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 medical uses, primarily in the
treatment of obesity, but their therapeutic use is limited.
Methamphetamine is made in illegal laboratories and has a high potential for abuse and dependence.
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," and "glass."
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 disorder.
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
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, hypothermia, and euphoria. Other CNS effects include irritability, insomnia,
confusion, tremors, convulsions, anxiety, paranoia, and aggressiveness. Hypothermia 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.
A study in Seattle confirmed that methamphetamine use was widespread among the city's
homosexual and bisexual populations. Of these groups, members using methamphetamine reported
they practice sexual and needle-use behaviors that place them at risk of contracting and transmitting
HIV and AIDS.
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