Crystal Methamphetamine: Crystal, Ice, Meth, Speed, Crank
|Methamphetamine causes extreme paranoia and delusions.|
In the last 30+ years since the passage of the 'U.S. Drug Abuse Regulation and Control Act of 1970', methamphetamine has become a mainstay of the illicit drug trade. Previous to 1970 Control Act amphetamine and methamphetamine were not as stricly regulated and criminal penalties for their use were very minimal (1). In fact, until the passage of the Control Act, many amphetamines, including dexadrine were available without a prescription. In recent years however, with the widespread dissemination of methamphetamine "recipes" on the internet, there has been a sharp rise in the illicit manufacturing and subsequent distribution and use of these dangerous drugs.
The most commonly available product on the street is "Crystal Methamphetamine" or "Ice". Ice is a crystalline, usually very pure powder and is manufactured in clandestine laboratories across the United States. It is relatively cheap and highly addictive. In 2003 alone, the DEA seized 709 clandestine methamphetamine labs in the state of California and in 2002 over 27,000 methamphetamine related DEA arrests countrywide, which points to an ever present and widely available distribution network (2,3). However, it is noted that the number of lab seizures has dropped dramatically (over 50%) since the year 2000 and arrests since 2000 have dropped 30% (2,3).
Crystal Methamphetamine Addiction Potential and Long Term Use
Due to the potential of widespread availability, relative low street prices and the strong CNS effects methamphetamines have a high probability for abuse and addiction. Like other amphetamines and cocaine, the drug effects the dopamine receptors of the brain. Like cocaine, it causes an accumulation of the neurotransmitter dopamine, overloading the pleasure response of the brain, subsequently giving the user a huge deficiency once the effects of the drug wear off. After consistent use of methamphetamine, users lose the ability to normally experience pleasure and emotion and may seem flatlined emotionally (4).
In a recent news article by Sandra Blakeslee, publishe by FreeRepublic.com, it is reported that recent MRI scans and research into the long term effects of methamphetamine show that in test subjects who have 10 years of consecutive methamphetamine use, 11 percent of the limbic region of the brain is 'dead and gone'. This is the region of the brain responsible for reward, mood and emotion. The article also reports that 8 percent of the hippocampus tissue of test subjects has also been deteriorated, showing similar reads as in Alzheimer patients (6).
The study held one other surprise, Dr. Thompson said: white matter, composed of nerve fibers that connect different areas, was severely inflamed, making the addicts' brains 10 percent larger than normal. "This was shocking," he said. But there was one piece of good news: the white matter was not dead. With abstinence, it might recover (6).
Illicit Methamphetamine Trade and Manufacturing
While many illicit drugs are difficult to manufacture because of complex chemical processes or availability of raw ingredients, methamphetamine is relatively easy to manufacture and it's key ingredients can be found off-the-shelf or ordered via the internet, making it very easy to make and distribute locally. While in past years the manufacture of methamphetamine was reserved for small "mom and pop" operations with recipes passed down from one generation of "cooks" to the next, today the proliferation of easy to follow step-by-step instructions across the internet has created a boon in the industry. Methamphetamine labs are no longer surrounded by the mystique of outlaw biker gangs in the Sonoran desert. In fact most labs today are found in urban areas in homes, garages and in some cases travelling vehicles with portable labs set up in the trunks of cars or the back of SUVs.
Crystal Methamphetamine Effects and Pharmacology
Crystal Methamphetamine is widely known for it's severe side effects in users. Among the specific actions of the drug in the Central Nervous System, including CNS stimulation, elevated systolic and diastolic blood pressures, bronchodialtion and respiratory stimulation (4). Methamphetamines are a sympathomimetic amine, an agent that evokes responses similar to those produced by adrenergic nerve activity like epinephrine and ephedrine (5).
Cardiovascular: Palpitations, tachycardia, elevation of blood pressure. Enlargement of the heart and congestive heart failure is associated with chronic amphetamine use (3,4).
Central Nervous System: Psychotic episodes, overstimulation, restlessness, dizziness, insomnia, euphoria, dyskinesia (abnormal, repetitive movements) dysphoria (incoherrence), tremor, headache, exacerbation of motor and phonic tics and Tourette's syndrome (3,4).
Gastrointestinal: Dryness of the mouth, unpleasant taste, diarrhea, constipation, other gastrointestinal disturbances. Anorexia and weight loss are not uncommon in recreational use (3).
Bibliography and Resources:
- Methamphetamine Timeline, Erowid, www.erowid.org (pub), Date Unknown
- Maps of Methamphetamine Lab Seizures, National Clandestine Laboratory Database, www.dea.gov (pub), 2004
- Methamphetamines & Amphetamines: Statistics, DEA (SMARTS), www.dea.gov (pub), 2004
- Methamphetamine, HealthyPlace.com (©2000-2003), www.healthyplace.com/medications/ (pub), 2004.
- Dic., DictionaryBarn.com: a medical dictionary, online, 2004.
- This is your brain on meth: a forest fire of damage, Sandra Blakeslee, www.freerepublic.com (pub), 20 July 2004.
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