Methamphetamine is a powerful central nervous system stimulant that acts by causing the brain to over produce various chemicals including adrenaline and dopamine. Adrenaline is the chemical that is released when we are frightened or get ready to fight. Think about how you felt the last time you were startled or scared. That is one of the feelings that are produced by Methamphetamine in users. But what is dopamine? Dopamine is a cell that contains chemicals that cause the brain to feel pleasure. Normal amounts of dopamine are released and cause us to feel good when we are doing the things that we enjoy most like skydiving, fishing, shopping, or spending time with loved ones. Because of the powerful nature of Methamphetamine, over doses of the dopamine chemical are released into the brain which causes the addictive euphoric high. The problem with this is that the brain also releases enzymes that are made to attack and destroy the excessive dopamine cells which can not be recaptured and reused by the brain. Eventually the user is depleted of dopamine and no longer can feel pleasure or motivation the way he or she did before the Meth use. In short, it makes us not care about anything but the drug itself.
What does all that mean? In simple terms, Methamphetamine users at first feel very energetic and stimulated because the brain is working at its maximum efficiency. It actually makes the users feel “better than ever”, increased energy, increased sexuality, and a decreased need for food and sleep. But as the brain begins to combat the effects of the drug, the brain becomes tired and depleted of all the things that it needs to feel normal. Shortly after the first time the drug is used to get “high” the user begins to need the drug just to feel “normal”. The good side effects are replaced with extreme paranoia, sleeping and eating binges, violent behavior, and hearing and seeing hallucinations. In fact, many doctors misdiagnose Methamphetamine addicts as Schizophrenics because the drug makes its users appear to have the symptoms as that of Schizophrenia.
Amphetamine, which is almost chemically identical to Methamphetamine, was first synthesized in Germany in 1887. Methamphetamine was first produced in Japan in the early 1900’s. Amphetamine was marketed as Benzedrine in the Unites States in the 30’s. It was used to treat things like depression, obesity and sleep disorders. It was eventually placed in inhalers and used to treat congestion. During World War II both Germany and the Japan used the drug to enhance their troops fighting capabilities. Even Hitler himself was strung out on amphetamines. During the 60’s US soldiers used amphetamine extensively during the Vietnam War. In 1970 Amphetamine became a strictly controlled drug when the Controlled Substances Act was passed. Amphetamine became harder to obtain from legal sources so Methamphetamine became the drug of choice and the illegal production of Methamphetamine began to increase. In the 70’s and early 80’s Methamphetamine productions and use was controlled on the West Coast by organized biker gangs that operated large clandestine Methamphetamine laboratories. During the 90’s the Hispanic cartels began to dominate the Methamphetamine drug trade. Today there are various sources of Methamphetamine including small portable Methamphetamine labs as well as Methamphetamine produced in California and Mexico.
Methamphetamine is a white to off-white powder that has a crystalline appearance like salt. It is often found in blocks or chunks that look like thick peanut butter brittle. Depending on the way it is made it can also be red, pink, yellow, green, or tan. It is produced in illegal clandestine laboratories which are covered more in detail in the sections labeled Meth Labs. The newest and more popular form of Methamphetamine is commonly referred to as “Ice”, “Shards”, or “Crystal”. It looks like tiny pieces of rock salt, crushed ice or small broken pieces of glass which is where it gets its name. It is more potent than the powder form of Methamphetamine and is often smoked to increase the effects of the high.
Methamphetamine can be ingested in several different ways. Powdered Methamphetamine is most often snorted and swallowed. Both powder Methamphetamine and Ice Methamphetamine can be swallowed by itself or swallowed in emptied vitamin capsules. Ice Methamphetamine can also be crushed and snorted, smoked, and injected. There is even a method called “hot railing” where the users snort the drug through a super heated glass pipe.
All the different methods of ingesting Methamphetamine cause the user to feel different effects. Some methods of ingestion cause the user to only feel the increased energy. Other methods produce a mind numbing roller coaster ride for the mind in which the user physically remains still but the mind feels like it is in “fast forward”. Other methods of ingestion produce just the feeling of euphoria. Often users will quickly smoke Ice Methamphetamine, take an IV injection of Methamphetamine, and then snort of line of Methamphetamine in an attempt to obtain several of the different effects at one time.