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Basic Facts About Methamphetamine

A Highly Addictive Stimulant

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Updated April 22, 2014

Methamphetamine is closely related chemically to amphetamine, but the central nervous system effects of methamphetamine are greater. Both drugs have some medical uses, primarily in the treatment of obesity, but their therapeutic use is limited.

Street Names

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

What is Methamphetamine?

Methamphetamine (Meth) is an addictive stimulant that strongly activates certain systems in the brain and speeds up the body's central nervous system. It was originally marketed as a nasal decongestant and is currently used medically in the U.S. for treating obesity.

What Does it Look Like?

Meth is either a white or yellowish crystalline powder or sometimes it appears as a large hard rock. It is odorless and has a bitter taste.

How is it Taken?

Methamphetamine can be taken orally, snorted through the nose, intravenous injection, or smoked.

Who Uses It?

The most common user of methamphetamine used to be an adult male with a lower than average income. However, this has changed and now users can be from all economic status, all ages and all genders.

What are the Effects of Methamphetamine?

The effects from meth differ depending on how it is used. If it is smoked or injected intravenously, the user will feel a strong sensation, resembling a vibration or 'rush', which diminishes within a few minutes. Users who snort or swallow meth experience a feeling of temporary euphoria. Meth users will become talkative, confident and other times paranoid, aggressive and agitated.

It only takes a small amount of meth to produce any of the following effects:

Short-term Effects

  • Increased wakefulness
  • Dryness of the mouth
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Increased physical activity
  • Increased respiration
  • Irritability
  • Confusion
  • Tremors
  • Convulsions
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Stroke
  • Death

Long-term Effects

  • amphetamine psychosis
  • extreme paranoia
  • hallucinations
  • repetitive behavior
  • sensations of insects crawling under the skin
  • obsessive scratching
  • violent behavior
  • strokes
  • death
  • irregular heartbeat
  • heart attack
  • seizures

Is Methamphetamine Addictive?

Meth is highly addictive drug and users are quick to develop a tolerance to the amount they are taking. The longer users take meth, the more they need, even to the point of depriving themselves of basic needs such as food and sleep, in order to keep administering the drug to feed their addiction. Withdrawal symptoms from meth includes stomach cramps, intense hunger, headaches, shortness of breath, exhaustion and severe depression.

Cautions

Methamphetamine causes increased heart rate and blood pressure and can cause irreversible damage to blood vessels in the brain, producing strokes. Other effects of methamphetamine include respiratory problems, irregular heartbeat, and extreme anorexia. Its use can result in cardiovascular collapse and death.

Animal research going back more than 20 years shows that high doses of methamphetamine damage neuron cell-endings. Dopamine- and serotonin-containing neurons do not die after methamphetamine use, but their nerve endings ("terminals") are cut back and re-growth appears to be limited.

Sources:
National Institude on Drug Abuse
U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration
National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information

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