Methamphetamine Basics

Methamphetamine is a schedule II narcotic by federal classification. Its chemical makeup is n-methyl-1-phenyl-propan-2-amine, labeled methamphetamine, methyl amphetamine, or desoxyephedrine. Methamphetamine is a highly-addictive drug that stimulates the central nervous system, being similar in effect and creation to the drug amphetamine. Prescribed use of methamphetamine is limited to one fill, with a new prescription being necessary to obtain additional supplies. There are few medicinal uses of the drug, and it is infrequently prescribed, due to its many dangerous side effects, along with its tendency to become quickly addictive in the user. Most commonly, it is prescribed for treatment of ADHD, obesity and sometimes narcolepsy.

Discovered in 1887, amphetamine became methamphetamine in 1893 when it was first formulated with ephedrine by Nagai Nagayoshi. It was transformed into its current powdered use in 1919 by a pharmacologist who introduced his method of using red phosphorous and iodine to restructure the compound.

Methods of taking methamphetamine are through injection, orally, by snorting a powdered form of the drug, or by smoking.

Street Names for Meth

Methammphetamine is known by a number of names on the street. Here are some examples:

  • meth
  • crystal meth
  • ice
  • Tina
  • glass
  • chalk
  • crank
  • crypto
  • croak
  • fire
  • tweek
  • go-fast
  • hot ice
  • poor man's cocaine
  • uppers

Appearance

Methamphetamine is a sparkly, crystal-appearing rock structure that can be ground into powder and, when flaked, looks like small shards of glass. It is dissolvable in water or alcohol and is sometimes taken by drinking a dissolved mixture. There is no identifiable odor to the drug, although there are numerous odors associated with its manufacture, which can be housed in illegal home/garage types of laboratories.

Methamphetamine operates on the brain by producing a surge of dopamine production, giving the user a sense of euphoria, lasting up to 12 hours, depending on the method of use and the amount. The sense of well-being produced becomes a letdown when the effects of the drug wear off, creating the desire to repeat usage, and developing into habitual, then chronic, use. As the dependency on the drug deepens, side effects begin to become more pronounced and recognizable in the user. Both the euphoria and the subsequent depression are strengthened and deepened by increased amounts and escalated use.

Side Effects

Side effects of methamphetamine are numerous and become horrific. They initially appear in the form of elation, high energy, a feeling or appearance of alertness and high self-esteem, and rapid speech and movement patterns. These can quickly become mania, intense emotional disregulation and hallucinations, clenching of the jaw, and nervous chatter, accompanied by physical “tics.” These tics may become uncontrollable, as the central nervous system becomes overwhelmed with stimuli brought on by large doses and repeated use of methamphetamine.

Increased heart rate and irregular rhythm occur, as well as profuse sweating, itchy skin, rapid breathing, and constriction of blood vessels. Also high blood pressure, low blood pressure, anorexia, diarrhea, constipation, insomnia, and tremors are commonly seen in methamphetamine users. Heart disease, brain dysfunction, anxiety, psychosis, extreme agitation, hallucinations, malnourishment and severe weight loss, as well as violent behaviors often accompany long-term use of methamphetamine.

Abusers will begin to show signs of dental decay, including loss of teeth, rotting or broken teeth that are severely discolored, jaw dislocation and deterioration of the facial structure due to bone loss, scarring of face and other body areas due to compulsive “picking” of the skin. This is caused by skin drying and sensation of “crawling” just beneath the surface of the skin, followed by scratching and tearing with fingernails and other implements to stop the sensation. Click here to see before and after pics of meth users.

Withdrawal

Withdrawal symptoms will include increased irritability, depression, fearfulness or paranoia, extreme loss of energy and inertia, tremors, increased appetite, lack of interest in otherwise enjoyed activities, headaches, exhaustion, and anxiety. These increase after prolonged use. When long-term abuse is terminated, there may be signs of suicidal ideation and attempts, along with severe and marked depression caused by sudden depletion of dopamine, serotonin, and changes in brain chemistry.

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Long-term and/or permanent damage caused by methamphetamine use and abuse is most prominent in the brain chemistry that is altered for up to a year after use has ceased completely. The receptors damaged by overstimulation recover and balance is restored for the most part. However, long-term damage has been done to the cognitive parts of the brain that control functions of memory, regulation of movement and speech, as well as a loss of attention span. A long-term psychotic condition resembling schizophrenia has been recognized in more than 20 percent of methamphetamine abusers, lasting up to six months after stopping use completely.

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