What is meth?

Slang terms include ‘crystal,’ ‘crank,’ ‘glass,’ ‘ice,’ ‘speed’ and ‘Tina’. A powerful, addictive synthetic stimulant that causes the brain to release a surge of dopamine, creating a high that lasts from six to 24 hours.

Methamphetamine causes the body to release large amounts of dopamine, a neurotransmitter, resulting in a prolonged sense of pleasure or euphoria for the user; however, over time, this causes severe side effects. With repeated use, meth depletes the brain’s stores of dopamine and actually destroys the wiring of the dopamine receptors. This is a major reason why users become so addicted to the drug; without it they are no longer able to experience pleasure (a condition known as anhedonia), and they usually slip into a deep depression. Although dopamine receptors can grow back over time, studies have suggested that chronic meth use can cause other permanent brain damage, such as declines in reasoning, judgment and motor skills.

How is meth made?
Making methamphetamine is a multi-step cook process. The key ingredient is ephedrine or its cousin, pseudoephedrine. Both are chemicals found in over-the-counter cold, cough and allergy medicines. Additional chemicals are used to isolate the ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, cook it into meth, and process it into a form for consumption. These chemicals can be cheap, everyday household items like ammonia, lye, and red phosphorus scraped from matchbook covers. Start to finish, the cook process takes about 48 hours and can be hazardous because at one or more stages, the solution needs to be heated, producing toxic fumes and the chance of explosion.

Is meth an epidemic?
Yes. The nationwide spread of methamphetamine abuse over the past 15 years is well-documented. The most reliable source for measuring drug abuse is the data on drug treatment admissions which measure admissions per 100,000 residents. Between 1992 and 2002 the SAMHSA Treatment Episode Data Set went from having one state reporting more than 40 admissions for meth addiction per 100,000 residents, to 18 states reporting this rate of admissions.

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