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Meth FAQs

Given that meth is a dangerous, highly addictive drug, knowing a few key methamphetamine facts can help you determine if a loved one needs help.

What’s the Difference Between Meth and Amphetamines?

Developed in Germany in 1887, amphetamines are synthetic drugs that increase alertness and stimulate the heart and respiratory system. As a prescription drug, amphetamines were manufactured under the name Benzedrine in the 1920s. Used in limited amounts to treat narcolepsy and as a weight control aid, recreational abuse of these pills started in earnest in the 1960s. Known as bennies or speed, amphetamine abuse led to widespread overdoses, causing addicts to turn to other substances, like methamphetamines. Meth is a highly concentrated chemical variation of amphetamines. It is more addictive, provides a stronger high and has a more powerful effect on the central nervous system.It is very difficult to quit without some sort of treatment program for meth addiction.

How Does Crystal Meth Differ From Meth?

Crystal meth (methamphetamine hydrochloride) is synthesized from meth, using a variety of dangerous chemicals to hydrogenate ephedrine molecules, resulting in clear, chunky crystals. Crystal meth is easily manufactured with pseudoephedrine (the major ingredient in over-the-counter cold remedies), red phosphorous, iodine, ammonia, paint thinner, ether, anti-freeze, drain cleaner and battery acid.1 Methamphetamine in a different form and much smaller concentration is very rarely prescribed by doctors to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and other conditions.2

What Happens When Meth and Alcohol are Used Concurrently?

In combination, meth and alcohol produce different effects than on their own. People who start using the two substances together typically experience unusually large spikes in heart rates and a more intense “high.” In the short term, meth use can make alcohol feel less intoxicating. Conversely, alcohol use can reduce sleep problems commonly associated with meth use. Most of the effects of the meth-alcohol combination fade relatively quickly with repeated intake. Research has also found that people with mild cases of meth addiction or people with fairly severe symptoms of alcoholism and/or alcohol abuse are most likely to increase same-day meth use after binge drinking.3

What are the Risks of Meth Abuse During Pregnancy?

Studies are limited, but existing data indicate a heightened risk of premature delivery, placental abruption (separation of the placental lining from the uterus), small birth weights, lethargy, and heart and brain abnormalities in babies prenatally exposed to meth. There are also reports indicating meth use may lead to long-term negative impacts on a child’s behavior, cognitive skills and physical dexterity.4,5

  1. The Issue FAQs: What is Crystal Meth? Crystal Meth FAQ website. http://crystalmethfaq.com/issue.html Accessed October 10, 2016.
  2. Drug Facts: Methamphetamine. National Institute on Drug Abuse website. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/methamphetamine Updated January 2014. Accessed October 10, 2016.
  3. Drinking Alcohol Increases Meth Use, Study Finds. Elements website. https://www.elementsbehavioralhealth.com/addiction/drinking-alcohol-increases-meth-use-study-finds/ Accessed October 10, 2016.
  4. What are the risks of methamphetamine abuse during pregnancy? National Institute on Drug Abuse website. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/methamphetamine/what-are-risks-methamphetamine-abuse-during-pregnancy Updated September 2013. Accessed October 10, 2016.
  5. Meth and Pregnancy. Drug Abuse website. http://drugabuse.com/library/meth-pregnancy/ Accessed October 10, 2016.
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