Methamphetamine or meth was discovered in Japan in 1919. It is a crystalline powder that is white, slightly opaque and bitter-tasting. It is chemically related to amphetamine. The original batches were soluble in water and thus, perfect for injection purposes. In the ’30s, methamphetamine was used to treat narcolepsy and people with an attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
At present, methamphetamine is still made available to treat people with ADHD and as a short-term treatment for obesity. It is sold as Desoxyn. Although methamphetamine may have some medical benefits, it is mostly used as a recreational drug. It is called S, speed, shabu, glass, crystal and ice.
During World War II, methamphetamine was used by the Allied Forces and Axis. They were produced by a company called Temmler under the name Pervitin. The German and Finnish military used this as well. It was termed “pilot’s salt” or “pilot’s chocolate” as they were given to Allied bomber pilots to withstand fatigue and long hours. However, it did not help as it caused them to feel agitated, experience aggressive behavior, and they seemed to show poor judgment.
Pervitin was distributed widely for military purposes. It is even rumored that Hitler was receiving it intravenously to treat a Parkinson-like disorder. The Japanese also had their version, called Philopon, produced by a pharmaceutical group called Dainippon. It was available for civilians and military personnel. In general, it was widely distributed to keep the military men going. In Japan, it was even prescribed to industrial laborers to increase their productivity. After World War II, surplus medication became available to the public.
The sale of the post-war methamphetamine supplies caused a rise in civilian demand for the drug. A large amount of Philopon began to flood the market. In 1943, Abbott Laboratories asked for FDA approval of methamphetamine to treat narcolepsy, postencephalic parkinsonism, mild depression, cerebral atherosclerosis, chronic alcoholism and even for hay fever.
In the ’50s, the drug was widely circulated in the United States of America. It was manufactured as dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine) and methamphetampine (Methedrine). These medications were popular with truck drivers, students and athletes.
Sadly, during that time, the effects of this dangerous substance was not widely studied, and they were readily available. Fortunately, methamphetamine was listed as a controlled substance in 1970 and public education campaigns were set up to inform the masses. However, it was too late for many, as methamphetamine had become a major part of their lives.
How Methamphetamine Works
This drug works by stimulating the CNS system (brain and spinal cord) directly. It caused major secretion of dopamine, a neurotransmitter. Dopamine is produced by the nerve cells in the ventral tegmental area of the brain. It is the part that is responsible for pleasure regulation.
Once methamphetamine enters the nerve cell, the dopamine released binds to the receptors of other nerve cells. This creates the high that meth users seek. It should be noted that a smokable type of meth was created in the 1980s which gives effects that last for 12 hours or more.
What Does A Meth User Feel?
Meth effects may last 4 to 16 hours. A user will feel euphoric and will not feel tired. The user will talk incessantly. However, most of what he or she says will make no sense.
There will be a noted increase in respiration. He or she will sweat a lot, as a result of hyperthermia. This may result in convulsions.
People will notice an increase in activity. The user will also feel intense sexual urges. He or she will appear more focused on a certain task and may not respond to any conversation.
The Long-term Effects of Meth Use
A long-term meth user will become increasingly dependent on methamphetamine. He or she will experience confusion, anxiety and a disturbance in sleep patterns or insomnia. The individual will become increasingly paranoid and fidgety. His or her skin will turn an odd grayish color in time.
Hallucinations may result. They may be visual or auditory in nature. Mood disturbances will be noted as well. He or she may become violent in nature. Homicidal or suicidal thoughts may develop. It may even become a combination of both. His or her judgment will be clouded.
Repetitive motor activity is also noted. A person who is addicted to meth may do the same thing over and over again for no apparent reason. This may cause a misdiagnosis and be thought of as OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). Due to loss of appetite or anorexia, the person may become notably thin and malnourished. The person will also be more withdrawn.
Health Combinations Caused By Methamphetamine
A meth user will develop xerostomia, wherein there is a decrease in saliva secretion. This will lead to cracked teeth, tooth decay, gum disease and periodontal problems. This is due to being malnourished and also because saliva helps clear the bacteria from the oral crevices. Cracked teeth are generally caused by grinding or gnashing of teeth during a “high.”
A person who uses methamphetamine may suffer a meth-related stroke. He or she may experience irregular heartbeat, rapid heart rate and hyperthermia. The lining of the heart may also become inflamed. In some cases, the damage may be reversible. However, due to the addictive nature of meth, it is highly unlikely that an addict will give it up.
Methamphetamine causes the increase in dopamine secretion. It destroys nerve cells that contain dopamine and serotonin. The meth user will not be able to sleep much. In the long run, paranoia, depression, violent behavior and hallucinations will develop.
Acute or chronic kidney failure is noted in people who use methamphetamine. Vasoconstriction causes the cessation of blood flow to the kidneys and thus, the filtration process stops. Therefore, excess waste remains and toxicity begins to take its toll. This leads to inflammation, viral infection and kidney failure.
Meth use has lessened in the last few decades. However, it is still used by a good number of the population. Methamphetamine users are a danger to themselves and the people they come in contact. While there are rehabilitative facilities that help them overcome the addiction, almost 93% go back to meth later in life.