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,"
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
they practice sexual and needle-use behaviors that place them at
risk of contracting and transmitting
HIV and AIDS.