Methamphetamine is a highly addictive synthetic stimulant that affects the pleasure centers of the brain. It is considered even more addictive than heroin. Meth is sometimes referred to as "Speed," "Chalk," "Ice," "Crystal," "Glass," "Crank," "Yaba," "Fire," "Tina," and "Tweak."
Meth releases high levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine (three to four time the levels attributable to cocaine), which stimulates brain cells, enhances mood and body movement, and regulates feelings of pleasure. With repeated use, Meth can "turn off" the brain's ability to produce dopamine, leaving users unable to experience any kind of pleasure from anything other than more and more Meth. Meth can be swallowed, snorted, smoked, or injected. Depending on the method of intake, the high from Meth can last from 6 to 24 hours.
Meth is derived from amphetamine and is commonly made using the base chemicals ephedrine or pseudoephedrine found in over-the-counter medicines. Other common household products added to the manufacture of Meth include: acetone (nail polish remover), iodine, anhydrous ammonia (fertilizer), hydrochloric acid (pool chemicals), lithium (batteries), red phosphorus (matches or road flares), sodium hydroxide (lye), sulfuric acid (drain cleaner), and toluene (brake fluid). Although there are multiple ways to produce Meth, most involve the use of toxic and volatile substances that pose a threat to the surrounding area.
For every pound of Meth produced, approximately five pounds of toxic waste is generated. This waste may include corrosive liquids, acid vapors, heavy metals, solvents, and other harmful materials. Because of the illicit nature of Meth production, waste is often dumped haphazardly, contaminating watersheds used by humans and animals.
Meth users are often seduced by the intensity of the initial high—a high many say is unlike anything they have experienced before. Almost immediately, users build up a tolerance for the drug, causing them to vary the quantity, frequency, or method of intake in an effort to recreate that first experience. Even with sustained low-level usage, a person will often begin to experience symptoms such as drug craving, extreme weight loss, loss of muscle tone, and tooth decay, along with withdrawal-related depression and other symptoms. High doses can elevate body temperature to dangerous—sometimes lethal—levels, as well as cause convulsions.
Long-term Meth abuse may result in many damaging effects, including violent behavior, anxiety, confusion, insomnia, paranoia, auditory hallucinations, mood disturbances and delusions (for example, the sensation of insects crawling on the skin). Chronic use frequently leads to symptoms such as neurotoxicity (brain damage), respiratory problems, irregular heartbeat, and irreversible damage to blood vessels in the brain—producing strokes, heart and kidney damage, cardiovascular collapse, and death.