Methamphetamine: what is it and what happens when it is used?



What is Meth?

Methamphetamine can easily be produced by an amateur chemist in makeshift laboratories set up in a home, motel room or van. Chemicals used to produce methamphetamine are extremely volatile and toxic. Some of the ingredients most commonly used to make meth are over-the-counter cold and asthma medications containing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, red phosphorous, hydrochloric acid, anhydrous ammonia, drain cleaner, battery acid, lye, lantern fuel, and antifreeze. Some recipes call for large amounts of industrial and agricultural chemicals, which are either purchased or stolen. These chemicals are then used in large labs or “super” labs.

What does it look like?

Meth is a crystal-like powdered substance that sometimes comes in large rock-like chunks. When the powder flakes off the rock, the shards look like glass, which is another nickname for meth. Meth is usually white or slightly yellow, depending on the purity.

How is Meth used?

There are four primary methods of ingesting methamphetamines. These are:

  1. “Snorting” – Meth is inhaled through the nose. Meth travels from the lungs into the bloodstream and to the brain. Drug effect takes 3-5 minutes. User experiences a long-term euphoria that can last from 8 to 24 hours.
  2. Smoking – Odorless vapor inhaled through a glass pipe. Meth travels from the lungs into the bloodstream and to the brain. User experiences an intense rush or flash that lasts for a few minutes (extremely pleasurable)
  3. Injecting – A solution of water and meth is injected directly into the bloodstream where it travels to the brain. User experiences an intense rush or flash that lasts for a few minutes similar to smoking.
  4. Ingesting – Meth enters the bloodstream through digestive system. Drug effect takes 15 to 20 minutes. User experiences a long-term euphoria that can last from 8 to 24 hours.

What are the street names/slang terms for methamphetamine?

Chalk, Crank, Croak, Crypto, Crystal, Fire, Glass, Meth, Speed, Tweek, White Cross.

How widespread is methamphetamine addiction?

4.9 million (2.3% of the U.S. population) have tried methamphetamine. 62% of women inmates are behind bars because of a drug related crime. Nearly half of the 62 % cited that meth was their drug of choice. 92% were mothers. The average meth “cook” annually teaches 10 other people how to make the drug.

What are the behavioral effects of methamphetamine addiction?

  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Change in friends
  • Disinterest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Increased activity
  • Long periods of sleeplessness (24-120 hours)
  • Long periods of sleep (24-48 hours)
  • Incessant talking
  • Irritability
  • Twitching and shaking
  • Itching
  • Decreased appetite
  • Erratic attention span
  • Repetitious behavior, such as picking at skin, pulling out hair, compulsively cleaning, grooming or disassembling and assembling objects
  • Aggression or violent behavior
  • False sense of confidence and power
  • Carelessness about appearance
  • Deceit or secretiveness

What are the physical effects of methamphetamine addiction?

  • Weight loss
  • Abnormal sweating
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nasal problems or nosebleeds
  • Sores that do not heal
  • Dilated pupils
  • Burns on lips or fingers
  • Track marks on arms
  • Rapid heart beat
  • Severe tooth decay
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Hypothermia
  • Inflammation of heart lining
  • Skin abscesses
  • Methamphetamine reduces serotonin (neurotransmitter) levels, creating radical mood swings
  • Long-term use can result in permanent depression and feelings of guilt
  • Convulsions
  • Lead poisoning – lead acetate can be used in meth production and cause poisoning
  • Damage dopamine-producing cells in the brain
  • Prenatal complications
  • Premature delivery, congenital deformities

Meth is addictive, and users can develop a tolerance quickly, needing larger amounts to get high. In some cases, users forego food and sleep and take more meth every few hours for days, ‘binging’ until they run out of the drug or become too disorganized to continue. Chronic use can cause paranoia, hallucinations, repetitive behavior (such as compulsively cleaning, grooming or disassembling and assembling objects), and delusions of parasites or insects crawling under the skin. Users can obsessively scratch their skin to get rid of these imagined insects. Long-term use, high dosages, or both can bring on full-blown toxic psychosis (often exhibited as violent, aggressive behavior). This violent, aggressive behavior is usually coupled with extreme paranoia. Meth can also cause strokes and death.

Are there other problems that can occur from methamphetamine addiction?

In all cases of meth use, a user may experience a loss of inhibitions and a false sense of control and confidence, which can lead to dangerous behavior. The risk of injury from chemical exposure depends on the chemical itself, the concentration, the quantity, and the length and route of exposure. Chemicals may enter the body by being breathed, eaten, injected (by a contaminated needle or accidental skin prick), or absorbed by the skin.

Children found living in a home with a meth lab experience conditions where they are commonly malnourished, improperly clothed, and neglected. Many of these children test positive for having methamphetamine in their bodies. This is due to the access they have to the drug or exposure to second-hand smoke, resulting from a cook or a user smoking in close proximity to a child.

What have you behaviors have you seen associated with a loved one’s Methamphetamine use?

What has been helpful in overcoming a loved one’s dependence upon Methamphetamine use?