P. M. Rusjan, J. Tong, D. Wilkins, P. Selby, T. P. George, M. Zack, Y. Furukawa, T. McCluskey, A. A. Wilson, S. J. Kish. Higher Binding of the Dopamine D3 Receptor-Preferring Ligand [11C]-( )-Propyl-Hexahydro-Naphtho-Oxazin in Methamphetamine Polydrug Users: A Positron Emission Tomography Study. Journal of Neuroscience, 2012; 32 (4): 1353 DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4371-11.2012

Recent methamphetamine use among young men who have sex with men associated with increased risk of sexual practices that may expose them to HIV

Adolescent boys and young men who have sex with men and use methamphetamines appear to be at an increased risk for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) exposure, according to a report in the August issue of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Among adult men who have sex with men (MSM), methamphetamine use has an estimated prevalence of 43 percent and an association with HIV risk and infection. "Research focuses on older MSM, and little is known about methamphetamine use and sexual behavior among younger MSM (YMSM)," write the authors. They add that the most recent data in this population date back more than 15 years: "Behavior, mortality, and treatment have changed dramatically in 15 years."

Peter Freeman, M.P.H., from Children's Memorial Hospital, Chicago, and colleagues conducted a cross-sectional observational analysis of data from the Adolescent Trials Network for HIV/AIDS Interventions. Between January 2005 and August 2006, a total of 595 adolescent boys and young men ages 12 years to 24 years — all of whom reported having sex with men — were recruited from social venues in eight U.S. cities. The study participants completed a survey that included questions about methamphetamine use, other hard drug use and sexual risk behavior.

Of the 595 participants, 64 reported they had used methamphetamines in the last 90 days. The YMSM in this group were more likely than those who had not used hard drugs to have a history of sexually transmitted diseases (51.6 percent vs. 21.1 percent), two or more sex partners in the past 90 days (85.7 percent vs. 63.1 percent), sex with an injection drug user ([IDU]; 51.6 percent vs. 10.7 percent) and sex with someone who has HIV (32.8 percent vs. 11.1 percent). These participants were also less likely to use condoms during every sexual encounter (33.3 percent vs. 54.3 percent). Recent methamphetamine use was associated with a lower likelihood of current school attendance and a history of homelessness, compared with YMSM who reported no recent hard drug use.

"Adolescent boys and young men who have sex with men and use methamphetamine seem to be at high risk for human immunodeficiency virus," conclude the authors. "The findings of our study suggest that there is a need to develop substance abuse prevention and treatment programs as part of HIV prevention for YMSM." They add, "To be most effective among YMSM who use methamphetamine, prevention programs should address issues such as housing, polydrug use, and educational needs. … Prevention efforts targeting YMSM who use methamphetamine should also ensure that partner selection is addressed, as they showed higher rates of having sex with IDUs and individuals with HIV."

Journal Reference:

  1. P. Freeman, B. C. Walker, D. R. Harris, R. Garofalo, N. Willard, J. M. Ellen. Methamphetamine Use and Risk for HIV Among Young Men Who Have Sex With Men in 8 US Cities. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 2011; 165 (8): 736 DOI: 10.1001/archpediatrics.2011.118

Toward a vaccine for methamphetamine abuse

Scientists are reporting development of three promising formulations that could be used in a vaccine to treat methamphetamine addiction — one of the most serious drug abuse problems in the U.S. The report appears in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

In the paper, Kim Janda and colleagues note that methamphetamine use and addiction cost the U.S. more than $23 billion annually due to medical and law enforcement expenses, as well as lost productivity. The drug, also called "meth" or "crystal meth," can cause a variety of problems including cardiovascular damage and death. Meth is highly addictive, and users in conventional behavioral treatment programs often relapse. Previously tested meth vaccines either are not effective or are very expensive. To overcome these challenges, the researchers made and tested new vaccine formulations that could potentially be effective for long periods, which would drive down costs and help prevent relapse.

The group found that three of the new formulations that produced a good immune response in mice (stand-ins for humans in the lab) were particularly promising. "These findings represent a unique approach to the design of new vaccines against methamphetamine abuse," say the researchers.

The authors acknowledge funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and The Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology.

Journal Reference:

  1. Amira Y. Moreno, Alexander V. Mayorov, Kim D. Janda. Impact of Distinct Chemical Structures for the Development of a Methamphetamine Vaccine. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 2011; 133 (17): 6587 DOI: 10.1021/ja108807j

Fruit flies on meth: Study explores whole-body effects of toxic drug

A new study in fruit flies offers a broad view of the potent and sometimes devastating molecular events that occur throughout the body as a result of methamphetamine exposure.

The study, described in the journal PLoS ONE, tracks changes in the expression of genes and proteins in fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) exposed to meth.

Unlike most studies of meth, which focus on the brain, the new analysis looked at molecular changes throughout the body, said University of Illinois entomology professor Barry Pittendrigh, who led the research.

"One of the great things about working with fruit flies is that because they're small, we can work with the whole organism and then look at the great diversity of tissues that are being impacted," Pittendrigh said. "This is important because we know that methamphetamine influences cellular processes associated with aging, it affects spermatogenesis, and it impacts the heart. One could almost call meth a perfect storm toxin because it does so much damage to so many different tissues in the body."

By tracking changes in gene expression and protein production of fruit flies exposed to meth, the researchers identified several molecular pathways significantly altered by the drug.

Many of these cascades of chemical reactions within cells are common to many organisms, including humans, and are similar even among very different families of organisms.

The researchers found that meth exposure influenced molecular pathways associated with energy generation, sugar metabolism, sperm cell formation, cell structure, hormones, skeletal muscle and cardiac muscles. The analysis also identified several new molecular players and unusual disruptions of normal cellular events that occur in response to meth, though the authors acknowledge that further work is required to validate the role of these pathways in response to meth.

Illinois crop sciences professor Manfredo Seufferheld, a co-author on the study, saw changes that indicate that meth exposure may alter the cell's energy metabolism in a manner that mirrors changes that occur in rapidly growing cancer cells. Most types of cancer rely primarily on the rapid breakdown of glucose in a process called glycolysis, which does not require oxygen even when oxygen is available. In contrast, healthy cells tend to use oxidative respiration, a slower and more efficient energy-generating process that occurs in the presence of oxygen. This aberration in energy metabolism observed in cancer cells is called the Warburg effect.

"The discovery of the molecular underpinnings of the meth syndrome in Drosophila — based on a systems biology approach validated by mutant analysis — has the potential to be used in advancing our knowledge about malignant cell proliferation by understanding the connections behind the Warburg effect and cell death," Seufferheld said.

Since glycolysis uses glucose to produce energy, the researchers tested the hypothesis that sugar metabolism is involved in the "toxic syndrome" spurred by meth. They found that meth-exposed fruit flies lived longer if they consumed trehalose, a major blood sugar in insects that also is an antioxidant.

Human meth users are known to crave sugary drinks, said lead author Lijie Sun. "And now we have evidence that increased sugar intake has a direct impact on reducing the toxicity of meth, at least in flies."

The researchers found that meth caused changes that may interfere with the critical balance of calcium and iron in cells, and they were the first to identify numerous genes that appear to be involved in the meth-induced dysfunction of sperm formation.

"All in all, this study shows that Drosophila melanogaster is an excellent model organism in which to study the toxic effect of methamphetamine at the molecular level," said Illinois postdoctoral researcher Kent Walters, an author on the study.

The study team also included researchers from the University of Nebraska (Jiri Adamec); Purdue University (William Muir, Eric Barker, Jun Xie, Venu Margam, Amber Jannasch, Naomi Diaz and Catherine Riley); Chung Hwa College of Medical Technology, Taiwan (Yueh-Feng Li); Carnegie Mellon University (Jing Wu); Indiana University (Jake Chen and Fan Zhang); and others at the University of Illinois (Hongmei Li and Weilin Sun). Lijie Sun, who earned her doctorate in Pittendrigh's laboratory when he was a professor at Purdue, now is working at the J. Craig Venter Institute under Hamilton O. Smith, who won the 1978 Nobel Prize in the physiology or medicine category.

Journal Reference:

  1. Sun L, Li H-M, Seufferheld MJ, Walters KR Jr, Margam VM, et al. Systems-Scale Analysis Reveals Pathways Involved in Cellular Response to Methamphetamine. PLoS ONE, 2011; 6 (4): e18215 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0018215

Post-9/11 security zones blight landscape, create 'architecture of fear'

A decade after the 9/11 attacks, significant parts of America's most prominent downtowns remain largely sealed off as `security zones,' but a newly published study by University of Colorado Denver professor Jeremy Németh says this has led to blighted landscapes, limited public access and a need for a new approach to urban planning.

"Our most open, public cities are becoming police states," said Németh, assistant professor of planning and design whose study was recently published in Environment and Planning A. "While a certain amount of security is necessary after terror attacks, no amount of anti-terror architecture would have stopped the 9/11 attacks, or the Madrid or London subway bombings. And by limiting access and closing off space, we limit the potential for more `eyes on the street' to catch possible acts in the process."

But given the reality of continued terror threats like the recent plots to bomb downtown Portland, Ore. and New York City, Németh says `security zones' must now be considered a new type of land use similar to parks, open space and sidewalks.

"They must be planned and designed in ways that involve the public and are useful to downtown built environments," said Németh, director of the Master of Urban Design Program at the University of Colorado Denver College of Architecture and Planning. "Right now they consist of haphazard placement of metal gates, Jersey barriers and cones, but if these are to become permanent additions to the urban landscapes, we must understand how to integrate them into the existing built fabric."

Németh's study, the first to compare public and private security districts in more than one city, looked at areas of downtown Los Angeles, New York City and San Francisco and found that while each city values and protects potential targets equally, what is deemed off-limits varies widely.

For example, 35.7 percent of New York's civic center district is within a `security zone,' meaning it is accessible only to for those with proper clearance, while only 3.4 percent of San Francisco's civic center area has the same designation. Meanwhile, 23-acres of public space in Los Angeles sit in a `security zone.'

Németh said the zones not only affect the appearance of landmark buildings but also reflect an 'architecture of fear' as evidenced, for example, by the bunker-like appearance of embassies and other perceived targets.

Ultimately, he said, these places impart a dual message — simultaneously reassuring the public while causing a sense of unease.

And in the end, their effect could be negligible.

"Indeed, overt security measures may be no more effective than covert intelligence techniques," he said. "But the architecture aims to comfort both property developers concerned with investment risk and residents and tourists with the notion that terror threats are being addressed and that daily life will soon `return to normal.'"

Early-life brain inflammation may increase susceptibility to drug addiction in adulthood

An episode of brain inflammation early in life may lead to long-lasting changes in the brain that increase the risk of developing drug addiction during adulthood, a new animal study found. Brain inflammation is most often caused by head injury or a viral infection such as encephalitis or meningitis.

The research was presented at Neuroscience 2010, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, held in San Diego.

Senior author Lir-Wan Fan, PhD, of the University of Mississippi Medical Center, and her colleagues previously showed that adult rats exposed to lipopolysaccharide, a toxin produced by certain bacteria that triggers a strong inflammatory immune response, are more likely to exhibit addictive-like behavior in response to a dose of methamphetamine. In this new study, the researchers found that adult rats exhibited the same increased tendency toward an addictive-like response to methamphetamine even when their exposure to lipopolysaccharide — and the resulting brain inflammation — had occurred early in the animals' development. The response was greater in male than in female rats.

"Our findings suggest that early-life brain inflammation leads to long-lasting damage of the brain's reward system," said Fan. "But this damage may not become apparent unless later unmasked by exposure to an addictive drug, like methamphetamine," Fan said.

Research was supported by the National Institute of Health Human Development, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the University of Mississippi Medical Center, and the Shin Kong Wu Ho-Su Memorial Hospital in Taipei, Taiwan.