The term “meth” is short for methamphetamine. Methamphetamine is a highly addictive stimulant that targets a user’s central nervous system.1
Street names for meth include speed or chalk. Methamphetamine hydrochloride, creates chunky crystal like formations and shards, which give the drug the street name “crystal meth,” also known as ice, crank and glass. 2
One of the basic components of meth is ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, which is reduced by combining it with other chemicals to make crystal meth.3 Ephedrine can be found in basic, over-the-counter cold medicines such as Sudafed and Contac.4 The easy availability of these ephedrine-based drugs started a trend in users making their own methamphetamine at home, known as meth labs. However, the proliferate amount of meth labs in the 1980s sparked federal and state scrutiny, which lead to several laws that crack down on the security and sale of the over-the-counter drugs.4 Other over-the-counter items that are also used to make meth include: gasoline additives, rubbing alcohol, ether, and paint thinner.5
Meth can be consumed in different ways including smoking, snorting, injecting into the user’s veins or orally ingested.6
Once meth is consumed, increased, abnormal amounts of the neurotoxins dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin stimulate the brain and central nervous system. This targets the user’s psychological reward system and regulator of pain and pleasure.7
Physiologically, meth affects areas of the user’s body including heart rate, body temperature, blood pressure, appetite, attention, mood, and emotional responses to alertness and alarming conditions or situations.8
Physically and psychologically, there are different short-term and long-term effects, which depend on the way the drug is used and how much is used, and how long it has been used.9 After long-term use, meth’s constant spike of dopamine in the brain changes the way the brain operates by altering the way the body produces dopamine for itself.10
No matter how long it is used, meth (crystal meth, methamphetamine) is highly addictive and leads to devastating consequences.11
There is a range of ways methamphetamine impacts the user.
Psychological and physical effects include:12
- Increased focus and mental alertness
- Elimination of tiredness and fatigue
- Increased energy
- Increased self-esteem and confidence
- Increased sex drive
- Obsessive behaviors
- Decreased appetite, anorexia
- Dry mouth
- Dry and/or itchy skin
- Heart attack
2) “Basic Facts.” MethResources.gov. Date downloaded: June 17, 2010.
3) “Reduction of Ephedrine to Methamphetamine Using Hypophosphorus Acid.” Chemistry Archive. Date downloaded: June 17, 2010.
4) Ling, L. “Meth: The World’s Most Dangerous Drug.” National Geographic Channel. Date downloaded: June 17, 2010.
5) “Meth Ingredients.” Citizens Against Meth. Date downloaded: June 17, 2010.
6) “Research Report Series – Methamphetamine Abuse and Addiction.” National Institute of Drug Abuse. Date downloaded: June 17, 2010.
7) “Brain on Meth.” Hawaii Meth Project. Date downloaded: June 18, 2010.
8) “Physiological Effects of a Methamphetamine Overdose.” American Indian Research Opportunities. Montana State University. Date downloaded: June 17, 2010.
9) “Methamphetamine.” The Partnership for a Drug-Free America. Date downloaded: June 17, 2010.
10) “Chapter 1: Uncovering Meth’s History and Spread.” The Meth Epidemic. Frontline in association with The Oregonian. PBS. Created Feb. 2006. Download date: June 17, 2010.
11) Volkow, N.D., “From the Director,” National Institute on Drug Abuse Research Report Series: Methamphetamine Abuse and Addiction. Download date: June 17, 2010.
12) “Effects.” Wikipedia. Date downloaded: June 17, 2010.