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Crystal Meth Facts | side effects history & prevention
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Commercial and Street Names

Desoxyn®, chalk, crank, croak, crypto, crystal, crystal meth, fire, glass, meth, tweek, tina, white cross, shard, ice.

List of street terms for methamphetamine.

Description of Methamphetamine

Methamphetamine (“meth”) is an addictive stimulant that strongly activates certain systems in the brain. “Crystal meth” is a very pure, smokeable form of methamphetamine. Meth is a crystal-like powdered substance that sometimes comes in large rock-like chunks. When the powder flakes off the rock, the shards look like glass, which is another nickname for meth. Meth is usually white or slightly yellow, depending on the purity. Crystal meth looks like clear crystal chunks, like ice. Methamphetamine can be taken orally, injected, snorted, or smoked.

Crystal Meth 1
“Meth mouth.” Source: Christopher Heringlake

OCrystal Meth 1
“Crystal meth.” Source: DEA

Effects of Methamphetamine

Immediately after smoking or injection, user experiences an intense sensation, called a “rush,” that lasts only a few minutes and is described as extremely pleasurable. Snorting or swallowing meth produces euphoria but less intense than that achieved by smoking.

After the initial “rush,” there is typically a state of high agitation that can lead to violent behaviour. Other possible effects include increased wakefulness and insomnia, decreased appetite, anxiety, nervousness, convulsions and heart attack. Crystal meth effects are similar to those of cocaine but longer lasting.

Long-term effects of “meth” include tolerance and dependence. In some cases, users fore go food, sleep and hygiene and take more meth every few hours for days, ‘binging” until they run out of the drug or become too disorganized to continue. Smoking methamphetamine can also lead to “meth mouth:” permanent damage to teeth and gums resulting from the inhalation of the ingredients used to make amphetamine (anhydrous ammonia, battery acid, drain cleaner, camp fuel, etc). Chronic use can cause paranoia, hallucinations, repetitive behaviour (such as compulsively cleaning, grooming or disassembling and assembling objects), and delusions of parasites or insects crawling under the skin. Users can obsessively scratch their skin to get rid of these imagined insects. High dosages can bring on full-blown toxic psychosis (often exhibited as violent, aggressive behaviour) and extreme paranoia. Meth can also cause strokes and death.

Sources: DEA; NIDA InfoFacts, Methamphetamine, November 2006

A Brief History of Methamphetamine

Brief highlights in the chronological history of the manufacturing and use of methamphetamine are as follows:

1932 -Amphetamine, the forerunner to methamphetamine, became commercially available as a nasal spray to treat asthma.

1937 – Amphetamines were used to treat narcolepsy and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorders. A new and more potent form of amphetamine was developed: dextroamphetamine sulfate and methamphetamine.

1940s – Methamphetamine was used by WWII soldiers and pilots to fight fatigue and boost performance. Japan made their military supply of methamphetamine available to the public and intravenous methamphetamine abuse became epidemic in Japan.

1950s – Methamphetamine was used legally in America by truckers, athletes, and students.

1960s – The dangers of methamphetamine use became more apparent with its intravenous use by a sub-culture of young people known as “speed freaks”. Concern over the abuse and dependence produced by pharmaceutical amphetamine products led to substantial restrictions on their use and availability. The illicit production of it increased in the black market.

1965 – Federal control measures on production were employed.

1970s – A nationwide decrease in methamphetamine production and distribution is observed but the continuing demand for it led to illegal laboratory production in
the American west and southwest and was often associated with motorcycle gangs who obtained methamphetamine precursor chemicals from Mexico.

1980s – The number of makeshift labs in rural communities mushroomed, especially in California and Oregon. Methamphetamine began being smuggled into Hawaii from the Philippines, Taiwan and South Korea.

1990s to present – Methamphetamine use spreads eastward.

Source: Northwest Frontier Addiction Technology Transfer (ATTC) (July 2006) Addiction Messenger, Volume 9, Issue 7.

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Crack, Cocaine, Methamphetamine and Ice (1990) Leslie E. Moser

Iced: The Crystal Meth Epidemic (2007) Jerry Langton

Meth: America’s Home-Cooked Menace (2005) Dirk Johnson

Meth Survivor – Jennifer’s Story: And How One Community Fought Back (2006) Betty Brady

The Methamphetamine Crisis: Strategies to Save Addicts, Families, and Communities (2006) Lori Moriarty and Herbert C. Covey

Methamphetamine – The Dangers of Crystal Meth (2006) Describes the history of methamphetamine, why it is popular as an illicit drug, how it works, and its side effects. Frank Spalding

Methamphetamine: The Drug Of Death (2006) Larry R Erdmann

Methamphetamines (Drug Education Library) (2005) Hal Marcovitz

Methamphetamines – A Medical Dictionary, Bibliography, and Annotated Research Guide to Internet References (2004) Icon Health Publications

No Speed Limit: The Highs and Lows of Meth (2007) Frank Owen

Overcoming Crystal Meth Addiction : An Essential Guide to Getting Clean from Crystal Meth Addiction (2006) is written for a general audience and includes definition, history of crystal meth, psychological and physical effects. Steven Lee

Printed Resources – Forensics and Methamphetamine

Methamphetamine Use: Clinical and Forensic Aspects (2003) examines methamphetamine use and abuse from clinical, forensic, and criminal justice perspectives. Errol Yudko, Harold V. Hall, Sandra B. McPherson.

Printed Resources – Gay, Lesbian, Bi-sexual, Trans-gender (GLBT) and Methamphetamine

Suicide Tuesday: Gay Men and the Crystal Meth Scare (2005) Duncan Osborne

Tweakers: How Crystal Meth Is Ravaging Gay America (2005) Frank Sanello

For more information on gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgendered populations see the Special Populations section.

Printed Resources – History of Meth and Methamphetamine

American Meth: A History of the Methamphetamine Epidemic in America (2006) Sterling R Braswell

Printed Resources – Testimonial and Methamphetamine

Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Meth Addiction (2008) David Sheff

Tweaked: A Crystal Meth Memoir  (2006) chronicles a 20 year trip from a lonely childhood in Iowa to psychosis in Los Angeles. Patrick Moore.

Printed Resources – Treatment for Methamphetamine Addiction

A Clinician’s Guide to Methamphetamine (Hazelden Professional Library) (2005) Jeanne L. Obert, Michael J. McCann, Patricia, Ph.D. Marinelli-Casey, and Richard A. Rawson

Cocaine and Methamphetamine Addiction: Treatment, Recovery, and Relapse Prevention (2008) Arnold Washton and Joan Ellen Zweben

The Official Patient’s Sourcebook on Methamphetamine Dependence: A Revised and Updated Directory for the Internet Age (2002) Icon Health Publications 

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Websites Specific to Methamphetamine
Methamphetamine – NIDA

Online Resources – General Information on Methamphetamine

The ABCs – Amphetamine (Speed, Crystal Meth, Ice) (April 2007) Alberta Alcohol and Drug Commission (AADAC).

The Basics: Methamphetamine (February 2005) has basic information on methamphetamine including effects. Addiction Foundation Manitoba (AFM).

Beyond the ABCs – Amphetamines(July 2007) Alberta Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission.

Fact Sheet: Methamphetamine (2005) Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA).

Fact Sheet – Methamphetamine (2005) Health Canada.

FAQs About Crystal Methamphetamine San Francisco Aids Foundation.

Methamphetamine (July 2013) Drug Enforcement Administration.

What Is Crystal Meth? (2006) Centre quebecois de lutte aux dependences and Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), Drug and Organized Crime Awareness Scale.

Online Resources – Diversion and Methamphetamine

See the Pseudoephedrine and Methamphetamine section below.

Online Resources – Drug Policy and Methamphetamines

Pushing Back Against Meth: A Progress Report on the Fight Against Methamphetamine in the United States (November 2006) highlights findings of federal and state policy outcomes in lowering methamphetamine laboratory incidents. Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Rapid assessments of substance abuse problems: Guidelines and resources with an emphasis on the use and abuse of methamphetamine in Canada (July 2006) describes methods that can be used to rapidly assess the nature, extent and consequences of substance abuse and related problems in society. Designed specifically for those who wish to ensure that policies and programs concerning substance abuse are evidence-based. Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse.

Western Canadian Summit on Methamphetamine: Bringing Together Practitioners, Policy Makers and Researchers (April 2005) is a consensus panel report to provide health care providers, educators, users, law enforcement, emergency services, researchers, media, and the general public with a responsible assessment of currently available data. Vancouver Coastal Health.

For more information see the Drug Policy section.

Online Resources – Educator Resources and Methamphetamine

The Teacher’s Guide on Methamphetamine is published by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Scholastic has Methamphetamine: Toxic, Addictive and Devastating which is part of the Heads Up! Series of drug information for teachers and parents.

Crystal Meth Menace is an article written by Geoff Thompson, MA, CCC

Online Resources – Enforcement and Methamphetamine

Methamphetamine Abuse: Challenges for Law Enforcement and Communities(July 2006) addresses why methamphetamine abuse is such a growing problem. National Institute of Justice.

Pushing Back Against Meth: A Progress Report on the Fight Against Methamphetamine in the United States (November 2006) is a report that surveys the effects of anti-meth action in all 50 States and compares state laws to the Federal standard which was enacted in September 2006 as part of the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005.

Online Resources – Impaired Driving and Methamphetamines

Methamphetamines – Drugs and Human Performance Fact Sheets (April 2004) is a detailed fact sheet on effects of Methamphetamine use, particularly on performance and driving. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Online Resources – Pseudoephedrine and Methamphetamine

Methamphetamine: Preventing the Retail Diversion of Pseudoephedrine is designed to prevent the diversion of pseudoephedrine products that are utilized in the illicit manufacture of methamphetamine. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Online Resources – Research and Methamphetamines

Emerging Research on Methamphetamine (2005) describes the literature published on methamphetamine with a particular focus on patterns of use, its effect on the user and society, and progress being made towards effective treatment strategies. Jane Carlisle Maxwell.

A Key to Methamphetamine-Related Literature (January 2007) is a comprehensive directory of methamphetamine-related research citations. Mark R. Hammer, AIDS Institute, New York State Department of Health.

Methamphetamine Use Down Among Ontario Students, 1999-2005 (March 2006) Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), eBulletin, Vol. 7, No. 2.

NIDA Research Report: Methamphetamine Abuse and Addiction (September 2006) highlights how methamphetamines are different from other stimulants, and the effects of methamphetamine abuse. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). NIH Publication 06-4210.

For additional research on methamphetamines see the Amphetamines/Methamphetamines section of the Office of Applied Studies website, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Online Resources – Special Populations and Methamphetamines

Crystal: What You Should Know (February 2007) is written for gay males. Seattle & King County Public Health.

For more information on addiction treatment for gay men see the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender section of Special Populations.

Online Resources – Testimonials and Methamphetamines

Crystal Meth: Letters and Stories is written by users, loved ones, and parents is designed to promote the idea that addiction is a disease and that recovery is possible. KCI: The Anit-Meth Site.

Meth Stories is part of a huge meth-related website by

Real People – Real Stories is a meth education and meth information website with video and slideshow stories told by meth users.

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Online Resources – Treatment for Methamphetamine Addiction

Crystal Meth and Youth: Effective Treatment and Prevention Practiceslooks at the prevention and treatment of crystal methamphetamine problems, with a focus on youth. Alberta Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission (AADAC).

Guidelines for treating users of methamphetamine (2004) concludes that while there are differences between cocaine and methamphetamine, the research indicates that the treatment of methamphetamine users is similar to that for treating other stimulant users (such as cocaine users). Alberta Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission (AADAC).

Implications of Research for Treatment: Methamphetamine discusses how some of the effects of methamphetamine abuse can impact treatment of meth addiction. Jane Maxwell, Gulf Coast Addiction Technology Transfer Center.

Methamphetamine Treatment: A Practitioner’s Reference (2007) is a compilation of background information and treatment strategies for practitioners. California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs.

Treating Methamphetamine Addiction Is a summary sheet and FAQs of methamphetamine addiction treatment. New England ATTC.

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Video Resources – Movies

The Salton Sea (2002)
Starring: Vincent D’Onofrio, Adam Goldberg, Doug Hutchison, Val Kilmer, Shirley Knight

Actors: Jason Schwartzman, Mickey Rourke, Brittany Murphy, John Leguizamo, Patrick Fugit
Director: Jonas Åkerlund

Video Resources – General Information on Crystal Methamphetamine

Meth: Shadow Across America (March 2007) discusses the abuse and manufacture of meth is changing the American landscape. Twin Cities Public Television, Hazelden Foundation.

Amphetamines is featured in this UK documentary. BBC News.

Video Resources – Enforcement and Crystal Methamphetamine

Abbotsford Meth Lab Drug Bust (November 1999) is a drug bust in British Columbia. BCNewsVideo (YouTube)

Ice Age: Fighting the War on Meth (2004) is a training telecast designed to teach how to recognize meth clan lab indicators, meth users, and how to properly and safely respond when dealing with meth lab producers and users. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). DVD221.

Meth Lab Bust (September 2007) shows a giant meth lab in a warehouse in New Mexico. KOAT TV.

Video Resources – Medical Consequences of Crystal Methamphetamine

Warning! The following videos are graphic in nature and are not suitable for a younger audience.

Crystal Meth (October 2006) is a photo montage of the effects of crystal meth including burns in meth labs.

The Effects of Crystal Meth (March 2007) is a photo montage of the effects of crystal meth. Mike Cota.

Face of addiction – The effects of crystal meth (August 2006) shows what crystal meth changes physical appearance. Andre Meluzzi dos Reis.

Video Resources – Production of Crystal Meth

Meth Lab (July 2006) is a 30-second commercial that shows meth production gone wrong. Arcfx (YouTube).

When your Meth Lab BLOWS! (2001) is a television news story about a meth lab that catches fire and the aftermath. Joseph Zalar & Erik Stoffel.

Video Resources – Testimonial on Crystal Meth Addiction

Tina’s meth story (February 2007) is a personal testimonial where Tina talks about crystal meth as a way to escape from abuse at home. Modbeedotcom (YouTube).

Video Resources – Treatment and Crystal Meth Addiction

Life after Meth (March 2007) asserts that successful treatment of meth addiction is possible. Twin Cities Public Television, Hazelden Foundation.

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