Crystal meth is the most potent form of speed available. It is also known as crystal, crank, tweak, go-fast, and dozens of other names. In medicine, it comes in tablet form, as the prescription drug, Desoxyn®. More often, though, it's cooked in makeshift labs and sold on the street as a powder, which is injected, snorted, or swallowed. A smokeable form of crystal, called "ice," is also used. Smoking 'ice' brings the user feelings of exhilaration and a sharpening of focus. Smoking ice results in an instantaneous dose of almost pure drug to the brain, giving a huge rush followed by a feeling of euphoria for anything from 2-16 hours. For some, using crystal meth results in obsessive cleaning or tidying, increased sociability, while others experience a sense of sexual liberation.
Crystal meth 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 temperature.
Widely available in the 1960's, crystal faded in the '70s, as controls were tightened on legal production, which reduced its diversion onto the black market. But in the early '90s, crystal meth made an amazing comeback. And it's been back in a big way ever since.
Risks of using crystal meth are so extreme because the drug works so well at over-ramping the central nervous system and zapping feelings of hunger and fatigue. Crystal meth users extend speed "runs" for days or weeks, without food or rest, putting impossible demands on their bodies and brains. For needle users, there are the added hazards that come with injecting any drug. And for ice smokers, multiply it all by the still largely-unknown risk factor of exposing lung tissue to vaporized meth crystals. Crystal meth, more than any other drug pushes the mind and body faster and further than either was meant to go.
The long-term physical toll of crystal meth can be massive, including any or all of the following:
Symptoms increase with long-term use of crystal meth, 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.