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Methamphetamine (Meth)

Street names: speed, meth, crystal meth, chalk, ice, rock candy, jib, tweak, Tina, glass, crank

Methamphetamine (meth) is an amphetamine that acts as a powerful stimulant and speeds up the body's central nervous system, due to an intense release of dopamine in the brain.

Different from drugs like cannabis and cocaine, which are derived from plants, meth is manufactured by "cooking" a number of chemicals in a process that is highly toxic and dangerous.

Since meth is manufactured in illegal labs, the process and chemicals used to produce the drug can vary. In addition to ephedrine or pseudo-ephedrin, a common ingredient in cold medication, the drug may contain a range of toxic chemicals that can include paint thinners, battery acid, drain cleaner and anti-freeze that are easily obtained and help with the manufacturing process.

Methamphetamine has been illegal in Canada since 1989 and was moved to Schedule 1 of the federal Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) in 2005.

How it is used

Meth can be used in a number of ways. It is most commonly smoked in a glass pipe, but can also be injected, snorted or eaten. The intensity of the experience depends on how fast the drug is absorbed into the body, with injection being the fastest method.

Quick facts:

  • Some women use the drug for weight loss, although there is evidence that there is only a short-term that is reversed as the person's tolerance to meth increases.
  • A federal government report estimates that there roughly 52,000 to 77,778 meth users in Canada.[1]
  • Up to five pounds of toxic waste can be made from every pound of meth.[2]
  • All users of meth users have a higher chance of contracting a sexually transmitted disease, including HIV and hepatitis, as the drug makes users more likely to engage in high-risk behaviour such as unprotected sex.[3]

Recognizing meth

Meth often comes as a crystalline white powder or for crystal meth, as chunky, colourless crystals. However, the powder can also be a brown, yellow-gray, orange or pink colour. The drug is odorless, has a bitter taste and is easily dissolved in water or alcohol. It is often sold in paper flaps (small pieces of shiny paper folded into an envelope), baggies, tablets or capsules.

Effects of Methamphetamines (Meth)

Meth causes the brain to release high levels of dopamine, a chemical that plays a significant role in the reward centre of the brain. This can result in a feeling of euphoria that can last for up to 12 hours, as well as feelings of self-confidence and an increased libido.

The effect is felt quickly, within a matter of minutes when snorted and within 15 to 20 minutes when eaten.

Once the effects of the drug wear off, feelings of exhaustion and depression often occur, which can cause the person to reuse the drug over days or even weeks in what CAMH refers to as a "binge and crash" pattern.

Users of the drug find themselves chasing the euphoric feeling from the first time it was used, while experiencing less and less pleasure. This can lead to higher doses of the drug, which can have significantly harm the brain. Eventually the person may not receive any pleasure at all.

Meth is one of the most addictive drugs, it has extreme negative side-effects and risks, and it is one of the hardest drugs to treat.

The transition from short to long-term effects can happen quickly. Negative effects and health risks from the use of methamphetamines can be extreme and include:

  • Excessive sweating
  • Blurred vision
  • Hyperactivity, restlessness, twitching
  • Paranoia, hallucinations, delusions and violent outbursts
  • Irregular, high or low blood pressure and heart rate
  • Nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Sleeping problems
  • Decreased appetite and weight loss

Repeated use of the drug can cause the negative effects to intensify and may lead to psychotic, homicidal or suicidal thoughts. Other extreme negative long-term effects include:

  • Meth mouth, a condition where teeth decay at an abnormally fast rate
  • Meth bugs, where the person feels like there are bugs under the skin
  • Damage to the brain's ability to produce dopamine
  • Damage areas of the brain that control thinking and movement
  • Increased risk of heart disease and Parkinson's disease
  • Convulsions, heart attack, stroke and death

 

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The primary source for this information was provided by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. For more information on Cannabis, please visit their website.