Crystal Meth’s Effects & The Chemistry Behind It Ever sincethe evolution of the human race thousands of years ago, people often try tofind ways to cope with their problems or to simply pass the time. This isperfectly fine until these methods of distraction begin to affect their dailylives. One of the most common forms of diversion is through the abuse of drugs thatcan stimulate the body to undergo a temporary psychological change. Amidst themany types of drugs that have been created, meth, short for methamphetamine, isone that is incredibly dangerous to the body and the psyche of a human. Tracedback to its Japanese scientist creator, Nagayoshi Nagai, historians were ableto determine that it was first developed in 1893 and was used by countries likeGermany, England, Japan, and America in the second World War. The drug’soriginal purpose was to provide a boost of endurance to the soldiers and toprevent them from feeling tired, which was extremely useful in war.
It is alsobelieved that the Japanese Kamikaze pilots would be given this drug before theyperformed their suicide missions. However, when the war ended, the drug was nolonger needed to keep soldiers awake, so it was then transformed into anover-the-counter diet pill that was legal until the 1970s. This caused thefirst meth epidemic to spread throughout Europe and Asia as it eventually fellinto the hands of drug gangs that would produce and sell methamphetamine in theform of a crystal to customers in desperate need of psychological relief.
AfterCongress realized that the high addiction rate was a serious issue, they aimedto prevent the creation of methamphetamine through laws such as The ControlledSubstances Act of 1970 that classified all forms of amphetamines as Schedule IIdrugs and The Comprehensive Methamphetamine Control Act of 1996 that regulatedcompanies who sold the chemicals to make it. A few years ago, in 2005, it wasmoved up to a Schedule I drug, and “thus, the maximum penalties now applyto methamphetamine, including the possibility of life sentences fortrafficking, and production and possession can garner sentences of up to sevenyears” (Hart, 13). Ever since the introduction of this drug, people have turnedto the recreational abuse of it for a number of different reasons depending onthe person, and because of this, it created the highly addictive concept thatnow forever shadows methamphetamine. Unfortunately,those who fall into the trap of this addictive drug face devastating short and longterm effects that can forever alter a person. Thanks to the increased study ofthis drug by brilliant scientists, the mental and physical effects of crystalmeth are better understood than ever before. Immediately after this drug entersthe body by smoking, snorting, or injecting it, a sense of increased”energy” forms, the pupils dilate, hunger is suppressed, and there isan increase in “heart rate, blood pressure, [and] body temperature” (TruthAbout Drugs). Not only do they experience these side effects, but they also areat risk of “nausea, hallucinations, panic, psychosis, convulsions,seizures, [and] bizarre, erratic, [or] sometimes violent behavior” (Truth AboutDrugs). If the use of crystal meth is continued, users will experience”liver, kidney, and lung damage,” memory loss, mood swings,malnutrition, depression, “damaged blood vessels in the brain that cancause strokes or an irregular heartbeat,” and possibly eventual death (TruthAbout Drugs).
As if these side effects aren’t enough to scare a person intonever touching crystal meth, they can even develop a nasty physical reactionsuch as “open scabs, droopy skin, and hair loss” on the face andscalp (Hart, 11). There are seven stages to a methamphetamine experience: therush, the high, the binge, tweaking, the crash, the hangover, and withdrawal.The rush and the high are known as the best stages because of the increase inheartbeat, blood pressure, and the delusional effects. The binge and thetweaking stages, however, are the times when a user is most likely to becomeaddicted because they are then encouraged to increase the doses to continuetheir high and eventually become “disconnected from reality” (Truth AboutDrugs). The last three stages, the crash, the hangover, and withdrawal, arecommon experiences amongst other drugs as well, but with crystal meth, they areworse. It is during these stages that a user will become depressed, lifeless,exhausted, and possibly suicidal.
Regardless of these terrifying side effects,people still wish to consume methamphetamine in hopes of achieving a high thatwill transport them to a happy place where problems don’t exist. The problemwith this is that each high is less intense as the one before as the methaddict’s body grows accustomed to this new drug, which “urg[es] the[m]into a dark and deadly spiral of addiction” as they must consume more andmore to acquire the desired trip (Truth About Drugs). In fact, “the DrugEnforcement Administration claims that nearly 12 million people in the USreported lifetime use of crystal meth or methamphetamine for non-medicalreasons in 2011” (The Effects of Crystal Meth Use). Those who decide totry crystal meth, even if it is only a one-time occasion, must be stronglyaware of the possible effects that can be inflicted upon their physical andmental being. Despitethe destructive effects of crystal meth, the chemistry behind the drug canactually be quite beautiful to a scientist that appreciates the intricatechemical makeup of it.
Methamphetamineis a part of the phenethylamine group, which are chemical substances that aremade up of a phenyl group attached to a linear chain of two carbon atoms andends in an amino group. In this formation, the asymmetric a-carbon atom createstwo enantiomers, which is a pair of stereoisomers that are “mirror imagesof each other” and are produced in a molecule containing an asymmetriccarbon atom, which are known as the R- and S-stereoisomers (Methamphetamine DrugProfile). In methamphetamine, the S-isomer tends to be more active than theR-isomer. Taking a look at the periodic side of crystal meth, the molecularformula of it is “C10H15N” with a molecular weight of “149.2g/mol” (Methamphetamine Drug Profile). After consumption of crystal methtakes place, the plasma levels of the body are between “0.001-0.
005mg/L”, and in fatal situations where a user has overdosed, the bloodconcentration can be as high as “0.5 mg/L” (Methamphetamine Drug Profile).Due to “chronic use of methamphetamine,” the user will eventuallyundergo neurochemical and neuroanatomical changes that can never be reversed.Now that we have a much better understanding about the chemical explanation ofwhat methamphetamine is, let’s dig deeper into what it is actually made up of.While there are many variations as to how a person can cook meth, the common ingredientsare as follows: acetone, C3H6O – a flammable substance found in nail polishremover and paint thinner, anhydrous ammonia, NH3 – found in fertilizer andcertain cleaners and can create a toxic gas when mixed with other chemicals,Ephedrine or Pseudoephedrine, C10H15NO – found in some cold medicine or dietpills and can inflict harm upon the respiratory and nervous system as well asthe heart, hydrochloric acid, HCl – a highly corrosive substance used to makeplastic, lithium, Li – a highly explosive component found in batteries and canburn the skin, red phosphorus, P – an extremely flammable element found inmatchboxes, road flares, and other explosives, toluene, C7H8 – a corrosivesubstance found in brake fluid, sodium hydroxide, NaOH – also highly corrosiveand is used to dissolve roadkill as well as cause blindness, and finally,sulfuric acid, H2SO4, – another corrosive substance found in drain or toiletcleaners (The Dangers of Methamphetamine). In relation to the chemistry aspectof this profoundly destructive drug, its boiling point is 212 degrees Celsiuswhile its melting point is 170 degrees Celsius (Methamphetamine). The entire drug itself is the product ofchemical reactions that are conducted perfectly to produce this stimulant.
Thefirst step is extracting Ephedrine or Pseudoephedrine from medicine containingit, then a chemical reaction is created by adding anhydrous ammonia and lithium(or red phosphorous, iodine crystals, and water, both methods will work).Afterwards, a solvent is added to remove the meth from the waste product, andfinally, it is formed into a crystal form by bubbling acidic gas through theextracted meth (The Dangers of Methamphetamine). Although using methamphetaminehas terribly horrifying consequences, a scientist can’t help but marvel at itswonderful chemistry and the fact that a user would go through so much troubleto simply obtain a temporary high. All inall, what we have learned is that methamphetamine is an exceptionally dangerousdrug, from its highly corrosive and particularly flammable ingredients to itsruinous side effects, that has the potential to forever encapture a person inits enticing grasp. In an ideal world where there are no drug addicts or peoplefeeling low enough to drug themselves to experience happiness for only a fewminutes, there might actually be a life worth living. It is so sad to beholdmillions of people with potential to become successful to completely give upand allow themselves to be tempted into the path of self-destruction. Perhaps,in future experimentation and research, scientists, or even dedicated users,could develop a drug that mimics the euphoric feelings meth provides withoutall the negative outcomes.
Until then, the best option would be to stay clearof substances that will harm a person rather than help. DON’T DO DRUGS!