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Drugs of Abuse

Drug Type: Amphetamines

Amphetamines are synthetic (man-made) drugs that stimulate the Central Nervous System. Methamphetamines are chemically related to amphetamines.

Other Names: Amphetamines: Uppers, black beauties, pep pills, bennies, dexies, crosses, hearts, speed.

Methamphetamines: (crank, ice, meth, crystal meth, rock, crystal, speed, poor man’s cocaine, speedballing (mixing heroin with methamphetamine), meth freak (methamphetamine addict), meth madness (refers to the psychosis caused by heavy methamphetamine use),meth lab (clandestine makeshift laboratory where methamphetamines are produced).

What it looks like: Amphetamines and methamphetamines come in several forms:

  • Legally produced pills or capsules (controlled substances requiring a prescription) marketed by pharmaceutical companies
  • Clandestine lab-produced pills or capsules
  • Powdered form (for snorting)
  • Clear liquid

The pills will vary in shape, size or color whether they are clandes-tinely or legally produced. Powders in a capsule is indicative of an illicit substance. The difference between amphetamine and methamphetamine powder is that methamphetamine powder has a crystal-like quality-hence the term "crystal meth." The color will be white to off-white, but amphetamine powder may have a yellowish tint to it. The powders will look similar to cocaine.

"Ice" or dextromethamphetamine hydrochloride is a smokable form of methamphetamine. Ice is a clear, crystal, rock-like substance which looks similar to pieces of glass or an ice cube. Ice is popular in the southwestern and western United States but its use is expected to spread to all parts of the United States as a substitute for crack cocaine. "Ice" is more expensive than crack cocaine, but its effects last about twenty times longer than those of crack cocaine.

"Cat" or methcathinone is chemically related to methamphetamine and is found in a powdered form that ranges in color from off-white to yellowish or beige. "Cat" is a popular drug in the United States, but its use is expected to continue to spread.

How it is used:

  • Ingested orally
  • Snorted
  • Injected
  • Smoked
  • "Ice" is usually smoked, snorted or injected
  • "Cat" is smoked or snorted

Effect of the drug: The effects can last from approximately 4 to 12 hours, but the initial high or "peak" is gone within minutes of ingestion, leaving the user to face a "crash," or a low, desperate feeling which sparks a strong desire to use the drug again. The effects of smoking "Ice" can last up to 24 hours.

  • Increased blood pressure/increased heartbeat
  • Increased breathing/body temperature
  • Euphoria
  • Loss of appetite
  • Feeling more alert and less tired
  • Intense "rush" which only lasts for about a minute

Negative Effects/Overdose Effects:

  • Irritability/anxiety
  • Severe mood swings
  • Overheating/fever
  • Weight loss
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Paranoia/hallucinations
  • Depression
  • Compulsive behavior, for example, feeling that there is something crawling under the skin. User will pick at the skin, or rub their arms over and over again.
  • Nerve damage which causes symptoms similar to Parkinson’s Disease
  • Stroke
  • Increased risk for AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis where needles are used
  • Convulsions
  • Meth psychosis/meth madness (similar to schizophrenia)
  • Death

What to look for: Heavy users tend to go on binges during which life revolves around getting the drug and getting high. This can last for several days and the user goes without sleep due to the effects of the drugs. Behaviors consistent with bingeing would include unpredictability and a tendency to drop friends, work, obligations.

  • Lack of hygiene/body odor
  • Dry mouth/nose
  • Sleeplessness
  • Burns on hands or fingers (from smoking or freebasing)
  • Inexplicable changes in emotional and physical behavior
  • Possession of pharmaceutical pills without a prescription
  • Violent or suicidal tendencies or self-inflicted wounds that cannot be explained (coupled with some other evidence of substance abuse)

Paraphernalia Associated with Drug Use:

  • Needles/syringes
  • Glass pipes (for smoking "Ice")
  • Aluminum foil/cans for smoking methamphetamine
  • Clear plastic bags or baggies (for packaging)

NOTE: Methamphetamine accounts for the majority of amphetamine abuse. Approximately 80% of all clandestine laboratories in the United States are producing methamphetamine. These labs are concentrated in the southwest and western United States, where methamphetamine use, especially "Ice," is much more prevalent. Evidence of a meth lab includes large amounts of filters, flasks, pH paper, heat sources, beakers, clamps, syringes, tubing, funnels, and cans, canisters, or bottles of chemicals. Some of the most common chemicals found in a meth lab include:

Ephedrine; Ammonia

Chloroform; Acetone

Methanol; Sulfuric Acid (battery acid)

Hydrogen Peroxide; Red phosphorous

Hydrochloric Acid; Phosphoric acid

Ethyl Ether; Phenyl-2-propanone

Acetic Acid; Iodine

Freon; Sodium Hydroxide (Lye)

Epsom Salts (Magnesium Sulfate); Toluene (paint solvent)

You should never investigate a meth lab on your own. Safely dismantling a meth lab requires painstaking care and expertise. Leave immediately. Meth labs are highly volatile (subject to fire or explosion), but are also toxic and can instantly cause organ damage (especially to the lungs) or death. Also, labs are frequently rigged or "booby-trapped" to cause injury or death to trespassers. No one should be allowed to remain in the lab and a safe perimeter should be established while waiting for professional assistance.

Potential for Abuse: Amphetamines are highly abused. In 1999, it was estimated that 16.3% of 12th graders in the United States had tried amphetamines (methamphetamines, ice) at least once. (Source: Monitoring the Future study, 1999) Amphetamines are likely to be found at nightclubs and parties, but usually must be purchased through a trusted source. Amphetamines are slightly more expensive than other drugs but provide a much longer lasting high, making them cost-effective drugs. At the present time, meth amphetamines range in price from $5 to $20 per pill, and $100 to $500 per gram of powder. "Ice" reportedly costs much more. The fact that abusing amphetamines and its derivatives (methamphetamine, "Ice", "Cat") destroy the body and mind makes these some of the most feared and most dangerous illicit drugs available.

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