Q. What is Methamphetamine?

A. Methamphetamine is a powerful central nervous system stimulant. The drug works directly on the brain and spinal cord by interfering with normal neurotransmission. Neurotransmitters are chemical substances naturally produced within nerve cells used to communicate with each other and send messages to influence and regulate our thinking and all other systems throughout the body. The main neurotransmitter affected by methamphetamine is dopamine. Dopamine is involved with our natural reward system. For example, feeling good about a job well done, getting pleasure from our family or social interactions, feeling content and that our lives are meaningful and count for something, all rely on dopamine transmission.

Q. Where is meth manufactured and distributed?

A. Methamphetamine is both domestically produced and imported into the U.S. in already processed form. Once dominated by motorcycle gangs and other local producers in remote areas of California and the Pacific Northwest, the market now includes both local producers and Mexican sources providing finished product to stateside distributors.

Q. Why is meth use so prevalent in the Midwest?

A. The region’s methamphetamine epidemic stems from two problems:

  • steadily increasing importation of methamphetamine into the region by organized trafficking groups; and clandestine manufacturing of methamphetamine by hundreds of users/dealers in small “mom and pop” labs.
  • Twenty Mexican methamphetamine trafficking organizations have been identified by DEA as being involved in the Midwest, which is connected via major interstate highways, rail and air to the West and Southwest border areas that serve as importation, manufacturing and staffing areas for the Mexican operations.

Q. How is meth made?

A. The processing required to make methamphetamine from precursor substances is easier and more accessible than ever. There are literally thousands of recipes and information about making meth on the Internet. An investment of a few hundred dollars in over-the-counter medications and chemicals can produce thousands of dollars worth of methamphetamine. The drug can be made in a makeshift “lab” that can fit into a suitcase. The average meth “cook” annually teaches ten other people how to make the drug.

Q. What ingredients are used to make meth?

A. Over-the-counter cold and asthma medications containing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, red phosphorous, hydrochloric acid, drain cleaner, battery acid, lye, lantern fuel, and antifreeze are among the ingredients most commonly used. For more information, click here.

Q. Is the Pseudoephedrine Law working?

A. Yes! Because of the pseudoephedrine law, we have seen a huge reduction in clandestine meth labs. This has had a tremendous impact on our environment, as well as on first responders investigating these labs and children who were living in these labs, as they are no longer being exposed to toxic fumes and contaminants. While this has helped shut down the local labs, law enforcement officers are estimating at least 80% of meth they are seizing is being imported from Mexico and manufactured in super labs down there. Officials also report a rise in “Ice,” a more potent form of the drug.

Q. How much does meth cost on the street?

A. The cost varies according to several factors, including purity of the drug, the region in which it is sold, the source of the drug (local product vs. imported) and availability of the drug. The approximate prices are:

  • $25 per 1/4 gram
  • $100 per gram
  • $1700 per ounce

Experts estimate that one ounce of meth equals about 110 meth “hits.”

Q. Who is using methamphetamine?

A. Use is widely prevalent in both urban and rural areas and equally divided among males and females. Women are more likely to use methamphetamine than cocaine. Some areas are seeing an increase in the number of Hispanic and Native American meth users, though whites are still the most dominant users of the drug.

Q. Are teenagers using the drug?

A. The drug is becoming more popular among persons 18 years and younger, as studies show teenagers perceive methamphetamine as safer, longer lasting and easier to buy than cocaine. The “Monitoring the Future” survey, which measures the extent of drug use among U.S. adolescents, found methamphetamine use among high school seniors more than doubled between 1990 and 1996. In addition, law enforcement officials have caught teens as young as 14- and 15-year-olds using and selling the drug.

Q. Why should I talk to my child about meth?

A. Teens whose parents talk to them about drugs are half as likely to use drugs as those whose parents do not speak to them on this topic.

Q. Why do people start using methamphetamine?

A. Athletes and students sometimes begin using meth because of the initial heightened physical and mental performance the drug produces. Blue collar and service workers may use the drug to work extra shifts, while young women often begin using meth to lose weight. Others use meth recreationally to stay energized at “rave” parties or other social activities. In addition, meth is less expensive and more accessible than cocaine and users often have the misconception that methamphetamine is not really a drug.

Q. What happens immediately after a person takes methamphetamine?

A. The drug alters mood in different ways, depending on how it is taken. Immediately after smoking or intravenous injection, the user experiences an intense “rush” or “flash” that lasts only a few minutes and is described as extremely pleasurable. Smoking or injecting produces effects fastest, within five to ten seconds. Snorting or ingesting orally produces euphoria – a high but not an intense rush. Snorting produces effects within three to five minutes, and ingesting orally produces effects within 15 to 20 minutes.

Q. How does the drug affect users overall?

A. In all forms, the drug stimulates the central nervous system, with effects lasting anywhere from four to 24 hours. Methamphetamine use can not only modify behavior in an acute state, but after taking it for a long time, the drug literally changes the brain in fundamental and long-lasting ways. It kills by causing heart failure (myocardial infarction), brain damage, and stroke and it induces extreme, acute psychiatric and psychological symptoms that may lead to suicide or murder.

Q. What are some signs that a person may be using the drug?

A. The person may exhibit anxiousness; nervousness; incessant talking; extreme moodiness and irritability; purposeless, repetitious behavior, such as picking at skin or pulling out hair; sleep disturbances; false sense of confidence and power; aggressive or violent behavior; disinterest in previously enjoyed activities; and severe depression.

Q. If methamphetamine is so dangerous, why can physicians prescribe the drug to patients?

A. Methamphetamine used to be prescribed by physicians for attention/deficit/hyperactivity disorder, narcolepsy, and weight control. Because it is a Schedule II drug, physicians can still prescribe it under very limited circumstances. However, most choose to prescribe other pharmaceuticals over methamphetamine today because of the potential and likelihood of abuse and dependence.

Q. Why is methamphetamine addictive?

A. All addictive drugs have two things in common: They produce an initial pleasurable effect, followed by a rebound unpleasant effect. Methamphetamine releases a tremendous amount of dopamine in the brain that causes an intense rush and euphoria in the user. However, once this euphoria wears off, it leaves a person feeling very depressed. The user can “crash” for hours or days. This is because it damages the dopamine transporter systems in the brain. The user physically demands more of the drug to return to normal. This pleasure/tension cycle leads to a loss of control over the drug and addiction.

Q. Is methamphetamine addiction difficult to treat?

A. Prolonged drug use changes the brain in fundamental and long lastings ways and the healing process may take a long time. However, research shows that meth users recover as substantially as do other drug abusers. In fact, with proper treatment and recovery plans, meth users recover at about the same rates as alcohol and cocaine abusers. Addiction is a brain disease. It is a chronic condition that can’t be “cured,” but can be managed, much like other chronic health conditions, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, etc.

Q. What other problems does methamphetamine pose to society?

A. Automobile accidents; explosions and fires triggered by the illegal manufacture of methamphetamine; environmental contamination; increased criminal activity, including domestic violence; emergency room and other medical costs; spread of infectious disease, including HIV, AIDS and hepatitis; and lost worker productivity. Economic costs also fall on governments, which must allocate additional resources for social services and law enforcement. See also, Methamphetamine: What are the real costs to society?

Q. What do I look for if I suspect a meth lab in my neighborhood?

A. Unusual, strong odors similar to the that of fingernail polish remover or cat urine; renters who pay cash; large amounts of products such as cold medicines, antifreeze, drain cleaner, lantern fuel, coffee filters, batteries, duct tape, clear glass beakers and containers; and residences with windows blacked out and lots of nighttime traffic.

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