They like the feeling.
People who use methamphetamine report feelings of euphoria, arousal, reduced fatigue and appetite, loss of inhibition, and increased sociability.
People may use methamphetamine to reduce their inhibitions and feel more confident, while others may use it to manage mental health issues like depression or the effects of trauma. Some people use methamphetamine to enhance pleasure and physical sensations during sex. The use of drugs to enhance sex is called “chemsex.”
They have a legal prescription.
Methamphetamine can be used in medical settings to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. It can also be used as a short-term component of weight loss treatments in the form of the drug Desoyxn. However, medical uses of methamphetamine are limited so they are rarely prescribed.
Amphetamines are also legally prescribed by doctors. The most commonly known is the drug Adderall, which is used to treat ADHD. Amphetamines are also sometimes used to treat narcolepsy.
They are addicted.
People may use methamphetamine or amphetamines for any number of reasons, and most people will not develop an addiction. However, some people can develop compulsive use or dependence over time, commonly referred to as addiction.
Stigma and Scare Tactics
People use methamphetamine despite being subject to incredibly harsh stigma. In order to convince people not to use methamphetamine, enforcement entities and some other groups use public outreach campaigns that perpetuate stigma against people who use methamphetamine. These campaigns employ pictures of people who have used methamphetamine for long periods of time and who often struggle with other issues.
These “Faces of Meth” campaigns are deeply dehumanizing and frame methamphetamine use as a personal failing, rather than the nuanced and numerous factors that cause people to use methamphetamine. It is also a common and widespread tactic to post drug charges and arrests in local newspapers, further perpetuating stigma against people who use drugs.
Scare tactics like these do not work – studies have shown that these tactics are ineffective and may even have a counterproductive effect on the target audience. In response to ineffective and stigmatizing drug education, DPA has developed Safety First: Real Drug Education for Teens. It is the nation’s first harm reduction-based drug education for high schoolers.
Health, Harm Reduction, and Treatment
Rather than a criminal approach which results in people in jails and prisons, or scare tactics that provide more misinformation than education, a more effective and compassionate approach to addressing methamphetamine use would center health, harm reduction and treatment. This includes syringe exchange programs and supervised consumption sites.
Treatment for people with problematic methamphetamine use, or problematic use of any substance, should be available on demand. Not everyone who uses substances needs or wants treatment. However, treatment must be immediately available to all who seek it, when they are most motivated for change.
Changing existing methamphetamine laws to compassionate, harm-reduction focused approaches to problematic methamphetamine use present a path to safety and healing for people who use methamphetamine and their loved ones.