Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Methamphetamine is a synthetic stimulant drug which induces a strong feeling of euphoria and is highly psychologically addictive. Pure methamphetamine is a colorless crystalline solid, sold on the streets as glass, ice, or crystal. It is also sold as less pure crystalline powder termed crank or speed. Methamphetamine was first synthesized in 1919 in Japan by chemist A. Ogata .
|Elimination half life||4-5 hours (normal renal function)|
|Pregnancy category||C (USA)|
In some instances, these substances when found on the street are diluted or cut with inert substances like mannitol. In most instances, the methamphetamine is usually of a pure nature, but diluted mainly with the chemicals that were used to synthesize it.
Methamphetamine is structurally similar to methcathinone, amphetamine, and other stimulants, and it may be produced from ephedrine or pseudoephedrine by chemical reduction. Most of the necessary chemicals are readily available in household products or over-the-counter medicines. This makes methamphetamine appear unusually easy to make, unlike cannabis and cocaine, which are both harvested directly from plants with no other legal and therefore explicable purpose.
Pseudoephedrine hydrochloride and ephedrine hydrochloride are commonly available decongestant drugs without strong euphoric effects. There are many different syntheses for conversion which can be found on the internet, although these sources are sometimes not trustworthy, and most experienced 'cooks' learned from either chemistry classes or other 'cooks' in person. The synthesis involves moderately dangerous chemicals and processes that could be considered extremely dangerous.
These chemicals are commonly used by people without laboratory training in and around the household for a variety of household uses, however the production of methamphetamine is not to be confused with these much safer household uses. In fact, when law enforcement finds a methamphetamine lab they must have professionals trained and certified in dealing with meth labs and wearing full hazardous materials protection suits dismantle and dispose of the operation because of the safety and environmental hazards. It is estimated for every 1 pound of methamphetamine produced, 5 pounds of hazardous waste is also produced.
This can result in highly dangerous situations which can be environmental hazards , as the by-products of production are highly toxic in most syntheses, and are sometimes dumped in unsafe places. An example is Phosphine gas, which can be produced when the reaction is allowed to overheat, and which has killed operators of illegal "clan" (clandestine chemistry) or "meth" labs.
Until the early 1990's, methamphetamine was made mostly in clandestine labs run by drug traffickers in Mexico and California, who still produce the largest amount of meth in the US. Since then, however, authorities have discovered increasing numbers of small-scale methamphetamine labs all over the United States, especially in poor suburban and rural areas of the Southwest and Midwest.
Very recently mobile methamphetamine and hotel based labs have caught the attention of both the news media and law enforcement. These have been seen as a public safety issue because of the increased exposure of the general public to hazardous chemicals and explosions and fires, since many of the chemicals used to produce meth are toxic and flammable. Hamilton police reported in 2003 of a case of a mobile meth lab suspected of making 12 people require hospital visits after being exposed to the fumes coming from the lab as it drove by. In addition to these serious issues there is also the likelihood of a 'cook' being well armed, in many cases more so than the police. The police have responded two ways, first by the creation of a number of specialized task forces and secondly by the education of those individuals likely to come in contact with persons involved in the production of methamphetamine with regards to clues and signs a store clerk or a hotel manager would use to identify someone as a potential suspect in the production of methamphetamine. The Indiana State police, for example, found just 6 labs in 1995 compared to 1,260 in 2003.
On April 6, 2004, Oklahoma issued a state law prohibiting the non-prescription sale of certain over-the-counter medications known to contain ingredients used in meth production.
Methamphetamine is sometimes given to fighting troops and pilots during wartime by their governments. It tends to suppress fear, facilitate confident violence without hesitation and sharpen response times, for instance, in pilots.
During World War II, it was widely used by the armed forces of both sides under the name Pervitin. Both the German Wehrmacht and the Soviet Red Army regularly distributed methamphetamine to its troops. It has been recently discovered that Hitler was a methamphetamine user by IV Injection. Methamphetamine was also passed out to Japanese kamikaze pilots during World War II.
Methamphetamine is classified as a Schedule II substance by the DEA in the United States. While there is technically no difference between the laws regarding methamphetamine and other controlled stimulants, most medical professionals are averse to prescribing it due to its status in society. Further, there is some anecdotal evidence that the DEA audits such prescriptions on a far more regular basis than similar drugs. Methamphetamine is legally marketed in the United States under the trade name Desoxyn, manufactured by Ovation Pharma. A generic formulation is also produced by Abbott Laboratories.
Methamphetamine has become a major focus of the 'war on drugs' in the U.S. in recent years. In some localities (e.g. Pierce County in Washington State, in 2000) special task forces were formed by police to attack the problem of rampant methamphetamine production.
In some areas of the United States, manufacturing methamphetamine is punishable by a mandatory ten-year prison sentence. In some cases, however, judges have ruled for life in prison without the possibility of parole, especially in cases where victims were killed by overdoses or impure substance.
In the UK, methamphetamine is classified as a Class B drug (under the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act). The maximum penalty for possession is five years imprisonment, and the maximum penalty for supplying is 14 years. If methamphetamine is prepared for injection, it is re-classified as a Class A drug. The maximum penalty for possession is then seven years imprisonment, and the maximum penalty for supplying is life.
Methamphetamine was first synthesized in 1919 by the Japanese chemist A. Ogata . The method of synthesis was reduction of ephedrine using red phosphorus and iodine. Methamphetamine is closely related to Amphetamine which was first synthesized the year 1887 by L. Edeleano , a german chemist. Over time the chemical's use, distribution and place in society changed from insignificant, to controversially beneficial, to terrible infamy.
Later use included its distribution by the Allies and the Axis to troops during World War II. After World War II a massive supply of methamphetamine, formerly stocked by the Japanese military, became available in Japan; skyrocketing addiction and hardship followed.
The 1950s saw a high rise in the legal prescription of methamphetamine to the American public. Prescribed for everything from obesity, loss of spunk to depression, methamphetamine, or more particularly amphetamines in general, were a very large part of the everyday American life ("Pop a pep pill").
The 1960s saw the start of the significant use of clandestine manufacture to supply methamphetamine. The five years from 1978 to 1983 are seen as the "golden years" of illicit methamphetamine manufacture. Until then drug laws were far behind the methods of production with the precursors, equipment and supply of such being almost freely available and in almost all cases legal to possess.
Starting in the 1980s and on into the start of the twenty-first century, the rural areas of the United States—especially the Midwest—have experienced a large rise, penetration and, in some parts, saturation and decline of methamphetamine use.
The saturation and decline has been seen as more of a natural trend than a result of law enforcement. The damage done by the chemical became so great that parts of society chose to not use the drug as a result of direct observation of the drug's effects.
The future of the drug is likely to follow the same path as the past, with its ups, downs, contoversy, praise, and defamation of the drug.
Effects and use
Methamphetamine is a potent central nervous system stimulant that affects the brain by acting on the mechanisms responsible for regulating a class of neurotransmitters known as the biogenic amines or monoamine neurotransmitters. This broad class of neurotransmitters is generally responsible for regulating heart rate, body temperature, blood pressure, appetite, attention and responses associated with alertness or alarm conditions. Although the exact mechanism of action is unknown, it is generally believed that methamphetamine blocks or impedes the re-uptake of one or more of these neurotransmitters, causing them to remain within the synaptic cleft longer than otherwise. As in most neurotransmitter chemistry, its effects are adapted by the affected neurons by a decrease in the production of the neurotransmitters being blocked from re-uptake, leading to the tolerance and withdrawal effects.
In medicine it is used as an appetite suppressant in treating obesity, treating anesthetic overdose and narcolepsy.
The acute effects of the drug closely resemble the physiological and psychological effects of the fight-or-flight response including increased heart rate and blood pressure, vasoconstriction, pupil dilation, bronchial dilation and increased blood sugar. The person who ingests meth will experience an increased focus and mental alertness and the elimination of the subjective effects of fatigue as well as a decrease in appetite. Many of these effects are broadly interpreted as euphoria or a sense of wellbeing, intelligence and power.
The 17th edition of The Merck Manual (1999) describes the effects of heavy use of methamphetamines in these terms: "Continued high doses of methamphetamine produce anxiety reactions during which the person is fearful, tremulous, and concerned about his physical well-being; an amphetamine psychosis in which the person misinterprets others' actions, hallucinates, and becomes unrealistically suspicious; an exhaustion syndrome, involving intense fatigue and need for sleep, after the stimulation phase; and a prolonged depression, during which suicide is possible" (p. 1593).
Methamphetamine can be swallowed, snorted, smoked, or injected. As with heroin, nicotine, or cocaine, the potential for addiction is greater when it is delivered by methods that cause the concentration in the blood to rise quickly, principally because the effects desired by the user are felt quicker and with a higher intensity than a moderated delivery mechanism. Depending on delivery method and dosage, a dose of methamphetamine will potentially keep the user awake with a feeling of euphoria for periods lasting from 2 to 24 hours.
The acute effects of meth wear off as the brain chemistry starts to adapt to the chemical conditions and as the body metabolizes the chemical, leading to a rapid loss of the initial effect and significant rebound effect as the previously saturated synaptic cleft becomes depleted of the same neurotransmitters that had previously been elevated. Many users then compensate by administering more of the drug to maintain their current state of euphoria and alertness. This process can be repeated many times, often leading to the user staying awake for days at a time, after which secondary sleep deprivation effects manifest in the user. Classic sleep deprivation effects include irritability, blurred vision, memory lapses, confusion, paranoia, hallucinations, nausea, and in extreme cases death.
Other side effects include twitching, "jitteriness", repetitive behavior (known as "tweaking"), and jaw clenching or teeth grinding. It has been noted anecdotally that methamphetamine addicts lose their teeth abnormally fast; this may be due to the jaw clenching.
Thousands of police officers (and meth users) have noted that meth users often become heavily immersed in what they are doing, which could be anything. It is not uncommon for an entire house to have all of its electronic equipment (TVs, radios, computers, etc) torn to pieces. It is also not uncommon for a meth user to be the exact opposite, one who chooses to construct things from junkyard material. Interestingly enough, some meth addicts become meth chemists ("Cooks"), and will ingest the methamphetamine just to stay awake for the long chemical reaction process.
It is a common belief that methamphetamine gives people "super-human strength." This belief originates from the 'biker-drug' that was popular even before methamphetamine; PCP. Neither methamphetamine nor PCP actually increase muscular strength, (in fact, PCP, like Ketamine, is an anesthetic and reduces muscular capability). It does, however, cause much more motivation in the user.
After prolonged use the meth user will begin to become irritable.
Methamphetamine is commonly smoked in glass pipes, or in tin foil without direct flame. Methamphetamine must be heated to put off the desired smoke; not burned. Smoking methamphetamine is probably the most impure form of ingestion, since it is very damaging to the lungs. Methamphetamine users who smoke it sometimes experience mild asthma, which can be countered by inhaling salbutamol aerosol, or epinephrine aerosol. Another disadvantage of smoking methamphetamine is that it rots the teeth. Dentists have confirmed that tiny crystalline methamphetamine particles attach to the teeth (mainly the front teeth), and then eat the tooth material away. This form of tooth decay is easily recognized: the front half of the tooth will have decayed away, leaving a brown undertooth surface. This has not been confirmed, though, by way of the controlled, large population, double blind studies. It is equally possible that the tooth decay reports are unfounded or that it is caused by some other causal agent—for example, the chronic malnutrition also attributed to chronic users.
Methamphetamine is a powerful nasal decongestant, so methamphetamine users who snort it often have very clear nasal cavities; however, there have been rare cases of people snorting so much meth that their nose cartilage deteriorates. Snorting methamphetamine also causes tooth decay, since the nasal passages are directly connected to the mouth region, and the crystalline particles still attach to the teeth.
It is debated what the least harmful form of ingestion is for methamphetamine; many users believe that the cleanest is by injection. Methamphetamine is soluble in water; injection users usually dose 0.2 grams in 3ml of water through a small needle. One may take note in methamphetamine research that injection users often do not experience severe tooth decay. This is because the crystalline methamphetamine particles do not attach to the teeth. However, injection users experience jaw-clenching greater than users who snort or smoke it, since injecting methamphetamine has a much more powerful effect. This does cause loose teeth, so injection users still do lose their teeth. Injection users often experience skin rashes and all kinds of infections due to the methamphetamine damage to the skin. It is also not uncommon for meth users to not shower; bad hygiene does play a very large role in needle related infections.
Methamphetamine is reported to attack the immune system, so meth users are often prone to infections of all different kinds, one being an MRSA infection. This, too, may simply be a result of long term sleep deprivation and/or chronic malnutrition.
As with cocaine, methamphetamine is primarily psychologically addictive. Unlike heroin or alcohol, methamphetamine is not physically addictive, meaning that when an addict quits using methamphetamine no acute withdrawal syndrome results. However the mental and social consequences of quitting can be severe and extremely difficult for the addict to experience. As with all addictions relapse is a common occurence.
In an article about his son's addiction to methamphetamine, a California writer who has also experimented with the drug put it this way: "[T]his drug has a unique, horrific quality. In an interview, Stephan Jenkins, the singer in the band Third Eye Blind, said that methamphetamine makes you feel 'bright and shiny.' It also makes you paranoid, incoherent and both destructive and pathetically and relentlessly self-destructive. Then you will do unconscionable things in order to feel bright and shiny again" (David Sheff, "My Addicted Son," New York Times Magazine, February 6, 2005, p. 44).
Former users have noted that they feel stupid or dull when they quit using methamphetamine. This is because the brain is adapting a need for methamphetamine to think faster, or at what seems to be a higher level.
With long-term use, enough dopamine will have flooded the brain to cause chemical cell damage. This often leads to slow thinking (which in turn requires that the addict use meth to 'fix' it), and depression. This is known colloquially as "The Vampire Life".
Pros and cons
The good effects of methamphetamine use are experienced immediately. The bad effects occur with chronic use (more than six to twelve months).
- Increased awareness and alertness
- Greater motivation
- Increased thinking and brain activity (short-term)
- Weight loss (may also be a negative depending upon circumstances)
- Severe psychological addiction
- Possible long-term cognitive impairment due to neurotoxicity
- Tooth decay when smoked or snorted
- Damage to immune system
Methamphetamine has many street names; it was known as rain in the 1960s, and terms in popular use today include glass, ice, crystal, or tina for purer forms, or as less pure crystalline powder termed crank or speed (in Hawaii the slang term batu is often used). In New Zealand the term "P" is used. "Crystal meth" is the crystalline form of methamphetamine. In its purest form, it is commonly referred to as "glass" or "ice". This is because it appears to be broken shards of glass, or crushed ice. The term ice has also been used for a less common illicit stimulant, 4-methylaminorex , which often causes confusion.
As Methamphetamine was quite popular in Japan after World War II, the nickname Shabu has seemed to stick with this drug for quite a while. While some street folk may now call it just "Shabs" the origins of this nickname come from the Japanese word for "swish". Either the Japanese commonly smoked it, or the name swish came from the behaviour of the people under the influence. St Vitus Dance is quite commonly seen as the symptoms of prolonged use, and in Japan also now seems to be quite taboo (people say that the person who shakes their leg makes the other people around them 'lose their fortune' and sometimes elder Japanese folk will hold your leg completely still until you have stopped shaking). A rather large percentage of Japanese had became dependant on the drug for either profit, motivation or entertainment soon after the second world war. The Japanese banned the drug soon after the second world war adding to growing yakuza businesses. Large Yakuza leaders began to control supplies which had once been produced for military purposes. In Japan today there is still a rather large "underworld" associated with the drug, with some people being associated to a completely separate society to most of the law abiding citizens of Japan based purely on this chemical.
Nazi Dope generally refers to methamphetamine made with anhydrous ammonia, since it is rumored that this was the way the Nazis synthesized it in World War II. This same method is sometimes called annie's dope or just annie.
- Secrets of Methamphetamine Manufacture, by Uncle Fester
- Yaa Baa. Production, Traffic, and Consumption of Methamphetamine in Mainland Southeast Asia, by Pierre-Arnaud Chouvy & JoŽl Meissonnier, Singapore, Singapore University Press, 2004.
- Phenethylamines I Have Known And Loved: A Chemical Love Story, Alexander Shulgin and Ann Shulgin, (ISBN 0963009605). aka PiHKAL. synthesis. online
- Clandestine chemistry
- Desoxyn (desoxyephedrine)
- Drug Enforcement Agency
- Erowid Methamphetamine Vault
- Geopium: Geopolitics of Illicit Drugs in Asia
- Rhodium's Archive
- Special Report on Meth in California's Central Valley
- Drug Enforcement Administration:
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