Drug Dictionary Series: Methamphetamine



What is it?

Methamphetamine, commonly shortened to meth, is a synthetic stimulant. It is chemically similar to amphetamine, a drug used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy. Meth is commonly manufactured in illegal and hidden laboratories. Many mix various forms of the stimulant amphetamine or other derivatives to boost its potency.

Pseudoephedrine, a common ingredient found in cold and allergy medicines, is used as the basis for the production of the drug. Meth cooks combine pseudoephedrine with other chemicals, such as battery acid, drain cleaner, lantern fuel, and antifreeze. These chemicals are potentially explosive and because the meth cooks are users and commonly disoriented, there is high risk for burns and explosions. These illegal labs also create a lot of toxic waste. One pound of methamphetamine produces over five pounds of waste. Exposure to the waste can cause poisoning and sickness.

To limit production, the law requires pharmacies and other retail stores who sell cold medicine to keep a purchase record of products containing pseudoephedrine. A person can only buy a limited amount of these products on a single day.

What does it look like?

Regular meth is a pill or powder. Crystal meth resembles glass fragments or shiny blue-white “rocks” of various sizes.

What are some other names for it?

Methamphetamine is also called Batu, Beannies, Bikers Coffee, Black Beauties, Blade, Brown, Chalk, Chicken Feed, Cinnamon, Crink, Crank, Cristy, Crystal, Crystal glass, Crypto, Fast, Getgo, Glass, Go-Fast, Hiropon, Hot ice, Ice, Meth, Methlies Quick, Mexican Crack, Quartz, Poor Man’s Cocaine, Shabu, Shards, Speed, Stove Top, Tick Tick, Tina, Trash, Tweak, Uppers, Ventana, Vidrio, Wash, Yaba, Yellow Bam, and Yellow Powder.

How is it used?

Methamphetamine can be used by inhaling/smoking, swallowing (in pill form), snorting, or injecting the powder that has been dissolved in water/alcohol. The high from meth starts and fades very quickly, causing many people to take repeated doses in a “binge and crash” way. When binging occurs several days in a row, it’s called a “run.” A run results in an individual giving up food and sleep while continuing to take the drug every few hours.

What are the effects of the drug?

Short-Term Effects:

  • Increased wakefulness and physical activity
  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased respiration
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Increased blood pressure and body temperature

Long-Term Effects:

  • Increased risk of contracting infectious diseases, such as HIV and hepatitis B and C (if injected)
  • Altered judgment and decision-making
  • Cognitive problems (thinking, understanding, learning, and memory)
  • Extreme weight loss
  • Severe dental problems (“meth mouth”)
  • Intense itching, leading to skin sores from scratching
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Sleeping issues
  • Violent behavior
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Reduced coordination and impaired verbal learning (due to changes in the brain’s dopamine system)
  • Increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease

Timeline of Meth Use:

1) The Rush: Increased blood pressure, increased pulse, and heart beat races. A rush can last up to thirty minutes (in comparison to crack cocaine where a rush lasts 2-5 minutes).

2) The High: Sometimes called “the shoulder,” a high is when the user feels aggressively smarter and more argumentative. Many times, the user will interrupt others and finish sentences. There may be a delusional effect where a user becomes focused on one item (such as sweeping the floor for hours). The high can last four to sixteen hours.

3) The Binge: The binge is an uncontrolled use of a drug or alcohol while continuously using the drug. The binge can last three to fifteen days.

4) Tweaking: Tweaking occurs at the end of the drug binge when meth is no longer providing a rush or a high. At this point, a user may get an intense urge to itch (they believe bugs are crawling under their skin). Tweaking may cause loss of sleep for days at a time, and psychosis may occur.

5) The Crash: The crash occurs when the body shuts down and may result in a long period of sleep. The user may be almost lifeless during this period. The crash can last one to three days.

6) Meth Hangover: After the crash, the user enters a physically exhausted phase where he/she is starved, dehydrated, and deteriorated. This stage lasts two to fourteen days and can lead to additional abuse of meth, as users see meth as a solution for this exhaustion.

7) Withdrawal: Many times, thirty to ninety days pass after the last drug use before the abuser realizes that he is in withdrawal. First, the abuser is depressed, then craves more meth. Many times, the user can become suicidal.

What is its federal classification?

Methamphetamine is a Schedule II stimulant under the Controlled Substances Act, which means that it has a high potential for abuse and limited medical use. It is available only through a prescription that cannot be refilled. Today there is only one legal meth product, Desoxyn®. It is currently marketed in 5-milligram tablets and has very limited use in the treatment of obesity and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Where can I find more information on it?