Methamphetamine is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant that produces a rush and feelings of energy and pleasure.
The relative ease of creating the drug is why it is one of the most well-known illicit substances in the United States. Despite a small drop in meth use in the early 2000s, its availability has increased as the drug is imported illegally.
Addiction to meth can be debilitating, but there is hope for recovery. After quitting the drug, there is evidence that the brain can return to a normal state after a significant period of sobriety.
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What Is Meth?
Methamphetamine, or meth for short, is a stimulant medication. Originally taken as a decongestant, antidepressant and weight loss aid, methamphetamine was once widely and legally available in tablet and injectable forms.
After wide popularity in the 1960s, meth was classified as a schedule II substance under the Controlled Substance Act in 1971. Schedule II substances have a recognized medical use, but a high potential for addiction and abuse. Prescription meth (brand name Desoxyn) is indicated to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or obesity.
Resurging in the 1980s, meth became popular as a street drug. Methamphetamine has remained popular in these same circumstances up to this day. Today, the vast majority of methamphetamine distribution comes from illegal laboratories and imports.
A key ingredient in meth production is the over-the-counter (OTC) drug pseudoephedrine. The product is “cooked” in a “laboratory” — commonly trailers or remotely located residential homes — and made into a consumable form. Meth labs are notoriously dangerous because the byproducts of the drug’s creation process are toxic and explosive.
The two most common names for methamphetamine — meth and crystal meth — correspond respectively with its two popular forms: powder and rock.
Meth is a crystalline powder. It is most commonly white, though it can also be yellow, pink or brown. It is odorless, bitter and can be dissolved in liquid. It’s most commonly consumed via smoking, snorting or injection. In some cases, it is compressed into a pill. Crystal meth is clear or blue and takes the shape of coarse crystals. These crystals are commonly said to resemble ice. The rock form of methamphetamine is usually smoked.
Many drug dealers “cut” methamphetamine with other substances to sell less of the actual drug for the same price and fetch a greater profit margin. These cutting substances may be common household powders such as salt, sugar and talcum powder.
In some cases, methamphetamine is cut with prescription medications, ranging from antidepressants to laxatives. These additives can enhance or alter the effect of the drug on a person’s system.