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What is Methamphetamine?

Methamphetamine or "meth" is a synthetic drug that stimulates the central nervous system. Meth is closely related chemically to amphetamine, but produces a greater effect. The drug's euphoric effects are similar to those of cocaine, but with much longer-lasting effects.

Meth can be found in a variety of forms including pills, powder, and chunks. Common street names for meth include "crank," "speed," and "chalk." Pure methamphetamine hydrochloride, the smokable form of the drug, is called "ice," "crystal," "glass," and "quartz," due to its clear, chunky crystals. The drug can be smoked, snorted, swallowed, or injected.

Health Hazards Associated with Meth

Meth has considerable potential for adverse effects on the drug user. Toxic properties of the drug include agitation, psychosis, seizures, respiratory arrest, and death. In addition, drugs produced in clandestine labs may contain numerous contaminants and by-products, which do not have predictable effects on the drug user. Impurities found in some drugs produced in clandestine labs have resulted in severe and permanent neurological disability to the drug user following intravenous injection. Injury to the liver, kidneys, brain, nerves, and respiratory systems are commonly seen in drug users.

A more technical description of health effects can be viewed on the National Institute in Drug Abuse (NIDA) website.

Warning Signs of Meth Use

Meth users will exhibit numerous signs of use, the most obvious of which are hyperactivity, incessant talking, and wakefulness. The drug produces a false sense of confidence in the user. Users will often have a loss of appetite and become extremely irritable and moody. Prolonged meth abuse can resemble symptoms of schizophrenia characterized by hallucinations, paranoia, and repetitive behavior patterns. Abusers develop delusions of insects under the skin known as "speed bugs" or "meth bugs," which cause the user to pick at the skin incessantly resulting in open lesions. As the effects of the drug wear off, users may experience drug cravings, depressed moods, lethargy, and prolonged periods of sleep lasting 24 hours or more.

Get Help Now

If you or someone you know is battling with an addiction, there are places to get help. Visit Addictions and Mental Health Services.

The Oregon Partnership Alcohol and Drug Help Lines

  • Toll-Free Help: 1-800-923-4357
  • Toll-Free Youth Helpline: 1-877-553-8336
  • Se hable Espanol: 1-877-515-7848

Social Impacts of Meth in our Communities

The methamphetamine problem sweeping across the country has far-reaching effects on the communities it touches. There are the obvious effects on those using and manufacturing the drug, including illness, injury, and death. Property owners face financial loss due to property damage from fires, explosions, decontamination costs, and loss of rent. Meth manufacture degrades environmental quality. Byproducts may find their way into the soil, water, and air. There are increased costs for medical services and emergency room use for meth users and producers. Governments must dedicate tax dollars to additional law enforcement, prosecution, and social services. Meth use also contributes to domestic violence, child abuse, motor vehicle accidents, and the spread of infectious diseases through shared needles. Meth affects entire communities, not just users.