Pubdate: Sun, 24 Oct 2004
Source: Montgomery Advertiser (AL)
Copyright: 2004 The Advertiser Co.
Author: Bill Poovey, The Associated Press
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)
Note: Letters from the newspaper's circulation area receive publishing priority


CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. - Doctors and government officials don't like to
talk much about it, but there's an obvious reason people get hooked on
methamphetamine: sex.

The drug eventually destroys the sex drive, but doctors say for a
short while meth can boost sexual appetite and performance -- in a way
that's much stronger than stimulants such as cocaine.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Laymon said he has interviewed hundreds
of meth users, and a startling number -- men and women -- say the drug
enhances sexual performance and desire.

"Who wouldn't want to use it? You lose weight and you have great sex,"
Laymon said recently at a meeting of Tennessee's meth task force.

For obvious reasons, government officials, facing an epidemic of meth
abuse in rural Appalachia, want to focus on the misery meth causes and
not its aphrodisiac effect.

But Dr. Mary Holley, an obstetrician who runs a Mothers Against
Methamphetamine ministry across the state line in Albertville, said
sex is the "No. 1 reason" people use the drug.

"When you first start using this stuff it makes you want sex all the
time," Holley said.

The effect doesn't last long.

"After you have been using it about six months or so you can't have
sex unless you are high," Holley said. "After you have been using it a
little bit longer you can't have sex even when you're high."

Dr. John Standridge, an addiction specialist with the Council for
Alcohol and Drug Abuse Services in Chattanooga, said meth and other
stimulants initially "rev up the dopamine nervous system in the brain.
They rev it up and burn it out."

Meth users can never recapture the feeling of that initial high, but
they keep trying in "a vicious downward spiral," Standridge said.

"It's the same way with sexual arousal. At first, users report greater
sexual arousal and prolonged stamina, and if they are of the right
personality they get into compulsive sexuality."

Its sex appeal is part of why meth is so hard to fight.

Holley, who has interviewed men and women addicted to the drug, said
it stimulates the "pleasure center" in the brain.

"Methamphetamine makes a direct hit on the nucleus accumbens with its
favorite chemical, dopamine," she said. "The effect of an IV hit of
methamphetamine is the equivalent of 10 orgasms all on top of each
other lasting for 30 minutes to an hour, with a feeling of arousal
that lasts for another day and a half."

Holley said the body "doesn't have enzymes to metabolize this stuff,
so the dopamine high lasts for 20 hours. That is 10 times longer than
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