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What Is Methamphetamine?


Updated May 16, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

What is Meth?
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Question: What Is Methamphetamine?
Answer: Methamphetamine is a white, odorless, bitter-tasting crystalline powder that is a potent, highly addictive stimulant that affects the central nervous system.

Meth - also known as ice, chalk, crystal and many other street names - is easily dissolved in water or alcohol, therefore is very easy to abuse by injection.

Methamphetamine was originally developed for use in nasal decongestants and bronchial inhalers. Meth differs from its parent drug amphetamine because at similar doses much greater amounts of methamphetamine make it into the brain, making it a more powerful stimulant.

It is also longer lasting than amphetamine and cause more harmful effects on the central nervous system.

Because of its high potential for abuse, methamphetamine is classified as a Schedule II stimulant, meaning it is legally available only through a nonrefillable prescription. Although it can be legally prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and a component in short-term weight-loss programs, it is rarely prescribed.

When it is prescribed, the dosages are much lower than those typically abused, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Back to: Methamphetamine FAQ


National Institute on Drug Abuse. "Methamphetamine." Research Report Series Updated September 2013

The Partnership at DrugFree.org. "Methamphetamine." Drug Guide. Accessed March 2014.

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