The meth abuser's sense of conscience evaporates as he loses grip on reality, and he may exhibit psychopathic behavioural traits.
As his meth dependency deepens his world contracts as family, friends and acquaintances are cut off, or driven away by, his irrational, exhausting behaviour. Relationships struggle to survive where one or both partners is an addict due to the abuser's need to plug into, and drain, all external sources of energy available to him. Those that persist become suffocatingly co-dependent, needy, fraught, abusive and, ultimately, violent. Eventually, meth comes to completely define the abuser's identity, and he will resent everyone and anything that doesn't fit in or comply with his addiction.
The abuser may nevertheless appear to be unaware or in complete denial of his addiction because his scrambled mind is unable to distinguish between what is and isn't real, believing himself to be focused and in control while the rest of the world is turning upside down and inside out. He will associate exclusively with other meth abusers who serve to validate his addiction and encourage each other in their delusions, caring only about where their next fix is coming from.
The abuser's increasingly squalid living conditions reflect the chaos and turmoil in his mind. As he withdraws further into his inner hell and becomes ever more detached from reality and isolated from society, he risks losing his career and jeopardising his financial security. Crystal doesn't discriminate. College-educated lawyers and doctors have gone from earning six-figure salaries to being homeless and on welfare within just 12 months of being introduced to the drug.
"I used to have the house and the Mercedes and the big job. Then I fell into crystal [and] crystal destroyed my life. I sold everything I could put my hands on. What I didn't sell, I lost: my house, my career..."
~ Larry [Lawyer and former meth abuser]
"You could kind of think about [meth] in terms of alcoholism. What you would lose in maybe 20 or 30 years, [you'll lose in] six months with [meth]."
~ Debra Jay [Addiction Specialist]
Meth addicts develop boils and sores on their skin which they are prone to pick at. The sores can become so infected that the build up of pus from meth's toxic ingredients may have to be drained medically, leaving permanent blemishes and scarring (welts), particularly on the face. Addicts have been known to drain and reinject their own meth effluent and eat their welts in a desperate effort to get, or stay, high.
Eventually, if circumstances allow, the abuser will isolate himself at home with the lights permanently low and curtains drawn, too paranoid to answer the phone or switch on the television or computer. His hallucination-triggered paranoia can reach extreme, often absurd levels; from being convinced that he is being spied on "by people out to get me", to imagining bugs or parasites crawling beneath his skin, enticing him to gouge away at his own flesh (formication).
"It distresses me that my thoughts are broadcast on the radio. My DNA contains the whole of the Milky Way. I am constantly being pursued by enemies and lovers. I have scissored a mark from my skin, knowing it to be a tracking device planted by the Government. There are no locks, no devices to prevent intruders of the mind. There can be the frightening sensation of insects crawling beneath my skin. My food can suddenly turn into maggots. The round of my skull is the dome of the heavens with the world moving both inside and outside my head. When my mother handed me an orange, it became a new planet. Someone else lives within my skin like a squatter; at times taking over my movement, throwing out my thoughts or my arm. However, schizophrenia is not split or multiple personalities. The trouble with schizophrenia is that it turns fiction into reality, and reality into fiction."
~ Philippa King [Inside the mind of a paranoid schizophrenic]
Self-mutilation is practised by some as a physical way of numbing the mental pain and torment induced by meth dependency. In America this often includes firearms due to their easy availability, enabling addicts to shoot themselves - and others - during psychotic episodes, if not fatally then causing permanent disfigurment. The skull of an Oregon man who went to hospital complaining of a headache, was found to have 12 two-inch nails embedded in his skull fired from a nail gun while delirious on crystal meth.
"When on meth you have no regard for your body. Eventually, you will even reach a point where self-mutilation becomes enjoyable and you thrive on it."
~ Steve Box [Meth = Sorcery]
Meth addicts pose a significant risk to the health and wellbeing of others, at the work place and in the home.
Meth-impaired doctors and nurses have been implicated in the deaths of patients given incorrect doses of medication, and major motorway pile-ups have been attributed to the aggressive driving of long-distance truck drivers with traces of meth in their blood. Last March, a meth-intoxicated truck driver in Texas was sentenced to 40 years in jail for a "chemically-induced tragedy" in which his 82,000-pound log truck demolished a 30-foot motor home, killing a grandmother and her grandson.
Following the horrendous trajectory of crack cocaine before it, domestic violence, identity theft and acts of calculated violence are often linked to crystal meth, particularly in deprived rural towns. Children and pets are often the silent victims of crystal meth addiction, either through neglect, sadistic urges or sexual abuse arising from adults taking the drug.
In a survey of local law enforcement in the US, the National Association of Counties says 70% have reported an increase in robberies and burglaries due to crystal meth.
“Methamphetamine is seen as an ideal tonic to prepare gunmen for a hit, removing inhibitions, sharpening senses and fueling aggression.”
~ Ted Leggett [Senior researcher at The Institute for Security Studies, Cape Town]
Crystal meth is frequently cited in homicide cases. The fashion designer, Gianni Versace, was murdered near his Miami Beach home in August 1997 by a meth-crazed individual; the killers of Matthew Shepherd were high on crystal the night they murdered him; and Timothy McVeigh claimed to be under the drug's influence when accused of planning the 1995 Oklahoma bombing.
A study in America's Midwest shows that 39% of all incoming male prisoners and 47% of female prisoners have methamphetamine in their system, while around 10% of the 3,400 Americans awaiting execution on Death Row have mental conditions consistent with meth abuse, including brain damage and schizophrenia. Amnesty International has declared the imposing of the death penalty on the mentally ill as "truly disgraceful".
"Meth hijacks your good intentions and obliterates wholly the function of any moral compass. People conduct heinous acts, utterly disgusting and inexcusable, while influenced by this poison."
~ Andrew Lay [Hornet Fullerton College]
In 2002, a 28-year-old, psychotically aggressive meth abuser was shot dead by police in the Castro in San Francisco, having lunged at them with two large butcher's knives. Yet friends remembered the former U. C. Berkeley student - who graduated in 1997 with an A-average and who had been varsity football captain at Berkeley High - as "a very bright young man full of life, joy and love", and "a beautiful, brilliant and very promising young man - unlike any other gay man I've ever known". He had only recently turned to crystal meth during a period of low self-esteem.