A Very Hungry Ghost: Methamphetamine
Methamphetamine, a particularly addictive and destructive chemical, breaches, burrows a hole into, and hooks into the human body, mind and spirit by attacking on two fronts. Its qualities are truly captured in the image of a hungry ghost – methamphetamine’s appetite for devastation and expansion is endless.
On the one front, methamphetamine affects mood, inducing a euphoric, speeded-up experience of elevation, including a sense of personal omnipotence, like many stimulants do. On the other front, it artificially powers up experiences of heightened sensuality.
By inorganically forcing the body to create overwhelmingly enjoyable, instantaneous, intense pleasure, the drug snags millions in its web, which continues to expand into and across our communities, to terrible effect.
Synthesized in Japanese and German labs at the end of the 1800s during the era of the big world wars, methamphetamine was initially distributed in the military in Nazi Germany under the name Pervitin. Pervitin was used to aid Luftwaffe pilots in being particularly focused, psychopathic and aggressive, better soldiers in Hitler’s genocidal agenda. Even there, however, the detrimental effects of the drug became cause for rolling it back, due to the incidence of severe addiction, psychosis and violent behavior.
In its origins, methamphetamine had a genuinely anti-human intention and effect: to assist in genocide. Since that time, it was resurrected under a different name, when it was revamped, marketed and widely prescribed in the United States as a diet pill in the mid 20thcentury. The use of methamphetamines for dieting created a generation of brain-damaged, addicted Americans, leading to children born with the chemical in their system, who consequently had to undergo methamphetamine withdrawal upon leaving the womb and then heal lasting neurological impacts throughout their lives.
Methamphetamines are still occasionally prescribed to treat obesity, in spite of universally known ill effects including severe addiction, multiple serious health problems, and neurobiological devastation. Amazing, a medically-sanctioned version of it, Desoxyn, continues to this day to be prescribed to children tagged with the ADHD label, to aid in “focus”.
Methamphetamines are also produced and trafficked illegally, enjoying an ever- rising popularity as the drug expands into communities that didn’t used to be associated with it, such as African American communities in inner cities, where crystal meth now competes with crack for the title of most sought after substance, due to its intense, fast-acting high. Like crack, meth is notoriously hard to kick, and at the same time relatively cheap to produce, creating “life time customers” often after one use. To date, drug cartels operating in and outside of the US provide us with an abundant flow of the street versions of this chemical, known under different names and mixtures including crystal, ice, speed, and crank.
In a way, via the epidemic spread of crystal meth as a street drug in the United States, combined with the continued use in some medical contexts, the substance is keeping true to its original genocidal design, effectively wiping out huge swaths of human spirit wherever it goes.
Crystal meth appeals, is sticky and is easy to hook into, because it not only creates euphoria, or intense feelings of feeling good which onset immediately upon ingestion, it also connects into sexuality, functioning as an aphrodisiac affecting libido. Meth is widely used in some subcultures as a way to prop up sexual drive and sensual experiences through whipping arousal into a frenzied state, producing amplified sensations of sexual pleasure while exacting a breathtaking toll on the body and spirit of the person consenting to use the substance.
Crystal meth is a chemical that by design has multiple ways that it “hits” the pleasure and reward system, including not only dopamine, like many addictive substances, but also serotonin and norepinephrine. In the face of that multi-tiered, sophisticated onslaught of pleasurable experiences, many users find themselves unable to override their pleasure centers and maintain their free will. Instead, more than a million and a half Americans and still more around the globe find themselves submitting control of their lives to this substance and the negative spirit behind it.
In return for amped up pleasure sensations, meth extracts a nasty toll from the body. Meth use results in hyperactivity, anorexia due to loss of appetite, “meth mouth” (infections and loss of teeth due to dry mouth and teeth grinding), headache, heart problems, respiratory problems, twitching, numbness, diarrhea, constipation, tremors, and skin problems. Meth use results in exponentially increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases including HIV, both from IV drug use (if needles are shared and IV is the route of administration – meth can be injected, smoked or snorted), and from risky sexual behavior, caused by sexual disinhibition.
The psychological wreckage wrought by use of meth includes chronic dysphoria (equal and opposite to that initial boost); erosion of libido; disruption of alertness, ability to learn, and concentration; sleep pattern disturbances ranging from extreme fatigue to insomnia; irritability; extreme ego inflation alternating with deflation, or suicidal feelings; and obsessive, repetitive behaviors. Methamphetamine users also increase their experiences of anxiety and depression, and not infrequently, unwittingly open themselves up for amphetamine-induced psychosis, violence, and suicide.
Methamphetamine is linked to Parkinson’s disease, as well, due to the neurotoxic impact on dopaminergic systems in the brain. In fact, brain imaging studies of methamphetamine users indicate atrophy, or deterioration, in several key areas of the brain.
The risk of overdose from methamphetamine, while not as high as some, is still high, and can result in death preceded by convulsions and coma. Methamphetamine withdrawals are very difficult to override, nearly impossible to get through without community support, and include powerful drug craving, intense anxiety, deeply negative mood, loss of motivation, sleep disturbances, and vivid nightmares.
A substance that stimulates speedy, high feelings that mimic aliveness, adrenaline and excitement, and at the same time amplifies sexual drive (which is ultimately about our sacred draw towards energetic union) is a real below-the-belt type of trickster. The spirit of meth appeals to our deepest wounds, temporarily creating those sensations many of us miss most in our disconnected, spiritually dead and heartbroken lives. The drug can be used to temporarily induce a nearly ecstatic state, normally reserved for spiritual union – during which we get to glimpse what it would be like to be fully awake, connected and enlivened, exchanging energies with others in divine merge.
And yet it is an illusion – crystal meth’s true design was to be destructive, to create pathways in the body and brain that house a psychotic spirit that wants to consume and will destroy us in the process if we do not wrest ourselves free. The spirit behind the spreading crystal meth epidemic is indeed a hungry ghost, never sated. In the words of Gabor Mate, author of In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts,“Addictions provide fleeting pleasure or gratification, but never leave you satisfied.”
Certain synthetic, or lab-manufactured drugs are so devastating to the human body, mind and soul that it is a wonder that we as a species continue to want them to be manufactured. Some effort has been made to curb, control, and at least stop colluding with the synthesis of illegal methamphetamines. For example, attempts have been made to outlaw production and distribution of some of the chemicals needed to cook meth. But those efforts are undermined by pharma interests fighting any legislature that calls for chemical companies to stop production, for fear of a loss of profit.
At the same time, some addictions specialists, like Mate, argue for deregulation and unconditional treatment, curing users from within by working with the fragmented psyche through therapeutic approaches, with total compassion rather than criminalization. These attempts are equally resisted. Either way, it seems that although its severe addictiveness and damaging potential on our communities has been recognized, the allure of crystal meth for users and peddlers alike is still irresistible to us as a whole.
Until such time as a systemic solution becomes possible, the way for us to be freed, collectively, is for each of us, one by one, to do so. If crystal meth has insinuated its way into your life story, Villa Kali Ma is a place where you can purge yourself of its destructive spirit. In an environment of fierce, unconditional defense of your right to live free and to govern your own spirit, we will treat you, heal you, rehabilitate and repair you, giving you the support you will need to maintain your own freedom from addiction, over time. Please know that you will be met with love and power, compassion and forgiveness here in our healing community!