Methamphetamine, also known as “meth,” “speed,” “crank,” or “ice,” is a powerful and highly addictive stimulant that affects the central nervous system. Meth is a synthetic drug produced or sold as pills, capsules or powder that can be smoked, snorted, injected or swallowed. Meth is accessible in many different forms and varies in color from white to brown. Most meth comes in a powder form resembling granulated crystals or in the rock form known as “ice.”
Meth is a neurotoxin, meaning it damages the nervous system. Meth use can cause dependence and addiction psychosis, stroke, dangerously high body temperature, and cardiac arrhythmia. Withdrawal often results in severe depression and paranoia.
Methamphetamine gives its users a boost of energy and causes them to feel more alert. It also acts as an appetite suppressant.
Smoking or injecting meth will cause an intense rush almost immediately, while snorting the drug results in about a 5 minute delay. Those who take Meth orally won’t notice its’ effects for about 20 minutes. Meth causes a release of high levels of dopamine into the section of the brain that controls the feeling of pleasure.
Negative side effects of meth include convulsions, dangerously high body temperature, stroke, cardiac arrhythmia, stomach cramps and shaking. Chronic use of meth can result in a tolerance for the drug. Long term users often try to intensify the desired effects by taking higher doses, taking it more frequently or changing their method of ingestion. Some abusers will refrain from eating or sleeping for days while they binge, or “run”, on meth. During these episodes, an user may inject as much as a gram of meth every 2-3 hours for several days until they run out of the drug or are too dazed to function.
Chronic meth abuse can lead to psychotic behavior including intense paranoia, hallucinations, and out-of-control rage that can result in violent episodes. It isn’t uncommon for chronic users to develop sores on their bodies where they have scratched at what are called “crank bugs.” This is a term used to describe a common delusion that bugs are crawling under the skin. Insomnia and anxiety are also common.
After meth use is stopped, several withdrawal symptoms can occur, including depression, anxiety, fatigue, paranoia, aggression and an intense craving for the drug. Psychotic symptoms can sometimes persist for months or years after an addict has stopped using meth.
Chronic meth abuse can result in inflammation of the heart lining. Those who inject meth could notice damaged blood vessels and skin abscesses. Chronic meth users progressively lose their ability to relate to others socially.
Hypothermia and convulsions can occur when an user overdoses and, if not treated immediately, can result in death. Research has shown that as much as half of the dopamine-producing cells, or “feel good” chemicals, in the brain can be damaged by prolonged exposure to relatively low levels of meth. Also, serotonin-containing nerve cells may be damaged more extensively, leading to long-term sleep deprivation.
Meth use during pregnancy can cause prenatal complications such as increased rates of premature delivery and altered neonatal behavior patterns, such as abnormal reflexes and extreme irritability. It could also be linked to congenital deformities.
Meth can easily be manufactured in clandestine laboratories (meth labs) using ingredients purchased in local stores. Over the counter cold medicines containing ephedrine or pseudo ephedrine and other materials are “cooked” in meth labs to make meth.
The manufacture of meth has a severe impact on the environment. The production of one point of meth releases poisonous gas into the atmosphere and creates 5-7 lbs of toxic waste. Many lab operators dump the toxic waste down household drains, in fields and yards or on rural roads.
Due to the toxic waste created by meth, many first responders are injured by hazardous materials. The most common symptoms are respiratory problems, eye irritation, headaches, dizziness, nausea and shortness of breath.
Some meth labs are now portable and can be easily dismantled, stored or moved. This portability helps meth manufacturers avoid law enforcement authorities. Meth labs have been found in many different types of locations, including apartments, hotel rooms, rented storage spaces and trucks. Meth labs have been known to be booby trapped and lab operators are often well armed.