My Life As a Teenage Meth Head

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My Life As a Teenage Meth Head

By Nic Sheff 01/27/12

I’d been warned about heroin but never about meth. For me, it was the most dangerous drug of all.

The monster meth Photo via

I’m not sure if I was living in a bubble or what, but I’d never even really heard of meth before I first tried it in the spring of 2001, when I was 18 years old.

I remember as a kid being warned about heroin. I’d been told, in school or wherever, that heroin was especially dangerous because you could get addicted to it after only trying it one time. And that scared me.

After all, I already knew I had a fairly addictive personality. I’d been smoking pot every day for years, and doing coke and Ecstasy and acid and mushrooms and all sorts of pills. But I never did heroin because I’d been warned about it.

Crystal meth, though, I’d never heard about. I do remember once reading a comic strip where two rednecks with overalls and no shirts were talking back and forth and the punch line was: “Pass the crystal meth.”

By the time I actually did start doing heroin, it felt like nothing compared to crystal meth.

But that was it.

What my friend told me was that we were getting some “speed.” And speed didn’t sound half as exotic and sinister as crystal meth.

So I did it.

To be fair to my friend, however, I insinuated that I’d done it before. He was acting like he didn’t want to be the one to introduce me to it, but that wasn’t that unusual. The guy I did coke with for the first time had acted the same way. 

He didn’t want to be responsible.

And he wasn’t (actually, he was a groomsman at my wedding last summer—so I definitely don’t blame him). We’d been up all night doing acid. My friend had a vial and we were taking hits straight from the bottle on our tongues just to stay awake. 

To get the speed, we drove to his connect in Oakland.

It was this drug dealer called Madame D who operated out of the back of the Mother’s Cookie Factory near the Oakland Coliseum.

The whole thing was like out of some movie. We had to enter a code to get in the gate and then another code to get into the factory. 

At first, I wasn’t even allowed inside. I had to wait in the car.

Later, I became a regular. I’d go in and sit in the waiting room and watch the big TV. One of the assistants/bouncers would come out and offer me a line—“Coke or meth?” they’d ask. A real high-class operation.

Nothing could have prepared me how genuinely life altering and world shattering that first line of speed would be for me.

We crushed it into a powder on a CD case and I snorted it through a cut plastic straw.

Instantly, right when the drug hit me, it was the most incredible feeling I’d ever known in my whole life. I wrote in my memoir, Tweak, that the first thought I had was, “Goddamn, why couldn’t I have been breastfed on this shit?” It felt like what I’d always been missing. It felt like there’d always been this hole inside me, and this was the only thing that was ever going to fill it.

“What the hell is this?” I asked my friend. “What do you call this?”

And that’s when he told me: “It’s crystal meth.”

Well, I spent the next five or so years chasing that initial high.

And I always looked at crystal meth as my drug.

After getting sober, whenever I’d relapse, it was always crystal that I sought to get back to—no matter what other drug my running buddy was doing.

The really ironic thing being that, by the time I actually did start doing heroin, it felt like nothing compared to crystal meth. Sure, it was good for cutting the come down from the meth but between the two, there was no question which one I’d take—every time.

Who wants to feel all numb and nodding out when you can feel like the superhero, the God of your entire world?

Not me.

Of course, when I started doing crystal, my life unraveled so, so quickly.

The half-life of coke is only 30 minutes. Which means that, 30 minutes after doing a line, the drug was half as powerful as it had been. It went through your system quick. You could spend a night doing coke and the next day you’d be back to normal—if normal was hung over.

But the half-life of crystal meth is 12 hours. So it lasts forever. And a little bit goes a long, long way. Plus, it made me crazy and delusional from not eating and staying up for literally five days at a time. 

Also, I’m pretty sure I was an arrogant asshole on the drug. 

An arrogant asshole that needed crystal meth above anything else.

I lied, stole, cheated, hustled, and broke into people’s houses all to get another bag of crystal.

And once I started shooting it—well, everything just got all that much worse (although, if I’d been smoking it, maybe I wouldn’t have any teeth, so at least that’s something).

Basically, it’s a nasty fucking dirty ass drug. 

Eventually, my body started to shut down on it and was doing something called compacting fecal matter (sorry, I know that’s gross), so it was like there was cement in my insides. When I finally got into detox, the doctor told me he was honestly surprised I was even alive. 

You know, I often talk to people about legalization of drugs, which I’m generally for—and I look at as an economic problem, not a moral one. But when I think about crystal meth, I mean, it’s so fucking disgusting, I find I have a hard time defending it. Really it just deserves to be wiped off the face of the earth. It destroyed my life. And it’s destroyed so many people’s lives. There is truly nothing redeeming about it. 

I genuinely regret having ever tried it in the first place.

I know in the 12 steps, they tell us that we shall “not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.” But I regret crystal meth. I regret lying, stealing, cheating and hustling to get it. I regret what it did to me. I regret having never been warned about it. Maybe that will change down the road, but I somehow doubt it.

Nic Sheff is a columnist for The Fix and the author of two memoirs about his struggles with addiction, the New York Times-bestselling Tweak, and We All Fall Down. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, two hound dogs, and a cat and has previously written about selling himself for sex and his father David Sheff's book Beautiful Boy, among many other topics.
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