Life of Becka

Confessions of a Dreamer

FAQ about Meth

Methamphetamine Frequently Asked Questions

Question: What is methamphetamine?

Answer: Methamphetamine is an addictive stimulant drug that strongly activates the central nervous system. It can be smoked, snorted, orally ingested, and injected. It is available in many different forms and may be identified by color, which can range from white to yellow to darker colors such as red and brown. Methamphetamine comes in a powder form that looks like granulated crystals and in a rock form known as “ice,” which is the smokeable version of methamphetamine.

Question: What are the side effects of using methamphetamine?

Answer: Side effects of using meth include convulsions, dangerously high body temperature, stroke, cardiac arrhythmia, stomach cramps, and shaking. Chronic abuse can lead to psychotic behavior including intense paranoia, visual and auditory hallucinations, and out-of-control rages. Chronic users develop sores on their bodies from scratching at “crank bugs,” which describes the common delusion that bugs are crawling under the skin. Long-term use may result in anxiety, insomnia, and addiction. After methamphetamine use is stopped, several withdrawal symptoms can occur, including depression, anxiety, fatigue, paranoia, aggression, and an intense craving for the drug. Psychotic symptoms can sometimes persist for months or years after use has ceased. Meth mouth is on the increase, particularly in jails where prisoners who have used methamphetamines have severe dental problems caused by this drug.

Question: Why is methamphetamine use such a problem in rural areas?

Answer: The problems with methamphetamine use in rural areas are many.

•  In rural areas, there are many abandoned buildings such as farm houses and barns on remote roads. Some of these buildings house methamphetamine labs, which operate undetected.

• Anhydrous ammonia is one of the key ingredients in producing meth. It is readily available in rural areas as farmers use this chemical as fertilizer. Thefts of anhydrous ammonia storage units have prompted law enforcement officials in some areas to urge farmers to lock their tanks.

• Rural areas are dealing with the cleanup of toxic methamphetamine lab sites which have a severe impact on the environment. Each pound of methamphetamine produced releases poisonous gas into the atmosphere and creates five to seven pounds of toxic waste. In addition, many meth laboratory operators dump the toxic waste down household drains, in fields and yards, or on rural roads.

• Children are endangered by methamphetamine production. Children that are around areas of methamphetamine labs get exposed to toxic chemicals thus presenting health and environmental risks. Children removed from lab sites have been shown to have methamphetamine in their systems. For further information, see Children at Risk from Meth, sponsored The Partnership for a Drug-Free America.

• Meth orphans are children who are in foster care due to one or both parents being either in jail or dead due to methamphetamine use or children being born to mothers addicted to the drug. A large number of grandparents raise their grandchildren due to problems that methamphetamine use can cause with one or both parents.

•  Injury to EMS personnel can occur when first responders arrive at a meth site and deal with hazardous substances as well as people under the influence of meth who may be violent, agitated, and unpredictable. The most common symptoms suffered by meth users are respiratory and eye irritations, headaches, dizziness, nausea, and shortness of breath.

•  Law enforcement personnel are overworked. Methamphetamine lab manufacturers avoid police because labs can be portable and so are easily dismantled, stored, or moved. Those that are arrested fill up already crowded jails and strain limited police resources.

• The ingredients that are used to make methamphetamine can be purchased at local stores. These ingredients are cheap. Meth can be cooked at home in kitchens and garages.

• Methamphetamine abuse during pregnancy causes prenatal complications such as increased rates of premature delivery, abnormal reflexes and extreme irritability, and may be linked to congenital deformities. Methamphetamine abuse by those who inject the drug and share needles can increase users’ risks of contracting HIV/AIDS and hepatitis B and C.

• Treatment for meth use may be hard to find in small towns. Rural communities often have fewer health facilities and treatment options. Meth users may find it difficult to get the help they need.

Question: What are states doing to help combat the rural methamphetamine problem?

Answer: Communities everywhere are attempting to stop the spread of methamphetamine use through education programs, increased law enforcement efforts, and addiction treatment programs. Forming partnerships with local and state agencies to help combat methamphetamine use is beneficial.

The Meth Watch Program is designed to help stop the theft and suspicious sales of pseudoephedrine products, as well as other common household products used in the illicit manufacturing of methamphetamine in small, toxic labs. A key goal of this program is to promote cooperation between retailers and law enforcement to prevent the diversion of legitimate products for illegal use. Several states have started their own Meth Watch programs, including Georgia, Indiana, IowaKansas, Kentuky, Maine,MichiganMinnesotaMississippi, Montana, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South CarolinaTennesseeVirginia, Washington, and Wyoming.

Many states have established Drug Endangered Children (DEC) Programs which work to coordinate the efforts of law enforcement, medical services, and child welfare workers to ensure that children found in these environments receive appropriate attention and care.

Many states have meth prevention programs, including CaliforniaKentuckyMaineMinnesotaMontana,NebraskaNorth Dakota, and Oregon.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has a website that contains fact sheets on each state. Each fact sheet contains statistics and data, state DEA offices with contact information, as well as what’s being done in each state.

The Office of National Drug Control Policy also has information on state and local resources regarding substance abuse.

Question: What is the Methamphetamine Production Prevention Act of 2008 ?

Answer: The Methamphetamine Production Prevention Act of 2008 entered into law on October 16, 2008. This act replaces the Combat Meth Act by requiring electronic logbooks be kept rather than written logbooks. These logbooks contain information related to the sale of drugs commonly found as meth ingredients, such as, pseudoephedrine. Individuals can purchase limited amounts of this drug, and they must present a government issued photo id and sign the sellers logbook after they have reviewed it to verify its accuracy. For more details on this act, go to S. 1276.

Question: Is there a methamphetamine or substance abuse hotline available?

Answer: Yes. The National Alcohol and Substance Abuse Information Call Center provides accurate information about alcohol and drug abuse at no charge. They operate a Hotline Call Center, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-784-6776.

Prevline: National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information, which is sponsored by SAMHSA, also has a hotline available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-729-6686. Staff both English and Spanish speaking information specialists who can recommend publications, posters, and videocassettes; conduct customized searches; provide grant and funding information; and refer people to appropriate organizations.

You can also locate treatment facilities in your area by using SAMSHA’s Substance Abuse Treatment Locator.


Maintained by: Aubrey Madler,

Thanks goes to: Roxanne Vaughan, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Dept. of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences

Thanks also goes to: Michael Knoop, Project Coordinator, Rural Methamphetamine Education Project

Last revised 07/01/2008


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