Methamphetamine facts

Gail Evans, Alphabiolabs

By Gail Evans, Technical Trainer at AlphaBiolabs
Last reviewed: 13/03/2023

In this article, we take a closer look at methamphetamine, what it is, how it is used, the side effects of methamphetamine use and more.
Table of contents
  • What is methamphetamine?
  • What are the street names for methamphetamine?
  • What does methamphetamine look like?
  • How is methamphetamine used?
  • How do people behave when they take methamphetamine?
  • What are the side effects of methamphetamine use?
  • What happens when you use methamphetamine with other drugs?
  • Which legislation covers methamphetamine use?
  • Is methamphetamine used in medicine?
  • How long does it take for methamphetamine to show up in a drug test?
  • Where can I buy a drug test?

What is methamphetamine?

Part of the amphetamine family, methamphetamine – also known as crystal meth, ice or glass – is a powerful and highly addictive synthetic stimulant drug.

Although it is closely related to amphetamine (‘speed’), the effects of methamphetamine are much more intense, and have a greater effect on the central nervous system.

Its euphoric effects are also similar to cocaine, but longer lasting.

Methamphetamine products were previously available from retail pharmacists in the UK, before being banned from sale in 1968.

What are the street names for methamphetamine?

Some of the most common street names for methamphetamine include:

  • Meth
  • Crank
  • Crystal Meth
  • Ice
  • Glass
  • Tina and Christina

What does methamphetamine look like?

Methamphetamine can come in several forms including crystals, tablets or powder.

How is methamphetamine used?

Recreational drug users swallow, inject or snort methamphetamine.

However, methamphetamine in its purer form (crystal meth) is also smoked. 

How do people behave when they take methamphetamine?

Because methamphetamine belongs to the amphetamine family of stimulant drugs, using methamphetamine can make a person feel more alert, energised, and awake.

However, in some people it can cause agitation, confusion and/or aggression.

Long-term methamphetamine use has also been linked to psychiatric problems resembling those associated with schizophrenia, such as paranoia and hallucinations.

It can also cause psychosis, resulting in homicidal or suicidal thoughts.

What are the side effects of methamphetamine use?

Some common physical side effects of methamphetamine use include:

  • Raised blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Stroke
  • Lung and kidney damage
  • Dental problems including tooth decay and tooth loss (from smoking)
  • Itchy skin leading to severe scratching, infections, and wounds
  • Loss of appetite

Inhibitions may also be lowered in a person using methamphetamine, which can lead to risky behaviours such as unsafe sex and, in turn, sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

A person who injects methamphetamine is also at an increased risk of overdosing or contracting life-altering infections such as HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C. This risk is even greater among users who share needles.

There is also the risk that veins may be damaged, and of abscesses or clots developing.

What happens when you use methamphetamine with other drugs?

Below is an overview of the side effects of using methamphetamine alongside other drugs.

Alcohol

Because methamphetamine is a stimulant drug and alcohol is a depressant, people sometimes use one substance to counteract the effects of the other.

However, this can be dangerous, as the stimulant effects of methamphetamine combined with the depressant effects of alcohol can cause an unpredictable reaction, with serious consequences including increased risk of harm or even death.

Cocaine

Using cocaine and methamphetamine together can greatly increase the risk of heart problems, sleep disturbances and mood swings.

Heroin

Using heroin and methamphetamine together can increase the risk of physical and psychological harm caused by both drugs, as well as the risk of overdose.

Which legislation covers methamphetamine use?

Misuse of Drugs Act 1971

Under UK law, methamphetamine is classified as a Class A drug.

Controlled drugs refer to any substances that are tightly controlled by the government, because they pose a risk of addiction or misuse.

It is an offence for a person to have controlled drugs in their possession, unless in exceptional circumstances, such as when they have been prescribed by a doctor. This also covers activities relating to the production, supply or preparation of controlled drugs.

SENTENCING FOR OFFENCES
Possession Up to 7 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both
Supply Up to life in prison, an unlimited fine or both

Drug Driving Road Traffic Act 2015

SENTENCING FOR OFFENCES
Drug driving Up to 6 months in prison, an unlimited fine or both
Criminal record
Driving licence endorsement for 11 years
One-year driving ban
Causing death by dangerous driving Up to 14 years in prison

Is methamphetamine used in medicine?

Methamphetamine can be used medically for the short-term treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and to aid weight loss.

However, these uses are very limited in the UK, and methamphetamine is rarely prescribed. In those instances where it is prescribed, it is in very low doses that are not typically seen in people who misuse the drug.

How long does it take for methamphetamine to show up in a drug test?

The drug testing detection windows for methamphetamine are as follows:

  • Oral fluid (saliva) – up to 48 hours
  • Urine – up to 4 days
  • Hair – up to 12 months (depending on the length of hair available)
  • Nails – up to 12 months (up to 6 months for fingernails and up to 12 months for toenails)

Oral fluid and urine drug testing are known as ‘narrow-window’ forms of testing and can be used to detect drug use from 30 minutes after consumption, up to a few days. This can vary depending on the type of substance and how much was used. 

The rate at which hair and nails grow means that both hair drug testing and nail drug testing can provide a ‘wide-window’ of detection for drugs and their metabolites (up to 12 months).

Where can I buy a drug test?

AlphaBiolabs offers two types of home drug tests, designed to give you peace of mind or enable you to seek support for a friend or loved one who is struggling with substance misuse.

  • Home Urine Drug Test Kit (£18) – this easy-to-use home drug testing kit can detect drugs and their metabolites in a urine sample. The self-contained screening kit includes built-in test strips, allowing you to read the results in just 5 minutes
  • Drug and Alcohol Nail Test (from £99) – this test can detect drug use for a period of up to 12 months prior to samples being collected, with only a sample of fingernail clippings or toenail clippings required. Simply follow the instructions included in your test kit to collect your nail clipping samples and return them to our accredited laboratory for testing

Please be aware that our home drug test kits are for peace of mind only, and the results cannot be used in court. If you require a drug test for official matters, you will need a legally-instructed drug test.

For confidential advice about which test might best suit your needs, you can also call our Customer Services team on 0333 600 1300 or email info@alphabiolabs.com.

Home drug tests

Explore our range of at-home drug tests.

Gail Evans, AlphaBiolabs

Gail Evans

Technical Trainer at AlphaBiolabs

A professionally-trained forensic scientist, Gail joined AlphaBiolabs in 2012 and holds the role of Technical Trainer.

Her day-to-day responsibilities include delivering in-depth training sessions both internally and externally, covering DNA, drug, and alcohol testing.

Before joining the company, Gail was a practicing forensic scientist with 25 years’ experience working for the Forensic Science Service, attending scenes of crime, and analysing physical and biological material with potential evidential value.

Gail also holds qualifications in chemistry and is a Lead Auditor for the ISO 9001 standard, the international standard for quality management.

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