Have you ever had to pull an all-nighter to cram for a test or wished there were 72 hours in a day so you could get through all your homework? Or maybe you just wished you had that extra boost of energy and confidence for that party on Saturday night.

Although most of you may deal with these situations naturally, some teens your age have turned to drugs to help them get through those stressful times. And one of the more popular ones these days is crystal meth.

What's the big deal you ask? Well according to a recent Statistics Canada study, 2% of teens have admitted to using crystal meth. It may not sound like a big number, but if you're considering joining that 2%, you might want to keep reading.

What Exactly is Crystal Meth?

Methamphetamine belongs to a family of drugs called amphetamines, which are powerful stimulants that speed up the central nervous system. When amphetamine is synthesized, two mirror image molecules are formed, a "D" form and an "L" form. Dextroamphetamine, the "D" form acts more on the brain, while levoamphetamine, the "L" form, acts more on the cardiovascular system.

Crystal meth is a colorless, odorless form of D-methamphetamine. Methamphetamine comes in crystal, rocks, and tablets and it is the rock form that is called crystal meth.

Did You Know?
The chemical formula for methamphetamine is C10H15N. How is it Made?

Illicit crystal meth is created through a cooking process that requires heating a variety of toxic materials. To make crystal meth, precursor substances such as pseudoephedrine and ephedrine (the active ingredients in cold medicines) are mixed with other chemicals in a step by step manner, including acetone, drain cleaner, lithium, iodine, paint thinner, kerosene, red phorous and muriatic acid.

A number of chemical reactions occur during this mixing process, including one that gives off a LOT of heat, known as an exothermic reaction. Together, these reactions eventually lead to the formation of a liquid containing methamphetamine. Evaporation of this liquid leaves behind the methamphetamine in crystal form... which, you guessed it, is referred to as crystal meth.

Did You Know?
Methamphetamine was originally discovered in Japan in 1919 following the synthesis of amphetamine in Germany in 1887. How Does It Work?

Methamphetamine acts on the part of the brain that regulates feelings of pleasure. The pleasurable "high" results from the brain being flooded with the neurotransmitter dopamine, producing feelings of euphoria, as well as increased energy, focus, confidence, sexual prowess and feelings of desirability. These effects come quickly and can last anywhere from 2 to 24 hours.

Along with these emotional feelings are physical effects such as increased heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature. A crash period tends to follow along with a powerful craving for the drug. With continued use of crystal meth, tolerance builds up fast, meaning users need more and more of the drug to get the same effect.

What Happens If You Continue To Use Crystal Meth?

Chronic use of crystal meth can cause anxiety, confusion, and insomnia. Even months after crystal meth use has stopped, damage to the brain can remain. Recent studies using brain scans also show methamphetamine abusers' brains have damage similar to dementia and Parkinson's Disease.

Another problem with long-term use is "meth mouth," where the user experiences dry mouth, tooth decay, cracked teeth and gum disease. This is because meth dries out the salivary glands, leaving acidic substances to eat away at the minerals in tooth enamel.

Did You Know?
If crystal meth is injected intravenously, users are also at a risk of contracting HIV, Hepatitis B and other blood-borne viruses. Overdose is a risk anytime someone takes crystal meth. Symptoms range from fever and convulsions to coma and death from heart failure. Crystal meth addiction has a high relapse rate and is tough to treat.

Still Curious About What Meth Feels Like?

I'm going to end on a personal note, because as a counsellor, I have worked with people battling meth addiction. It worries me to think of any reader suffering from the type of pain that my clients have experienced. As a writer, I always try to be objective and show both sides. With crystal meth though, I can only see one side which is summed up by a former meth user who described the drug: "It's ugly."

Learn More!

PBS: The Meth Epidemic

Crystal Meth: A Fact Sheet


The Vaults of Erowid: Methamphetamine

Canada Health Portal on Meth

Island Kidz on Speed

Health Canada: Be Drug Wise (A great site for teens!)

British Columbia Ministry of Health Services (2004) Crystal Meth and Other Amphetamines.

National Institute on Drug Abuse (2002) Research Report: Methamphetamine: Abuse and Addiction.

National Institute on Drug Abuse (2000) Methamphetamine Linked to Long-Term

Damage to Brain Cells.

RCMP (2006) The Drug Report Situation: Methamphetamine.

Mina is a medical copywriter based in the UK. When she's not creating advertising campaigns, she's happily pottering around her kitchen, coming up with new recipes for gourmet desserts.


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