Methamphetamine is an addictive stimulant drug that
strongly activates certain systems in the brain. Methamphetamine is
closely related chemically to amphetamine, but the central nervous system
effects of methamphetamine are greater. Both drugs have some limited
therapeutic uses, primarily in the treatment of obesity.
Methamphetamine is made in illegal laboratories and
has a high potential for abuse and addiction. 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," "glass," and "tina."
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
Methamphetamine is taken orally or intranasally (snorting
the powder), by intravenous injection, and by smoking. Immediately after
smoking or intravenous injection, the methamphetamine user experiences
an intense sensation, called a "rush" or "flash,"
that lasts only a few minutes and is described as extremely pleasurable.
Oral or intranasal use produces euphoria—a high, but not a rush. Users
may become addicted quickly, and use it with increasing frequency and
in 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 regrowth
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. Its use can result
in cardiovascular collapse and death.
Extent of Use
Monitoring the Future Study (MTF)*
MTF assesses the extent of drug use among adolescents
(8th-, 10th-, and 12th-graders) and young adults across the country.
Recent data from the survey indicate the following:
In 2003, 6.2 percent of high SCHOOL
seniors had reported lifetime** use of methamphetamine, statistically
unchanged from 6.9 percent in 2001. Lifetime use was measured at 5.2
percent of 10th grade students and 3.9 percent of 8th-graders.
Annual** use remained stable at 3.3 percent in 2003 among 10th-graders
and at 3.2 percent among seniors.
Community Epidemiology Work Group (CEWG)**
Results reported at the most recent CEWG meeting indicate
that methamphetamine abuse and production continue at high levels in
Hawaii, west coast areas, and some southwestern areas of the United
States—but methamphetamine abuse also is continuing to spread eastward
to urban, suburban, and rural areas at a pace unrivaled by any other
drug in recent times.
The percentage of adult male arrestees testing methamphetamine-positive
increased in 10 CEWG areas between 2001 and 2003. The percentages were
highest in Honolulu (43.8 percent), San Diego (36.7), Phoenix (38.5),
Los Angeles (14.8), and Seattle (10.9).
Several other items of significance were reported, as
In 2002, 46 percent of the 15,676 methamphetamine lab
incidents were reported in 9 sites located in middle America: Missouri
(2,788), Iowa (862), Kansas (763), Oklahoma (595), Tennessee (560),
Illinois (551), Arkansas (398), Kentucky (372), and Nebraska (272).
In the first 6 months of 2003, more than 56 percent of substance abuse
in Hawaii were for primary methamphetamine abuse. San Diego followed,
with nearly 51 percent.
Some MDMA (ecstasy) and cocaine users are switching to methamphetamine,
ignorant of its severe toxicity.
In many gay clubs found throughout New York City and elsewhere, methamphetamine
is often used in an injectable form, placing users and their partners
at risk for transmission of HIV, hepatitis C, and other STDs.
National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH)****
According to the 2002 NSDUH, 12.4 million Americans
age 12 and older had tried methamphetamine at least once in their lifetimes
(5.3 percent of the population), with the majority of past-year users
between 18 and 34 years of age.
Find this information and more at www.drugabuse.gov