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Get the Facts on Methamphetamines

Drugs and Alcohol

Methamphetamine is a powerfully addictive stimulant that dramatically affects the central nervous system. The drug is made easily in clandestine laboratories with relatively inexpensive over–the–counter ingredients. These factors combine to make methamphetamine a drug with high potential for widespread abuse.

Methamphetamine is commonly known as ”speed,” ”meth,” and ”chalk.” In its smoked form, it is often referred to as ”ice,” ”crystal,” ”crank,” and ”glass.” It is a white, odorless, bitter–tasting crystalline powder that easily dissolves in water or alcohol. The drug was developed early in this century from its parent drug, amphetamine, and was used originally in nasal decongestants and bronchial inhalers. Methamphetamine's chemical structure is similar to that of amphetamine, but it has more pronounced effects on the central nervous system. Like amphetamine, it causes increased activity, decreased appetite, and a general sense of well–being. The effects of methamphetamine can last 6 to 8 hours. After the initial ”rush,” there is typically a state of high agitation that in some individuals can lead to violent behavior.

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. National Institute on Drug Abuse . (2002, February 18). NIDA Research Report: Methamphetamine Abuse and AddictionWashington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.


Incidence of methamphetamine use rose steadily between 1990 (164,000 new users) and 2000 (344,000 new users). Methamphetamine incidence was at its highest level in 1975 when there were 400,000 new users.

Between 1973 and 1982, methamphetamine incidence exhibited a plateau of about 300,000 to 400,000 new users per year. During this period, the majority of new users were aged 18 to 25. The new users during the rise in incidence in the 1990s, however, were approximately evenly split between 12 to 17 year olds and 18 to 25 year olds. This shift in age distribution was reflected in the average age of new users, which fell from 22.3 years in 1990 to 18.4 years in 2000.

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2002, September 4). Results from the 2001 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse: Volume I. Summary of National Findings (Office of Applied Studies, NHSDA Series H–17 ed.) (BKD461, SMA 02–3758)Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing