Methamphetamine (meth) is one of the most destructive drugs ever created. It is cheap, easy to make and extremely addictive. Meth destroys teeth, faces, brains, families, lives and communities. Some users burn out gradually over time, whereas others seem to suddenly go up in smoke.
The number of burn injuries from meth manufacturing has been increasing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determined that the majority of these injuries are people making their own drugs by cooking the necessary ingredients at home. Few people who cook meth at home are knowledgeable about chemistry and most are addicted to it.
Regulation of meth ingredients, such as ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, has made it more difficult for small drug operations to manufacture large amounts of the drug. However, making small batches of the drug can apparently be done with a handful of over-the-counter cold medication pills and a few other items that are readily available. This “shake and bake” method of preparing meth is causing many people to become badly burned, disfigured or killed.
It seems that the ingredients needed to make meth can be combined in a plastic soda bottle and shaken by hand rather quickly with no flame required. However, the formula is extremely explosive. The slightest error in technique can be fatal, or worse if innocent bystanders are in close proximity.
An estimated 486,000 people received specialized services annually at “burn centers” due to the severity of their burns. Up to 35 percent of burn patients seen in emergency rooms are meth positive and only 10 percent of them have health insurance. Seven burn units over six years were forced to shut down due to the high costs of caring for uninsured patients, but the seemingly unsustainable problem continues.
What these people endure is difficult to put into words. First, the excruciating pain from burn injuries and burn care alone involves unimaginable levels of pain. Meth withdrawal while hospitalized for burn treatment adds additional physical suffering. Psychologically, coping with permanent disfigurement and suicidal feelings from withdrawal makes the whole experience nearly unbearable.
A rudimentary internet search on meth burns reveals images and stories of human tragedy, often with children inadvertently harmed as well. Some burn victims have returned to use even after making it into recovery. Meth is a powerful and dangerous drug and one of the more difficult drugs to stop using because of the profound depression that accompanies withdrawal. However, research has shown that specialized behavioral treatment programs can be effective in ending active meth addiction.
The Sovereign Health Group is a leader in specialized residential treatment for those suffering from substance use disorders, including methamphetamine addiction, and co-occurring conditions. Sovereign Health of El Paso, Texas, provides safe and comfortable detoxification, intensive behavioral therapy and lifestyle management skills so that patients can transition from drug and alcohol use to mental and physical health. For more information about our programs, please call our 24/7 helpline.
Dana Connolly, Ph.D., is a senior staff writer for the Sovereign Health Group, where she translates current research into practical information. She earned her Ph.D. in research and theory development from New York University and has decades of experience in clinical care, medical research and health education. The Sovereign Health Group is a health information resource and Dr. Connolly helps to ensure excellence in our model. For more information and other inquiries about this article, contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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