The highest high: Grandiosity, power and the absence of fear

09/23/2007 12:01 AM

09/25/2007 1:46 PM

A meth high is extraordinary, said James Wilson, treatment counselor with the S.C. Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services.

Meth wildly increases the level of dopamine — the hormone associated with the brain’s pleasure center, he said.

“A good cheeseburger increases your dopamine to 50,” Wilson said. “Sex, to 200. Cocaine, to 600. But smoking meth will raise it to 1,200.

“It’s a feeling of being in complete control, of grandiosity, of power, of the absence of fear and the absence of doubt. It’s a high you can’t achieve naturally.”

Meth can be ingested, snorted, smoked or injected.

When meth is snorted or swallowed, it produces a sense of euphoria that can last 12 hours. When meth is smoked or injected, it produces a more intense and immediate “rush” that may last for as little as a few minutes, followed by a lower-level feeling of euphoria.

Addicts often begin by ingesting meth, then snorting it, then smoking it and, finally, injecting it.

Meth can bring energy and an increased libido. It also can cause nausea, depression, weight loss and “meth mouth” — rampant tooth decay associated with heavy use.

Someone regularly high on meth has little interest in eating or sleeping. Addicts can neglect family, job and health.

Recent studies have demonstrated that meth causes more damage to the brain than alcohol, heroin or cocaine.

Meth is, along with crack cocaine, the most addictive drug, experts say.

“With alcohol, it’s something like one person out of 10 will become addicted,” Wilson said. “With meth, the percentage of users who become addicts is somewhere around 80-90 percent,” especially if the drug is smoked.

Side effects, when the drug wears off, include exhaustion, delusions and potentially violent paranoia.

Matthew James Quattlebaum, now in federal prison for making and selling meth in Lexington County, said he once was so paranoid he spent three days in an Indiana swamp.

“Thought the damn police and the dogs were chasing me,” he said. “Slept half in and half out the river ...

“It’s a horrible drug, man.”

— John Monk, Adam Beam

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