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Drug cycles

Robert F. Hickey

Having been involved in the treatment, research, and education of substance abuse, I found Ms. Rice’s piece (May 12) on methamphetamine most interesting. The present level of meth use is not uncommon historically. During the 1970s and 1980s, I was involved in treating hundreds of meth users. As with all drugs of abuse, use patterns are cyclical. We can trace these cyclical patterns as far back as the mid-19 century in the U.S.

Clearly, methamphetamines are dangerous for several reasons, including physical and mental deterioration, quick onset of physical and psychological dependence, and drastic personality changes.

One of the most dangerous aspects of meth use is what is referred to as “credibility of the illicit drug market.” That is, the quality of the meth which is usually produced in clandestine labs is suspect. We have no idea of the cleanliness of meth produced in bathtubs or garage labs. Frequently, the meth available on the street today is adulterated with numerous dangerous substances.



Nevertheless, the present meth cycle is just that, a cycle. We have seen it with opium in the 19th century, morphine during and after the Civil War, heroin at various times throughout the 20th century, hallucinogens in cyclical patterns since the 1950s, several incarnations of designer drugs since the 1970s, and various types of prescription and over-the-counter medications.

Substance abuse of all types will continue forever. We will always see cyclical patterns of abuse. We will always have drugs of the moment emerging. Methamphetamine, although being around for years and widely abused, is now a drug of the moment – just as PCP, LSD, heroin and cocaine have been under the spotlight in the past and will be again in the future.



Robert F. Hickey


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