Methamphetamine (Meth) is closely related chemically to amphetamine, but the central nervous system effects of Methamphetamine are greater. Both drugs have some medical uses, primarily in the treatment of obesity, but their therapeutic use is limited. Methamphetamine is made in illegal laboratories and has a high potential for abuse and dependence. Street Methamphetamine is referred to by many names, such as "Speed", "Meth", and "Chalk". Methamphetamine hydrochloride, clear chunky crystals resembling ice, which can be inhaled by smoking, is referred to as "Ice", "Crystal", and "Glass".
Methamphetamine releases high levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which stimulates brain cells, enhancing mood and body movement. It also appears to have a neurotoxic effect, damaging brain cells that contain dopamine and serotonin, another neurotransmitter. Over time, Methamphetamine appears to cause reduced levels of dopamine, which can result in symptoms like those of Parkinson's Disease, a severe movement disorder.
Users may become addicted quickly, and use it with increasing frequency and increasing doses. Animal research going back more than 20 years shows that high doses of Methamphetamine damage neuron cell-endings. Dopamine- and serotonin-containing neurons do not die after Methamphetamine use, but their nerve endings ("terminals") are cut back and re-growth appears to be limited. The central nervous system (CNS) actions that result from taking even small amounts of Methamphetamine include increased wakefulness, increased physical activity, decreased appetite, increased respiration, hyperthermia, and euphoria. Other CNS effects include irritability, insomnia, confusion, tremors, convulsions, anxiety, paranoia, and aggressiveness. Hyperthermia and convulsions can result in death. Methamphetamine causes increased heart rate and blood pressure and can cause irreversible damage to blood vessels in the brain, producing strokes. Other effects of Methamphetamine include respiratory problems, irregular heartbeat, and extreme anorexia.
Over time users may take higher doses of the drug, take it more frequently, or change the way they take it to get the same rush or high that small amounts of Meth once gave them.
Sometimes, people stop eating and sleeping to shoot Meth every 2 to 3 hours for several days until they run out of Meth or are too confused to continue. This binging is called a "run", as in "run down", or "run out of luck".
This kind of abuse can lead to intense paranoia, visual and auditory hallucinations (seeing and hearing things that aren't there), even out-of-control rages with extremely violent behavior. Meth may make users want to hurt or even kill themselves and others.
When a chronic user stops taking the drug he or she may feel depressed, uncontrollably anxious, fatigued (very tired), paranoid, and aggressive, but will still crave more Meth.
Meth is made using readily available products obtained from retail, convenience, grocery, granges, automotive, and veterinary supply stores. Over-the-counter cold and allergy medications often contain ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, the most critical ingredient in the production of Methamphetamine. The manufacturing process also uses ingredients such as lithium batteries, acetone, starter fluid, drain cleaner, rock or table salt, lye, matchbooks, rubbing alcohol, muriatic acid, and gasoline additives. These items are available in many stores and most are found in an average house or garage.
Anhydrous ammonia is another precursor commonly used in the Meth process. It is usually stolen from tanks located on farms and agriculture dealer distribution facilities. Anhydrous ammonia is an extremely dangerous chemical, venting to a gas at -28° F. Thieves will commonly damage the valves or hoses on the tanks, which can cause a life-threatening situation. If an unsuspecting employee or farmer is unaware of the damage to the hose and opens the valve, escaping anhydrous ammonia could cause chemical and temperature burns and even result in fatal injury.
The availability of the products needed for producing Meth contributes to the growing Meth problem in our state. Because Meth users become their own drug suppliers by becoming Meth "cooks", the dangers associated with the labs themselves increase the urgency of a retailer assistance program.