In 1893, methamphetamine (meth) was first synthesized from ephedrine by Japanese chemist, Nagayoshi Nagai. In 1919, Akira Ogata synthesized crystallized meth by reducing ephedrine using red phosphorous and iodine.
In the 1950s, Pharmacology and Therapeutics reported legal prescriptions of methamphetamine given to the American public for the treatment of narcolepsy, post-encephalitic Parkinsonism, alcoholism, and obesity.
Meth is an extremely potent stimulant that works within the central nervous system and affects the bodies neurochemical mechanisms that are responsible for regulating appetite, heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, blood pressure, attention, mood and automatic responses such as alertness or alarm.
Methamphetamine causes the norepinephrine transporter and the dopamine transporter to switch their direction of flow. This switch causes a release of these transmitters from the vesicles to the cytoplasm and from the cytoplasm to the synapse, causing increased stimulation of post-synaptic receptors. In addition, Meth indirectly prevents the reuptake of these neurotransmitters, causing them to remain in the synaptic cleft.
It is Neurotoxic in Overdose
Because the "high" that methamphetamine gives is intense and can last from eight to 24 hours, it has replaced cocaine, heroin, and marijuana as the drug of choice in many areas. Known on the street as "speed," "meth," "ice," and "crystal," it can be injected, smoked, snorted, or swallowed. During an interview with Dr. David McDowell, M.D.,(medical director of the Substance Treatment and Research Service at Columbia University at the New York State Psychiatric Institute) states, "The timing and intensity of the ‘rush’ are a result of the release of high levels of dopamine in the brain. Smoking and Injecting causes the methamphetamine to pass into the brain more quickly causing it to be more reinforcing and addictive.
There are several serious physical and psychological risks involved when using crystal meth including: increased blood pressure, rapid heart rate, inflammation of the heart lining, damage to small blood vessels in the brain which can lead to stroke, episodes of violent behavior, anxiety, paranoia, insomnia, and confusion.
Intravenous users also expose themselves to risks such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis B and C, blood-borne viruses, scarred and collapsed veins, infections of the heart lining and valves, abscesses, pneumonia, tuberculosis, and liver or kidney disease. After using meth, the addict crashes which can cause feelings of depression and suicide. After discontinuing use, Crystal meth addicts can have continuous psychotic symptoms that persist for months and years.
According to the United States Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and under the Controlled Substance Act (CSA), all controlled substances are rated on a five-schedule system. Schedule V, the lowest, for the potential for abuse and dependency and I, the highest. Crystal meth is a Schedule II controlled substance having the following attributes: a high potential for abuse, severe psychological and physical dependence. Other drugs in this category are cocaine and PCP.
Behavioral intervention is the most effective treatment for crystal meth addiction. These approaches are designed to help modify the patient's thinking, their expectancies, and behaviors, and to increase skills in coping with various life stressors. Meth recovery support groups such as 12-step programs are also effective adjuncts to behavioral interventions that can lead to long-term drug-free recovery. There are currently no particular pharmacological treatments for dependence on amphetamine or amphetamine-like drugs such as methamphetamine.
There are also numerous treatment obstacles such as: paranoia, decreased social skills, delusions, depression, malnutrition, violence, aggression, permanent psychological problems, kidney and lung disorders, liver damage, hallucinations, and feeling of suicide.
In conclusion, crystal methamphetamine continues to plague our world and recovery from this hazardous drug proves to be among the most difficult habits to break. Education is a must if society desires to demolish these trends. Education and awareness is key to stopping the crystal meth epidemic today, tomorrow and years to come.
- Yudko, Errol, Harold V. Hall and Sandra McPherson, Methamphetamine use: clinical and forensic aspects, Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 2003.
- Wright, Harold N., Montag, Mildred, Pharmacology and therapeutics, Philadelphia, PA: W.B. Saunders Company, 1951.
- Rothman, R.B., Baumann. M.H. Pharmacology and therapeutics 2002:95, 73-85.
- Itzhak Y, Martin J, Ali S (2002). "Methamphetamine-induced dopaminergic neurotoxicity in mice: long-lasting sensitization to the locomotor stimulation and desensitization to the rewarding effects of methamphetamine.". Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry 26 (6): 1177-83.
- Milne D., Experts desperately seeking meth abuse prevention, treatment. Psychiatric News, Jan 2, 2003, Volume 38 issue 1.
- The Controlled Substances Act: Chapter 1.
- DEA: Controlled Substances Act: Drug Abuse Prevention and Control.
- Lee, Steven J, Overcoming crystal meth addiction: an essential guide to getting clean from crystal meth addiction, New York: Marlowe & Company, 2006.