All You Need to Know About Methamphetamine & Methamphetamine Testing
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All You Need to Know About Methamphetamine & Methamphetamine Testing

What is Methamphetamine?

Methamphetamine is a highly addictive central nervous system stimulant characterized by its white, odorless yet bitter-tasting powder. Its chemical structure is closely related to amphetamine.

Methamphetamine is available through prescription but it is more commonly known as a recreational drug sold under names like speed, meth, chalk, ice, crystal, or glass.

At first, the drug creates a euphoric effect and increases libido, but long term use causes adverse physical and mental effects to the user.

Despite its contribution to the field of medicine, meth is now considered as one of the most dangerous and commonly abused drugs. Any person who is suspected of having abused the drug may undergo supervised drug testing using methamphetamine drug test kits.

History of Methamphetamine

The term methamphetamine originated from the elements on the drug’s chemical structure, which is methyl alpha-methylphenylethylamine. The drug was first synthesized in Japan by a chemist named Nagai Nagayoshi.

Back in 1944, Meth was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat a wide variety of diseases like ADHD, post-encephalitic Parkinsonism, chronic alcoholism, cerebral arteriosclerosis, and hay fever.

By 1950, the production of meth tablets known as Dexedrine and Methedrine flourished. They were used by college students, truck drivers, and athletes to cure certain diseases, lose weight, and remedy depression.

During World War II, Meth was believed to be given intravenously to Adolf Hitler by his own physician to treat his Parkinson’s disease. It was also used by military forces and Japanese industrial workers to increase their agility and productivity.

On the threshold of the 20th century, many issues arose concerning the production and use of amphetamine and it is now much more controlled for medical purposes and is illegal to use recreationally.

Production and Distribution

Methamphetamine can be found as an ingredient in over-the-counter medicines like cough syrups. However, its high demand in the black market means many people make it (often called “cooking”) in home “labs” for the purpose of selling it. This was made famous by the popular television show Breaking Bad.

Meth is made from the reduction of ephedrine or pseudoephedrine. The production of meth for medicinal use follows a 92 percent conversion whereas illegal production entails only 50 to 70 percent conversion.

Meth is also derived from the protonation of amphetamine. A dangerous conversion method known as Birch or Nazi is also practiced in producing meth for illicit trade.

The types of methamphetamines that are illegally distributed are impure. Rather than bearing a white crystalline color, they appear to be brownish or tan. They are sold in different shapes and are distributed through cargo ships. An example of adulterated meth is called the “yaa baa”, a Thai name for “crazy medicine”, which appears as a colorful flavored pill that contains meth and caffeine.

Different Routes of Administration

Meth is absorbed by the body through four different routes of administration. These include needle injection, smoking, insufflations, and suppository.

Smoking is the most common method used by drug abusers in recent years, according to the latest survey by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

Like other stimulants, the speed meth affects a person varies depending on the route of administration. As a person continually uses meth, they build up a tolerance for it, meaning they need to use more of it to get the desired effect. Many people experiment with various ways of ingesting the drug in an attempt to get the strongest effect.


Injecting meth intravenously is known to be the fastest route of drug administration, causing its concentration in the blood to rise quickly. This method is also known as “slamming’ or “banging” in which addicts use hypodermic needles to administer 100 milligrams to 1 gram of meth in the body. Intravenous administration is the riskiest method, though. It causes skin allergies known as “speed bumps” at the injection site, as well as blockage in the artery.


This is the second fastest route of administration and is known as “chasing white dragons,” wherein addicts use a glass pipe made from glass-blown Pyrex tubes heated underneath by a light bulb. Sometimes, they also use aluminum foil, which is heated by a flame. When meth is vaporized, addicts inhale the smoke that comes out from the heated materials. Drug testing on some people with lung cancer has revealed a long association with smoking meth.


This method is also known as snorting, wherein abusers crush the methamphetamine into a fine powder and inhale it using a straw. Like cocaine, the powder is absorbed through the soft tissues of the mucus membrane located at the nasal cavity. This sends the drug straight to the bloodstream resulting in extreme euphoria for a few hours.


Although this method is the least used among the four routes of drug administration, abusers administer meth anally or vaginally when using meth as a suppository. Its effect is believed to bring sexual arousal and pleasure to the person. The effect is also known to be longer lasting than the rest of the methods. Suppository meth is also known as “booty bumps”, “hooping” or doing a “butt rocket.”

Medical Use of Methamphetamine

In 1944, methamphetamine was widely used as an effective treatment for many kinds of diseases, such as mild depression, chronic alcoholism, ADHD, and hay fever. However, when scientists discovered its addictive properties, it was more stringently controlled by the FDA and now is used to treat only two diseases.

In the United States, methamphetamine is approved by FDA to treat ADHD and exogenous obesity among children and adults. Legal amphetamine is sold under brand name Desoxyn, which is also prescribed off-label to treat narcolepsy and depression.

Desoxyn should not be taken when a person is suffering from a medical condition such as glaucoma, heart disease, hypertension or any history of heart attack and stroke as it could cause a severe allergic reaction and other adverse effects.

Effects of Methamphetamine

Methamphetamine is capable of producing both positive and negative effects on a person’s health. First, it suppresses the symptoms of ADHD and alters the mood of a depressed person. It also creates a pleasurable feeling and most of the time, it increases euphoria and contentment in the person who regularly takes it. The downside occurs when a person starts to abuse meth, such as taking it beyond normal dosage and mixing it with other drugs.

People who take methamphetamine medication can be susceptible to its addictive properties. The addictive effects of meth has prompted doctors to prescribe the drug only when necessary. Although some meth addicts simply started out as medical patients, they are still at risk for the adverse effects of meth on their health when they abuse the drug.

Methamphetamine poses a high risk for physical and psychological damage as part of its long term effects. However, because it is also illegal, its effects can go beyond just physical and mental.

Anyone who is found to buy, sell or possess methamphetamine or anyone who produces a positive result from methamphetamine drug testing is at risk of also getting into trouble with the law and/or their employer.

Signs & Symptoms of Methamphetamine Abuse

There are many ways to detect whether or not a person has recently abused meth. These signs and symptoms may even be used as grounds for methamphetamine drug testing.

The following are physical signs of abusing methamphetamine:

  • Hyperactivity
  • Dilated pupils
  • Dry mouth
  • Flushing of the skin
  • Anorexia

The following are symptoms of methamphetamine abuse.

  • Euphoria during the first few minutes after administration
  • Increase in libido
  • Headache
  • Hypertension or hypotension
  • Insomnia
  • Numbness
  • Anxiety
  • Hallucinations
  • Dizziness
  • Palpitations
  • Tremors
  • Arrhythmias

Withdrawal symptoms may include the following:

  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Increased appetite
  • Agitation
  • Hypersomnia
  • Suicidal thoughts

Adverse Effects of Methamphetamine

Abusing methamphetamine causes a variety of adverse effects in the body. A person who abuses meth for a long time is at risk of developing severe physical and mental dysfunction that can last a lifetime.

A person who is taking methamphetamine medication is also at risk for addiction. The perilous side effects of abusing methamphetamine include psychological damage, physical damage, genetic effects, and meth mouth, which is a rotting of the teeth and gums. Abrupt stoppage of meth abuse is dangerous as well. Medical doctors are careful to induce other drugs to fight off meth addiction since it also causes severe withdrawal symptoms.

Brain Damage

Abusing meth changes the significant functions of the brain, one of which focuses on the alteration of dopamine activity. Dopamine plays a significant role in reward, motivation, and experience of the pleasure motor function of the brain. However, when a person abuses meth, it disturbs the normal function of dopamine in the brain. This disturbance increases the release and reduces the uptake of dopamine in the brain, which causes the level of chemicals to rise. This intensifies the feeling of happiness known as euphoria.

When this happens over and over, a person may soon experience reduced motor skills and slurred speech. It also causes psychosis, a condition wherein a person starts to see extreme hallucinations and paranoia. By then, a person may also experience severe memory loss due to brain damage.

Physical Damage

Prolonged addiction to methamphetamine causes blockage in the blood vessels. This may cause damage to the significant functions involved in the circulatory system, which may lead to heart attack and stroke.

A person who is abusing meth also looks malnourished and untidy. In terms of physical features, meth can make a person look anorexic and flushed while the eyes look bloodshot and sunken. It can also cause harmful effects to the vital organs.

Genetic Effects

Newborn babies are at risk for genetic effects when a mother abuses meth during pregnancy. Methamphetamine drug testing on pregnant mothers shows that meth is absorbed by the bloodstream and then passes through the placenta to the fetus. The drug is also secreted into the breast milk. According to studies, infants born with mothers in this condition develop physical deformities and malformation.

Meth Mouth

Methamphetamine abuse causes advanced tooth decay in addicts. According to the American Dental Association, meth mouth is caused by poor personal hygiene as a result of meth addiction. Frequent meth use along with the consumption of carbonated beverages also cause bruxism or teeth clenching. This causes teeth to weaken and crack easily.

Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Meth increases sexual desire, which lures abusers to engage in unplanned sexual activities. According to studies, HIV has been a recurring disease among bisexuals who engage in anal intercourse. Likewise, infected men who engage in sexual intercourse with women transmit the disease sexually and even cause sores, as well as abrasions due to prolonged sexual activity.

Group abusers who use and manipulate a common needle during intravenous abuse are also at risk for blood borne diseases, such as hepatitis A and B and HIV.

Treatment Options for Methamphetamine Abuse

Treating methamphetamine addiction takes a great deal of effort, as it is typically a complicated and lengthy process. Patients cannot expect quick treatment for methamphetamine, otherwise, it may result in severe withdrawal symptoms.

Doctors may suggest treatment options that involve taking some other drugs such as Bupropion, Aripripazole, and Baclofen. They focus on treating the symptoms of addiction, as well as its withdrawal symptoms but not the entire addiction itself.

Treating meth addiction can also be a combination of drug infusion therapies and cognitive-behavioral interventions. Addicts who are sent into rehab are prescribed with drugs that treat the symptoms of addiction. They are enrolled into programs that involve individual and group counseling, which may help minimize aggressive behaviors and assist addicts in their full recovery.

Matrix Model

This is an example of a cognitive-behavioral intervention that combines behavioral therapy, family education, individual counseling, and 12-step support to help addicts forget the addictive effects of drugs. The program also includes drug testing and encouragement for teens to get involved in anti-drug activities.

Contingency Management Intervention

This is another meth addiction treatment that provides incentives for people who volunteer to enroll into a special treatment and maintain drug abstinence. As a type of comprehensive behavioral intervention, it focuses on assisting addicts recover from mental illness. In this method, when patients fail to adhere to the program’s rules and regulations, they are eventually punished. However, when they show development, they are rewarded.

Modafinil Medication

Modafinil is a Class IV scheduled drug by FDA but is approved to be used as treatment for mental disorders and deficiencies, such as ADHD. According to recent experiments, modafinil is also an effective drug to treat drug dependence by acting on the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine.

Methamphetamine Addiction Facts

Many people have become addicted to methamphetamine even though they only wanted to try it once just to see what it was like. According to records, over 1.5 million people who were planning to just try crystal meth one time became addicted to the drug because of its habit-forming effect.

According to the National Survey on Drug Abuse in 2009, 1.2 million Americans aged 12 and above admitted to having abused methamphetamine at least once in the year prior to the survey being conducted.

Despite the government’s heavy penalties on illicit production and distribution, meth has remained a rampant drug problem. The availability of methamphetamine also lures addicts to continue abusing the drug.

Legal Status

Methamphetamine has been classified as Schedule II in the United States through the United Nations Convention on Psychotropic Substances treaty. Due to methamphetamine’s addictive characteristics, it is currently considered illegal in the United States and also in many countries around the globe.

The manufacture, production, sale, and distribution of methamphetamine are considered to be illegal and punishable by law.

Methamphetamine Abuse among Teens

Young people are prone to meth addiction. According to the latest survey, children also account for the largest number of meth abusers.

Although recent surveys show a decline in the number of teenagers abusing meth, the prevalence of meth abuse in some regions of United States has continued to be an ongoing issue. According to the latest survey, meth abuse has declined from 4.7 percent in 1999 to 1.6 in 2009. Crystal meth abuse among 10th graders has also decreased from 19.5 percent in the past years to only 14 percent in 2009.

Teenagers continue to abuse meth for a variety of reasons. According to the Idaho Meth Project on its Statewide Meth Use and Attitude Survey, 22 percent of teens believe that the drug can make them happy; 25 percent use drug for losing weight; 20 percent see no risk at all; while 45 percent admitted to abuse the drug because of peer pressure and some other factors brought by friends.

Drug Testing on Methamphetamine

Methamphetamine drug testing entails an analysis of the chemical reaction performed on a biological specimen to detect the presence of methamphetamine metabolites in the person’s body. It can be done using hair, urine, blood, or oral fluid.

The most common drug test administered in the workplace and schools is urine drug testing. When a person has positive drug test results, it means that person has recently used methamphetamine or some other drugs.

Drug testing for methamphetamine helps authorities assess whether or not the person has recently used the drug. This is helpful especially during forensic investigations. Parents can also administer methamphetamine drug testing through the use of methamphetamine drug test kits to ensure a drug-free family.

Detection Period

Detection period is the timeframe of how long the drugs can be detected in the biological sample. This will vary based on the drugs being tested for and by the person being tested. The detection period depends on the drug class, amount and frequency of use, age, and overall health.

According to LabCorp, for a methamphetamine urine drug test, the detection period is 3 to 5 days; for a hair test it is up to 90 days and for blood and oral fluid, it is within 12 hours.

Saliva Drug Test

Saliva drug tests use saliva samples, which are obtained and tested through saliva test kits. Saliva drug test are useful for home use, especially when parents suspect their kids have abused meth. Saliva drug testing is one of the easiest and most accessible drug tests for kids. The drug testing cut-off level for meth using a saliva test is 50 ng/ml.

Urine Drug Test

Urine drug testing aims to detect methamphetamine, which can account for 10 to 20 percent of the fluid secreted through urine. This is done by taking a urine sample from the subject and testing it through the use of urine drug test kits.

The cut-off level for the urine initial test is 500 ng/ml while confirmatory testing, which is done through gas chromatography and mass spectrometry, is 250 ng/ml.

Hair Drug Test

Hair testing is done by obtaining a hair strand from the subject. The sample is then tested through the hair drug test kits by detecting the meth metabolite, which is absorbed by the hair from the bloodstream.


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