Overview: Crystal and crystal meth are common
street names for methamphetamine, the most hypercharged member
of the amphetamine drug family. Widely used in the 1960’s and
early ’70s for its intense effects, crystal virtually disappeared
in the 1980’s, but has resurfaced on a massive scale nationwide
in recent years.
Appearance: White crystalline powder. Although legal
amphetamine is odorless, illegal forms of the drug often have
a strong ammonia smell, due to incomplete clearing of solvents
or reagents during manufacture.
Street Names: Crank, meth, go-fast. Smokeable forms
of crystal are called “ice” or “glass.”
Actions/Effects: Crystal increases arousal in the central
nervous system by pumping up levels of two neurotransmitters,
norepinephrine and dopamine. At low doses, it boosts
alertness and blocks hunger and fatigue. At higher doses, it
causes exhilaration and euphoria. At very high doses, the drug
can cause agitation, paranoia, and bizarre behavior. Physical
effects include increased heart rate, blood pressure, and body
Medical Uses: Because of its short-term appetite-suppressant
effects, Desoxyn®, a prescription form of methamphetamine,
is prescribed as a temporary treatment for obesity.
Risks/Side Effects: Anxiety, emotional swings, and paranoia
are the most common psychological effects of chronic use. Symptoms
increase with long-term use, and can involve paranoid delusions
and hallucinations. Violence and self-destructive behavior are
common. Overdose is also a risk with crystal. Symptoms include
fever, convulsions, and coma. Death can result from burst blood
vessels in the brain (triggered by spikes in blood pressure)
or heart failure.
Duration: Depends on dose and how the drug is
Trends: Crystal use soared during the late 1990’s and
early 2000’s but has fallen off in recent years. A main reason
has been the nationwide movement to restrict distribution of
ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, necessary ingredients in bootleg
Demographics: Whenever crystal rears its ugly head,
it causes problems for people, especially those unaware of its
potential for physical and psychological harm. That’s the reason
that, despite falling use levels, meth still managed to land
101,547 users in hospital emergency rooms during 2009.