Introduction to Crystal Meth
Methamphetamines, or crystal meth, creates paranoia and hallucinations and can lead to toxic psychosis. It is a psychoactive stimulant that can increase alertness, concentration, and energy. It can induce euphoria and enhance self-esteem. Given its activation of dopamine and serotonin in the brain, meth has a high potential for abuse and addiction – some addicts would choose death over abstinence from the drug. During the early 1990’s the use of crystal meth by high school students doubled.
Crystal methamphetamine was first synthesized by Alkira Ogata in 1919. By 1943, Abbott Laboratories requested approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of narcolepsy, mild depression, chronic alcoholism, and hay fever. It was approved for all these uses but later these approvals were removed. The only two remaining approved marketing indications are for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and short-term management of obesity.
Around the time Abbot Laboratories received approval from the FDA, meth was being distributed and used by Axis and Allied forces. During World War II, the German military distributed millions of capsules of crystal meth to its soldiers under the trade name Pervitin. In Japan, it was distributed for civilian and military use under the trade name Philopon. In neither case were the side effects well studied before distribution and hence, the soldiers essentially became the first test cases. This eventually resulted in tighter regulation of the drug.
At the end of World War II, large quantities of unused crystal meth remained, particularly in Japan. The stockpiles flooded the civilian market and when banned in 1951, the Yakuza criminal organization began producing and selling the additive product to Japanese consumers. Several years later, United Sates’ consumers learned how to make the drug in their own homes and “meth labs” began to appear around the country. Using over the counter drugs such as Sudafed and Contac, crystal meth could be produced by extracting ephedrine or pseudoephedrine from the drug and processing it to create methamphetamines. As a result, additional U.S. federal laws were introduced in an attempt to curtail the growing problem.
What crystal meth looks like
Crystal meth may look like a white powder but most commonly it is obtained in clear crystal chunks, similar in appearance to actual ice or glass. Crystal meth is odorless and colorless.
Effects of methamphetamines on the user
Physical effects can include anorexia, hyperactivity, dilated pupils, flushing, restlessness, dry mouth, headache, tachycardia, bradycardia, tachypnea, hypertension, hypotension, hyperthermia, diaphoresis, diarrhea, constipation, blurred vision, dizziness, twitching, insomnia, numbness, palpitations, arrhythmias, tremors, dry and/or itchy skin, acne, pallor, and, with chronic and/or high doses, convulsions, heart attack, stroke, and death can occur.
Psychological effects can include euphoria, anxiety, increased libido, alertness, concentration, energy, self-esteem, self-confidence, sociability, irritability, aggression, psychosomatic disorders, psychomotor agitation, grandiosity, excessive feelings of power and invincibility, repetitive and obsessive behaviors, paranoia, and with chronic and/or high doses, amphetamine psychosis can occur.
Crystal meth can cause erratic, violent behavior too.
The high that results can last as long as 12 hours.
Long term effects of crystal meth use
Long term effects include brain damage, coma, stroke, or even death. It can lead to distinct physical characteristics too including weight loss, cracked and blackened teeth (meth mouth), psychosis and hallucinations, sores on the body, and formicating (a skin sensation akin to bugs crawling on the skin).
Meth users lose their teeth abnormally fast. As of the 1990’s, it was not entirely clear why or how this happens. Doctors supposed it’s an acidic reaction between the drug and the teeth, but it may also be related to the dry mouth effect the drug produces or psychological changes that cause the user to ignore normal oral hygiene practices. Regardless, “meth mouth” is almost always a physical effect that long-term users experience.
How crystal meth is taken
Intravenous injection is the fastest way to introduce the drug into the body. It also produces the most intense rush, a euphoric high, typically within seconds of the injection. Injecting meth is called “slamming”, “banging”, “shooting up”, or “mainlining”. It also carries greater risk than other forms of drug administration. Using a hypodermic needle, the user will take from 100 milligrams to over a gram of the drug. The risk of “speed bumps” or skin rashes as well as blood borne diseases is high.
Smoking amphetamine or crystal meth does not mean to burn the drug and inhale the smoke but rather, the drug is heated to vaporize it and the user will inhale the fumes. It’s commonly smoked in glass pipes or off aluminum foil. This is known as “chasing the white dragon”. Lung damage has been reported from long-term use.
Methamphetamine can also be snorted. The user crushes the meth into a fine powder and then sharply inhales it through the nose. The drug is absorbed into the soft tissue in the mucous membrane and enters the blood stream. It also gives the user a fast rush.
The drug may also be inserted into the anus or vagina in a method known as “butt rocket”, a “booty bump”, “potato thumping”, “turkey basting”, “plugging”, “keistering”, “shafting”, “bumming” and “shelving” (vaginal). The drug enters the bloodstream through the membrane walls of the anus or vagina. This method results in a longer lasting high.
Crystal Meth Addiction
Withdrawal symptoms of methamphetamine primarily consist of mental fatigue, mental depression and an increased appetite. Symptoms may last for days with occasional use and weeks or months with chronic use, with severity dependent on the length of time and the amount of methamphetamine used. Withdrawal symptoms may also include anxiety, agitation, excessive sleep, vivid or lucid dreams, deep REM sleep and suicidal thoughts.
How crystal meth is made
Crystal meth is commonly made by the reduction of ephedrine or pseudoephedrine. Most of the necessary chemicals are readily available in household products or over-the-counter cold or allergy medicines. Synthesis is relatively simple, but entails risk with flammable and corrosive chemicals, particularly the solvents used in extraction and purification. Clandestine production is therefore often discovered by fires and explosions caused by the improper handling of volatile or flammable solvents. The most common method for small-scale methamphetamine labs in the United States is primarily called the “Red, White, and Blue Process”, which involves red phosphorus, pseudoephedrine or ephedrine (white), and blue iodine (which is technically a purple color in elemental form), from which hydroiodic acid is formed.
Methamphetamine labs can give off noxious fumes, such as phosphine gas, methylamine gas, solvent vapors, acetone or chloroform, iodine vapors, white phosphorus, anhydrous ammonia, hydrogen chloride/muriatic acid, hydrogen iodide, lithium/sodium metal, ether, or methamphetamine vapors. If performed by amateurs, manufacturing methamphetamine can be extremely dangerous. If the red phosphorus overheats, because of a lack of ventilation, phosphine gas can be produced. This gas is highly toxic and, if present in large quantities, is likely to explode upon autoignition from diphosphine, which is formed by overheating phosphorus.
Common street names for crystal meth
- Biker’s coffee
- Black beauties
- Chicken feed
- Hot Ice
- L.A. Glass
- L.A. Ice
- Methlies Quick
- Nazi dope
- Poor man’s cocaine
- Slim fast
- Stove top
- Speed (normally used to refer to amphetamines outside the methyl group)
- Super ice
- Tina (in the gay community)
- Yellow Bam
Image CreditsHomeless woman struggling with a crystal meth addiction via Flickr by Gilbert Mercier with usage type - Creative Commons License
Distillery lab equipment via Flickr by Frank Guber with usage type - Creative Commons License
Crystal meth rock via Wikipedia Commons by Psychonaught with usage type - Creative Commons License
Desoxyn (methamphetamine) 5 mg tablets via Wikipedia Commons by US Department of Justice with usage type - Public Domain
Crystal methamphetamine via Wikipedia Commons with usage type - Public Domain
Meth mouth via Wikipedia Commons with usage type - GNU Free
Pervitindose Pervitin, l-phenyl-2-methylamino-propan 1939 via Wikipedia Commons by Jan Wellen with usage type - Creative Commons License. 2012
Macro shot of Crystal Methamphetamine via Wikipedia Commons by Radspunk with usage type - GNU Free