Inside the Texas meth problem

Taking Crystal Meth To Do Chores and Beat Depression

It’s almost definite that your mental image of someone struggling with methamphetamine use is skewed. There are persistent and prevalent stigmas surrounding addiction and mental health in general, and of meth in particular.

Take a second and imagine someone who is addicted to meth.

Close your eyes and picture them.

Try to bring together everything you would notice about a person, maybe someone who is walking along a sidewalk.

What are they wearing? 

How does their face look? 

Can you pick up on emotions in their eyes, in the corners of their mouths?

Chances are good you are picturing someone similar to what you’ve seen on TV or in a movie. Maybe, though, you have seen someone near where you live, a person you assume is addicted to meth. It may be their teeth, or their face, or how they walk, or if they seem manic.

Let’s move past that though, and start to imagine who they are inside.

Specifically, let’s try to imagine why they chose to do meth. Can you think of a reason you would do meth? Do you imagine your life would have to be as bad as possible before you would try the drug?

turning to meth

Would you do meth if you needed to do the chores? What about if you needed to wake up at 5 a.m. in order to get the kids ready for the school bus? Also, you went to bed at 1 a.m. because that’s when you got home from work after your ride fell through, and you had to walk until someone could pick you up.

The truth is situations like these, where day-to-day life and related worries can push someone to cry or yell in anger, can also result in someone choosing to do meth.

Smoking or injecting meth because you’re working a 10- or 12-hour day may seem extreme to you, but there are people who feel the pressures of life and may not know where else to turn or how to cope.

Information: A Study of Texans Struggling With Meth

Jane Carlisle Maxwell, Ph.D., a research professor for the Addiction Research Institute at the University of Texas at Austin, conducted a study wherein 222 patients in a treatment facility were surveyed about their use of meth and specifically on why they used the drug. It was published via the Center for Social Work Research at the University of Texas at Austin.

Participants were 18-years old or above and had used meth at least six times in the past six months. When asked what the top five benefits of using meth were, the females responding said the ability to do more housework, being able to take care of their children, losing weight, getting over depression, and increasing their confidence.

Five Reasons women use meth in recovery

Males overwhelmingly cited sexual benefits such as energy and overall enjoyment of sex but also listed higher energy and the ability to stay awake, the general experience of feeling “high,” using meth as a way to have fun, and finally creating positive changes in their mood.

five reasons men use meth in recovery
Of these 10 benefits, only one specifically focuses on using meth as a way to feel “high.”

Perhaps the idea behind “having fun” is a way to say “forget life’s problems,” but it’s surprising how little their experience of meth use centers around forgetting and instead focuses on managing life’s difficulties.

Meth use may seem like a drastic decision to some people, but a multitude of factors can lead others to see it as nothing more than a small choice, maybe even what they think of as a good one. And of course, there is no one factor that leads everyone to drug use and potential addiction, rather it’s an accumulation of things.

There are similarities, however, showcased in the survey when listing things the patients experienced as children and as adults. Nearly all of them had a family member who struggled with alcohol use. Two other common experiences give a different glimpse into their lives, however.

Over 60% of women said they felt unloved as children and over 50% of men said the same. As adults, the numbers went up to 81% and 76%, respectively. They felt unloved as children and grew up only to continue feeling that way.

Travel back to that mental image you created a bit ago. 

Did you imagine the interior life of someone struggling with meth, one that included the pain of feeling unloved as a child and an adult? Are they people who carry the memory of a parent or parents missing every sporting event? Is their idea of who they are formed by remembering how many times a parent or guardian told them they were “worthless”?

As adults, we need relationships that reinforce positive thoughts and views about ourselves just as much as we do as children. Even gestures that feel small, like asking how someone is doing, can show how much a person cares about you. Often people who are struggling with drug use are looked down on and this can increase the sense that they are unloved or unwanted. 

Poor child living situation results

Many respondents also specified they had experienced negative living situations as children. The results specified these to include:

  • Over 1/3 of respondents experienced abuse as children
  • More than half of women reported sexual abuse such as molestation, physical abuse, mistreatment, or rape
  • About 1/3 of men reported sexual abuse as well
  • Almost half of all respondents said they felt in danger often as a child

Nearly all of those percentages increased when they became adults.

So, as children, they felt unloved, unsafe, and maybe even experienced abuse of various natures and degrees. These are not the only reasons addiction may enter into someone’s life, and they’re not present in everyone’s life who is struggling with an addiction. It’s more complex than that.

Bring back your mental image again and imagine all the pain.

It’s more and more obvious when you look at the experience of someone fighting addiction that they are humans. It is the hope that this doesn’t come as a shock. They are humans our society is failing to help.

Meth Is Big In Texas

In 2019, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) cited meth as their number one concern and the largest drug threat currently facing Texas.

Meth use within Texas has continued to grow and grow in the last seven years, and now a dangerous combination of availability, low cost, and potency is endangering Americans, and Texans specifically, at alarming rates.

Methamphetamine can be made using a combination of seemingly innocuous products, some found in households and available on the shelves at supermarkets and convenience stores. One key ingredient in the meth being manufactured in small labs is pseudoephedrine, which is found in some over-the-counter decongestants and allergy medications, along with some prescription versions as well.

In 2005 the U.S. Congress passed the Methamphetamine Epidemic Act to restrict and track sales of products containing pseudoephedrine. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), it has produced considerable positive change.

Between 2010 and 2017 the rate of methamphetamine labs seized fell from 15,256 to 3,036. The NIH also reports that most of the domestic meth labs now produce somewhere around only two ounces.

So where is all the meth in the United States coming from, and why is it hitting Texas particularly hard?

Powerful Meth, Scientifically Manufactured

Domestic labs are popping up less and less, and they are having a harder time acquiring pseudoephedrine and other ingredients to make meth. But the meth currently ravaging our country is not made with the usual ingredients.

Rather than using the pseudoephedrine, this meth uses a substance known as  phenyl-2-propanone (P2P) and because of that is incredibly potent. The DEA reports meth made with P2P as being 97.5% pure.

This increased purity leads to more addiction, overdoses, and the general need for treatment. But one of the bigger challenges is this meth isn’t being made in America, it is manufactured in Mexico and other countries then smuggled into the country.

Also, it’s not meth being made in any small or ad hoc laboratory space in a garage or RV, it is methodically and scientifically created in “professional” settings and processes. You can’t go to the store and buy ingredients to make P2P, but if by some chance someone gets their hands on the individual chemicals that can be combined to produce P2P, it’s not a simple process, like the “shake and bake” meth being made out there. It takes real knowledge and understanding of chemistry to use P2P for producing meth.

“The P2P [meth] cooks are in white lab coats in industrial buildings in Mexico,” Jane Carlisle Maxwell said. They are “chemists” producing meth which causes far more damage due to its cheap price and potency.

Another factor is its availability. Because it’s cheap and can be smuggled in as a powder or liquid and later converted into its crystal form, smuggling has become easier. Add to that needing less equipment in order to convert the meth, which means smaller operations on domestic soil, and stopping the spread of the drug gets harder and harder.

Texas has also been experiencing massive population growth due to technology companies moving in. Amazon owner Jeff Bezos built a wind farm in northwest Texas in 2017, and Tesla’s Gigafactory recently was announced for construction in Austin, a city some have been calling the “next Silicon Valley.”

All of this means more people and more money are pouring into Texas. Meanwhile, Texas has been experiencing a surge in admissions to treatment facilities for Texas meth treatment growthmeth use. In fact, between 2009 and 2018 the percentage of meth-related admissions has more than doubled, from 8% to 18%, respectively.

A New Texas Awaits, Always

In his 2018 book, God Save Texas, Lawrence Wright talks about his home state and all of its conflicts, the way its people have written themselves into history through myth, bragging, and sometimes plain old luck.

He says one of the most important aspects of Texas mythology is “bigness.” You can see it referenced on bumper stickers and t-shirts, and hear it come out in accents and political speeches. Texas is big, but that’s not the whole of things.

Every day Texas is growing. It seems impossible, but as history and technology continue their march forward, so too does Texas. More people show up, more money rolls in, and more struggles develop.

While the amount of meth coming into Texas continues to rise, people using it and needing treatment does as well. Looking at the numbers and the reasons given for using meth, it becomes obvious treatment cannot just be about stopping the use of meth.

Things treatment needs to address

We are all looking for answers in some form. Trying to figure out how to get the chores done, pick up the kids from school, stay awake long enough to fix them food, stay awake long enough to get to work, and then work all night, to not feel so bad about ourselves, to not feel like we can’t be good enough ever….

Treatment needs to address all of these things. Treatment needs to help someone stop their use of meth and then realize why they needed to stop, and understand, potentially, why they started in the first place.

Our team in Spring Branch is standing by to help you learn more about what our program can do for you or your loved one. Call today at (855) 290-5294 or get in touch with us via text or email.

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SM Outreach Alcohol Death Rates Infographic