Editor's note: Although drug use has plagued Americans for years, the introduction of methamphetamine into the drug culture kicked addiction to new levels. The Shawnee News Star has partnered with sister papers, The Ardmoreite, Ardmore, Okla., and The Oak Ridger, Oak Ridge, Tenn., to give our readers an in-depth look in this three-part series at how this drug works and the cost and effect it has on our families and communities.
Methamphetamines are a terribly addictive drug. They can take a normal person and turn him or her into an addict in a matter of months.
Josh*, 31, is a recovering meth addict.
"I never planned on being a junkie," he said. "But it happens."
Josh began using meth at about 16 years old, after drinking for a few years. He said alcohol acted as his gateway drug into meth.
He started with smoking and snorting meth, but eventually began shooting up with needles as well.
"I was addicted to a lot of things," Josh said. "But I think that meth was probably a couple of notches up."
Because meth is so easy to become addicted to, it doesn't take long to form the addiction, he said.
"I just remember the high felt so good," Josh said of the first time he took meth. "It's sort of like an instant chase."
Meth becomes the most important thing in your life, he added.
"It's not about being a principled person at that point, it's about getting your next fix," Josh said.
"You become willing to steal from people to get what you need, if that's what you have to do," he added. "All the laws are broken in pursuit of that high."
Worries about health and wellbeing fall to the wayside as well. People become willing to share needles, even if they are aware this can spread Hepatitis C, Josh said.
You can get involved thinking you'll never share a needle, Josh said. "But that's garbage, because you will," he added.
"If you've got stuff there and there's only one needle, you're going to be willing to share," Josh said.
Other problems accompany this type of drug abuse, like weight loss and rampant paranoia.
The paranoia would make him crazy, Josh said. He would hear voices, and sometimes entire conversations, while high on meth.
In addition to the paranoia, many people will carry weapons when dealing meth to help protect themselves from having their meth stolen, Josh said. This makes for a scary situation.
"You know somebody's got a gun in there and you're sharing needles with people you don't even know," he said. "It's a pretty rough way of life."
"I'm not really that bad of a dude, but you kind of just become what the drug wants you to be," Josh added.
It became difficult for him to hold down a job, or to be in any social situation, so Josh began isolating himself from others.
"I just didn't want to be around anybody, because it's so obvious," he said.
Josh isn't sure what made him want to stop using this time.
"I think I was just tired of the chase," Josh said. "It's not any life I want to live."
"Initially it's fun," he added. "But it's just existing. It's not living."
While he isn't sure of any specific problems he will have in the future, Josh knows the consequences his extended meth usage likely had on him.
"I do realize what I've done to my body," he said. "I'm not going to get away scot-free."
Josh encouraged anyone who is using meth to get involved in a recovery program.
"You can get better," he said. "It's going to take some effort on your part, and it's going to be uncomfortable."