Crystal Meth Overview
Stimulants are an incredibly powerful and addictive class of drugs that includes cocaine, crack cocaine, and crystal methamphetamine. As you might have guessed, stimulants increase the rate at which a person’s bodily systems function. For instance, they stimulate the heart, the respiratory system, and the central nervous system as a whole. And like other types of drugs, there are some stimulants that are more powerful and even more dangerous than others, one of which is crystal methamphetamine, also known as crystal meth or just “crystal” for short.
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What exactly is crystal meth?
Amphetamine — one of several substances from which methamphetamine is made — was first synthesized in Germany in the late 1800s. Shortly thereafter, a chemist in Japan synthesized methamphetamine from ephedrine, which could be considered a close cousin of amphetamine. However, methamphetamine was found to be even more powerful than amphetamine and still soluble in water, making it an ideal candidate for intravenous use. This led to what’s probably the most widely-known historical fact about methamphetamine, which is that both the Allied and Axis Powers provided methamphetamine to soldiers during World War II to help them stay awake for extended periods of battle. In fact, large doses of methamphetamine were given to Japanese kamikaze pilots just before their suicide missions.
The first civilian population to be ravaged by methamphetamine use was in Japan. After World War II, citizens were able to get ahold of methamphetamine reserves that had been collected and stored for military use, leading to widespread street use. But the West wasn’t far behind; by the 1950s, methamphetamine was being prescribed as a diet aid and to help with depression. The drug could even be purchased without a prescription, resulting in the frequent use of amphetamine by college students, truck drivers, and athletes. Unfortunately, as injectable methamphetamine became increasingly available, it was less and less used merely as an occasional supplement.
Methamphetamine was declared illegal (for most purposes) by the United States government in 1970, effectively making methamphetamine the street drug that it’s known as today. In fact, following its designation as an illegal drug, methamphetamine production and distribution was taken over by a number of biker gangs. It was at this point that methamphetamine gained the reputation of being a “rural drug”; users who might have preferred cocaine — which was imported into larger cities before making its way into smaller and smaller communities — would eventually resort to methamphetamine as a cheaper alternative. Of course, methamphetamine ended up being even more powerful than cocaine, making many individuals’ substance abuse problems worse.
By the 1990s, methamphetamine production and distribution increased in scale. A number of cartels had set up laboratories in Southern California, intended specifically for producing methamphetamine. Meanwhile, people in rural communities throughout the United States were creating their own makeshift labs for the same purpose. Suddenly, we were hearing about the violent and deadly explosions that often happened in these unsafe patchmake labs. Authorities have been fighting against crystal meth and meth labs ever since.
Effects of crystal meth
To a degree, the effects of crystal meth are very similar to those of crack cocaine or even cocaine itself. Of course, there’s the obvious similarity that both crack cocaine and crystal meth are usually smoked — for crystal meth, the smoking apparatus is usually some type of crystal pipe consisting of a tubular stem with a glass bulb on one end — but the onset of the effects of crystal meth is also quite similar to crack cocaine. Upon smoking or ingesting crystal meth, the user feels an abrupt “rush” of energy. His or her heart begins to race, blood pressure increases, breathing gets rapid and shallow, body temperature goes up, and he or she is probably sweating, too.
Alternately, sometimes crystal meth is crush and insulated — inhaled through the nose — in a similar manner as cocaine, but this method of administration is less common. It’s also possible to prepare crystal meth in a liquid solution for intravenous injection. Typically, smoking and injecting crystal meth result in the fastest onset of effects.
While some of the effects of both crack and crystal meth are similar and both drugs offer some of the same effects, the effects of crystal meth last far longer than crack cocaine. The initial euphoria that accompanies the imbibing of crystal meth typically lasts about 30 minutes, but many of the drug’s other effects — particularly the increase in energy, heart rate, and blood pressure — can last as much as 12 hours or even longer. However, there are many long-term effects, too. Crystal meth use is known to inhibit appetite, which can lead to severe weight loss. Also, individuals who use crystal meth frequently often have dental problems, resulting in the loss of many teeth due to things like poor dental hygiene and grinding their teeth. Oftentimes crystal meth users will have large sores all over their body, which is the result of obsessively picking at themselves while under the influence.
Crystal meth withdrawal
Like other powerful stimulants, individuals who are addicted to crystal meth will experience certain withdrawal symptoms. Some of the most common crystal meth withdrawal symptoms include nausea, depression, lethargy and general lack of energy, fatigue, sweating, anxiety, paranoia, and physical shaking or trembling of the extremities. In fact, one of the main reasons why addicts continue using harmful substances is because of withdrawal; they want to continue using to keep withdrawal symptoms at bay. However, due to the powerful effects of crystal meth, withdrawal can be quite dangerous, which is why it’s important for individuals addicted to crystal meth to pursue treatment options.