Methamphetamine, a derivative of amphetamine, is a powerful stimulant that affects the central nervous system. It releases high levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which stimulates brain cells, enhancing mood and body movement. It also appears to have a neurotoxic effect, damaging brain cells that contain dopamine and serotonin, another neurotransmitter.
Methamphetamine can be easily made with relatively inexpensive over-the-counter ingredients, and the street version of the drug is the product of many clandestine laboratories. These factors combine to make methamphetamine a drug with high potential for widespread abuse. It is also an increasingly popular drug at raves (all-night dancing parties) and often is one of the drugs of choice at some clubs and concerts.
Methamphetamine is typically a white, odorless, bitter-tasting crystalline powder that resembles granulated crystals. An intense rush is felt, almost instantaneously, when a user smokes or injects methamphetamine. Snorting affects the user in approximately five minutes, whereas oral ingestion takes about 20 minutes for the user to feel the effects. Often chronic users may go several days without sleep, followed by days of extended deep sleep known as a “crash.”
Chronic use of methamphetamine can result in a tolerance for the drug. Consequently, users may try to intensify the desired effects by taking higher doses of the drug, taking it more frequently or changing their method of ingestion.