Methamphetamine / Crystal Meth

What is Methamphetamine?

Methamphetamine is commonly known as “speed,” “meth,” and “chalk.” In its smoked form, it is often referred to as “ice,” “crystal,” “crank,” and “glass.” It is a white, odorless, bitter-tasting crystalline powder that easily dissolves in water or alcohol. The drug was developed early in this century from its parent drug, amphetamine, and was used originally in nasal decongestants and bronchial inhalers. Methamphetamine’s chemical structure is similar to that of amphetamine, but it has more pronounced effects on the central nervous system. Like amphetamine, it causes increased activity, decreased appetite, and a general sense of well-being. The effects of methamphetamine can last 6 to 8 hours. After the initial “rush,” there is typically a state of high agitation that in some individuals can lead to violent behavior.

Methamphetamine is a Schedule II stimulant, which means it has a high potential for abuse and is available only through a prescription that cannot be refilled. There are a few accepted medical reasons for its use, such as the treatment of narcolepsy, attention deficit disorder, and – for short-term use – obesity; but these medical uses are limited.

What is the scope of methamphetamine abuse in the United States?
Methamphetamine abuse, long reported as the dominant drug problem in the San Diego, CA, area, has become a substantial drug problem in other sections of the West and Southwest, as well. There are indications that it is spreading to other areas of the country, including both rural and urban sections of the South and Midwest. Methamphetamine, traditionally associated with white, male, blue-collar workers, is being used by more diverse population groups that change over time and differ by geographic area.

According to the 2000 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, an estimated 8.8 million people (4.0 percent of the population) have tried methamphetamine at some time in their lives.

Data from the 2000 Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), which collects information on drug-related episodes from hospital emergency departments in 21 metropolitan areas, reported that methamphetamine-related episodes increased from approximately 10,400 in 1999 to 13,500 in 2000, a 30 percent increase. However, there was a significant decrease in methamphetamine-related episodes reported between 1997 (17,200) and 1998 (11,500).

NIDA’s Community Epidemiology Work Group (CEWG), an early warning network of researchers that provides information about the nature and patterns of drug use in major cities, reported in its June 2001 publication that methamphetamine continues to be a problem in Hawaii and in major Western cities, such as San Francisco, Denver, and Los Angeles. Methamphetamine availability and production are being reported in more diverse areas of the country, particularly rural areas, prompting concern about more widespread use.

Drug abuse treatment admissions reported by the CEWG in June 2001 showed that methamphetamine remained the leading drug of abuse among treatment clients in the San Diego area and Hawaii. Stimulants, including methamphetamine, accounted for smaller percentages of treatment admissions in other states and metropolitan areas of the West (e.g., 9 percent in Los Angeles and Seattle and 8 percent in Texas). By comparison, stimulants were the primary drugs of abuse in a smaller percent of treatment admissions in most Eastern and Midwestern metropolitan areas, such as Minneapolis-St. Paul and St. Louis, where they accounted for approximately 3 percent of total admissions, or Baltimore, where no stimulant-related treatment admissions were reported in the first half of 2000.

How is methamphetamine used?
Methamphetamine comes in many forms and can be smoked, snorted, orally ingested, or injected. The drug alters moods in different ways, depending on how it is taken. Immediately after smoking the drug or injecting it intravenously, the user experiences an intense rush or “flash” that lasts only a few minutes and is described as extremely pleasurable. Snorting or oral ingestion produces euphoria – a high but not an intense rush. Snorting produces effects within 3 to 5 minutes, and oral ingestion produces effects within 15 to 20 minutes.

As with similar stimulants, methamphetamine most often is used in a “binge and crash” pattern. Because tolerance for methamphetamine occurs within minutes – meaning that the pleasurable effects disappear even before the drug concentration in the blood falls significantly – users try to maintain the high by binging on the drug.

In the 1980′s, “ice,” a smokable form of methamphetamine, came into use. Ice is a large, usually clear crystal of high purity that is smoked in a glass pipe like crack cocaine. The smoke is odorless, leaves a residue that can be resmoked, and produces effects that may continue for 12 hours or more.

Crystal Meth Fact Sheet

What is the street name/slang term for Crystal Meth?
Ice.

What is Crystal Meth
Crystal Meth is a very pure, smokeable form of methamphetamine. It is an extremely addictive stimulant.

What does it look like?
Clear crystal chunks, like ice.

How is it used?
Usually smoked, sometimes snorted or injected.

What are its short-term effects?
Its effects are similar to those of cocaine but longer lasting. Crystal Meth can cause erratic, violent behavior among its users. Effects include suppressed appetite, interference with sleeping behavior, mood swings and unpredictability, tremors and convulsions, increased blood pressure, irregular heart rate.

What are its long-term effects?
Long-term effects can include coma, stroke or death.

What is its federal classification?
Schedule II