While it may appear to some that methamphetamine is a drug of relatively recent origin, in its most primitive form, it actually dates back 5000 years. Crafted from the leaves of the ephedra shrub, whose leaves are used by Asian and Middle Eastern countries to make tea used for asthmatic symptoms, methamphetamine was synthesized in Japan in 1919. By the 1950s, the country was suffering from a huge amphetamine epidemic. In World War II, tablets were given to American and British pilots to help them stay awake and alert. Nazi soldiers were given “speed”, also. The feeling of invincibility meth provided made it very appealing to the Nazi soldier. The epidemic in Japan moved quickly to Guam and then to the West Coast of the United States.
The FDA approved methamphetamine in 1944, allowing it to be prescribed for the treatment of narcolepsy, alcoholism, and depression. The tablets were used recreationally in the 50s, and by the 60s it was available in syringe form. The Controlled Substance Act of 1970 put a halt on production and public availability, though motorcycle gangs like Hell’s Angels took over the production and distribution of amphetamines. The 1990s marked the start of home “meth labs,” where “cooks” concocted the drug in their own kitchens. In recent years, Mexican drug traffickers have become an integral part of the methamphetamine production and distribution chain.
The U.S. government has classified methamphetamine as a Schedule II substance. Legislation regulating the ingredients and tools to manufacture methamphetamine began in the 1980s. In 1996, the Methamphetamine Control Act placed regulations on mail orders of substances used to produce methamphetamine and allowed law enforcement officers to track suspicious mail orders to businesses “unknowingly” selling these ingredients to methamphetamine producers. Still, this was not enough. The Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005 restricted the amount of pseudoephedrine and ephedrine a single person can purchase, moved many formerly over-the-counter drugs, such as Sudafed, behind the counter, and required customers to show identification to purchase the same. Despite the enormous amount of legislation directed at methamphetamine, it is still produced and prescribed in the U.S. under the name Desoxyn. Desoxyn is used to treat obesity, asthma, ADHD, depression, and narcolepsy.
Under Massachusetts G.L. c. 94C, §31, Methamphetamine is a Class B controlled substance. While Massachusetts has recently reduced the mandatory minimums for some drug crimes, many convictions for drug distribution and trafficking will result in a lengthy term of imprisonment. If you have been charged with a drug offense, such as possession, distribution, trafficking and manufacturing of a controlled substance in Massachusetts, contact the Boston Drug Crimes attorneys at 617-492-0055.
Abuse & Addiction
Methamphetamine can be snorted, smoked and, because of its solubility, injected. Methamphetamine is also available in tablet form, though abusers of the drug do not get the rush they are seeking from pills.
Crystal meth is usually 80% pure, which, in the drug world, is an extremely high percentage. Methamphetamine is twice as strong as amphetamine and three and a half times more potent than crack or cocaine. A methamphetamine “high” lasts much longer and is more intense than that produced by other controlled substances. Indeed, the high may last from six to twenty-four hours. Methamphetamine is highly addictive and users develop a tolerance requiring them to take more of the drug to achieve the same high. During the high, users experience increased alertness, concentration, energy, euphoria, and self-esteem. Physical side effects include dry mouth, dilated pupils, headache, rapid heartbeat, dizziness, and insomnia. A user will also feel invincible, causing some to engage in risky behavior. During the “tweak,” or when coming down from the high, a user will become paranoid, aggressive or even violent. Methamphetamine is an appetite suppressant, which is why physicians have prescribed to assist obese patients.
Long-term effects of methamphetamine use include impaired motor skills and difficulty learning. Because the drug causes users to grind their teeth, clench their jaws, experience dry mouth, and neglect oral hygiene, long term users suffer tooth decay, gum disease, and tooth loss. Methamphetamine use permanently alters Dopamine receptors, greatly reducing users’ ability to experience pleasure in activities they once enjoyed. Withdrawal symptoms from methamphetamine include fatigue, depression, increased appetite, agitation, suicidal thoughts, and anxiety, which can last from several months up to a year. The combination of anorexia, tooth loss, and rapid aging that comes with methamphetamine abuse quickly ruins the lives of abusers. Progressive photos of methamphetamine addicts demonstrate the disturbing and quite frightening effects of the drug.
Home “Meth Labs”
Despite the enormous health risks, methamphetamine is in some ways an addict’s dream drug. Easily and cheaply manufactured in a typical kitchen, it allows users a steady supply of the drug without resorting to drug dealers. Cooking methamphetamine is fairly simple, though extremely dangerous. Those operating home “meth labs” must chance the risks typical of highly unstable chemicals, including explosions, severe burns, and home destruction. There are several different ways to manufacture methamphetamine; a “cook” will often modify the “recipe” depending on the ingredients available. Common ingredients include ammonia, battery acids, and other household chemicals. Methamphetamine labs create an abundance of hazardous waste so toxic that the home within which a meth lab had been operated is often better demolished rather than sold. The poular TV show Breaking Bad explores the methamphetamine world in New Mexico, following the journey of a high school chemistry teacher diagnosed with terminal cancer who starts manufacturing methamphetamine to ensure his family is financially secure when he dies.
Cambridge Drug Crimes Representation
If you have been charged with a drug related offense, such as possession, distribution, and trafficking, call us at 617-492-0055 to schedule a free in-office consultation with one of our criminal defense lawyers.