Meth, PrEP and What Could Have Been
March 25, 2014
Let me take a second to debunk a commonly held myth: "Meth is not fun or pleasurable." That simply is not true, in the beginning. The fact is that there is something about the experience of using meth that seemed attractive to me. The truth is that there came a point where it became far too much work to achieve the same high that you had the first time I used. This is commonly referred to as "chasing the high" not to mention the toll that my body paid in the process of that futile mission. This mission could best be described as "my love affair with meth."
My drug of choice is crystal meth. As soon as you hear "crystal meth," you instantly think of a meth lab in southern Missouri. I can assure you, however, that meth can be seen in every walk of life across all socio-economic groups. While it is true that many gay men use crystal to enhance sex, that is certainly not the only group that utilizes it.
Even before a person actually uses meth, their brain is already anticipating the chemicals that are about to be released. Most people will start out by snorting meth that is finely ground up into a powder. I equate this to snorting table salt. As a person's addiction grows they will usually progress to smoking and many times eventually by shooting, more commonly referred to as slamming. I am getting ahead of myself. Many are starting down this journey with a prescription in hand; that prescription is for Adderall. When you have a prescription for something, then the stigma is removed. Meth, manufactured using household cleaning products, rat poisons, and liquid drain-o and let us not forget, the ever-important pseudoephedrine becomes more accessible and socially acceptable when acquired from your local pharmacy, albeit under the name of amphetamine-salts.
It started as something that I did socially; it soon became something that I did by myself. When I was social with people, it was either with other people who were using or I if was out and most likely detoxing. Soon however I got to where I wasn't even social with other users since I did not want to share my own stash.
Meth did not make me a "sex-crazed monster"; it only served to make me less-inhibited. Meth helped to increase sexual libido and decreased pain-receptors. Many times this served to create a scenario where I would place myself into situations while I was using that I never would have placed myself if I was sober. For me, HIV infection did not come as a result of using meth directly, such as with a dirty needle. It came instead as a result of high doses of methamphetamines which caused my body to have an allergic reaction. As a result, I was placed on prednisone, which knocked out my immune system. I like to say that I helped to create the ideal situation to become infected with HIV. Another interesting point is that had I been prescribed and actively taking PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) my HIV infection could have been completely preventable. Studies have shown that PrEP has been up to 99 percent effective in reducing HIV infection. Condoms were used, however, not as much as they could have been. PrEP however would have offered another level of effective protection.
My life as an addict had one purpose: to acquire and use as much meth as I could in order to achieve a high. The monster grew and got bigger the more that I used. The more my addiction grew, the more that I would have to use. With extremely high doses of meth, a phenomenon known as "amphetamine psychosis" became normal: hallucinations, hearing voices, inability to sit still or concentrate or to even perform basic functions or tasks. Most people just refer to this as "tweaking." One day would quickly morph into 3-4 days awake without having anything to eat or any sleep. My only desire, my only need was to use more.
I knew that my life had reached a new low when I was on the verge of getting evicted from my house, my new VW Jetta SUV was on the brink of getting repossessed and all I could think about was getting high. I quit going to work, a job that I had for close to seven years. All that I wanted to do was to be left alone and get high. The only time that I would venture out of the house was to make a trip to the corner liquor store for a case of beer. I decided to cash out my 401K and soon the only person that I would see or talk to was my dealer. Life had reached that new low when it is 4AM and I am sitting in the living room of my house watching television with a dealer that ordinarily I would never have associated with. Now, however, he was my lifeline.
All of these stories I had heard before. I had seen other people who had lost everything and I swore that would never become me. I will not sit here and tell you not to do meth. I will only tell you that meth can be found among you and your friend groups. You might be dealing with addiction, or you might think that you have it under control. I use my life as an example of the potential of life on meth and also the potential of life off of meth.
If you think that you might have a problem with methamphetamines I encourage you to talk to someone.
Read Aaron's blog My HIV Journey.
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