Meth is an insidious drug. Methamphetamine acts as a dopaminergic and adrenergic reuptake inhibitor and as a sympathomimetic. Since it stimulates the mesolimbic reward pathway, causing euphoria and excitement, it is prone to abuse and addiction. Methamphetamine rapidly enters the brain and triggers a cascading release of norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin. Users may become obsessed or perform repetitive tasks such as cleaning, hand-washing, or assembling and disassembling objects. Withdrawal is characterized by excessive sleeping, eating and depression-like symptoms, often accompanied by anxiety and drug-craving. Users of methamphetamine often take one or more benzodiazepines as a means of "coming down".
Percentage of US college students who have illicitly used methamphetamine in their lifetime.
Methamphetamine is classified as a Schedule II substance by the Drug Enforcement Administration under the Convention on Psychotropic Substances. It is available by prescription under the trade name Desoxyn, manufactured by Ovation Pharma. While there is technically no difference between the laws regarding methamphetamine and other controlled stimulants, most medical professionals are averse to prescribing it due to its notoriety.
Illicit methamphetamine has become a major focus of the 'war on drugs' in the United States in recent years. In addition to federal laws, some states have placed additional restrictions on the sale of precursor chemicals commonly used to synthesize methamphetamine, particularly pseudoephedrine, a common over-the-counter decongestant. In 2005, the DEA seized 2,148.6kg of methamphetamine. In 2005, the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005 was passed as part of the USA PATRIOT Act, putting restrictions on the sale of methamphetamine precursors.
On November 7, 2006, the US Department of Justice declared that November 30, 2006 be Methamphetamine Awareness Day.
DEA El Paso Intelligence Center EPIC data is showing a distinct downward trend in the seizure of clandestine drug labs for the illicit manufacture of methampetamine from a high of 17,356 in 2003. Lab seizure data for the United States is available from EPIC beginning in 1999 when 7,438 labs were reported to have been seized during that calendar year.
Methamphetamine is most structurally similar to methcathinone and amphetamine. When illicitly produced, it is commonly made by the reduction of ephedrine or pseudoephedrine. Most of the necessary chemicals are readily available in household products or over-the-counter cold or allergy medicines. Synthesis is relatively simple, but entails risk with flammable and corrosive chemicals, particularly the solvents used in extraction and purification. Clandestine production is therefore often discovered by fires and explosions caused by the improper handling of volatile or flammable solvents.
Most methods of illicit production involve hydrogenation of the hydroxyl group on the ephedrine or pseudoephedrine molecule. The most common method for small-scale methamphetamine labs in the United States is primarily called the "Red, White, and Blue Process", which involves red phosphorus, pseudoephedrine or ephedrine(white), and blue iodine, from which hydroiodic acid is formed.
This is a fairly dangerous process for amateur chemists, because phosphine gas, a side-product from phosphorus production, is extremely toxic to inhale. An increasingly common method uses the process of Birch reduction, in which metallic lithium (commonly extracted from rechargeable batteries) is substituted for metallic sodium, to circumvent the difficulty of procuring metallic sodium.
Industrial scale methamphetamine/MDMA factory in Cikande, Indonesia