A Tik-King Time Bomb

Bright, shiny and almost invincible. This is how tik makes the user feel. Suddenly she’s the most attractive, confident, creative, fascinating woman and has boundless energy to tackle even the most menial chores.

In fact, even washing laundry seems like fun. Sleeping suddenly seems a complete waste of time and what’s even more amazing is how she can eat as much as she wants and still lose weight.

But it soon lives up to its title – ‘the ugliest drug there is’ – and before she knows it she can’t live without it. Soon the toxins seep through her skin and make it crawl and she starts scratching and picking her skin obsessively, so much so that bloody welts and sores
riddle her body. Her skin breaks out in the most awful acne, she looks anorexic and much older than her age, and her teeth start rotting. Deep, dark circles instantly ring her eyes from lack of sleep, and slowly but surely the paranoia and violent behavior that accompany this unique addiction start kicking in.

Previously the drug of choice among young men, tik is increasingly being abused by young women across all socioeconomic classes. Tik is currently affecting all suburbs across the globe, and over the past year there’s been a definite increase in female users.

This increase in female usage is particularly affecting schools as well as middle-class suburbs, where the male-to-female ratio of tik abuse is one to one. In fact, more females have experimented with tik than with dagga, heroin or mandrax. It seems the attraction is that it helps with weight loss and gives them a confidence boost. But what many of these young women don’t realize is that tik, methamphetamine (MA) or crystal meth, is known as one of the most dangerous drugs in the world. It’s highly addictive.
 
Over six months of use, 94% of those who smoke it become addicted, as do 72% who snort it. It is also the drug with the most negative side effects: it triggers violent and psychotic behavior, and is directly linked to increasing crime levels, sexual risk behavior and HIV transmission. Equally disturbing are its long-term effects, which include irreversible brain damage and even death.

The average user in the US is a rural, white middle-class, blue-collar worker in his/her early 30s, but increasingly middle-class women, the gay population and students are using it.

The Fallout

The high of tik is initially seductive because its duration is much longer than that of other drugs. It can last anything from four to 24 hours. The next closest high is from crack cocaine, which only lasts an hour or so. The high is absolutely fantastic. You feel like you but so much more so. It makes you confident and happy, as though nothing could get you down.

Tik affects the brain’s chemistry, specifically the release of the brain chemical dopamine, which is involved in motivation, the experience of pleasure and motor function. It’s been estimated that while cocaine causes dopamine levels to increase by 400%, tik causes a 500% increase.

There’s no substance on this planet that can give the user the same subjective experience as crystal meth does, and that experience is one of being God-like thanks to the dopamine effect.

And this is specifically why users become psychologically addicted to tik very quickly. But researchers have reported that as much as 50% of the dopamine-producing cells in the brain can be damaged after prolonged exposure to low levels of methamphetamine, And researchers have found that serotonin-containing nerve cells may be damaged even more extensively.

MA ‘rewires’ the brain and it takes at least a year of treatment before the brain can return to a semblance of normality. For about a year, recovering addicts experience cognitive deficits such as an inability to concentrate or think clearly, as well as an inability to link what they’ve done to the consequences of their actions. An addict’s brain chemistry can return to normal over time but new research shows that although synapses regrow, they don’t necessarily reconnect in the same way they did before the addicts started to take meth.

Short-term side effects include tremors, insomnia, memory loss, increased blood pressure, decreased lung capacity and irregular heartbeats. Prolonged use can result in severe weight loss or anorexia, severe dermatological and dental problems, and mood disturbances. Fatalities aren’t common but tik abuse increases the risk of strokes and cardiac failure, and it has resulted in deaths.

Although tik users generally recover more successfully than heroin addicts do, tik is more dangerous because it induces psychotic episodes. It’s estimated that the prevalence of psychosis among regular MA users is 11 times higher than among the general population, and 23% of regular users will experience psychosis within a given year.

This psychotic behavior is characterized by intense paranoia, visual and auditory hallucinations, and out-of-control rages that can be coupled with extremely violent behavior.

Women don’t tend to get as aggressive on tik as men do but they are more likely to self-mutilate. Selling drugs to support their habit is the most common type of crime MA users commit but some heavy users do resort to fraud, theft and violent crime. It’s also one of the few drugs that have a big impact on sexual risk behavior. Its intoxicating effects alter judgment and inhibition, and lead people to engage in unsafe sexual behavior. Long-term use increases the risk of contracting HIV and hepatitis C.

There isn’t a quick-fix solution when treating addicts. Traditional drug treatment doesn’t necessarily work and for years many thought it was untreatable. The difficulty is getting MA addicts to access treatment. Heroin and alcohol addicts get obviously sick and have serious withdrawal symptoms but meth addicts can function physically for longer and don’t really experience physical withdrawal. Their symptoms are more mental-health-related -depression, paranoia and aggression – and they’re often misdiagnosed as paranoid schizophrenics.

Relapses aren’t uncommon after treatment. Addiction isn’t a curable disease – an addict could be clean for years and then relapse suddenly. Addicts need constant support such as support groups, many for most of their lives.

A Growing Problem

Young women should be aware of the severe repercussions of tik use. Just because you’re being offered it in a supposedly safe environment, such as a middle-class home in an affluent suburb or an upmarket club, by friends or a good-looking guy, doesn’t make it less dangerous or more acceptable. It’s still the same dangerous drug. You, and nobody else, have to take responsibility for the far-reaching negative consequences of drug abuse.

It’s your choice either to be seen as a party pooper or suffer a life crippled by addiction. Just say no.

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