What is crystal meth?

Crystal meth, also known as methamphetamine, is one of a group of addictive stimulant drugs called amphetamines. Meth can be snorted, smoked or injected. It has a longer-lasting effect than other drugs in its category, such as crack cocaine, and is therefore growing in popularity. Over 12 million people in the United States are thought to have tried it, The Independent reports.

What does it look like?

Crystal meth is white or clear in colour and usually comes in the form of a tablet, powder or crystals, according to Talk to Frank. The tablet can be taken orally, the powder snorted and the crystalline form, also referred to as “ice“, is smoked.

What are the effects?

A hit of crystal meth causes a “rush“ similar to that of crack cocaine. This feeling of exhiliration produces increased activity levels and is thought to increase sexual arousal. It also suppresses appetite and makes it difficult for the user to go to sleep for hours after taking it. Smoking the pure crystalline form produces a more intense effect which can last between 4 and 12 hours.

When the drug enters the blood stream, the user’s body temperature, heart rate, breathing and blood pressure experience a sharp increase.

About.com points out some adverse effects that the drug can have, including:

  • Agitation and irritability
  • Dry mouth and sweating
  • Heart palpitations
  • Paranoia and confusion

What are the dangers?

Crystal meth is a highly addictive substance, especially when smoked or injected. Long-term use of the drug can lead to a host of problems besides physical and psychological dependency, such as:

  • Methamphetamine-induced psychosis – this is serious mental state where the sufferer loses touch with reality. Prolonged use can cause potentially irreversable brain changes
  • Overdose – this can lead to stroke, lung and kidney damage, coma and death
  • HIV and hepatitis – users who inject the drug and share needles put themselves at risk of contracting HIV and hepatitis
  • High blood pressure – those who already suffer from heart problems are putting themselves at great risk by taking crystal meth as one of the main side effects is increased cardiac and blood pressure

In 2006, the United Nations drug control agency warned that crystal meth was becoming a global problem and called for tougher restrictions on chemicals used to make it, according to The Independent. In most countries, it is now illegal to own, buy or supply the drug. Doing so could lead to fines and/or a prison sentence.

Celebrities who have been addicted to crystal meth include singer Rufus Wainwright, tennis legend Andre Agassi and reality TV star Kendra Wilkinson.

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