Methamphetamine (or Meth) is a stimulant affecting the central nervous system. It releases more than normal dopamine in the brain. It comes in fine powder, pills, rocks or chunks. It has no smell and a bitter taste. It’s rocky form is similar to cocaine.
Methamphetamine has destroyed families, damaged the environment, and cost governments and tax-payers millions of dollars. Forms of it were used in World War II by both the Germans and Allied Forces. It’s caused devastating explosions and ruined many lives.
Meth is powerful and highly addictive. You can’t become “instantly” addicted in most cases, but the long lasting effect is attractive to users.. (src: drugpolicy.org)
Meth is taken by snorting, smoking, ingesting or injecting. It’s also a popular party drug and often smoked through glass pipes.
Street names include: crystal, glass, chalk, crank, speed, ice, batu, shabu, zip and tina.
In the science lab, it’s referred to as: methamphetamine, dextromethamphetamine, methylamphetamine, N-methylamphetamine, and desoxyephedrine.
How Does Meth Affect the Brain?
The neurotransmitter dopamine has a direct influence on our emotions and memory. When you use meth, it releases high doses of dopamine (about 1,200 unites [pbs] ) into your brain.
This results in long periods of pleasure or euphoria. When it subsides, you need even more to experience the same “high.” With prolonged abuse, it’s difficult to experience even normal pleasure. This effect is known as anhedonia or the inability to feel pleasure. Overtime, this damages the brain’s reward system. The brain’s reward system is at heart of understanding drug addiction.
How is Meth Made?
The ingredients to make meth are likely in your house right now. Meth is made from the chemical compounds ephedrine or pseudoephedrine found in many “over-the-counter” cold medicines. A variety of household chemicals are also used in the process.
Medicines with ephedrine or pseudoephedrine include Sudafed 12 Hour, Sudafed Congestion, SudoGest and Entex.
Meth is not like other drugs. It is not grown from plants, but rather in a lab making it a man-made drug.
What Are the Uses of Meth?
There are few reasons to use Meth. And very few of them are legal. Even the legal ones (prescriptions) are highly monitored.
Methamphetamine has three primary uses —
- Recreation (illegal)
- Weight loss
- Treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Medically, methamphetamine is available to the public in pills of 5 mg. This methamphetamine hydrochloride is packaged under the name “Desoxyn.” Desoxyn used for obesity treatment, narcolepsy and ADHD under the close supervision of medical professionals.
Recreational use of meth (or crystal meth) is illegal. Meth gives users a feeling of euphorias because of the dopamine flooding their brain. It’s more popular than cocaine because it’s effect lasts longer. This is one reason why meth is a drug of choice among addicts.
Where is Meth Made?
Meth comes from two types of labs – super labs and toxic in-home labs. Both environments can be very dangerous because the production of meth is highly explosive.
Super Labs operate largely in Mexico and the U.S.. Super Labs operate on a commercial level and are more sophisticated than smaller in-home labs. They are mostly controlled by Mexican Drug Cartels (justice.gov). In a group of states from Oregon to Iowa, 4 out of 5 “hits” were responsible because of Mexican Drug Organizations operating out of California (Oregon).
As authorities clamp down on it’s production, Super Labs have moved to Europe, Asia and even South America. (HowStuffWorks.com.)
Toxic In-Home Labs are similar to labs you see in TV shows like Breaking Bad. Meth labs are found in people’s homes, garages, RVs, motel rooms, car trunks and even in the woods. These labs often feed and finance the maker’s own addiction.(HowStuffWorks.com.)
These small labs are very dangerous due to the crude in-home set-up. Even though the number of small in-home Meth labs is large, the amount of product they make is very small compared to super labs.
Environmental Note: Five pounds of toxic waste is created for every one pound of meth produced (usjoj.gov).
Can I Legally Take or Sell Meth?
Meth is considered a controlled substance. You can’t possess, sale or manufacture it legally without a prescription. Some states also restrict the chemicals (known as precursors) and tools used to manufacture Meth.
Fact: A precursor is a substance (like pseudoephedrine) used in making of an illicit drug, like methamphetamine.
Fact: November 30 is Methamphetamine Awareness Day (Cantwell Senate)
What are the Consequences if Caught with Meth?
Conviction: To be convicted in the court of law, a prosecutor has to simply prove you knew the substance you had was meth. (see 21 U.S.C. § 841(c))
Punishment: Punishment for using, selling or distributing Meth varies from location to location. Generally, the more Meth they find on you, the harsher the punishment.
Federal punishment is the same from state to state, but each state may have their own separate penalties. Also, the sentence is worse if you are caught with “intent to sell.” If you’re caught with only possession, you’ll receive no more than one year.
But, here’s the kicker. Carrying even five grams of Meth with the intent to sell could land you in prison for up to five years.
50 grams of Meth with intent to sell? Ten years!
It’s clear — even apart from the addictive nature of Meth, trafficking Meth is not worth it.
Can Regulation Control the Meth Epidemic?
Regulating methamphetamine has never been easy. Every time the government cracks down on access to the precursors, the cartels and small dealers find ways around it. Strategies like “smurfing” is one way small time makers get around the law. (White House)
The term “smurfing” is the process of buying multiple precursor purchases at multiple locations.
Because Meth is a man-made product, the easy solution would be to tightly regulate the production and sale of medicines containing ephedrine and pseudoephedrine.
There are only nine factories in the world that manufacture the ephedrine and pseudoephedrine necessary to make meth. (Oregon Live) Unfortunately, it’s difficult to regulate a drug that will likely cause pharmaceutical companies and the large cartels to lose money.
Here’s something to think about.
Around 1994 in some Western states, the government cracked down on the supplies needed to make methamphetamine. As a result, treatment centers saw less admissions, emergency rooms saw fewer visits and there were fewer crimes related to Meth. (Oregon Live)
This was only temporarily successful and ways were found to break the law.
But, what we learned was…
Fewer Supplies = Less Meth Production and Abuse
Over the years, efforts have been made to tighten these supplies but have been met with opposition from the government and pharmaceutical companies. In 1996, the DEA was given more control, via the Comprehensive Methamphetamine Control Act of 1996 (MCA), over the sale of pseudoephedrine (and other precursors). However, this didn’t prove very effective. (usdoj.gov)
Nearly 5,000 pounds of meth was confiscated by the DEA in 2005. This same year, as part of the Patriot Act, the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005 was passed. This law put stricter law on the sale of precursors to methamphetamine.
Is Meth Addiction A Problem?
Meth is powerful. In 2012, approximately 1.2 million people were said to have taken meth (drugabuse.gov.) That is 0.4 percent of the population. Not everyone becomes addicted right away, but even “experimenting” can be dangerous. (drugpolicy.org)
For more information on meth, check out our History of Meth Timeline.
If you are addicted to methamphetamine, it’s time to seek help. While treatment may hold a lot of fear and “unknowns,” it’s more simple and easier than you think. When you have supportive people around you, making the right choices isn’t so hard.[su_spoiler title=”Methamphetamine Credits and Additional Resources” style=”simple”]
1996 Crackdown on Meth: http://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/fed_regs/rules/2002/fr0328.htm
Legal Information: http://www.criminaldefenselawyer.com/resources/criminal-defense/crystal-meth-possession.htm
General Information: http://science.howstuffworks.com/meth3.htm
Shake and Bake: http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/health/new-shake-and-bake-method-making-crystal-meth-drug-laws-no-dangerous-article-1.397428
Oregon Live Award Winning Study: http://www.oregonlive.com/special/oregonian/meth/stories/index.ssf?1003_unnecessary_epidemic3.html
DrugAbuse.gov – Use in the United States: http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/methamphetamine/what-scope-methamphetamine-abuse-in-united-states
Interesting Facts on Meth: http://www.drugpolicy.org/drug-facts/methamphetamine
Meth Awareness: http://www.justice.gov/archive/olp/methawareness/[/su_spoiler]