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My Kind of Life: Crystal Death-Amphetamine

July/August 2003

Carlos A. Perez

How do I tell my best friend that I can no longer tolerate him? How do I tell him that he is such a mess that he scares me because he reminds me of my own messy days? How do I tell him that he is slowly going mad? How do I tell him that I cannot wait around while he fries his brains any longer? How do I tell him that he gets so tweaked that he makes drama queens look sedated? I did, I told him earnestly with tough love and then he withdrew and began to cry, as always. Then he tried to change the subject.

It's such a damn shame. He is a beautiful man, exceptionally talented with original personality, and always at the center of attention. And he is a mess.

We used to share day upon days together when we were both messing with "Tina-Girl."

That is the culprit, crystal -- methamphetamine. We used to entertain each other for hours, or should I say days. Before and after the clubs, before and after the bathhouses, we shared everything from records and clothes to substances and sexual partners. The habit became too much for both of us. He lost his job. He got evicted and his boyfriend dumped him so he moved out of town to get a fresh start elsewhere. I spent around five years in depression, almost ended my life and then started those little steps up the long stairway to recovery. It took me only eight years.

The very thought of crank makes my skin crawl. I think of the days I spent being ravaged by the drug and I cringe with horror. Inevitably, the subject matter pops up again. Whenever we talk he complains about his skin. It's broken out with blotches and bumps. He complains about being tired and worn out. He tells me that his hair is brittle and his teeth are cracking. I try to turn the conversation back to tough love and I point out that his symptoms are signs of an escalating habit of crystal-meth, but then his denial starts in. I still love him so I speak to him for a few minutes before conjuring up a white lie to get off the phone. We all love him. We just have to get away from him after three, four or five minutes because we can't take it any longer. Not unless we're there with him. That incessant babbling, jumping from place to place. He goes from lunch to outer space to politics.

Crystal-methamphetamine mimics the brain's activity when it is releasing hormones. You feel fabulous because by taking crank your brain becomes super-active, making your whole body feel euphoric and ecstatic. And you feel all this by not doing anything but ingesting the drug. Unlike dropping off the top of a roller coaster or diving from a high cliff into the ocean, where you are consciously aware of what you did to feel that rush.

Instead crank will take you there without any effort. You feel like you are rewarding yourself except you haven't done a damn thing but sniff or smoke or inject. When the reward ends, or the baggie is empty, you fall deep into depression. Usually the crash lasts just long enough for your eyes to pop open again leading you back to "Tina." The cycle now begins all over again.

The effects of crashing that lead to depression are heightened because by using speed your body is tricked into an unexplainable depression. If you hiked up a mountain or participated in any other fun and strenuous activity, you will feel that burnout or crash at the end of the day. It does not last forever and, more importantly, you know in your mind and body why you're tired.

Under Tina's influence you wonder why you're so tired and that feeling vanishes for hours and hours if you do another bump. One line or hit of "meth" may keep a user up for 36 hours. It is this false feeling of accomplishment leading to depression that can lead some people to commit suicide and other violent crimes after staying awake for days. Sleep deprivation can make the brain wig out. The prolonged use of crystal can lead to paranoia, schizophrenia, repetitive manic behavior, and eventually homicidal and suicidal thoughts.

Crank is especially devastating to the HIV impacted community because many of us are already trying to fight consumption. However, "the crystal chandelier" will just speed up the consumption process for you. Various studies have proven that using methamphetamine (just like other designer drugs) increases the replication of HIV. "Tweaking" keeps you up way longer than any human being can naturally stay up, that's why it was invented and used, to keep the fighters frisky and awake during a long battle in wartime. Some people have stayed up for incredible periods of time, lasting over 10 to 15 days.

Also, while "tweaking" you do not want to eat, food that is, and you are ready to have orgasm after orgasm or clean the house all over again or tear down your motorcycle to the nuts and bolts. Repetitive and monotonous, but Tina makes it interesting.

Crystal can feel so marvelous that after having sex with the epitome of Mr. Perfect, you will be ready for more sex within minutes after orgasm. Tina is so fierce and sneaky that you will have forgotten all about Mr. Perfect and you'll find yourself calling the sex lines and logging on to your favorite Internet sex site for another date while Mr. Perfect is still in your shower. Regardless of what scientific studies show about the higher replication of HIV while using drugs, if using said drug is making you have more sex with more partners, you can't help but pick up more strains of HIV and STDs. It is well documented that protection or safer sex measures go out the window in crystal-meth sex parties (see "Dangerous Liaisons" in this issue).

Can crystal be used safely? Probably not. It is not sold by "the hit," so there is always a little bit more left in the bag even if you just purchase the smallest amount possible. I'm not endorsing Ecstacy because it also fries your brain and speeds up HIV replication. However, if you just pop a hit, dance for hours and go home, you will not feel like a major wreck. I suppose that is a form of harm reduction. Crystal, like cocaine and heroin, can be sniffed, smoked or injected until you drop dead. Will we ever know for sure if it was the opportunistic infection or the drug use? There are no conclusive long-term studies yet. However, the information that is available so far points in one direction and that is that drug use, especially methamphetamine use and being HIV-positive, is detrimental to the person using it.

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This article was provided by Positively Aware. It is a part of the publication Positively Aware. Visit Positively Aware's website to find out more about the publication.
See Also
Ask Our Expert, David Fawcett, Ph.D., L.C.S.W., About Substance Use and HIV
More First-Person Stories on Substance Abuse and HIV/AIDS