Breaking Bad 2018

Breaking Bad 2018 by Lynn R. Webster @LynnRWebsterMD

TV’s Hit Show “Breaking Bad” Glamorized Meth Abuse

The television hit show, Breaking Bad, lionized the idea of making and selling meth. A high school teacher who was dying of lung cancer wanted to leave his family enough funds to live, and he chose drug dealing as a way to achieve his goal. The show ran during the 2008-2013 TV seasons and was regarded by some as the greatest television show of all time.

Meth is short for methamphetamine and was discovered in 1876 by a Romanian chemist. During WWII, the drug was used by both sides to keep soldiers awake and minimize fatigue. Following the war, abuse reached an epidemic level in the U.S. and became regulated in the Controlled Substance Act of 1970. In legal jargon, it is often considered a narcotic, but it is not an opioid.

A Dramatic Increase in the Use of Methamphetamine

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 1.4 million Americans over age 12 reported using meth in 2016. A dramatic increase occurred as the number of opioids prescribed began to decrease in 2014. Although methamphetamine abuse gets less media attention than the opioid problem, there are more than 400,000 people in the United States who are addicted to methamphetamine, and the cost to the U.S. healthcare system is more than $20 billion dollars annually.

According to Journalist’s Resource, the number of methamphetamine overdose deaths more than doubled between 2010 and 2014, from 1,400 to nearly 4,000. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reports that methamphetamine is increasingly laced with potentially deadly fentanyl and may contribute to some of the methamphetamine-related deaths.

Given the potential dire outcome, I asked someone why he continued to use meth.  He asked whether I was familiar with the “Lord of the Rings.”  He compared his need for meth with Gollum or Smeagol’s obsession for “My Precious,” referring to the the mythical ring with extraordinary power.

Meth is a highly addictive stimulant that may be snorted, injected, or smoked. In many parts of the U.S., it is the most commonly abused drug after alcohol and marijuana. Chemically similar to amphetamine, it can be a legitimate medical treatment for ADHD, narcolepsy, and weight reduction. Sometimes referred to by such street names as ice, crystal, meth, speed, crank, chalk, uppers, and go-go juice, methamphetamine is unlike both alcohol and cannabis in that it is a synthetic drug.

Unfortunately, it’s relatively easy to produce the chemical using supplies available at any drugstore. For that reason, some states have passed regulations that require retailers to place the key ingredients behind the counter, sell them only to customers who are willing to produce identification, and to limit the amount that can be purchased. Still, methamphetamine can be easily obtained illegally.

Babies and Methamphetamine 

Babies who are exposed to methamphetamine through their mothers during pregnancy are often referred to by the pejorative phrase “meth babies.” It is unfair to label babies and attach a stigma to them that may remain for years. In addition, it’s false to claim that newborns can be addicted to methamphetamine or any other substance.

That said, approximately 19,000 methamphetamine users are pregnant women. According to The Recovery Village, meth addiction is one of the most common reasons pregnant mothers seek drug treatment. A mother’s use of methamphetamine during pregnancy can put her baby at risk of death or health challenges including low birth weight, cleft palate, delayed motor and cognitive development, and more.

Treatment for Methamphetamine Addiction

More than 100,000 patients are admitted annually to U.S. treatment centers for methamphetamine abuse, but the National Institute of Health (NIH) states that the only treatments for meth addiction are counseling and behavioral therapy. The success of these treatments has been far from adequate.

There is an urgent and growing need for a more effective treatment for meth addiction. Fortunately, National Institutes of Health (NIH) is supporting a new company, InterveXion Therapeutics, that is developing a new pharmacologic treatment. Hopefully, they will be able to provide Americans with the first pharmacologic treatment for this terrible addiction in the near future. If you know of someone who would be interested in learning more about the research, go the FDA website for more information. Clinical trials are currently underway.



  1. John D. Waldron on June 10, 2018 at 9:54 pm

    Great info!:)-John in Austin:)

Leave a Comment