530.jpg bar Title: Crystal Meth: Fast Facts
Author: Staff
Publisher: Do It Now Foundation
Publication Date: March 2011
Catalog Number: 523

Overview: Crystal and crystal meth are common street names for methamphetamine, the most hypercharged member of the amphetamine drug family. Widely used in the 1960's and early '70s for its intense effects, crystal virtually disappeared in the 1980's, but has resurfaced on a massive scale nationwide in recent years.

Appearance: White crystalline powder. Although legal amphetamine is odorless, illegal forms of the drug often have a strong ammonia smell, due to incomplete clearing of solvents or reagents during manufacture.

Street Names: Crank, meth, go-fast. Smokeable forms of crystal are called "ice" or "glass."

Actions/Effects: Crystal increases arousal in the central nervous system by pumping up levels of two neurotransmitters, norepinephrine and dopamine. At low doses, it boosts alertness and blocks hunger and fatigue. At higher doses, it causes exhilaration and euphoria. At very high doses, the drug can cause agitation, paranoia, and bizarre behavior. Physical effects include increased heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature.

Medical Uses: Because of its short-term appetite-suppressant effects, Desoxyn®, a prescription form of methamphetamine, is prescribed as a temporary treatment for obesity.

Risks/Side Effects: Anxiety, emotional swings, and paranoia are the most common psychological effects of chronic use. Symptoms increase with long-term use, and can involve paranoid delusions and hallucinations. Violence and self-destructive behavior are common. Overdose is also a risk with crystal. Symptoms include fever, convulsions, and coma. Death can result from burst blood vessels in the brain (triggered by spikes in blood pressure) or heart failure.

Duration: Depends on dose and how the drug is administered.

Trends: Crystal use soared during the late 1990's and early 2000's but has fallen off in recent years. A main reason has been the nationwide movement to restrict distribution of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, necessary ingredients in bootleg methamphetamine production.

Demographics: Whenever crystal rears its ugly head, it causes problems for people, especially those unaware of its potential for physical and psychological harm. That's the reason that, despite falling use levels, meth still managed to land 101,547 users in hospital emergency rooms during 2009.


This is one in a series of publications on drugs, behavior, and health by Do It Now Foundation.
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