What is Crystal Meth?
Crystal meth is the most potent form of speed available. It is also known as crystal, crank, tweak, go-fast, and dozens of other names. In medicine, it comes in tablet form, as the prescription drug, Desoxyn®. More often, though, it's cooked in makeshift labs and sold on the street as a powder, which is injected, snorted, or swallowed. A smokeable form of crystal, called "ice," is also used. Smoking 'ice' brings the user feelings of exhilaration and a sharpening of focus. Smoking ice results in an instantaneous dose of almost pure drug to the brain, giving a huge rush followed by a feeling of euphoria for anything from 2-16 hours. For some, using crystal meth results in obsessive cleaning or tidying, increased sociability, while others experience a sense of sexual liberation.
Crystal meth increases arousal in the central nervous system by pumping up levels of two neurotransmitters, norepinephrine and dopamine. At low doses, it boosts alertness and blocks hunger and fatigue. At higher doses, it causes exhilaration and euphoria. At very high doses, the drug can cause agitation, paranoia, and bizarre behavior. Physical effects include increased heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature.
Widely available in the 1960's, crystal faded in the '70s, as controls were tightened on legal production, which reduced its diversion onto the black market. But in the early '90s, crystal meth made an amazing comeback. And it's been back in a big way ever since.
Risks of using crystal meth are so extreme because the drug works so well at over-ramping the central nervous system and zapping feelings of hunger and fatigue. Crystal meth users extend speed "runs" for days or weeks, without food or rest, putting impossible demands on their bodies and brains. For needle users, there are the added hazards that come with injecting any drug. And for ice smokers, multiply it all by the still largely-unknown risk factor of exposing lung tissue to vaporized meth crystals. Crystal meth, more than any other drug pushes the mind and body faster and further than either was meant to go.
The long-term physical toll of crystal meth can be massive, including any or all of the following:
· Vitamin and mineral deficiencies
· Lowered resistance to disease
· Organ damage (particularly to the lungs, liver, and kidneys) after long-term use
· Chronic fatigue
· Delusions (Thinking you're being watched by enemies or police, for example -- unless you are being watched by the police, which is even worse.)
· Toxic psychosis after prolonged, heavy use
· Emotional swings
Symptoms increase with long-term use of crystal meth, and can involve paranoid delusions and hallucinations. Violence and self-destructive behavior are common. Overdose is also a risk with crystal. Symptoms include fever, convulsions, and coma. Death can result from burst blood vessels in the brain (triggered by spikes in blood pressure) or heart failure.
- Experts say that crystal meth is one of the most addictive street drugs and one of the hardest to treat. Addiction counsellors say the relapse rate of 92% is worse than cocaine.
- The withdrawal symptoms, especially the depression and physical agony, are reported by addiction counsellors to be worse than heroin or cocaine, and often addicts will drop out of recovery programs.
- A "point" of meth, meaning one-tenth of a gram, costs between $5 and $10 and lasts up to 12 hours, sometimes longer. By comparison, a rock of crack cocaine costs the same but wears off in 20 minutes.
- The majority of victims are men, and most of those are aged 19 to 21.
- Worldwide, it is the second most commonly used illicit drug after marijuana, with more than 35 million users.
- Meth is relatively simple to make. There are thousands of recipes on the Internet and police estimate that an investment of about $150 can yield an amount worth about $10,000 on the street.
- Each kilogram of crystal meth produces five to seven kilograms of chemical waste