Why the President warns of a shrinking brain
In his campaign against illegal drugs and criminality, President Rodrigo Duterte always stresses that the use of shabu shrinks the brain so much that this vital and irreplaceable organ can never regain its functionality.
Moreover, those addicted to the substance, even when they have withdrawn, lose much of their humanistic comportment.
As the President pretexts, “You must remember that those who are [already]in shabu for almost one year are [practically]dead. They are the living walking dead … [and]are of no use to society anymore,” likening addicts to zombies as portrayed in the TV series, The Walking Dead.
The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) further released statistics that are very alarming: East and Southeast Asia are the biggest consumers of shabu worldwide; out of 19.6 million drug users, 9.1 million or 47 percent use shabu because of addiction. Globally, there are 246 million drug users, out of which 33.9 million are shabu users. In the Philippines, out of three million drug users, 1.5 million or 50 percent sniff shabu.
Drug addiction can also drive users to commit other crimes—theft, snatching, robbery, rape, pedophilia, arson, homicide, and even murder—to sustain their vices.
Today, The Manila Times Lifestyle takes a closer look at shabu’s danger to the human brain in order to fully grasp why the President has waged war on this very serious menace to society.
What is shabu?
First, it is imperative to define what exactly the substance is.
Methamphetamine or shabu is a white, odorless, bitter-tasting crystalline powder that easily dissolves in water or alcohol.
In comparison to similar stimulants, much higher levels of shabu enter the brain, making it a more potent stimulant drug. It also has longer lasting and more harmful effects on the central nervous system.
Other names of this dreaded substance are speed, meth, and chalk.
Methamphetamine hydrochloride, the crystal form inhaled by smoking, is referred to as ice, crystal, glass, and tina.
How does shabu affect the brain?
When taken repeatedly over time, shabu can produce lasting damage to the nerve cells located in the brain’s pleasure center, as well as nerve cells in other locations, thus diminishing sexual drives for both male and female.
In addition, the drug is known for its damaging effects on support cells in the brain that help protect nerve cells from contagious microorganisms and remove degraded nerve cells from active duty.
Known potential consequences of shabu’s impact on brain health include memory impairment, memory loss, a reduced ability to think clearly or logically, a reduced ability to maintain focus and attention, and a reduced ability to regulate violent or aggressive urges.
The drug’s brain impact can also lead to the highly debilitating state called psychosis, which commonly includes symptoms such as sensory hallucinations, delusional and paranoid thought processes and the abnormal repetition of certain body movements.
Some of the damaging brain effects of chronic shabu use may be permanent, while others may resolve partially if one stops using the drug for extended periods of time.
A study conducted by researchers from three Taiwanese institutions published in Addiction Biology explored the potential role of declining levels of a protein called BDNF in promoting the brain damage found in chronic shabu users and addicts. The protein provides the brain with critical protection by helping nerve cells grow, reach maturity and stay in good working order.
Based on the findings on 59 people diagnosed with shabu users and 59 generally healthy individuals who did not use the drug, the researchers concluded that chronic users may develop particularly severe disruptions in the production of BDNF. In turn, this protein disruption may lead to a decline in nerve cell protection that helps explain the brain damage associated with long-term shabu intake.
Brain and mind damage commonly experienced by a shabu user
Narconon.org elucidates that the brain is constructed to be tough and resilient but it is no match for the toxicity and stress of shabu intake.
Changes occur in a user’s brain that may take years to heal, if they ever come all the way back. Anyone who is going to use this drug needs to understand the risks for permanent injury to body or mind.
Because of the stress on blood vessels, there is an increased risk of stroke for a shabu user. A stroke can result in permanent brain damage or death.
Prolonged shabu use can cause the user to develop symptoms like Parkinson’s disease.
Shabu appears to have a toxic effect directly on the tissues of the brain. Even after a year of abstinence, shabu addicts show impairments in memory, judgment and motor coordination. These changes are thought to result from lasting damage to parts of the brain.
The heavy abuse of shabu can cause lasting changes in personality and intelligence. Especially when combined with cocaine, shabu intake can result in a severe decline in IQ.
A shabu addict can become so disorganized that he is unable to cope with daily life. His risk of becoming aggressive, nervous, irritable, violent, suicidal, delusional or psychotic is very high. Some users suffer from schizophrenia. These mental effects may improve but not disappear even after a person stops taking the drug.
Anxiety, paranoia and depression do not necessarily cease upon withdrawal. After abandonment of this drug, one can suffer from inability to experience any pleasure. This effect alone is enough to send some back to the habit.
Users often experience delusions that they have insects crawling under their skin, causing them to pick at their skin for hours on end, resulting in deep sores. This effect results from changes in the brain that trigger compulsive, repetitive actions like twitching or picking at things.
Warning signs of a shabu user
Signs of shabu use impact a person’s physical and psychological well being and become progressively worse the longer he continues to use the substance. Here are several overlooked physical and behavioral manifestations to watch out for.
Eye twiches. Shabu use effects disrupt the body’s central nervous system functions, which can result to frequent and involuntary muscle and eye twitching.
Emotional instability. The longer a person uses shabu the more imbalanced brain chemical levels become. These effects can cause a person to develop noticeable mood swings that continue to worsen with ongoing drug use. One indication could be uncontrolled laughter after feeling downcast.
Repetitive behavior displays. Shabu causes considerable damage to the brain’s cognitive and movement-coordination regions. After a certain point, users start to engage in repetitive behaviors, such as taking things apart and putting them back together again.
Hyperactivity. As a stimulant-type drug, shabu increases energy levels to the point where a person cannot stop moving for any length of time.
Persistent drug cravings. Once addiction sets in, shabu becomes a vital necessity in a person’s life, much like food and water.
Increasing drug use. Increasing use of shabu, failing to stop, and increasing cravings are signs of dependency. Over time, the brain develops a tolerance to shabu’s effects requiring increasingly larger doses to produce the same desired “high” effects.
Failed attempts to stop usage. Someone who’s made multiple failed attempts to stop using shabu has developed a full-blown addiction to the drug.
Fatigue. With ongoing use, shabu depletes essential neurotransmitter chemicals leaving users in a constant state of fatigue.
Changing priorities. Shabu’s effects on the brain’s reward system warps a person’s overall mindset to the point where getting and using the drug takes top priority in his life.
Weight loss. As one of the most powerful stimulant drugs, shabu eliminates appetite for food, which results in considerable weight loss.
Pinpoint pupils. Shabu’s effects can cause eye pupils to constrict to pinpoints for up to 26 hours after use.
Body odor. The chemicals used to make shabu build up in the body, causing addicts to emit an ammonia-like smell.
Paranoia. Shabu addiction impairs the brain’s ability to reason as well as disrupt a person’s emotional display. These combined effects breed ongoing feelings of paranoia and defensiveness.
Skin irritations. Chronic shabu use eventually dries out the skin, causing addicts to itch and scratch on a continuous basis. Over time, skin surfaces start to develop open sores as a result.
Loss of teeth. Shabu’s damaging effects destroy the teeth and gums over time. Blackened teeth and missing teeth are the result.
Sources: narconon.org, promises.com, timberlineknolls.com, methproject.org
(Next Week: ‘Is there hope left for a shabu addict?’)