Crystal Methamphetamine

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Crystal Meth is already in Midland. You need to know about this new drug. Ignoring it won't make it go away.

We have published a series of hard-hitting public service announcement ads produced by the Montana project in an attempt to keep our youth from experimenting with this instantly-addictive drug. These ads are graphic and direct.

Click Here to see the videos.

Another great resource is to watch the CBC's Fifth Estate online documentary called "Dark Crystal" which originally aired Wednesday March 23, 2005 on CBC-TV. Click HERE to view the online documentary film. The message is even more important a few years later as the drug spreads from the West coast to small town Canada.

What 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 smoked. Other common street names are "ice," "crystal," "glass," "jibb" and "tina."

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 internet.

Police say an investment of about $150 can yield up to $10,000 worth of the drug.

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 induces sleeplessness. 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.

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?

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?

Methamphetamine releases high levels of dopamine in the brain, a neurotransmitter that is associated with pleasurable or rewarding experiences.

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.

Addiction 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.

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 more addictive.

Information Courtesy of the CBC