You’ll find important information here on meth’s history, its abuse, and its potential for treatment. Crystal meth is a synthetic drug that’s easily produced, widely available, and extremely addictive. Help and hope are available for those who suffer from addiction, as well as those who care for someone who is struggling to break the grip of crystal meth.

THE ISSUE FAQs: What it Crystal Meth?

Q. What is methamphetamine?

A. Before we can discuss meth, we need to be introduced to its chemical cousin, amphetamine. This is a synthetic drug that increases alertness and also stimulates the heart and respiratory system. Developed in a German laboratory in 1887, amphetamines were used by German and Allied forces during the Second World War to help pilots maintain alertness on long bombing runs (in fact, Hitler received daily amphetamine injections from his personal physician).

As a pharmaceutical product, amphetamines were manufactured under the name Benzedrine in the 1920s. It was used in limited amounts to treat narcolepsy (frequent and uncontrollable bouts of deep sleep) and as an aid in weight control. As a recreational drug, amphetamine pills were known as "Bennies" or "speed" and gained popularity in the 1960s. However, overdoses were widespread, and addicts began to find other, "safer" ways to get high.

Methamphetamine is a chemical variation of amphetamine, which concentrates the drug's effects. It is more addictive, provides a bigger "rush" and has a stronger effect on the central nervous system.

Q. What's the difference between "methamphetamine" and "crystal meth"?

A. Crystal meth (methamphetamine hydrochloride) is synthesized from methamphetamine, using a variety of chemicals to hydrogenate the ephedrine molecules. In this form, it appears as clear, chunky crystals (hence the name).

Q. How is crystal meth manufactured?

A. Crystal meth is easy to produce from approximately 15 components, including pseudoephedrine (the major ingredient in over-the-counter cold remedies), red phosphorous, iodine, ammonia, paint thinner, ether, anti-freeze, drain cleaner and battery acid.

The majority of these ingredients are not only toxic, but also flammable. It is not unusual for a violent explosion to be the first indication of a meth lab in some suburban neighborhood. In these home-based labs, the residue from this chemical stew settles on the floor, where children and toddlers crawling through the homes of their drug-brewing parents risk becoming addicted.

The internet provides several items of interest on this subject: not only can directions for making crystal meth be found there, but the consequences of meth production can be seen on a site known as the "Darwin Awards" (so named for stupid things people do to thin the human herd, proving Darwin's theory of survival of the fittest).

Q. Where does crystal meth come from?

A. There are tens of thousands of small labs in kitchens and garages all over the U.S. These labs can only make small quantities, but the production costs are relatively small in comparison to its selling price. An investment of less than $150 in raw materials can create product worth $10,000 or more. Drug traffickers in Mexico manage most of the major production that takes place in large, clandestine drug labs. It is also imported from labs in China, South Korea, the Philippines and Taiwan.

Q. Are there other names for this drug?

A. Crystal meth is also known as tina, chalk, ice, crank, rock, glass, quartz, speed and "redneck cocaine" (perhaps because it is easier and cheaper to acquire than cocaine).