Methamphetamine, or meth, is a highly addictive synthetic chemical that acts as a stimulant. It is snorted, injected, smoked, or swallowed. Most of the methamphetamine abused in this country comes from foreign or domestic super-labs, although it can also be made in small, illegal laboratories, where its production endangers the people in the labs, their neighbors, and the environment.
In 1893, Methamphetamine or crystal meth was first developed from ephedrine. A chemist by the name of Nagayoshi Nagai was responsible for this creation. It wasn’t until 1919, that methamphetamine was turned into its crystallized form by Akira Ogata.
Ogata was able to do this by reduction of ephedrine using iodine and red phosphorous. Amphetamine, which is a related drug, first came into existence in 1887 by a Lazar Edeleanu in Germany.
Methamphetamine manufacturing initially began in the United States in Hawaii in the 1960s.
Methamphetamine is a central nervous system stimulant drug that is similar in structure to amphetamine. Due to its high potential for abuse, methamphetamine is classified as a Schedule II drug and is available only through a prescription that cannot be refilled.
Although methamphetamine can be prescribed by a doctor, its medical uses are limited, and the doses that are prescribed are much lower than those typically abused.
How Is Methamphetamine Abused?
Methamphetamine is a white, odorless, bitter-tasting crystalline powder that easily dissolves in water or alcohol and is taken orally, snorted, or by needle injection, or by smoking.
How Does Methamphetamine Affect the Brain?
Methamphetamine increases the release and blocks the reuptake of the brain chemical (or neurotransmitter) dopamine, leading to high levels of the chemical in the brain—a common mechanism of action for most drugs of abuse. Dopamine is involved in reward, motivation, the experience of pleasure, and motor function.
Methamphetamine’s ability to release dopamine rapidly in reward regions of the brain produces the intense euphoria, or “rush,” that many users feel after snorting, smoking, or injecting the drug.
Chronic methamphetamine abuse significantly changes how the brain functions. Noninvasive human brain imaging studies have shown alterations in the activity of the dopamine system that are associated with reduced motor skills and impaired verbal learning.
Recent studies in chronic methamphetamine abusers have also revealed severe structural and functional changes in areas of the brain associated with emotion and memory, which may account for many of the emotional and cognitive problems observed in chronic methamphetamine abusers.
According to Narconon treatment centers, repeated methamphetamine abuse can also lead to addiction—a chronic, relapsing disease characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, which is accompanied by chemical and molecular changes in the brain. Some of these changes persist long after methamphetamine abuse is stopped. Reversal of some of the changes, however, may be observed after sustained periods of abstinence (more than 1 year).
The following are several bullet points containing many of the long-term effects of methamphetamine use and abuse:
• dry mouth
• weight loss
• unexplained itching
What Other Adverse Effects Does Methamphetamine Have on Health?
Taking even small amounts of methamphetamine can result in many of the same physical effects as those of other stimulants, such as cocaine or amphetamines, including increased wakefulness, increased physical activity, decreased appetite, increased respiration, rapid heart rate, irregular heartbeat, increased blood pressure, and hyperthermia.
Long-term methamphetamine abuse has many negative health consequences, including extreme weight loss, severe dental problems (“meth mouth”), anxiety, confusion, insomnia, mood disturbances, and violent behavior. Chronic methamphetamine abusers can also display a number of psychotic features, including visual and auditory hallucinations, and delusions (for example, the sensation of insects crawling under the skin).
Transmission of HIV and hepatitis B and C can be consequences of methamphetamine abuse. The intoxicating effects of methamphetamine, regardless of how it is taken, can also alter judgment and inhibition and can lead people to engage in unsafe behaviors, including risky sexual behavior. Among abusers who inject the drug, HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases can be spread through contaminated needles, syringes, and other injection equipment that is used by more than one person.
Methamphetamine abuse may also worsen the progression of HIV/AIDS and its consequences. Studies of methamphetamine abusers who are HIV-positive indicate that HIV causes greater neuronal injury and cognitive impairment for individuals in this group compared with HIV-positive people who do not use the drug.
What is the Government doing to Combat Meth Abuse?
There have been five federal laws and many state laws written since 1989 in order to try to curb production of methamphetamine. Pseudoephedrine or ephedrine, sales have been restricted in order to reduce the amount of the main ingredient of methamphetamine available to the general public. Many states have already passed legislation requiring pharmacies that sell ephedrine and pseudoephedrine to keep the drugs either locked up or behind the counter requiring the customer to ask for them and show identification. Customers are also only allowed to purchase a certain amount at a time. The Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005 was written especially to combat the sales of pseudoephedrine and ephedrine that an individual may purchase in a specified time period. In addition, there are other requirements regarding storage of these products in order to prevent theft.
There are also many treatment programs trying to handle the problem through rehabilitation and drug addiction prevention like Narconon as well as other centers throughout the country.
What To Do If You Someone Is Struggling
Meth addiction can have devastating effects on you and your family. The only way to successfully overcome the addiction is through proper treatment, one that addresses not only the mental aspects of the addiction but also the physical side effects as well.
For more information on meth addiction or for a free and confidential assessment call Narconon at 1-800-468-6933.