Methamphetamine is both domestically produced and imported into the U.S. in already processed form. Once dominated by motorcycle gangs and other local producers in remote areas of California and the Pacific Northwest, the market now includes both local producers and Mexican sources providing finished product to stateside distributors.
Use is widely prevalent in both urban and rural areas and equally divided among males and females. Women are more likely to use methamphetamine than cocaine. Some areas are seeing an increase in the number of Hispanic and Native American meth users, though whites are still the most dominant users of the drug.
On a recent survey done on this site (March 25 - April 17, 2000), of the 544 respondents:
Under 18 years old 24%
18-23 years old 35%
23-30 years old 19%
30-40 years old 13%
Over 40 years old 6%
The drug alters mood in different ways, depending on how it is taken. Immediately after smoking or intravenous injection, the user experiences an intense "rush" or "flash" that lasts only a few minutes and is described as extremely pleasurable. Smoking or injecting produces effects fastest, within five to ten seconds. Snorting or ingesting orally produces euphoria - a high but not an intense rush. Snorting produces effects within three to five minutes, and ingesting orally produces effects within 15 to 20 minutes.
Methamphetamine short-circuits a person's survival system by artificially stimulating the reward center, or pleasure areas in the brain. This leads to increased confidence in meth and less confidence in the normal rewards of life. This happens on a physical level at first, then it affects the user psychologically. The result is decreased interest in other aspects of life while reliance and interest in meth increases. In one study, laboratory animals pressed levers to release methamphetamine into their blood stream rather than eat, mate, or satisfy other natural drives. The animals died of starvation while giving themselves methamphetamine even though food was available.
Meth trafficking and production are different than other drugs because they are dangerous from start to finish. The reckless practices of the untrained people who manufacture it in clandestine labs result in explosions and fires that injure or kill not only the people and families involved, but also law enforcement or fireman who respond. Any number of solvents, precursors and hazardous agents are found in unmarked containers at these sites. These potent chemicals can enter the central nervous system and cause neural damage, effect the liver and kidneys, and burn or irritate the skin, eyes and nose. Environmental damage is another consequence of these reckless actions, and violence is often a part of the process as well.