Methamphetamine (Meth), Crank, Ice, Speed

Brand names: Desoxyn

Street names: Meth, Speed, Crystal, Tweak, Ice, Crank, Glass, Chalk, Yaba

Classification: Methamphetamine is a Schedule II substance in the US. It is illegal to sell without a DEA license and illegal to posses without a prescription or license.

History of Methamphetamine

Methamphetamine is a powerful central nervous system stimulant that affects hyperactivity, fight-or-flight responses, and impulse control. It was synthesized around 1920 and has been used to treat a variety of ailments including depression, obesity, attention-deficit disorder, and nasal congestion. It was also mass-produced and given to troops in World War II to increase alertness and fight off fatigue on long missions.

Usage of methamphetamine is widespread, in part because it is highly addictive and because it is relatively easy to synthesize. Methamphetamine can be produced using over-the-counter medications like Sudafed and Contac, but the process is highly dangerous and produces both toxic fumes and unstable and flammable material. Many people die in meth-lab explosions every year from improper and unsafe production methods.


Methamphetamine comes in a wide variety of forms, though most commonly it is found as a white or off-white bitter tasting powder. It can also be found as capsules, pills, or large crystals and flaky, glass-like shards. Purer forms will be white in color – yellow, orange, red, or brownish colors are a result of impurities in the drug and/or improper methods of synthesis. The crystal form of methamphetamine does not denote that the substance is pure methamphetamine, but it does tend to mean a higher purity since it is hard to make crystals from impure material. Prescription methamphetamine in the US comes in white tablet form, while much of the methamphetamine sold in Asia comes as red tablets or pills.

Meth Abuse

The powder form of methamphetamine is most commonly snorted, though it can be smoked or melted down and injected as well. The crystal form of the drug is easier to smoke and is thus more commonly used that way, though it can also be snorted to injected. The drug is most often smoked using light bulbs or glass Pyrex pipes with bulb-like ends. Methamphetamine pills are generally swallowed but are also smoked using a lighter and aluminum foil.

Methamphetamine causes a massive release of dopamine in the brain producing euphoria, increased energy, focus, alertness, and sexuality. Different methods of administration produce differing effects. Oral ingestion tends to produce less euphoria and less of a rush effect than injection or smoking, with effects occurring about 30 minutes after ingestion as opposed to instantaneously.

Snorting (insufflation) of meth produces effects just as quickly, though this can cause chemical damage to the teeth since it forces the drug to drain in the back of the throat, exposing the teeth to the harmful substances used in production. Those under the influence of meth may talk excessively, sweat, and grind their teeth. Jaw clenching is very common, as are dilated pupils, dry mouth, and increased heart rate. The effects of relatively low doses of meth wear off between 3 and 8 hours after ingestion, leaving the user tired but not exhausted. This results in a substantial temptation to re-dose and avoid fully coming down from the drug, leading to binges that can last days and even weeks.

Amphetamine Psychosis

Common side effects of recreational methamphetamine use include excessive excitation, false senses of confidence or power, insomnia, anxiety, nervousness, suspicion, irritability, and aggression. Chronic use of methamphetamine can result in a condition known as “amphetamine psychosis” characterized by paranoia, visual and auditory hallucinations (hearing voices), and aggressive, violent, or bizarre behavior. Symptoms also include depression and suicidal thoughts. The condition has many similarities to paranoid schizophrenia. Eventually, the individual should be able to come down and become grounded in reality, but the process can take anywhere from a few days to multiple weeks.

Other Serious Side Effects

Many of the side effects of frequent methamphetamine use produce visible physical conditions. Excessive dry mouth and teeth grinding produce a condition known as “meth mouth” characterized by severe tooth decay. Itching and excessive scratching can create to welts all over the body, sometimes exacerbated by visual hallucinations of bugs or insects crawling in ones skin. Appetite suppression can lead to severe weight loss and poor nutrition. Chronic insomnia and involuntary facial movements (twitches, grimaces, lip-smacking, etc) can give chronic users a crazed and zombie-like appearance. Physical conditions also result from malnutrition and lack of sleep.

Long-term effects of methamphetamine usage include psychological problems and brain disorders, lowered resistance to illness from strain on the circulatory system, and liver, kidney, and lung problems. If meth was snorted, users may have damaged nasal cavities and mucous membranes. If smoked, users may damage their throat lungs by inhaling harmful vapors from contaminants and impurities. If injected, users face dangers of spread of blood-related diseases and infection of the injection site.

Meth Overdose and Withdrawal Symptoms

Tolerance to meth builds up quickly, as does psychological dependence. This produces a vicious cycle of addiction, where the user has intense cravings but is unable to reach the same high. Overdose is always a risk for methamphetamine users, as there is no way to discern the real purity of the drugs they buy. An overdose of meth can cause an irregular heartbeat, heart attack, and stroke. It can lead to convulsions, coma, and death.

Ending use of methamphetamine abruptly can result in withdrawal symptoms. Other than intense and overwhelming cravings from the drug, methamphetamine withdrawal is characterized by severe fatigue and hunger, long periods of sleep with accompanying nightmares and delusions, and depression. Patients may exhibit incessant restlessness, overwhelming anxiety, panic, and confusion. This can cause them to lash out or otherwise act violently as they go through withdrawal.