Methamphetamines: An Overview


Meth Homepage Biochemistry Neurotoxicity Physiological Effects Residual Effects Therapeutic Use References

What are methamphetamines?

Most commonly known as meth, methamphetamine is a synthetic drug which has a high potential for abuse and dependence. It was developed in the last century from its parent drug amphetamine and was originally used in nasal decongestants, bronchial inhalers, and in the treatment of narcolepsy and obesity. In the 1970s methamphetamine became a Schedule II drug - a drug with little medical use and a high potential for abuse.

How can it be presented?

It is illegally produced and sold in pill form, capsules, powder and chunks.

What accounts for its effects?

The methyl group is responsible for the potentiation of effects as compared to the related compound amphetamine, rendering the substance on the one hand more lipid soluble and allowing easy transport across the blood brain barrier, and on the other hand more stable against enzymatic degradation by MAO.

Upon entering the brain, meth triggers a cascading release of norephinephrine, dopamine and serotonin. Meth also acts as a dopaminergic and adrenergic reuptake but to a lesser extent and as a monamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) in high concentrations. Meth is so prone to abuse because it stimulates the mesolimbic reward pathway, causing euphoria and excitement. Withdrawal is characterized by excessive sleeping, eating and depression-like symptoms, often accompanied by anxiety and drug-craving.