At Suntra, we are currently watching crystal meth addiction change before our eyes. Across the nation, Crystal Meth (aka Tina, T) has been a popular drug in the LGBT community for the past few decades. Recently we have seen people become very mentally sick from using this drug.
The damaging effects of Crystal Meth seem to have compounded in recent years. The gay men that we work with show signs of acute distress, including missing work, isolation, and paranoia, often claiming that they are being stalked or tracked by government agencies. They may also flood their social media pages with incongruent rants after periods of being totally isolated from their families and friends.
A deep sense of mistrust is common among crystal meth users. Whether its doctors, therapists, parents, or friends, everyone is plotting on them and for that reason, they remain vigilant, on guard, and will refuse any logical plea for them to seek help. For several weeks at a time, they will go off the grid and avoid contact with their loved ones in fear of being interrogated or institutionalized. When they do reach out for help, their families are relieved, but with the very next hit of the drug, the lucid moment that they seek help disappears, and the person falls back into paranoia.
In almost all cases that Suntra sees, the relationship with the individuals cell phone tells us a lot about what is going on. Often people don’t trust their own phones, often switching numbers or phone providers to avoid being traced by imaginary people. Unidentifiable sounds are attributed to government agencies, like the NSA or the FBI; agencies that would never be investigating a single user. As psychosis seeps deeper into their lives, crystal meth calms the voices, or allows them to communicate with who ever is out to get them. This attempt to combat the paranoia causes an increased substance use, thereby creating a cycle.
Several years ago, when dealing with crystal meth users, we would wait for the “right moment” before we would intervene. By giving them time and space we could intervine at at time when they were hung over, but not actively using. There was an ideal window for us to do an intervention in. However, that technique no longer works because during a psychotic episode, people rarely don’t out for help. If they do, it’s impulsive, beginning and ending with one call, followed by a complete return to use.
Amplifying the situations, theses men are often on a very dangerous mix of multiple drugs, Adderall has a similar effect of meth, and is seeked out to compliment the meth. With these “uppers” they will use downers to help combat anxiety and to sleep such as pot, high doses of benzodiazepine, and GHB (“G”).
Crystal Meth is No Longer Crystal Meth
We have watch as gay men have been becoming increasingly sick and developing more severe mental health problems and we struggled to figure out why.
On October 18, 2021, The Atlantic published an article by Sam Quiones titled, “I Don’t Know That I Would Even Call It Meth Anymore”, that completely changed our thinking and our processes for crystal meth interventions.
Some of our key takeaways from this article included:
- Traditionally, crystal meth was made from ephedrine, an active ingredient in OTC nasal decongestants.
- After the US and Mexican government began strict controls of ephedrine in 2006, phenyl-2-propanone, or P2P, became the main ingredient in crystal meth.
- P2P is made from toxic commercial chemicals, such as cyanide, lye, mercury, and sulfuric acid, which are also used in racing fuel and perfume.
- Since 2010, meth production has evolved from small, ‘trailer park’ operations into “super labs” that produce hundreds of tons of P2P meth, driving prices down 90%.
- Methamphetamine is a neurotoxin, which causes damage to the brain. While ephedrine meth does this gradually after years of use, P2P meth produces the same effects, but over a shorter period.
- Symptoms of P2P meth can include violent paranoia, isolation, delusion, hallucinations, and long-term psychosis after a single use.
- The effects of methamphetamines may serve as a safety blanket for some users as it allows them to suppress their traumas, ignore their responsibilities, or deal with a hazardous living environment.
- Due to the rise of fentanyl in opiates, many drug users have started using meth, causing an increase in demand, which has led to an influx of cheap, low-quality meth being sold on the market.
- As schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, psychosis, and antisocial behavior become more prevalent among meth users, providing treatment has also become increasingly difficult.
- Treatment can take 9 to 14 months, but as many users isolate themselves and avoid interaction, it can take even longer.
3 Case Studies in The Danger of Crystal Meth Addiction and the Need to Intervine ASAP
“You don’t typically overdose and die on meth. You decay.” – Sam Quiones
Kal was a handsome guy who made a living as personal trainer to the rich and famous. As he entered his mid-30s, it was obvious that he wasn’t advancing in a career because he was too focused on attending all the hottest events. He began to create distance between himself and his loved ones, limiting their interactions or avoiding them all together, which led to the dissolution many of his relationships. As he continued to use, he gained new friends, but these ones were dealers or users themselves, a reflection of his new lifestyle.
Kal sought out sexual partners that he could use with, often staying up for days in hotels rooms with a rotating cast of other people that would use with him
When it was suggested that he attend treatment, Kal was adamant that he wanted to continue to use “a little bit longer”. However, he sadly passed away during an accident that took place in his apartment. Although using meth didn’t cause his death, his relationship with it put him in a situation that he would not have been in had the drug not been present in the apartment.
I hired Kent as a receptionist during the early stages of his recovery journey. Kent had a bright smile, warm personality, and exuded a positive energy that attracted everyone to him, employees, and customers alike.
As his employer and confidant, he looked to me for advice knowing that was sober. About two years into his employment, he began to miss work consistently. He wouldn’t call in sick – we just wouldn’t hear from him for a few days. When he did show up, his eyes were dull and surrounded by dark circles, and he had a short temper, and was a distracted and incorrigible employee. He acted like he was doing me a favor by showing up to work.
Kent would use Grindr, a gay hook-up app, to meet men and have them bring crystal meth to his apartment. Since drug use was widespread, especially on Grindr, it was easy for him to find men willing to do this and, also, provide him with steroids.
I presented Kent with many chances at recovery, repeatedly offering to send him to rehab or bring him with me to 12-step meetings. Kent passed away while on a bender, overdosing on crystal meth and gamma-Hydroxybutyric acid (GHB), a dangerous substance commonly used by meth users.
Kent will always haunt me. To this day, I wish that I would have done more. Did I enable him? Could I have said something different? Should I have offered to send him to a different treatment facility? I will never know. I will always be haunted thinking that I should have done more.
In New York’s gay community, Andy’s story is a common one. A man in his mid to late-30s going though a second youth phase. Often they are just out of a significant long-term relationship and start going to parties, dating younger men, and using drugs, like crystal meth, with new sexual partners. They begin abandoning their responsibilities and begin to underperform at work, make mistakes or, miss work or so frequently that they often end up getting fired. Being mid-career, they are often discharged with a severance package. Without a routine or the enforcement of boundaries, their substance use increases, and their downward spiral continues.
Andy and his ex would occasionally use crystal meth together, his ex checked himself into rehab, breaking up with Andy as his use became too frequent. Andy took the breakup hard and to numb the pain, he increased his drug use.
Andy consumed many different drugs including marijuana, GHB, steroids, xanax, and crystal meth. After a year of consistent use, he began to show signs of psychosis and paranoia, and missed work numerous times.
We tried to convince him to enter treatment many times, but Andy’s psychosis was so intense that he would not engage with anyone that tried to help him. Andy thought ee were all part of a conspiracy against him, which he could only “figure out” when he was high. He believed crystal meth was helping him to ward away the entities what were plotting against him.
Andy was impossible to engage with; many of us went to his apartment, but we also started to call the police for wellness checks to ensure his safety. Shockingly, on one of these checks, EMS found that he had overdosed, thankfully, they were able to revive him. Andy was stabilized in a lock-down psyche ward, after 10 days, he was cognizant enough to talk him into a longer treatment program.
Andy stayed in a nine-month residential program where he was able to get the help he needed.
Interventions on Crystal Meth Addiction
As we have watched people on crystal meth become sicker, more delusional, and more isolated due to P2P meth, we’ve had to change our intervention methods. We used to be able to wait until after someone had gone on a bender to intervene during the awful hang overs that follow a bender. They would use heavily for several days, stay awake for several more, and then crash until they regained their strength.
We could count on intervening in the window after their last use because they were often sick and more receptive to treatment. Sometimes we would be on standby for a month or two, waiting until the next bender to round up family members and intervene in the days that followed. However, with the emergence of new strains of methamphetamine, we have had to use more aggressive intervention techniques.
At Suntra, we never want to resort to forceful methods, but with P2P meth, we have been left with no other choice. Users of P2P are rarely willing or in the mental state to seek help. Instead, they continue to use, and with each use, they fall deeper into psychosis. We are often racing to save someone from irreversible outcomes, like the loss of a job, divorce, prosecution, or in some cases, death, our intervention plan needs to be well-planned and properly executed.
Intervening when someone is experiencing a psychotic episode, can be dangerous for the people that are offering help. it may take several people to persuade them into accepting treatment. If they’ve become too ill to accept immediately, they may need to be stabilized in psychiatric facility before they can be admitted into an alcohol or drug rehabilitation center.
A 30-day treatment program is not enough time to successfully recover from a crystal meth addiction. If, after just 30 days of treatment, they return to the same apartment, social circle, or emotional environment after they’re released, we can almost guarantee that they will relapse.
Plans need to be put in place for a long-term, supervised recovery program. A successful treatment program should include 2-3 months of inpatient treatment, sober living in a safe environment for 2-3 more months, and frequent attendance at a support group to maintain their progress.
For more information on “G-ing Out” and hosting an intervention on someone who uses G and crystal meth, follow this link.
About Suntra and Adam Banks
Adam Banks is a certified interventionist and recovery coach at Suntra Modern Recovery. He received an MBA from the University of Chicago and built a company, which United Health Care acquired. He learned his rigor and attention to detail from his career as an airline pilot, holding an ATP, the FAA’s highest license.
Today Adam is dedicated to working with individuals that want to change their relationship to drinking. Adam Banks is often called by families to help untangle crisis situations through a loving and inclusive approach to interventions. Adam often engages in coaching executives, pilots, and physicians in recovery.
Suntra offers a free video course for families considering hosting an intervention for a family member.
Suntra Modern Recovery provides medical treatment for alcohol and opiate addictions via video visit with medical doctors. Suntra’s alcohol and drug intervention services are available locally in New York, Long Island, the Hamptons as well as nationally and internationally. Treatment for alcohol, opiate and heroin addiction, including Suboxone treatment, can start today.