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Other effects caused by methamphetamine include headaches, decreased appetite, dry mouth, dilated pupils, trembling, chest pains, increased respiration and shortness of breath, hyperthermia elevated body temperature , insomnia, and nausea and vomiting. In more severe cases i. The risk of encountering these more serious side effects are greatly increased when methamphetamine is used in combination with other drugs like cocaine, marijuana, alcohol, and heroin.

Scientists believe the increased dopamine release in these brain regions is responsible for methamphetamine s ability to keep people awake, alert, energetic, active, and possibly addicted.

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Methamphetamine acts on a variety of brain regions to produce a number of different effects Table 2. Table 2. This damage may be permanent, as evidenced by brain scans on methamphetamine addicts that show that this damage is still present three years after ceasing to use the drug. Because dopamine-releasing neurons die off in regions of the limbic system, symptoms of impaired movement and muscle control can appear that are strikingly similar to Parkinson s disease see Chapter 7.

The death of dopamine neurons in the frontal cortex is believed to cause the paranoia and psychosis hallucinations and delusions seen in many chronic methamphetamine users. Today, however, it is predominantly used by white males in their 20s and 30s and is becoming more popular with teenagers at dance clubs and raves. For these reasons, methamphetamine can be considered a club drug.

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Methamphetamine use is also increasing among homeless people, prostitutes, and runaway youths. Surveys of emergency room reports indicate that over the past decade, upward of 3, 4, methamphetamine-related deaths have occurred. There has also been a constant trend of more than 10, ER mentions of methamphetamine since Figure 2. In addition, thousands of meth labs have been raided and seized by law enforcement agencies in the United States in the past several years. Historically, most methamphetamine use was concentrated.

Many of these patients die from complications resulting from methamphetamine use. However, increased methamphetamine use is starting to appear in Midwest states like Iowa and Nebraska, and even large cities on the East Coast such as New York City, indicating that its use is spreading across the entire country. While some meth addicts take the drug once or.

One infamous user of methamphetamine during wartime was one of the most evil men of the twentieth century Adolf Hitler. Hitler started receiving daily injections of methamphetamine from his personal physician Dr. Morrell in , and it was reported he could not function without his daily doses. Hitler also took many other drugs perhaps over two dozen , including Cola-Dalmann tablets that contained caffeine. Hitler also dispensed methamphetamine to his troops so they could fight for days on end without sleep or food and outlast the endurance of enemy troops.

Hitler eventually developed hand tremors and problems controlling movement, which he would attempt to hide by covering one hand with the other, or by placing his hands in his pockets. These symptoms strongly resembled Parkinson s disease see Chapter 7 , which many scientists speculate may have been caused by brain degeneration brought about by Hitler s methamphetamine use.

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Other historians, however, speculate that Hitler s Parkinson s disease may have been caused by a virus or by the spirochete that causes syphilis. Hitler s tremendous paranoia, lack of compassion and judgment, and violent and aggressive tendencies are often attributed to his repeated use of methamphetamine. These personality changes may have ultimately helped change the course of World War II and history itself. This inability can persist for months or years even after stopping use.

One of the most devastating effects of methamphetamine addiction can be seen in pregnant women who are addicted. Exposure of a fetus to methamphetamine has been shown to cause limb malformations, abnormal reflexes, and behavioral problems in the newborn. Moreover, meth-addicted expectant mothers experience more premature deliveries and complications during delivery than do non-using expectant mothers.


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Another consequence of methamphetamine addiction is increased risk for HIV infection and AIDS, since many meth users inject the drug intravenously and share needles. In fact, illegal drug use is one of the fastest-growing ways HIV is spread to other people. Once a methamphetamine addict stops taking the drug, the withdrawal symptoms can be very severe and include depression and anxiety, increased appetite, fatigue, paranoia, irritability, aggressive behavior, and intense craving for the drug.

Some of these symptoms can be eased with sedative drugs like Valium or antidepressants like Prozac.

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Although there are currently no pharmacological treatments for methamphetamine addiction, psychological treatments such as psychotherapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy which involves changing one s thought patterns, expectations, and behavior , and improving coping skills can be mildly effective in helping meth addicts stay clean.

These chemists also synthesized a similar drug called 3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine MDA , which, as it turns out, is an active metabolite of MDMA. Interest in the two drugs was revived in the s by the U. Ecstasy remained largely unused as a recreational drug through the s and early s.

However, in the late s, a biochemist at the University of California at Berkeley named Alexander Shuglin was approached by a student who claimed to have used MDMA to fix a stuttering problem. Shuglin decided to synthesize the drug and take it himself. He wrote a scientific The structure of Ecstasy is shown here, with the structure of amphetamine enclosed in the box. Ecstasy contains an additional carbon ring and a methane CH 3 group. Based on his experience with the drug, Shuglin suggested that MDMA should be used by psychologists, psychiatrists, and counselors to help patients open up and explore their own feelings.

A small underground group of psychotherapists followed his advice and used MDMA successfully in their practices for several years. But by the early s, reports of Ecstasy s psychedelic effects leaked out to the public, and recreational Ecstasy use blossomed on college campuses in states such as California and Texas. This prompted the Drug Enforcement Administration In , the DEA indicated its intent to classify Ecstasy as a Schedule II controlled substance, citing that it still had potential for medical use in psychiatry.

However, the director of the DEA, concerned about the potential for addiction to Ecstasy, deemed it necessary to classify it as a Schedule I controlled substance, the most restricted classification a drug can receive. By the late s, use of Ecstasy had spread across the United States and into England and the rest of Europe.


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In , U. Customs reported seizing more than 7 million Ecstasy tablets that were illegally shipped to the United States. Penalties for Ecstasy manufacturing, trafficking, and possession currently include many years in prison and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines. These pills come in a large variety of shapes and colors with various designs imprinted on them. The pills are usually chewed or taken with a drink. In rarer instances, the pills are crushed into a powder and snorted or injected intravenously, or the pills are inserted into the rectum shafting. Despite being in pill form, Ecstasy tablets often contain impurities that can be toxic and cause serious adverse reactions.

Such impurities may include other amphetamine derivatives,. The designs range from sports and car logos to catchy names, cartoon characters, and popular symbols, making them all the more appealing to teenagers. Increasing reports of contaminated batches of Ecstasy pills has prompted the need for drug test kits, which test for such impurities, to be sold with the drug. Many rave parties now have booths set up where users can have their Ecstasy pills tested for contaminants.

The effects of the drug begin approximately minutes after taking it and usually last for 3 4 hours, but sometimes longer.

Ecstasy also produces strong feelings of empathy the ability to identify with and share other people s feelings and often makes the users feel like they love and want to hug everyone hence its name, the hug or love drug. Herbal Ecstasy supplements are sold in health food and drug stores, and marketed mainly to teenagers and young adults as being able to produce euphoria, increased energy, and heightened sexual sensations. They are also marketed as an aid in combating asthma.

Herbal Ecstasy is actually nothing more than a stimulant containing ephedrine and caffeine. The manufacturers claim the product is natural because the ephedrine it contains comes from the Chinese herb ephedra also called ma huang or other ephedrine extracts, and the caffeine it contains comes from the kola nut. Herbal Ecstasy can also contain other herbs such as ginseng, ginkgo biloba, green tea, and nutmeg. However, the Food and Drug Administration FDA has warned that Herbal Ecstasy is just as dangerous as other synthetic ephedrine and caffeine products and can potentially result in irregular heartbeat, heart attack, stroke, psychosis, and death.

These dangers are increased in patients with heart conditions, those who are taking antidepressants, or people who are overly sensitive to stimulants. Other psychological effects of Ecstasy include increased excitement, laughter, relaxation, and talkativeness, and decreased feelings of anxiety, alienation, and aggression. Because Ecstasy can produce mild hallucinations, it is often referred to as a psychedelic drug having effects similar to those of LSD. Unlike other psychedelic drugs, however, Ecstasy does not produce vivid perceptual and visual distortions, like walls and ceilings turning into liquid.

Rather, the perception of colors, sound, music, and touch appears to be intensified by Ecstasy. In addition, the perception of time may be slowed or otherwise altered. Despite the pleasurable effects Ecstasy produces in many individuals, some people report negative psychological effects while on the drug, including feelings of confusion, depression, anxiety, paranoia, and depersonalization.

These problems can also occur when the person comes down from the high and the drug begins to wear off. Insomnia and irritability often occur as well. In spite of the pleasurable effects that it brings about, Ecstasy is nevertheless a very dangerous drug. Ecstasy can produce sharp increases in body temperature called malignant hyperthermia , which can lead to excess sweating, dehydration, and heat exhaustion, especially when the drug is taken at dances and clubs where room temperatures are abnormally high. Malignant hyperthermia is the most common cause of death associated with Ecstasy use.

Another common cause of Ecstasy-related death is hyponatremia. Hyponatremia occurs when a person drinks too much fluid in an attempt to avoid dehydration , which results in kidney failure, swelling of the brain, and coma. Ecstasy also increases heart rate and blood pressure, thereby increasing the risk of heart attack, stroke, or brain hemorrhage. Other common physical side effects of Ecstasy include dilated pupils, jaw clenching and grinding of the teeth which is why many users chew on.