Affecting the central nervous system, methamphetamines are addictive stimulants that trigger the brain to release high levels of dopamine. For the user, this means a sense of euphoria. Methamphetamines increase activity levels and alter a user’s appetite. While other stimulants may create a high that lasts 20-30 minutes, a methamphetamine user’s high may last 6-8 hours.
A user’s euphoria is followed by depression and exhaustion that drive the need for the next fix. Some of the adverse effects of methamphetamine abuse are premature aging, deterioration of the user’s physical appearance, deficits in learning and memory, and brain damage.
Methamphetamine is commonly known as “speed,” “meth,” and “chalk.” In its smoked form, it is often referred to as “ice,” “crystal,” “crank,” and “glass.” It is a white, odorless, bitter-tasting crystalline powder that easily dissolves in water or alcohol. The drug was developed from its parent drug, amphetamine, and was originally used in nasal decongestants and bronchial inhalers.
In the 1980s, methamphetamine that can be smoked through a glass pipe or rolled tin foil appeared on the scene. “Ice” is clear crystal of high purity that is odorless, and with a potentially 12-hour effect. In some parts of Asia, this is called “shabu.”
In an article published in the Houston Journal of International Law, it was revealed how methamphetamine has become an international affair – when the abuse of the drug used to be solely an American problem. It has since become the most abused drug in Asia, Australia, and Mexico, with use of the drug spreading in Europe. One in ten Australians had tried methamphetamines at least once in their lifetime. New Zealand has emerged as the country with the highest methamphetamine usage rate in the world and as one of the leading producers per capita.
Large scale production of methamphetamines has been found in the Czech Republic and, to a lesser extent, the Balkans, Moldova, and the Slovak Republic. According to the 11th annual report of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, 2006, use of methamphetamine among EU member states appears to be relatively high in only a few countries, namely the Czech Republic, Estonia and the United Kingdom. Most of the Czech production of methamphetamine is destined for the local market, although some are smuggled to Germany, Austria and Slovakia.
Methamphetamine is now the most abused hard drug in the world. The United Nations Office On Drugs and Crime 2007 Report states that the drug has approximately twenty five million users worldwide. More than four-fifths of all users are located outside the United States. Methamphetamine users worldwide outnumber heroin and cocaine users combined.
Today, Asia is the undisputed methamphetamine capital of the world, with over fifteen million estimated methamphetamine users.
The biggest producers of methamphetamine in Asia are Myanmar and China, while the drug is transported into Thailand along historical drug trafficking routes through the Golden Triangle. By 2004, about 20 tons of methamphetamine or 7.5% of global production was shipped annually into Thailand from Myanmar (Martin Jelsma, Trouble in the Triangle. Opium and Conflict in Burma, Silkworm Books, Chang Mai, Thailand, July 2005).
Methamphetamine easily covers wide areas of global usage, thus becoming a pandemic, because it is easy to make, and with components that are readily available. And because production is comparatively cheaper, methamphetamine is more affordable and widely accessible.
The basic method for making methamphetamine involves extracting the pseudoephedrine from cold medicine and combining it with a number of chemicals such as iodine crystals, muriatic acid, and red phosphorous. All ingredients of methamphetamine can be extracted from pharmaceutical drugs, cleaning fluids, and other substances that are readily available in drug and hardware stores. When “cooked” together, the chemicals produce the highly addictive and potentially lethal drug that is methamphetamine.
For “ice,” there are only 3 main ingredients needed: pseudoephedrine, iodine crystals, and red phosphorus. Other secondary chemicals needed are muriatic acid (HCl), acetone, and Red Devil Lye which is a very strong drain cleaner. Synthesizing methamphetamine can take just a few hours. Methamphetamine is easy to make, even at home.
Pseudoephedrine, the main precursor chemical of methamphetamine, is the active ingredient in Sudafed, an over-the-counter drug at any pharmacy. Crush the pills and soak in denatured alcohol for 4 to 8 hours. Filter, take the liquid, and simmer on the stove until liquid evaporates. Finish the drying with a hair dryer so you don’t burn the pseudo. Now, take the powder and mix it with distilled water. Let it settle and set it in the freezer for 30 minutes. Now, take the semi-frozen liquid and filter again. Take the pseudo water and slowly boil it again. Take out the hair dryer and finish drying. It now turns into powdered form. This is pure pseudo.
Iodine crystals can be obtained from another over-the-counter drug, Iodine Tincture. A gram of pure iodine crystals can be produced from one 1 oz. bottle of Iodine Tincture.
Red phosphorus is made from the strike pad on a match book.
All these chemicals translate to some ugly manifestations on a user’s body.
“Meth Mouth” is a term used to describe the mouth of a methamphetamine user. It is characterized by rampant tooth decay. In a short span of time, sometimes just months, a perfectly healthy set of teeth can turn grayish-brown, twist and begin to fall out. Several reasons have been identified as to the causes of this fast and severe decaying of teeth. During the “high” produced by this drug, users usually experience cravings for sugary carbonated beverages. The acidic contents of this drug can damage teeth. Ingredients can include battery acid, lantern fuel, antifreeze, hydrochloric acid, drain cleaner, lye, and over-the-counter cold medications containing ephedrine. Users of methamphetamines usually tend to clench and/or grind their teeth as a persistent habit. Methamphetamines also dry up protective saliva around the teeth.
The wounds on a meth addict’s skin come from scratching, picking, and digging the spots to relieve the itching. They experience the sensation of small bugs, known as “Meth Mites or Bugs,” moving right under their skin.
Methamphetamine does not get eliminated from an addict’s body. Moreover, once the distribution of this drug has penetrated a community, it also does not get eliminated from the social system.
1st Global Conference on Methamphetamine
Prague, Czech Republic
15-16 September 2008
Theme: Science, Strategy, and Response
Objective: For the world’s preeminent scientists, leaders, and professionals working on issues related to methamphetamine to gather and discuss the intersection between methamphetamine use, public health, law enforcement, and civil society.