Crystal methamphetamine is considered one of the most addictive and dangerous substances available in the world today, pulling people of all ages and socioeconomic strata into its trap. It wasn’t long ago, however, that crystal meth was considered a street drug that was used, for the most part, by young men who lived on the street. As a result, many studies of crystal meth addiction have focused on the needs and issues of young men who are addicted. Women who are addicted to crystal meth do exist, however, and special approaches might be needed in order to reach them and help them to heal.
A History of Methamphetamine
Methamphetamine was created in 1919, according to a report produced by Frontline, when a Japanese chemist was asked to create a wonder drug that could help solders stay awake and alert for long periods of time. Although the drug was widely considered effective at helping solders to stay awake, it seems to have resisted a surge in recreational use until the 1960s and 1970s, when athletes, college students and truck drivers began looking for ways to stay alert. Suddenly, more people were discovering how the drug worked, and they were beginning to take the drug in large numbers.
Methamphetamine is a potent and powerful drug, but in the 1980s, West Coast motorcycle gangs stumbled across a method that could make the drug even more powerful, Frontline reports. These DIY chemists began mixing a form of amphetamine found in cold remedies with other household chemicals in order to create a glassy, sharp-looking drug that was immensely powerful. They named this drug “crystal meth,” and use of the drug began to spread. It was powerful, inexpensive and easy to make. Suddenly, the drug began moving across the west coast, and addiction rates began to rise to epidemic levels as a result.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that meth abuse was considered an epidemic on the West Coast in the early 1990s, but by 2002, the drug had reached across the country and was touching cities on both coasts. It was no longer considered a regional problem, confined to men on the West Coast. The drug was particularly popular in the South and Midwest, the NIDA reports, with officials in Atlanta reporting that meth was the fastest-growing problem there in 2006. It’s important to note, however, that meth never left the West Coast. Each state that was touched by meth stayed affected, with addiction rates still palpable years after the drug was first discovered there.
It’s easy to see why crystal meth would be so popular for people who would like to take drugs. After all, the drug delivers a powerful punch and it is remarkably inexpensive to make. According to an article produced by CBS News, the drug can be produced in a kitchen or a bathroom by mixing up about 15 substances, including:
- Cold pills containing pseudoephedrine
- Paint thinner
- Lithium from batteries
Mixing the drugs is remarkably difficult, and can cause explosions if it’s not done properly, but many people master the technique.
The Gender Issue
Since crystal meth was developed by motorcycle gangs, it’s easy to see why the drug has been linked to men and male culture for so many years. Men make up the overwhelming majority of bike gang participants, and the culture of a typical bike gang isn’t receptive to women. Men who abuse methamphetamine aren’t limited to those who ride motorcycles, however. In fact, meth abuse has moved far beyond this group and touched men from almost all economic groups.
In 2007, researchers attempted to determine the characteristics that made up a “typical” user of specific drugs of abuse. Researchers found, according to an article in the journal Addiction, that meth abusers tended to be, “male, unemployed, reside in the west or south, have an ever-incarcerated father and less likely to be black or Hispanic.” This paints a very specific picture of a methamphetamine addict as someone who is male, of a low economic status, from difficult family circumstances.
Other studies suggest, however, that methamphetamine addicts who are male come from entirely different circumstances. For example, an article in the journal The Lancet suggests that men who have sex with men are using meth at an alarming rate, and they are engaging in dangerous sexual practices as a result. These men are also at risk for injecting the drug, and obtaining secondary infections in that manner.
Since men are more likely to use methamphetamine, and they are more likely to suffer dangerous consequences as a result of that use, it’s no surprise that researchers have conducted so many studies on men who abuse meth. They want to know why men begin taking the drug, and they want to know what methods they can use to keep men from continuing to abuse the drug. It’s a reasonable, and effective, approach by a medical community to a drug of abuse. However, the truth remains that women can, and do, abuse meth and they might benefit from treatment approaches that men may not find effective.
Meth and Women
Meth was originally developed, as mentioned, in order to help people stay awake for long periods of time. One of the drug’s side effects, however, is that it tends to suppress appetite. People who abuse meth tend to take the drug in large binges, and they may neglect eating for days at a time. As a result, they may lose large amounts of weight. According to the Canadian Medical Association, women tend to gravitate to methamphetamine because they’d like to lose weight. In a culture that prizes physical beauty in women, it’s no wonder that a drug that causes weight loss would be so popular with women.
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In addition, many people take methamphetamine in party situations, so they can stay awake and on the dance floor for hours at a time. Women attend these parties just as often as men do, and they may face significant pressure to take the drugs that their friends are taking. Women might fall into the trap of meth abuse due to this party peer pressure.
Addiction programs attempt to provide tailored approaches to addiction, allowing people to customize the care they’re given and utilize the therapies that will best help them to deal with the problems they are facing. Often, however, these programs are based in a didactic approach in which people who are addicted listen to a person in authority lecture on the topic, and how the issue could be solved. There is some evidence that suggests that women don’t benefit from learning in this way. For example, a growing body of literature suggests women respond far better to communal approaches that emphasize powerful trust and healthy interdependence, the hallmarks of research conducted by Dr. Karen Dodge.
Many studies on therapy approaches for women have been conducted in the field of mental health. These studies have attempted to determine how women listen, pick up information, share information and incorporate lessons into their own lives. Many studies of women in therapy have focused on cognitive behavioral therapy. Here, women are asked to look at an issue as a solvable problem, and then work with a therapist in order to determine a solution to that problem. The work is collaborative, in which the woman has control over the solutions provided, and it can be transformative. For example, a study of the effectiveness of this approach in dealing with women with depression found that cognitive behavioral therapy was more effective with women than no treatment, medication therapy or other psychotherapies. Clearly, this is a therapy that can be quite powerful.
In a crystal meth addiction program that utilizes cognitive behavioral therapy, a woman might be asked to:
- Identify the situations in which she feels cravings for drugs
- Determine how to avoid those situations
- If the situations are unavoidable, learn how to use relaxation techniques to get through them without relapsing to drug use
- Keep notes on how well the approaches work, and revise plans as needed
For many women, this can be an amazing technique that can lead to life-long change, but the work is hard and it can be incredibly exhausting. Some women even feel low and sad as they move through therapy, as though there is no one else who really understands what the addiction is like and what it might mean. For these women, participating in support groups can be quite helpful. Here, they’ll be connected to other women who are also in recovery from crystal meth addiction, and they’ll be allowed to share tips and tricks they’ve found helpful as they’ve attempted to stop using and abusing drugs. They may also simply feel an increased sense of camaraderie and a reduced sense of loneliness, and this might make their long-term success more likely. Some programs encourage women to attend formal support group meetings, such as Narcotics Anonymous, but truly effective programs might also encourage women to connect even when they’re not involved in a formal therapy session. They might be asked to spend time talking to other residents in informal, frequent, one-on-one talk sessions.
The Orchid Approach
Here at The Orchid, we take pride in an approach to healing that makes use of the unique bonds women can forge. We encourage support group attendance, but we also look for ways to help women to connect, share their stories and learn from one another in informal settings. In our opinion, it’s one of the best ways to help women heal. Our program involves more than peer support, however. We also provide professional oversight, regular therapy sessions, and additional holistic techniques such as art therapy, meditation and yoga. These techniques can help women to feel calm and centered, even while they’re doing the difficult work of recovery. The Orchid today claims a place at the forefront of women’s health and drug treatment, due to our unique approach and our dedication to helping women improve from their addictions.
If you want to take advantage of positive and progressive approaches like these, we urge you to get in touch today. We can provide you with an enormous staff devoted to your recovery and over 36 hours a week in research-based therapeutic programs designed especially for women. We’d like to tell you more about the help that we can provide. Please contact The Orchid as soon as possible so that we may help you reach your goal of lifelong sobriety.