Crystal meth is a highly potent stimulant form of methamphetamine that is usually smoked, although it can also be injected or snorted. It has no color or smell and gets its name from its resemblance to small pieces of glass, or crystals. It is actually approved by the FDA for the treatment of obesity and ADHD in children and adults and sold under the brand name Desoxyn. It can also be used to treat narcolepsy and depression. However, because of the effects it provides, it is also abused and is known to be a particularly harmful drug, with a high risk of dependence, classified in Schedule II in the United States.
Its effects are similar to those of cocaine, giving a feeling of self-confidence, alertness and enthusiasm. In high doses, it can cause a feeling of euphoria. These effects last longer than those of cocaine, but carry many health risks, especially in the case of prolonged dependence.
Crystal meth was first synthesized in Japan in 1919, at which time it was thought that it could be used medically to treat conditions as diverse as narcolepsy, alcoholism and hay fever. It was also experimented with in the military as a stimulant to help Axis and Allied World War II bomber pilots fight fatigue and stay focused during long flight missions. However, negative side effects such as irritability, impaired judgment and difficulty channeling aggression made it unsuitable for this use and it was gradually phased out.
Although methamphetamine production was banned in Japan in the 1950s, pharmaceutical companies continued to produce the drug, which ended up on the black market. In America in the 1990s, new methods of synthesizing the drug were discovered and new, stronger varieties were developed. This led to an increase in the use of this drug in the United States and by 2000 it had become one of the most popular illicit drugs available in the country, surpassing heroin, crack and cocaine.
Crystal meth has a reputation on the street as a cheaper alternative to crack and cocaine, making it the drug of choice for many addicts. Its most common street names are “glass” or “ice”, although it is also called “chalk”, “blade” or “shards”. Like any drug, it also has many other street names, which vary by location. Other familiar terms for crystal meth include crystal glass, hot ice, Tina and shabu. One of its most common street names on the West Coast of America is LA Ice, due to its prevalence in the inner city of Los Angeles.
Because of its relatively low cost compared to other drugs and its powerful effects, crystal meth is one of the most popular illicit drugs available, especially in the nightclub scene. It is also generally purer, for example, than heroin, which is often cut with other drugs or chemicals. It is particularly popular in the western United States, where crystal meth users are sometimes called “tweakers.
The main effects of crystal meth include hyperactivity, self-confidence, and alertness, even to the point of euphoria in high doses. These effects last much longer than those of cocaine. However, they are accompanied by a variety of short- and long-term negative effects. Physiological effects include dilated pupils, increased heart rate, increased blood pressure and increased body temperature.
Other effects can include loss of appetite, seizures and insomnia. Crystal meth can also cause depression and irrational behavior, which can lead to suicide or homicidal thoughts, as well as anxiety and paranoia. Withdrawal symptoms include depression, increased appetite and fatigue, which often last for several days, but can last for weeks or even months with prolonged use.
Crystal meth affects dopamine levels in the brain and prolonged use can lead to psychosis, brain damage and various other psychological problems such as Parkinson’s disease. Users are also at a much higher risk of coma and stroke. Use in pregnant women can be particularly harmful to the child, resulting in premature births, heart defects and cleft palates. Injecting crystal meth also increases exposure to HIV.
Meth mouth” is a condition caused by crystal meth use that results in the loss of teeth at an unusually rapid rate. It is the result of a combination of effects of crystal meth, such as dry mouth, frequent teeth grinding, poor oral hygiene and poor nutrition due to fluctuations in appetite.
Crystal meth use is relatively limited outside of the United States, and although it is known to be used in parts of Asia and Australia, crystal meth is hardly present at all in the UK. The United States accounts for one-third of global crystal meth consumption, although an estimated 80% of the crystal meth consumed in the U.S. comes from abroad, particularly from Mexico. Other countries where crystal meth manufacture and consumption remain relatively high include Thailand and Japan.
The ingredients that make up crystal meth are relatively easy to obtain and can be found among over-the-counter household items. The main ingredient, pseudoephedrine, is found in some common pharmaceutical products. It is then simply heated with red phosphorus and blue iodine to create crystal meth.
Although crystal meth can be made anywhere, as long as the ingredients and equipment are available, it is rare for addicts to produce their own supply of the drug due to the volatile and dangerous nature of the chemicals and the reactions caused. Methamphetamine labs allow for the production and sale of larger quantities and thousands of these labs are discovered by authorities in the United States each year.
Due to the flammable nature of the chemicals used, the manufacturing process can be quite dangerous. Indeed, it is often following explosions caused by the volatility of the ingredients that methamphetamine laboratories are discovered. The residues from these explosions pose significant local health risks, particularly to those involved in the manufacturing process.
For practical reasons, methamphetamine laboratories are usually located relatively close to where the drug is likely to be sold and consumed, even though large quantities are known to be smuggled across borders. Although methamphetamine has been found to be apparently naturally present in some trees in Texas, this has been thought to be due to cross-contamination. It is therefore commonly believed that crystal meth can only be synthesized artificially.
Over the past 20 years, U.S. authorities have sought to crack down on the production and use of crystal meth, resulting in the closure of several thousand methamphetamine labs each year. This means that supply levels can sometimes be erratic, although due to the availability of ingredients, it is not uncommon for another meth lab to open nearby when one is closed. According to U.S. government officials, crystal meth is the country’s biggest drug problem, so considerable efforts are being made to try to eradicate it. These measures include restrictions on the purchase of products containing the ingredients that make it up and increasingly long prison sentences for traffickers, dealers and crystal meth users.
Much of the crystal meth consumed in the U.S. is manufactured in Mexico and smuggled across the border, either in the form of its various ingredients or in the form of ready-to-use crystal meth. It is most likely an expansion of the trafficking of other illicit drugs that exists in Mexico, as well as the increasing number of closed labs in the U.S., that has pushed production overseas. The relocation of meth labs to Mexico means that the availability of the drug is not likely to decrease significantly unless significant progress is made in combating cross-border illicit drug trafficking.
FACTS AND STATISTICS
- Crystal meth is used worldwide, but is particularly popular in North America and Asia.
- In the past, it has been credited with practical applications in the treatment of a variety of conditions, such as insomnia, alcoholism and hay fever. Today it is used to treat narcolepsy, depression, ADHD and obesity.
- For these medicinal purposes, it is marketed under the name Desoxyn.
- During World War II, crystal meth was used by Axis and Allied bomber pilots to combat the effects of exhaustion and increase concentration.
- The negative side effects of the drug, which include agitation, difficulty channeling aggression and impaired judgment, made its use for this purpose completely untenable.
- Adolf Hitler was reportedly prescribed methamphetamine, possibly to treat depression or Parkinson’s disease. It is not known whether the visible symptoms that developed were indicative of Parkinson’s disease or the result of methamphetamine.
- In the 1940s and 1950s, this drug was widely used by Japanese industrial workers seeking to increase their productivity.
- However, the negative side effects once again outweighed the benefits and the drug became illegal in Japan. Nevertheless, pharmaceutical companies continued to manufacture methamphetamine for the black market.
- It is one of the most abused drugs in the United States, ahead of heroin, cocaine and crack
- The effect is similar to that of cocaine, but the effects can last up to 8 hours, while cocaine usually lasts only a few minutes.
- While crystal meth is a major problem in the United States, its use is very limited in the
- United Kingdom. It is not clear why this is the case, but it has been speculated that it may be due to its particularly undesirable side effects or to the existence of established cocaine and crack markets.
- It is estimated that there are over 35 million methamphetamine users worldwide, a figure three times higher than the number of heroin users worldwide.
- One third of these are believed to be in the United States.
- In 2005, 12484 methamphetamine laboratories were discovered and seized by the American authorities.
- The effect caused by crystal meth can last up to 8 hours, but the body needs 12 hours to eliminate 50% of the drug.
- In 2009, 1.2 million Americans over the age of 12 admitted to using methamphetamine at least once in the previous year.
- According to police statistics, methamphetamine plays a significant role in 13% of San Diego homicides.
- Statistics from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency indicate that 80% of crystal meth comes from abroad, particularly Mexico, although methamphetamine is known to be trafficked illicitly from Europe and Asia.
- Methamphetamine use tends to be relatively evenly distributed between males and females, however one third of users are between the ages of 18 and 23.
- 24% of methamphetamine users are under the age of 18.
- For every kilogram of methamphetamine manufactured in a laboratory, 10 to 12 kilograms of toxic waste are produced, causing significant degradation of the local environment.
SIGNS OF ADDICTION
As with many drugs, some signs of addiction to crystal meth may be obvious, while others may go unnoticed. Some symptoms can be observed, both physiologically and behaviorally.
One of the most obvious side effects of methamphetamine use is “meth mouth.” Meth addiction causes cavities and teeth to eventually fall out due to a combination of factors related to drug use. A person who is missing an unusual number of teeth, with poor oral hygiene, may be a crystal meth user.
Insomnia is another negative effect of crystal meth. During a methamphetamine use episode, addicts get little to no sleep, so persistent fatigue may be a sign of addiction. Because methamphetamine suppresses appetite, weight loss or unusual eating habits can also be a red flag. Other recognizable symptoms include constant agitation, short-term memory loss and bloodshot eyes.
In the long term, methamphetamine users will begin to show signs of irrational behavior, becoming anxious and paranoid, which may lead to suicidal or homicidal thoughts. It is obviously very important that a person using methamphetamine get help before they get to this point, to prevent them from harming themselves or others.
Although crystal meth is generally cheaper than heroin, crack or cocaine, users are willing to go to great lengths to satisfy their need. Persistent financial problems can be a sign of methamphetamine use, with some people stealing to satisfy their addiction.
Withdrawal symptoms from crystal meth usually last a few days with occasional use, but can last for weeks or even months with prolonged use. This is why it is especially difficult to try to quit crystal meth without professional help.
People addicted to methamphetamine need to be placed in an environment where they cannot obtain or use the drug, and given the relatively long duration of withdrawal symptoms, users need to be monitored to prevent health complications and to prevent them from harming themselves or others. An abstinence approach to crystal meth addiction is therefore not recommended and is unlikely to succeed without outside help.
It should be noted that because crystal meth is one of the most addictive drugs, it is also known to be exceptionally difficult to treat. Unlike heroin, for which medicinal alternatives can be used to alleviate craving, crystal meth has few, if any, alternatives. The depression associated with craving is also much more severe and lasts longer than with cocaine.
Prolonged use of crystal meth can lead to a variety of conditions and complications, including severe heart disease, memory loss and impaired concentration, as well as depression and suicidal tendencies.More than 20% of people addicted to methamphetamine develop long-term psychosis, which is often resistant to treatment and can last for more than 6 months, and sometimes even indefinitely. It is therefore important to treat not only the addiction itself, but also the harmful effects it has had on the body. The best way to do this is to get help from medical professionals, either in a hospital or in a detoxification center. The first thing to do is to consult your doctor, who will be able to determine what the best option is.
It is also important to address the underlying issues that may have contributed to the onset of addiction in order to avoid relapse. A recent work situation, social position, geographical location or even a hardship, combined with addictive tendencies, can send a person into a spiral of addiction and if left untreated, the person may find it difficult to break free.
With the help of medical professionals who can treat the physical effects of withdrawal, as well as counselors trained in dealing with psychological issues, recovery is possible. However, as with any addiction, this can only be achieved with absolute desire and determination. Given that withdrawal symptoms can last for several months after stopping crystal meth, and the fact that an addict who is not yet fully weaned will always find a way to get a fix, it is important to take a holistic approach to treatment, using medical treatment and therapy.
- Wikipedia :en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Methamphetamine
- Rehab International :rehab-international.org/crystal-meth-rehab-guide
- National Institute on Drug Abuse :www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/methamphetamine
- The Partnership at drugfree.org :www.drugfree.org/drug-guide/crystal-meth
- Junior Dr :www.drtribe.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=532:making-it-crystal-clear-the-myth-of-methamphetamine&catid=41:psychiatry-features&Itemid=117