p196, 214. "The Chemistry of Mind-Altering Drugs - History, pharmacology and Cultural Context". Daniel M. Perrine, ACS 1996, ISBN: 0841232539

Methamphetamine (Methedrine, Desoxyn, "crank,") is essentially equivalent to dextroamphetamine in its effect on the CNS and in suppressing appetite. As a street drug, it has been injected as the water-soluble hydrochloride salt ("crystal meth"); more recent custom favors smoking it in its freebased form ("ice," "glass," "batu").96 It provides a 24-hour high versus the 4-hour effect from smoking crack cocaine. The press and some health officials sounded alarms over methamphetamine in the late 1980s. According to Dr. Jon Jackson of the University of Hawaii at Manoa, use of smokable crystal mushroomed during the summer of 1988 and all but replaced crack as the drug of choice.97 The drug was in wide use among prostitutes in Hawaii, and Jackson conceded that "one benefit of the shift may be the elimination of needles, thus reducing the risk of infection with HIV." However, he stated that chronic users came to emergency rooms in acute psychosis with auditory hallucinations and extreme paranoia. "Often, these patients demonstrate destructive behavior. ... Unlike the acute paranoid disorders seen in users of cocaine, these psychotic symptoms do not resolve during the next few hours, and they may persist for days, weeks, or even longer."98

As of 1993, the anticipated epidemic use of methamphetamine had not developed. Two social scientists interviewed users of ice in the San Francisco area and discovered that many found the ice high was too long and too intense; several had stories of severe paranoia and hallucinations. However, authors of the study conclude that the primary factor influencing the form of this or any drug use is likely to be social trends rather than drug pharmacology.99

Methamphetamine can be synthesized from ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, the active ingredients in several OTC nasal decongestants like Sudafed; it is claimed that mixing the red phosphorus of an emergency flare and the iodine of common antiseptic tinctures can provide the hydrogen iodide needed to effect the reduction. In late 1995, there were reports that Mexican drug cartels had obtained tons of ephedrine to synthesize methamphetamine, and that high-purity, cheap "meth" from this source had already begun to appear in quantity on the streets of Los Angeles.100 In 1996, there were reports of clandestine laboratories synthesizing methamphetamine and of several deaths from its use in central Iowa.101


  1. "Batu" is the Filipino word for "rock," and is the usual term for freebase methamphetamine among the large Filipino population in Hawaii. See Smith, D. E.; Seymour, R. B., et al, "Smokable drugs," J. Psychoactive Drugs, 1992, 24, 91-98.
  2. Jackson, J., [letter] N. Engl. J. Med., 1989, 321, 907.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Lauderback, D.; Waldorf, D., "Whatever happened to ice? The latest drug scare," J. Drug Issues, 1993, 23, 597-613.
  5. "In San Diego, an old drug comes back," The New York Times, 20 February 1996.
  6. Johnson, D., "Good people go bad in Iowa, and a drug is being blamed," The New York Times, 22 February 1996, Al, A19. The chemistry reported in this article is confused, to say the least. Example: "Years ago, the authorities said, a typical street dose of methamphetamine consisted of perhaps 20 percent of ephedrine, the ingredient that delivers the kick. ... Now the drug contains over 90 percent of the active ingredient." Since ephedrine and methamphetamine are distinct substances, one of them cannot be the active ingredient of the other. The journalist makes no effort to evaluate the claim that methamphetamine is "the most malignant, addictive drug known to mankind," or that the death of a student from meningitis was caused by methamphetamine use, which had "broken down his immune system." There has been criticism from within the press' own ranks of how drug stories are often "sensational, colorful, gruesome, alarmist, with a veneer of social responsibility." Shaffer, H. J.; Jones, S. B., Quitting Cocaine: The Struggle Against Impulse, Lexington Books: Lexington, MA, 1989, p. 81.