The Agony and Ecstasy of Synthetic Drugs

More than 30 million people use amphetamine, methamphetamine (meth), or ecstasy at least once a year – more than the combined number of those who take cocaine and heroin. And, despite success in combating the problem in the developed world, the speed epidemic is spreading rapidly in developing countries.

NEW YORK – The world is speeding up. Communications, travel, and productivity are increasing. For some people, synthetic drugs have become a way to deal with today’s fast and competitive times.

Around the world, in order to enhance performance, people are popping pills and powder known as amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS). From ravers in all-night discos to assembly-line workers or long-haul truckers, more than 30 million people use amphetamine, methamphetamine (meth), or ecstasy at least once a year – more than the combined number of those who take cocaine and heroin. The global market for these stimulants is estimated at $65 billion.

Part of the attraction of these synthetic drugs is that they are readily available, affordable, and convenient to use (no need to shoot up, snort, or smoke). Amphetamines speed up the way the body works: users experience increased confidence, sociability, and energy. This buzz is considered harmless: “pills do not kill or spread HIV/AIDS,” it is said.

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