Richard G. Petty, MD

The Curse of Crystal Meth

I have the dubious distinction of living in a part of the United States with one of the highest rates of methamphetamine abuse in the country. Around here most of the first time users are teenage girls who are trying to lose weight.

In the last few years the spread of methamphetamine abuse across the United States has been as rapid as it has been alarming. Until about six years ago, methamphetamine use was seen mostly in the western and rural United States. Then it jumped over the Mississippi and continued its demonic march to the sea and Georgia has been hit like a ton of bricks.

Not only can crystal met ravage the brains of users, they can get a wide range of physical problems including inflammatory and immune problems throughout the body.

Methamphetamine abuse has now expanded rapidly throughout the rest of the country and across different ethnic groups. According to the 2005 National Survey on Drug Use and Health it is estimated that 10.4 million Americans ages 12 or older have used methamphetamine at least once in their lifetimes for non-medical reasons.

There is a new and important study from the Scripps Institute that has shown that long-term methamphetamine use changes circulating proteins in drug users, causing aberrant immune responses. As a result, increased levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines – proteins that are involved in immune responses – may initiate a previously unrecognized molecular mechanism for the development of cardiovascular disorders including vasculitis, an inflammation of the blood vessels.

It appears that methamphetamine can add sugars (a.k.a. “glycate”) proteins. The researchers found that the immune system responds dramatically to this methamphetamine-induced glycation, which may lead to vascular inflammation. There was a direct relationship between methamphetamine intake and the level of circulating antibodies in animal models. This immune response, coupled with antibodies binding to methamphetamine, might make the drug less biologically available leading to an increased need for higher and higher doses, a problem found among chronic methamphetamine users.

The resulting glycated proteins are called advanced glycation end products (AGEs) that modify the function of proteins and are associated with a number of diseases including diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.

Methamphetamine-AGE proteins not only increased antibody production, but also were strong enough to overcome the drug’s natural immunosuppressive qualities. Furthermore, a wide range of cytokines directly linked to AGE exposure were increased in rats that self-administered methamphetamine.

The study also showed that even limited daily access to the drug was enough to produce an over-expression of vascular endothelial growth factor which is a potent signaling cytokine involved in angiogenesis and vasodilatation.

If you know anyone tempted to dice with this vile toxin, ask them to have a look here.

About Richard G. Petty, MD
Dr. Richard G. Petty, MD is a world-renowned authority on the brain, and his revolutionary work on human energy systems has been acclaimed around the globe. He is also an accredited specialist in internal and metabolic medicine, endocrinology, psychiatry, acupuncture and homeopathy. He has been an innovator and leader of the human potential movement for over thirty years and is also an active researcher, teacher, writer, professional speaker and broadcaster. He is the author of five books, including the groundbreaking and best selling CD series Healing, Meaning and Purpose. He has taught in over 45 countries and 48 states in the last ten years, but spends as much time as possible on his horse farm in Georgia.

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