Crystal Methamphetamine

By Dr. Griffith
September 2003

Crystal Methamphetamine or “meth” was first used in Japan in the early part of the 1900s. It is water soluble, so it could be used in intravenous form. Methamphetamine is a more powerful stimulant than amphetamine. Amphetamines were developed in the late 1800s in Germany and used during prohibition by people in the US looking for a “buzz.” Before this, amphetamines were prescribed by physicians for various ailments.

The Japanese and American military personnel used methamphetamine to stay alert during periods of battle fatigue during WW II. Japan had a drug abuse problem before the war (opium) and the Japanese government began manufacturing methamphetamine for their military. When the war ended, the government had surplus of methamphetamine and flooded the market with it, leading to a significant increase in stimulant abuse.

One of the lesser-known facts of WWII is that Hitler used an IV administration of methamphetamine during his reign in Germany.

You do not need a Ph.D. in chemistry to make crystal methamphetamine. I have assessed people who were unable to read beyond elementary school levels who were able to follow the steps in making crystal methamphetamine in their home.

Some states are trying to take preventative measures. A Tennessee task force has recommended removing ephedrine from store shelves. Ephedrine is an ingredient in cold medication, which is used in making methamphetamine. These measures are a response to data showing the visits to Emergency Rooms for amphetamine or crystal methamphetamine have increased over 50 percent between 1995 and 2002.

Methcathinone or “cat” is a similar drug.

Both Methcathinone and Methamphetamine have been studied in animals. Biochemists use techniques in animal studies to calculate the effects of these drugs on the human brain and have demonstrated both drugs are neurotoxic to humans. There is psychiatric literature indicating that these drugs can lead to permanent thinking disorders such as those seen in schizophrenia. Japanese researchers have found that a paranoid-hallucinatory reaction may spontaneously appear during periods of stress –even after drug use has stopped. According to a recent article in the American Journal of Addictions, Methamphetamine increases psychiatric symptoms including psychosis, depression and suicide attempts and lowers a person’s ability to control their anger and behavior resulting in violence. Studies of cocaine users may apply to methamphetamine users. If this is so, cocaine users show a very higher rate of trauma and interpersonal victimization and violence than non-users or users of other street drugs (heroin, for example).

Despite this linkage between trauma, violence and cocaine, alcohol continues to is the major drug involved in domestic violence and child abuse.

Taking Methamphetamine can cause cardiac problems and even death from stroke or heart attack. Chronic use can result in movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease. Children exposed to the fumes from manufacturing it alone can suffer from short term and long term multiple physical problems. Caregivers using Methamphetamine dramatically increase the risk of exposing their children to trauma.

People who have become addicted to Methamphetamine center their life around the drug. Typically a person reaches the addicted state rather quickly with all stimulant drugs. That path from experimentation to dependency may depend on several factors such as the person’s personality make up, psychiatric history, opportunity for use and buffers that might reduce use, such as a positive social support system (friends who do not use the drug).

Research into the treatment for substance abuse indicates that people who come for treatment have a higher rate of missing the first professional appointment than do people seeking psychiatric treatment. Studies show that up to 50 percent of people do not show up for intake appointments for cocaine treatment. I think this points to the extraordinary difficulty in taking the first step, especially with stimulant medication.

Many addiction counselors have moved away from asking people to abstain in the early stages of treatment and instead, have worked toward “harm reduction.” The harm reduction model attempts to deliver treatment specific to where the client is functioning. This model of counseling accepts the client’s choice to use drugs, but does not ignore the real world harm that occurs as a result.

ArticleAustin Griffith