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Methamphetamine

amethMethamphetamine is Schedule II in the United States. This means it is illegal to sell without a DEA license and illegal to buy or possess without a license or prescription.

Addictive Potential: High

Emergency Room Visits Yearly: 42,538 in 2003 

Mandatory Minimum Sentence: 5 years for 5-49 grams pure or 50-499 grams mixture

Mechanism of Action: Increases the Neurotransmitters Dopamine, Norepinephrine, and Epinephrine

Overview:

Physical effects a small to moderate doses of amphetamines include increased heart rate, raised body temperature, rapid respiration, higher blood pressure, extra energy, dilation of bronchial vessels, and appetite suppression.  Long-term use can cause sleep deprivation, heart and blood vessel toxicity, and severe malnutrition. Methamphetamine use leaches calcium from users’ bodies which often results in bad or rotted teeth. It can also cause strokes, arrhythmias, and possible heart muscle lesions. Tolerance develops really quickly causing methamphetamine to be highly addictive.

The effects of ice, in particular, stimulate the brain to a greater degree than regular methamphetamine but stimulates the heart, blood vessels, and lungs to a lesser degree. The decrease in cardiovascular effects, up to 25% less than that of regular crank, encourages users to smoke more, resulting in more overdoses and a quicker disruption of neurotransmitters. This disruption means more tweaking or severe paranoid, hallucinatory, and hypervigilant thinking, along with greater suicidal depression and addictive use.

There are three different forms of illicit methamphetamine:

  • Crank or methamphetamine sulfate
  • Crystal meth or methamphetamine hydrochloride
  • Ice or dextro (right) isomer methamphetamine base- 2 to 4 times stronger and stimulating the brain then the levo (left) isomer

Prescription methamphetamine comes in one form:

Substance Identification:

     Mandelin Reagent          Marquis Reagent     Simon’s Reagent   
d-Methamphetamine HCl Dark yellowish green Deep reddish orange Dark blue

(Info provided by DOJ, 2014)

History:

Methamphetamine was first synthesized from ephedrine in Japan in 1893 by chemist Nagayoshi Nagai. In 1919, crystallized methamphetamine was synthesized by Akira Ogata via reduction of ephedrine using red phosphorus and iodine. The related compound amphetamine was first synthesized in Germany in 1887 by Lazar Edeleanu.

One of the earliest uses of amphetamine occurred during World War II when the German military dispensed it under the trade name Pervitin. It was widely distributed across rank and division, from elite forces to tank crews and aircraft personnel. Chocolates dosed with methamphetamine were known as Fliegerschokolade (“flyer’s chocolate”) when given to pilots, or Panzerschokolade (“tanker’s chocolate”) when given to tank crews. From 1942 until his death in 1945, Adolf Hitler was given daily intravenous injections of methamphetamine by his personal physician, Theodor Morell, as a treatment for depression and fatigue. It is possible that the Parkinsons-like symptoms which Hitler increasingly developed from 1940 onwards were related to his use of methamphetamine.

After World War II, a large supply of amphetamine, formerly stockpiled by the Japanese military, became available in Japan under the street name shabu (also Philopon (pronounced ヒロポン, or Hiropon), its tradename there.) The Japanese Ministry of Health banned it in 1951; and its prohibition is thought to have added to the growing yakuza-activities related to illicit drug production. Today, methamphetamine is still associated with the Japanese underworld, but its usage is discouraged by strong social taboos.

In the 1950s there was a rise in the legal prescription of methamphetamine to the American public. According to the 1951 edition of Pharmacology and Therapeutics by Arthur Grollman, it was to be prescribed for “narcolepsy, post-encephalitic Parkinsonism, alcoholism, … in certain depressive states… and in the treatment of obesity.”

In the 1960s significant use began of clandestinely manufactured methamphetamine and methamphetamine created in users’ own homes for personal use. The recreational use of methamphetamine peaked in the 1980s. The December 2, 1989 edition of The Economist described San Diego, California as the “methamphetamine capital of North America.”

In 1983 laws were passed in the U.S. prohibiting possession of precursors and equipment for methamphetamine production; this was followed, a month later, by a bill enacting similar laws that was passed in Canada. In 1986 the U.S. government passed the Federal Controlled Substance Analogue Enforcement Act in an attempt to curb the growing use of designer drugs. Despite this, usage of methamphetamine expanded throughout rural United States, especially through the Midwest and South.

Since 1989 five federal laws and dozens of state laws have been imposed in an attempt to curb the production of methamphetamine. Methamphetamine is easily “cooked up” in home laboratories using pseudoephedrine or ephedrine, the active ingredients in over-the-counter drugs such as Sudafed and Contac. However, preventative legal strategies of the past 17 years have steadily increased restrictions to the distribution of pseudoephedrine/ephedrine-containing products. The current federal standard, as of January 2006, restricts the amount of pseudoephedrine and ephedrine one may purchase in a specified time period, and it further requires that these products must be stored in order to prevent theft.

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