Methamphetamine is a powerful synthetic stimulant affecting the central nervous system. The drug has long-lasting physical and psychological effects and high potential for abuse and dependence. Due to their availability and association with crime, methamphetamine and marijuana are considered to be Washington state's biggest drug threats according to a recent newsletter produced by NW HIDTA.

NW HIDTA is an important law enforcement coordinating organization and bases its assessment on a recent survey among its partner agencies. In addition, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Seattle Field Division reports that the Sinaloa and Michoacán drug cartels of Mexico have methamphetamine connections in Washington. As a symptom of this, methamphetamine seizures increased again in 2011, even while treatment admission numbers for the drug decreased.

People ingest meth, a derivative of amphetamine, by taking it in pill form, smoking, snorting, or injecting it. Street names for methamphetamine frequently change and vary by region. Common names are meth, speed, crank, chalk, zip and yaba, and in the crystallized form crystal, ice and glass. The 'high' from methamphetamine use can vary from several minutes to twelve hours.

News about meth


The precursor materials used to make meth include pseudoephedrine, acetone, lithium batteries and anhydrous ammonia. These products are widely available in drug and grocery stores, hardware, feed stores, and on the Internet. The exception is pseudoephedrine; most states, including Washington, have laws requiring pharmacies to sell pseudoephedrine "behind the counter" and to collect personal information from purchasers.  Meth can be produced illegally in homes, cars, hotel rooms, or even plastic bottles. Meth labs are not just in rural areas; in fact, one may be as close as the trunk of a nearby car.

Meth labs are distinct from other illegal drug production, in the extreme levels of long-lasting environmental damage they produce. Meth labs emit highly toxic fumes and involve volatile chemicals that cause severe injury or death if inhaled or touched.  These chemicals are also prone to explosions and fire. Scientists and toxic waste specialists struggle with the waste and by-product residue after production, which leads to extensive environmental damage. Chemical residues left behind cause chemical burns, upper respiratory problems, cold and flu-like symptoms and in some cases, death. Children who are living near a meth lab are especially vulnerable.

Another way in which meth differs from other illicit drugs, is that there is not a ‘typical’ methamphetamine user. Although it is notable for its rise and disproportionate use among gay male and ‘soccer moms’, methamphetamine is unique among illicit drugs because it spreads into communities with little or no prior history of use and lacks a target population.  It is easily available to anyone regardless of socio-economic or cultural background. The ability to spread to new populations and have such an extensive impact has made methamphetamine use distinctive and dangerous among drug epidemics.

Subpages (1): Resources for Meth