What is Methamphetamine?
Methamphetamine–also known as “meth”–is a laboratory-made, white, bitter-tasting powder. Sometimes it’s made into a white pill or shiny, white or clear rock called crystal. Meth can be made in “super-labs”, which are big, illegal laboratories that make the drug in large quantities. However, it can also be made in small labs using cheap, over-the-counter ingredients. Meth is sometimes pressed into little pills that look like Ecstasy to make it more appealing to young people.
Meth is a stimulant drug. Stimulants are a class of drugs that can boost mood, increase feelings of well-being, increase energy and make you more alert. But they also have dangerous effects like raising heart rate and blood pressure, and use can lead to addiction.
Meth is classified as a Schedule II drug, meaning it has a high potential for abuse and is legally available only through a prescription that cannot be refilled. It is prescribed by doctors in limited doses in rare cases for certain medical conditions.
Meth can be used through:
- Injected with a needle
“Crystal meth” is a large, usually clear crystal that is smoked in a glass pipe. Smoking or injecting the drug delivers it very quickly in the brain, where it produces an immediate and intense high. Because the feeling doesn’t last long, users often take the drug repeatedly.
The Brain and Body
All drugs change the way the brain works by changing the way nerve cells communicate. Nerve cells, called neurons, send messages to each other by releasing chemicals called neurotransmitters, tell us how to act and behave. These neurotransmitters attach to molecules on neurons called receptors.
Methamphetamine and the Teenage Brain
There are many neurotransmitters, but dopamine is the one that reinforces cravings for pleasurable behaviors, like eating a piece of chocolate cake or playing a video game. With repeated use, stimulants like meth can disrupt how the brain’s dopamine system works, reducing the person’s ability to feel pleasure from normal, everyday activities. People will often develop tolerance, which means they must take more of the drug to get the desired effect. If a person becomes addicted, they might take the drug just to feel “normal.”
After the “high” of meth wears off, many people experience a “crash” and feel tired or sad for days. They also experience a strong craving to take meth again to try and feel better
Methamphetamine and the Teenage Body
Meth causes a rush of good feelings at first. People who take it can then feel nervous, overly excited, angry, or afraid. They might feel hot to the touch too. Meth speeds up breathing and raises blood pressure. Meth can make people hyperactive. They talk and move around a lot and they may stop eating or sleeping. People who use meth often scratch their skin, causing sores. They might have burns on the lips or fingers from holding a hot meth pipe.
Short-term effects of using meth
- Feeling very awake and active
- Lack of appetite
- Fast heart rate and irregular heartbeat
- Higher blood pressure
- Higher body temperature
- Increased risk for HIV/AIDS or hepatitis (a liver disease) from unsafe sex and shared needles
- Increased alertness and attention
*Meth can be even more harmful when mixed with alcohol
Long-term effects of using meth:
Continued meth use can cause effects that last for a long time, even after a person quits using the drug. These effects include:
- Extreme weight loss
- Anxiety and confusion
- Problems sleeping
- Mood swings
- Severe dental problems
- Violent behavior
- Psychosis (hearing, seeing, or feeling things that are not there)
- Skin sore caused by scratching
- Problems with thinking, emotion, and memory
- Paranoia–unreasonable distrust of others
Meth use among youth is considered especially tragic because of the severe and irreversible damage that it causes. Unlike other drugs, meth use causes permanent brain and body damage. Meth rots the teeth and can permanently damage blood vessels in the brain. Users can be prone to extreme anorexia, stroke, heart attack, tremors, and convulsions, as well as lung, liver and kidney damage.
Meth use can quickly lead to addiction. That’s when people seek out the drug over and over, even after they want tot sop and even after it has caused damage to their health and other parts of their life. Meth also causes tolerance, which is when a person needs to take more of it to get the same high. People who usually eat or snort meth might start to smoke or inject it to get a strong, quicker high.
Meth can raise your body temperature so much that you pass out. If not treated right away, this can cause death. Death can also occur from a heart attack or stroke because it raises your heartbeat and blood pressure, narrowing blood vessels. In recent years, meth has been found that has been mixed with the deadly opioid fentanyl, making it easier to overdose.
Meth is made from easily obtained but very hazardous chemicals. When mixed, these chemicals can cause explosions if not mixed with extreme caution.