Meth Addiction

The main ingredient in methamphetamines (meth) is ephedrine which is a highly addictive substance found in cold medication.

Last updated: June 1, 2018

Man holding syringe

What is Meth?

Methamphetamine is a Central Nervous System (CNS) stimulant used in cold medications, over-the-counter flu medications, depression, ADD medication, and even some narcolepsy treatments. Methamphetamines causes an immediate, euphoric high that continues to be absorbed into the body for hours. Because of this the body and mind quickly become dependent on the drug due to the immediate and lasting effects. For this reason, Meth is a highly (read dangerously) addictive substance.

What is in Meth?

The main ingredient in meth is pseudoephedrine or ephedrine, which is a highly controlled substance in the US due to its own addictive nature with many of the same side-effects as meth. Pseudoephedrine on the other hand is useful in cold medication and asthma medicine, but far less potent than ephedrine. Both can be found in cold medication and usually in tablet form, but there’s not a significant difference once they’re extracted and synthesized to create methamphetamines.

Assuming ephedrine is not already in a pure powder form, then the chemists need to extract ephedrine from the tablets. To do this, they mix it with a solvent, filtering the solution, and apply a low-heat to the product. This typically separates the inert material of the tablet.

What’s left is the pure powder form of ephedrine (or pseudoephedrine), which is then mixed with hydriodic acid and red phosphorus. The latter substance is filtered out and stored (to be reused later), and a lye solution is added to the remaining acid. This brings the meth out as a liquid which is poured out through a filter.

To crystallize the liquid methamphetamine, chemists add hydrogen chloride gas. This bubbles through the liquid meth and transforms it into a crystalline salt. This mixture is then poured through a filtered cloth. Then, they wait for the meth to dry and mix it with some additives. Meth has been known to have as many 30 additional ingredients, these can include:

  • Antifreeze
  • Acetone
  • Battery acid
  • Drain cleaner

All of which can increase the effects of the drug.

What Are Other Names for Meth?

  • crystal meth
  • crank
  • chalk
  • ice
  • speed

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History of Meth

Meth has been around since the late 1800s and has even played a significant role in the world’s history. Most notably, methamphetamines were used in World War II by both the Axis and the Allies. Soldiers were given meth to stave off hunger and also remain vigilant in the night. Meanwhile, kamikaze pilots from Japan were given meth to hyper focus and feel that sense of euphoria going into battle.

In some ways, what meth does to the body is analogous to what it does to the labs where meth is illegally designed. The labs, be it in an isolated factory or home, become volatile and unlivable with the meth creators often suffering from internal organ damage, respiratory problems, thyroid dysfunction, pulmonary edema, and blindness. Bear in mind, this is from being in the lab, not taking the drug.

Of course, due to the fact that there are numerous chemicals and temperature involved in the process, meth labs have been known to cause serious burns and even explosions that harm the people and the environment. All this from manufacturing the drug alone.

Despite being used at one time in our history, today the medical community does not recommend using methamphetamines for any kind of medicine, and especially not for recreational use. The drug is extremely addictive, meaning it’s not uncommon for someone – even in the name of curiosity – to become hooked after one dose.

If you or someone you know is addicted to methamphetamines, get professional help from a rehab center. Meth withdrawal isn’t easy, but with disciplined support, it can be less challenging.

Sobriety, one day at a time.

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