Methamphetamine is not a new drug, although it has become more powerful in recent years as techniques for its manufacture have evolved. Amphetamine was first synthesized in 1887 in Germany and methamphetamine, more potent and easy to make, was developed in Japan in 1919. The crystalline powder was soluble in water, making it a perfect candidate for injection.
Methamphetamine went into wide use during World War II, when both sides used it to keep troops awake. High doses were given to Japanese Kamikaze pilots before their suicide missions. And after the war, intravenous methamphetamine abuse reached epidemic proportions when supplies stored for military use became available to the Japanese public.
In the 1950’s, methamphetamine was prescribed as a diet aid and to fight depression. Easily available, it was used as a non-medical stimulant by college students, truck drivers and athletes and abuse of the drug spread. This pattern changed dramatically in the 1960’s with the increased availability of inject able methamphetamine, increasing the abuse. Then, in 1970, the U.S. government criminalized it for most uses. After that, American motorcycle gangs controlled most of the production and distribution of the drug. Most users at the time lived in rural communities and could not afford the more expensive cocaine.
In the 1990’s, Mexican drug trafficking organizations set up large laboratories in California. While these massive labs are able to generate 50 pounds of the substance in a single weekend, smaller private labs have sprung up in kitchens and apartments, earning the drug one of its names, “stove top”. From there it spread across the United States and into Europe, through the Czech Republic. Today, most of the drug available in Asia is produced in Thailand, Myanmar and China.
Methamphetamine (Meth) is a highly addictive synthetic stimulant that affects the pleasure centers of the brain. It is even considered more addictive than heroin. Meth is sometimes referred to as "Speed," "Chalk," "Ice," "Crystal," "Glass," "Crank," "Yaba," "Fire," "Tina," and "Tweak."
Meth releases high levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which stimulates brain cells, enhances mood and body movement, and regulates feelings of pleasure. With repeated use, Meth can "turn off" the brain's ability to produce dopamine, leaving users unable to experience any kind of pleasure from anything other than more and more Meth.
Meth is derived from amphetamine, and is commonly made using the base chemicals ephedrine or pseudoephedrine found in over-the-counter medicines. Other common household products can be added to make Meth, including: acetone (nail polish remover), iodine, anhydrous ammonia (fertilizer), hydrochloric acid (pool chemicals), lithium (batteries), red phosphorus (matches or road flares), sodium hydroxide (lye), sulfuric acid (drain cleaner), and toluene (brake fluid).
Although there are multiple ways to produce Meth, most involve the use of toxic and volatile substances that can pose a threat to the surrounding area. An odor similar to that of cat urine and other offensive fumes often signify that an illegal Meth lab is in operation. When manufactured by amateurs, the production of Meth can be extremely dangerous and create harmful, toxic gases. One production method involves heating anhydrous ammonia - an extremely reactive ingredient that is prone to explosion. In fact, many illegal Meth labs are only discovered after fires or explosions occur due to the improper handling of these toxic chemicals. Clean-up is both hazardous and expensive.