Take Action

News

How young women desperate to be slim are using CRYSTAL METH to control their weight

Dailymail.com, February 27, 2014

Crystal methamphetamine, street name ice, is known for its terrible side effects - psychosis, paranoia, ‘meth mouth’ in which a user’s teeth decay and crack, suicidal and homicidal thoughts, and sores, which result from a user picking at their skin because they feel like bugs are crawling all over it.

But it seems that for a large number of young women, one side effect makes all the others worth it – weight loss.

An estimated 30 percent of female meth users take the 'Breaking Bad drug' or do not want to give it up because it helps them to lose weight.

Julie* took up crystal meth as a teenager. She entered a treatment program in her native Canada and was able to quit the drug.

‘She managed to abstain for many, many years,’ said Bob Hughes, the Executive Director of ASK Wellness Centre in British Columbia, who worked with Julie in the program.

After quitting, Julie, now 24, gained 35 pounds (15kg). Her unhappiness about her weight gain was a key factor in her taking the drug up again.

‘She returned heavily back to crystal and a huge part of that was body image,’ said Mr Hughes.

Mr Hughes, who has worked with addicts for many years, says that crystal methamphetamine, which has received significant attention in the last few years due to the television show Breaking Bad, is still a ‘niche drug’.

But it is one that it is seeing a resurgence in recent years, particularly among young women.

Unlike most drugs, which have more male addicts than female ones, Mr Hughes estimates that 60 percent of crystal meth users are female.

‘You’ll find that a lot of young women take it because it suppresses the appetite,’ he said.

Mr Hughes estimates that among young female addicts, 30 percent use the drug, which is a powerful appetite suppressant and allows people to function for days without needing to eat, in part because of its weight loss effects.

His estimation tracks globally. A 2011 study from the Burnet Institute of Medical Research in Australia found that 30 percent of female meth addicts reported that weight loss or weight maintenance was a key factor in them taking the drug.

Because the body has been starved during the period of drug-taking, after someone has kicked their drug habit the body responds by storing fat in anticipation of future periods of starvation. Because of this, ex-addicts, like Julie who gained 35 pounds after quitting, often quickly regain any weight they lost after kicking their meth habit.

For many of these young women, the fear of gaining weight is a serious obstacle to them seeking treatment and a key reason they take up the drug again after quitting, as users try to balance drug use and body image.

‘The thinking is: “I look a lot better when I use crystal, if I can just find that perfect balance between still using, but not using too much,”’ said Mr Hughes.

Methamphetamine has been prescribed by doctors as a weight loss since the 1970s and is still prescribed as a medication for the treatment of ADHD and obesity in the form of the drug Desoxyn (methamphetamine hydrochloride) in the United States. There are strict controls in place around the Desoxyn’s use, which people are told should not be used for more than a few weeks at a time.

A UN report released in 2008 reported that 24.7 million people worldwide used crystal methamphetamine during 2006-2007.

In the English-speaking world, Australia has the highest use of illicit methamphetamine. Around 2.5 percent of Australians over the age of 14 - approximately 500,000 people - used the drug in the last year. This is three times higher than use in the USA and Canada (0.5 percent) and the UK (1 percent).