On Crank and Glass

A View From the Bench

By Judge John Tatro

I’ve been a judge for fourteen years and I’ve presided over both civil and criminal cases. Since I started, I have seen the number of methamphetamine-related criminal cases rise dramatically. In the beginning, I would see one or two cases a month. Now, there isn’t a day that goes by when I’m not dealing with at least one person, typically between eighteen and twenty-five years old, who is addicted to methamphetamine.

As a judge, I have attended many educational seminars dealing with methamphetamine and meth’s extremely addictive qualities. I have learned that meth is so powerful many young people become addicted the very first time they use. I have learned that meth causes damage in the user’s brain that is extremely difficult to repair, and affects the nervous system. People who use meth develop sores all over their bodies. It also causes their teeth to rot or turn black, and sometimes even fall out. Users lose dramatic amounts of weight and become extremely paranoid.

I also learned why, with all these horrific side effects, people still continued to use meth. A chemical in the brain called dopamine is released whenever a person experiences something pleasant. Dopamine causes the brain to send feelings of pleasure to the mind and body, and the pleasure you experience directly corresponds to the amount of dopamine your brain releases. When you eat your favorite food, 150 dopamine units are released. When you have sex, 200 dopamine units are released. But when you use methamphetamine, 1050 dopamine units are released–five times more dopamine than is released during sex. Even cocaine use only releases 340 units.

This explains how and why people become addicted. However,  …

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