is crystal meth?
Crystal meth is methamphetamine hydrochloride,
the street form of the drug methamphetamine that
comes in clear, chunky crystals and is heated and
common street names are "ice," "crystal," "glass," "jibb"
A tweaker is a name for
a crystal meth user that came out
of the U.S. rural Midwest and has become
increasingly common as the media and entertainment
picked it up.
Tweaking often refers to a common side effect
of using crystal meth: skin picking which results
from users' delusions that bugs are crawling
under their skin.
Crystal meth is
easy to produce in small, clandestine labs, set
up in anywhere from homes to hotel rooms, by mixing
a cocktail of about fifteen chemicals. The main
ingredient, pseudoephedrine (a cold remedy) is
cooked with chemicals commonly found at the hardware
store, such as red phosphorous, iodine, ammonia,
paint thinner, ether, Drano and the lithium from
batteries. The recipe is widely available on the
Police say an investment of about $150 can yield up to $10,000 worth of the
The manufacturing process, although relatively simple, is also
toxic and dangerous. Each kilogram of crystal meth produces
five to seven kilograms of chemical waste, which is often dumped down the
drain or in the backyard. Another by-product, toxic gases, often leads
to fire or explosions in the lab. When a crystal meth lab is discovered,
a special clandestine drug lab team is brought in to investigate it, as
well as a chemist from Health Canada who advises on dismantling the lab.
A house that contained a crystal meth lab needs to be decontaminated, and
can remain uninhabitable for months.
What is amphetamine?
Amphetamine (scientific name a-methylphenthylamine)
is a synthetic drug that stimulates the heart
and respiration, constricts blood vessels and
It was first synthesized in the late
19th century, and was released as a legitimate
medication, Benzedrine, in the 1930s. Benzedrine
was marketed as an appetite suppressant for weight
loss, as an antidepressant, and as a stimulant.
At that time, amphetamines were available over
the counter and quickly became a favorite street
drug known as "pep pills" or "Bennies."
The United States air force used it during the
Second World War to keep pilots awake on long
missions. There were reports that it was one
of the drugs used in "brainwashing" by the Communists
in the 1950s, and it was also used as a performance-enhancing
drug by athletes.
In most countries, amphetamine use was severely restricted in the 1950s
and became available by prescription only for narcolepsy and
to control weight. A number of chemical cousins in the amphetamine group are
used in low doses for the treatment of Attention Deficit Disorder.
to a recent Statistics Canada study, among
teens who answered questions about drug use:
34% had tried marijuana.
4% had used ecstasy.
3% had used crack cocaine.
2% had used crystal meth.
1% had used heroin.
How does amphetamine work?
Amphetamine increases the amount
of dopamine in the brain. In very low doses, used for ADD, the amphetamine
family stimulates the brain but actually slows down the patient, increasing
attention spans and decreasing impulsiveness. Slightly higher doses can cause
decreased hunger and bring on weight loss.
Negative effects include disturbed sleep patterns and loss of REM dreaming
sleep, hyperactivity, nausea, delusions of power, increased aggressiveness
and irritability. Long-term negative effects, in high doses, can include heart,
liver, kidney and lung damage.
What is methamphetamine?
is a chemical stimulant that is similar to amphetamine, but creates a much
stronger effect on the central nervous system.
In low doses, it can be used to treat ADD, narcolepsy and, for
short periods of time, obesity.
It became a common street drug known as "speed" in
the 1960s, usually taken in pill form, but lost
popularity after a number of incidents that spread
the warning that "speed kills."
"Meth" was not a drug of choice through much of the 1970s and 1980s. In the late
1980s, a smokable, crystal form was created, perhaps in Asia, and then surfaced
in California in the 1990s. It has increased in popularity among drug users in
the past decade-and-a-half.
How does methamphetamine work?
high levels of dopamine in the brain,
a neurotransmitter that is associated with pleasurable or rewarding
After it is taken in oral form, the user experiences increased wakefulness
and physical activity, and decreased appetite. For some patients, even low
doses can be addictive.
With higher doses of methamphetamine, especially if it is
smoked or injected, the user immediately experiences an intense "rush" (also called
a "flash") that causes intense pleasure but only lasts a few minutes. Users
can become addicted and dependent quickly, needing more and higher doses
as the addiction progresses.
In high doses, methamphetamine causes irritability, insomnia, confusion,
hallucinations, anxiety, paranoia and increased aggression. In even higher
doses, hypothermia and convulsions can cause death.
When the body is stimulated by methamphetamine, the drug can cause irreversible
damage. The increased heart rate and blood pressure damage blood vessels
in the brain, which can cause strokes, or irregular heart beat, which can
cause cardiovascular collapse and death. By vastly increasing the release
of dopamine, methamphetamine appears to damage brain cells, eventually
reducing the amount of dopamine available to the brain, causing symptoms
similar to Parkinson's disease and severe depression, or both.
Who uses crystal meth?
According to mental health workers, police and research scientists, the people
who use crystal meth include:
- Large numbers of rural and small town poor across North America.
- Some young people in the rave and dance scene.
- Some young people who want to lose weight.
- Gay males involved in the dance scene or who frequent bathhouses
(read more below)
Cities in western Canada such as Kamloops, B.C. are
seeing a growing problem with crystal meth.
experts say crystal meth first became popular in
poor areas of rural North America for a number
of reasons. It was a cheap high and, in initial
stages of use, it gave the user the energy
to keep working, especially at a manual
job or one that requires long periods of being
awake, such as truck-driving or shift-work.
Is there a connection between crystal meth and ecstasy?
Ecstasy (MDMA) and crystal meth are both chemical stimulants than
can be made in clandestine drug labs. In Canada, about 60% of the drug labs
that are investigated by the RCMP produce crystal meth and about 40% produce
Ecstasy is best known as a rave drug
that creates a sense of openness, empathy, energy
and euphoria in the user.
But RCMP in Vancouver are warning ravers
that some pills sold as ecstasy actually contain
crystal meth - a much more dangerous drug,
that is cheaper, with a more intense high, and
Meth and the gay community
In recent years,
crystal meth has become the drug of choice in
the gay men's party scene. Like the mainstream use
of the drug, this trend spread from west to east
- San Francisco to New York and Vancouver to
Toronto. At "PNP" parties
(shorthand for "party and play" - meaning
sex and drugs), crystal meth, known as "tina," increases energy and reduces sexual
And the superhuman feeling that often comes with
a crystal meth high means the sex is often unprotected.
The dangerous mix of crystal meth use and unprotected
sex got the world's attention in February 2005
when it was revealed that a New York City man who
is a frequent crystal meth user and had unprotected
sex with numerous other men contracted a highly
virulent strain of HIV. The virus with which he
is infected is resistant to three out of the four
classes of commonly used HIV drug treatments, and
is so fast-acting that it progressed from initial
infection to full-blown AIDS within three months.
In February 2005, New York City Health Commissioner
Dr. Thomas R. Frieden said, "This
case is a wake-up call. First, it's a wake up call
to men who have sex with men, particularly those
who may use crystal methamphetamine. Not only are
we seeing syphilis and a rare sexually transmitted
disease - lymphogranuloma venereum - among these
men, now we've identified this strain of HIV that
is difficult or impossible to treat and which appears
to progress rapidly to AIDS."
- with files from CBC