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•  ampinfo.txt
•  busted.txt
•  lore.txt
•  methsynth.txt

 

Amphetamines and Methamphetamine

Frontline meth epedemic.doc • ampinfo.txt • busted.txt • lore.txt • methsynth.txt •

BASIC FACTS ABOUT METHAMPHETAMINE

What is Methamphetamine?

Methamphetamine (known on the street as "speed," "meth," "crank," "crystal-meth," and "glass") is a central nervous system stimulant of the amphetamine family. Like cocaine, it is a powerful "upper" that produces alertness and elation, along with a variety of adverse reactions. The effects of methamphetamine, however, are much longer lasting than the effects of cocaine, yet the cost is much the same. For that reason, methamphetamine is sometimes called the "poor man’s cocaine."

How is it Taken?

Methamphetamine can be swallowed, smoked, snorted, or injected. Sold as a powder, it can be mixed with water for injection or sprinkled on tobacco or marijuana and smoked. Chunks of clear, high-purity methamphetamine ("ice," "crystal," "glass"), which resemble rock candy, are smoked in a small pipe, much as "crack" cocaine is smoked. Some users exploit the rapid vaporization of methamphetamine, spreading the powdered drug on aluminum foil, heating the foil, and inhaling the fumes that are released. Others "speedball" by combining methamphetamine and heroin.

Meth tends to be taken differently in different locales and by different age groups. In San Francisco, for example, injection is the preferred route; in Honolulu, it’s smoking. In Phoenix, younger users choose pills, while older users snort. Snorting the drug, however, irritates the nose, and smoking is hard on the throat and lungs. But it is smoking, along with injection, that are the fastest ways to deliver the drug to the brain. By either route of administration, users get very high very rapidly and want to recapture the feeling as soon as it begins to fade.

How Does it Affect You?

At lower doses, methamphetamine makes the user feel energetic, alert, selfconfident—even powerful. With continued use these pleasurable feelings typically diminish, and most users report the need for increasingly higher doses to achieve euphoria. Under the influence of the drug, users often become agitated and feel "wired." Their behavior becomes unpredictable. They may be friendly and calm one moment, angry and terrified the next. Some feel compelled to repeat meaningless tasks, such as taking apart and reassembling bits of machinery. Others may pick at imaginary bugs on their skin.

After a number of days on methamphetamine, during which time they barely sleep or eat, users become too tired to continue or have no meth left and begin to "crash." Initially, the crash is marked by agitated depression, sometimes accompanied by an urge for more methamphetamine. But these feelings soon give way to lethargy, followed by a long deep sleep. The depression returns, however, once the user awakens, and may last for days—a time when the potential for suicide is high.

With prolonged high-dose use or long binges, stimulant psychosis may develop. The psychotic user may feel intensely paranoid, hear voices, and experience bizarre delusions, believing, for example, that other people are talking about him or following him. Methamphetamine-induced panic and psychosis can be extremely dangerous and may result in incidents of extreme violence.

It is not unusual for psychosis to persist for days after the last dose of methamphetamine. Indeed, there are many reports of users remaining paranoid, delusional, apathetic, and socially withdrawn for weeks. Occasionally, methamphetamine-related psychosis lasts for years. But, in these cases, experts believe the drug has probably triggered symptoms of a pre-existing mental disorder.

Dangers and consequences of meth use:

  • Sleeplessness
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Skin ulceration and infection, the result of picking at imaginary bugs
  • Paranoia
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Increased blood pressure, due to the constriction of blood vessels, that may produce headaches, chest pain, or irregular heartbeat and lead to stroke or heart attack
  • Seizures
  • Permanent damage to brain cells caused by injury to small blood vessels serving the brain
  • For pregnant women—premature labor, detachment of the placenta, and low birth weight babies with possible neurological damage, poor feeding, and lethargy
  • For intravenous (IV) users—AIDS, hepatitis, infections and sores at the injection site, and infection of the heart lining and valves (endocarditis)

Meth vs. Cocaine?

Methamphetamine is generally cheaper than cocaine and—because the body metabolizes it more slowly—much longer lasting. Methamphetamine’s effects may last as much as ten times longer than a cocaine high. With its long-lasting effects, methamphetamine binges may last up to a week, while cocaine binges rarely continue for more than 72 hours. When heavy cocaine users experience paranoia, it almost always disappears once the binge ends. For methamphetamine users, however, severe disturbance of mood and thought may be sustained well beyond the binge. Not infrequently, they persist for days, sometimes weeks. Similarly, the methamphetamine crash is more prolonged, and the drug-related depression some users experience upon awakening can be more severe than any experienced by cocaine users.

For additional information contact the Phoenix House American Council for Drug Education 164 West 74th Street, New York, NY 10023, 1-800-488-DRUG (3784), www.acde.org


Surprisingly, there does not appear to be a comprehensive source of information relating to methamphetamine. While no list is ever complete, this one attempts to answer technical questions related to the chemical methamphetamine. Unfortunately, there tends to be a great deal of street lore that is blatantly wrong about methamphetamine and similar compounds. This document also attempts to point out some of the more common myths, and provide rational explanations.

Disclaimer

Do not use this information. I am not a chemist. This is for informational purposes only. Use of this information for illegal purposes is not condoned. The author makes no warranty, expressed or implied, of the suitability of this information for any particular purpose. The author does not endorse the abuse of any drugs, legal or otherwise.

This information has been gathered from openly available sources.

This is a preliminary document and should be considered fictitious until proven otherwise.


Overview

Methamphetamine (also known as speed, meth, crystal, crank, and sometimes confusingly called ice) is a chemical widely known for its stimulant properties on the human body. It is frequently confused with other drugs that share similar symptoms, including amphetamine, 4-methyl-aminorex, ephedrine, caffeine, and other chemicals, both legal and illegal.

Terminology

In this document, we shall refer to the drugs by their common chemical names, rather than by "street names", since the street names do not have a one-to-one correspondence to actual chemicals. For example, the term "speed" can mean methamphetamine or amphetamine. The term "ice" is generally considered to apply to 4-methyl-aminorex, but is often used to refer to relatively pure (and in some cases, not so pure) forms of methamphetamine.

We shall use the term "methamphetamine" to refer to the substance in either its free base (i.e. simple, unadorned) or salt (usually hydrochloride) form. When precision is needed, we shall explicitly state one form or the other.


Pharmacology

This is one of the most difficult sections to write, partially because there is very little "science" involved. The literature gives conflicting reports, due to the fact that many criterion are subjective, and probably also due to confusion over terminology.

The pharmacological effects of methamphetamine are very similar to those of similarly structured molecules.

Administration

Methamphetamine can be taken orally, snorted, smoked or injected, in approximately increasing order of immediacy of onset.

Onset

Onset can be immediate (in the case of injection), or can take as long as 30-40 minutes if ingested orally.

Duration

Duration is subjective, but is probably on the order of 4 - 8 hours. Delayed absorption (for example, due to oral ingestion) can prolong the effects relative to time of administration. Of course, larger doses last longer due to the fact that it is removed from the blood at a finite rate.

Plasma Life

The length of time that methamphetamine will stay in the plasma (blood) is between 4 to 6 hours. It can be detected in the urine one hour after use and up to 48 hours after use.

Dosage

A toxic reaction (or overdose) can occur at relatively low levels, 50 milligrams of pure drug for a non-tolerant user. Different peoples' metabolisms work at different rates, and drug strengths vary, so there is no way of stating a "safe" or "unsafe" level of use.

Effects

These include euphoria, hyperexcitability, extreme nervousness, accelerated heartbeat, sweating, dizziness, restlessness, insomnia, tooth grinding, incessant talking, and other effects.

Methamphetamine and other CNS stimulants have strong bronchodilation effects. Vasoconstriction (tightening of blood vessels) and pupil dilation are also common. Elevated blood pressure, heart rate, and other general symptoms of increased sympathetic nervous activity.

The physical effects are almost assuredly due to interactions between the amphetamine structure and human physiology, probably due to the similarity to adrenaline (epinephrine).

Mental capacity is not diminished directly by the drug. In fact, some studies have shown slight increases in mental capacity on simple tasks. It has been prescribed for attention deficit disorder, among other things.

Confusing reports here tend to center around the effects of fatigue on mental capacity.

Emotional responses may range from euphoria to anger and paranoia. Preliminary doses tend to produce the former, while continued use (e.g. for three or more days) tends to produce the latter.

It appears that these feelings may be linked to the neurotransmitters dopamine and/or serotonin, although I have not seen a good reference on this yet.

For More Information

Add references for pharmacological data here

Chemistry

This is the easiest section to write, and the most fun, since I can be relatively sure of the facts.

Molecular Information

All information is on free base unless otherwise noted.

Naming

Methamphetamine Free Base:
Chem Abstract Service (9th+ CIP) uninverted name:
N,alpha-Dimethylbenzeneethanamine

Previous name:
d-N,alpha-dimethylphenethylamine
Alternate Names:
  • d-N-methylamphetamine
  • d-deoxyephedrine (e.g. right-handed ephedrine, minus an oxygen)
  • d-desoxyephedrine
  • 1-phenyl-2-methylaminopropane
  • d-phenylisopropylmethane
  • methyl-beta-phenylisopropylamine
Trademarks:
Norodin
Methamphetamine Hydrochloride:

What we mean by hydrochloride is that it has formed a "salt". The basic structure is unchanged, but an HCl molecule has become attracted to the free base. In this case, the hydrogen from the HCl has become attracted to the nitrogen in the free base.

You will notice that the salt form is much more common. This is for physiological reasons. The same reaction which attracts the free base to HCl could also attract it to other molecules, causing irritation and other symptoms.

Trademarks:

  • Amphedroxyn
  • Desfedrin
  • Methedrine
  • (many others)

Structures

Amphetamine:


Methamphetamine:

Ephedrine:

Pseudoephedrine:

Phenylalanine:

Formula

Methamphetamine Free Base:
C6H6CH2CH(NHCH3)CH3

Hill Convention:
C10H15N

Molecular Weight

149.24

Percent Composition

C 80.48% H 10.13% N 9.39%

Melting Point

170-175 degrees C

Chirality

Explain isomers in chemical terms.

The human terms:
The d- is cool, the l- is shit, remember. If you have time, energy, and equipment, you can separate the two and reprocess the l- into d- by oxidizing it and reaminating it as described in the "critique" of the Phrack synthesis.

Discuss other opinions (some say chirality does not matter, etc.)

For More Information

The Merck Index

Synthesis

Industrial Methods

(add references)
  • Reduction of ephedrine or pseudoephedrine
  • Reducing condensation product of BMK and methylamine
  • Synthesis from D-phenylalanine

Field Methods

General

Add a lot here on different methods.

From: lamontg@u.washington.edu (Lamont Granquist)

jkenner@cello.gina.calstate.edu (Jason Kennerly) writes:
Manufacturing methamphetamine, on the other hand, requires the use of not just ether, but reducing agents such as LiAlH4. BAD STUFF! There are other recipes, but none to practical to attempt. Apartment manufacture of meth is not possible.

Reduction of ephedrine with HI is a little better than LAH reduction.

Condensation Product of Phenylacetone and Methylamine

From: ez026264@dale.ucdavis.edu (Speed Raver)

Assuming you don't have amphetamine lying around, an easy synthesis with a very high yield is to reduce the condensation product of phenylacetone and methylamine. The benefit of this method is that different amines can be used to produce novel N-alkyl amphetamines (ethamphetamine, tert-butylamphetamine, etc.)

From Ephedrine or Pseudoephedrine

From: ez026264@dale.ucdavis.edu (Speed Raver)

Making it from ephedrine or pseudoephedrine is possible. The only difference between methamphetamine and (pseudo)ephedrine is that damn alpha-hydroxy group. Reacting your ephedrine with thionyl chloride replaces the OH with Cl to produce N-methyl-alpha-chloroamphetamine as an intermediate. Hydrogenating this product is easy: use lithium aluminum hydride, sodium borohydride, or even hydrogen gas with nickel or platinum metal as a catalyst. The product of this step is N-methylamphetamine and HCl. Evaporate off the water and you have methamphetamine hydrochloride.

From: yshan@bcarh697.bnr.ca (Yogi Shan)

Hydrogenation starting with (-) ephedrine, whether direct or via the halide, will give d-meth. If you start with dl-ephedrine, you get dl-meth.

Reduction With Hydroiodic Acid and Red Phosphorus

From: lamontg@u.washington.edu (Lamont Granquist)

From Fester, Secrets of Meth Manufacturing:

Method 4: Reduction With Hydroiodic Acid and Red Phosphorus

In this procedure, the alcohol grouping of ephedrine, pseudoephedrine, or PPA is reduced by boiling one of these compounds in a mixture of hydroiodic acid and red phosphorus. Hydroiodic acid works as a reducing agent because its dissociates at higher temperatures to iodine and hydrogen, which does the reducing. The dissociation is reversible. The equilibrium is shifted in favor of dissociation by adding red phosphorus to the mixture. The red phosphorus reacts with the iodine to produce PI3, which then further reacts with water to form phosphorus acid and more hydroiodic acid. Since the hydrogen atom of the HI is being absorbed by the ephedrine, the red phosphorus acts as a recycler.

In some reductions, the need for HI is dispensed with just by mixing red phosphorus and iodine crystals in a water solution. The red phosphorus then goes on to make HI by the above mentioned process. With a small amount of due care, this is an excellent alternative to either purchasing, stealing, or making your own pure hydroiodic acid.

This method has the advantage of being easy to do. It was formerly the most popular method of making meth from ephedrine. Now red phosphorus is on the California list of less restricted chemicals, so an increased level of subterfuge is called for to obtain significant amounts. One might think that this is easily gotten around by making your own red phosphorus, but this is a process I would not want to undertake. Ever hear of phosphorus shells? I would much rather face the danger of exploding champagne bottles. Those who insist on finding out for themselves, will see Journal of the American Chemical Society, volume 68, page 2305. As I recall, the Poor Man's James Bond also has a formula for making red phosphorus. Those with a knack for scrounging from industrial sources will profit from knowing that red phosphorus is used in large quantities in the fireworks and matchmaking industries. The striking pad on books of matches is about 50% red phosphorus.

The determined experimenter could obtain a pile of red phosphorus by scraping off the striking pads of matchbooks with a sharp knife. A typical composition of the striking pad is about 40% red phosphorus, along with about 30% antimony sulfide, and lesser amounts of glue, iron oxide, MnO2, and glass powder. I don't think these contaminants will seriously interfere with the reaction. Naturally, it is a tedious process to get large amounts of red phosphorus by scraping the striking pads off matchbooks.

Another problem with this method is that it can produce a pretty crude product if some simple precautions are not followed. From checking out typical samples of street meth, it seems basic precautions are routinely ignored. I believe that the by-products in the garbage meth are iodoephedrine, and the previously mentioned azirine. If a careful fractional distillation is done, these products can be removed. They can be avoided in the first place if, when making hydroiodic acid from iodine and red phosphorus, the acid is prepared first, and allowed to come to complete reaction for 20 minutes before adding the ephedrine to it. This will be a hassle for some, because the obvious procedure to follow is to use the water extract of the ephedrine pills to make the HI in. The way around the roadblock here is to just boil off some more of the water from the ephedrine pill extract, and make the acid mixture in fresh pure water. Since the production of HI from iodine and red phosphorus gives off a good deal of heat, it is wise to chill the mixture in ice, and slowly add the iodine crystals to the red phosphorus-water mixture.

To do the reaction, a 1000 ml round bottom flask is filled with 150 grams of ephedrine hydrochloride (or PPA-HCl). The use of the sulfate salt is unacceptable because HI reduces the sulfate ion, so this interferes with the reaction. Also added to the flask are 40 grams of red phosphorus and 340 ml of 47% hydroiodic acid. This same acid and red phosphorus mixture can be prepared from adding 150 grams of iodine crystals to 150 grams of red phosphorus in 300 ml of water. This should produce the strong hydroiodic acid solution needed. Exactly how strong the acid needs to be, I can't say . I can tell you that experiments have shown that one molar HI is ineffective at reducing ephedrine to meth. The 47% acid mentioned above is a little over 3.5 molar. I would think that so long as one is over 3 molar acid, the reaction will work.

With the ingredients mixed together in the flask, a condenser is attached to the flask, and the mixture is boiled for one day. This length of time is needed for best yields and highest octane numbers on the product. While it is cooking, the mixture is quite red and messy looking from the red phosphorus floating around in it.

When one day of boiling under reflux is up, the flask is allowed to cool, then it is diluted with an equal volume of water. Next, the red phosphorus is filtered out. A series of doubled up coffee filters will work to get out all the red phosphorus, but real filter paper is better. The filtered solution should look a golden color. A red color may indicate that all the phosphorus is not yet out. If so, it is filtered again. The filtered-out phosphorus can be saved for use in the next batch. If filtering does not remove the red color, there may be iodine floating around the solution. It can be removed by adding a few dashes of sodium bisulfate or sodium thiosulfate.

The next step in processing the batch is to neutralize the acid. A strong lye solution is mixed up and added to the batch with shaking until the batch is strongly basic. This brings the meth out as liquid free base floating on top of the water. The strongly basic solution is shaken vigorously to ensure that all the meth has been converted to the free base.

With free base meth now obtained, the next step, as usual, is to form the crystalline hydrochloride salt of meth. To do this, a few hundred mls of toluene is added to the batch, and the meth free base extracted out as usual. If the chemist's cooking has been careful, the color of the toluene extract will be clear to pale yellow. If this is the case, the product is sufficiently pure to make nice white crystals just by bubbling dry HCl gas through the toluene extract as described in Chapter 5. If the toluene extract is darker colored, a distillation is called for to get pure meth free base. The procedure for that is also described in Chapter 5. The yield of pure methamphetamine hydrochloride should be from 100 to 110 grams.

Lithium-Ammonia Reduction

Reference: Ely, R. A. and McGrath, D.C., "Lithium-Ammonia Reduction of Ephedrine to Methamphetamine: An Unusual Clandestine Synthesis," Journal of Forensic Sciences, JFSCA, Vol. 35, No. 3, May 1990, pp. 720-723

Procedure:

All the chemicals were reagent grade, with no special treatment of the tetrahydrofuran (THF), and the atmosphere above the condensed ammonia was not flushed with nitrogen gas.

A three-neck flask was cooled in a dry ice/acetone bath. A condenser was fitted in the center neck, an additional funnel containing l-ephedrine base in THF was fitted into one side neck, and a rubber stopper fitted with a glass tube extending to the bottom of the flask was fitted in the third neck. Anhydrous ammonia gas was condensed and collected in the flask. Small pieces of lithium metal were rinsed in petroleum ether, patted dry, and added to the condensed ammonia. A deep royal blue color was noted as the lithium metal dissolved in the condensed ammonia.

The l-ephedrine was added drop wise to the lithium ammonia solution over a period of approximately 10 minutes with stirring. When all of the l-ephedrine had been added, ammonium chloride was added slowly to the solution. The flask was removed from the cooling bath, and the condensed ammonia was allowed to warm to room temperature and evaporate from the flask through the side necks.

When most of the ammonia had evaporated, water was added to the remaining solution until it cleared and any remaining lithium metal was decomposed. The remaining solution was removed from the flask to a separatory funnel, where the aqueous layer was discarded. The THF layer was dried with magnesium sulfate, and the hydrochloride salt of the methamphetamine was made by bubbling hydrogen chloride through the THF.

The same procedure was used, substituting phenylproponolamine and methylephedrine as the starting materials. A second synthesis was conducted with l-ephedrine, using the same procedure except that the reaction was not quenched with ammonium chloride.

Results:

The reaction was found to reduce l-ephedrine to d-methamphetamine quickly and easily . Furthermore, it was found that the reaction converted phenylpropanolamine to amphetamine and methylephedrine to dimethylamphetamine. The time required for the reaction to proceed from the condensing of the ammonia gas in the reaction flask until the excess lithium was decomposed was approximately one hour. The majority of this time was spent waiting for the condensed ammonia to evaporate from the reaction flask.

It was also found that the ephedrine would reduce to methamphetamine without the addition of ammonium chloride as a quenching agent.

From: eleusis@netcom.com (Eleusis)

According to the infamous J.For.Sci. article describing a "novel method of amphetamine production", the researchers concluded that with or without an ammonium chloride quench yields were good. I like this article especially because the rinky-dink DEA chemists that wrote it didn't seem to entirely grasp the concept of the procedure they were doing (in fact, a slightly modified Birch reduction known by some other name I can't recall). All in all, quite an entertaining and educational article ;-).

From: dmurphy3@aol.com (DMurphy3)

This may be so (in fact I read the same article), but typically a water quench leads to the alcohol, which is what we were trying to get rid of to start with. Also, if one were using Na rather than Li (Na is the Birch, I too forget the Li named reduction), adding water to quench will *definitely* be exciting, particularly considering the flammability of THF or ether.

Apparently they were following the guys handwritten notes. It would have been even more interesting had they used the real Birch method, using Na, especially when they tried the water quench ;>)

From: eleusis@netcom.com (Eleusis)

Yep - apparently that would be the case. As well, any extra Li (or Na if doing the straight Birch method) would convert to the Hydroxide, which might fuck the product up a bit.

I bet you they *did* do that the first time, and then, after they replaced that wing of the lab, they decided not to "publish" those results ;-).

From Phenylalanine

From: ez026264@dale.ucdavis.edu (Speed Raver)

A surprisingly simple synthesis is possible from the amino acid phenylalanine, which is available at health food stores for about $14 for 100 tablets. Phenylalanine is 2-amino-3-phenylpropanoic acid, which is more or less amphetamine with a COOH where the CH3 should be at the end of the chain. Thionyl chloride will replace the OH with a Cl, which falls off and is replaced by H when you give it lithium aluminum hydride, sodium borohydride, or hydrogen gas and nickel/platinum. If you use hydrogen and metal for that step, you'll ha v e to reduce the carbonyl group with one of the hydrides, so best save time + effort and use them and do both reductions at once. When that carbonyl is reduced, you now have amphetamine. Go back up to that first one I mentioned for upgrading amphetamine into methamphetamine.

Incomplete Syntheses

These are methods that are subjectively evaluated to be less useful, but still may serve as interesting lessons in applied chemistry.

Synthesis from Amphetamine

From: ez026264@dale.ucdavis.edu (Speed Raver)

One of the easiest ways to make methamphetamine is from amphetamine. Of course, this assumes you have amphetamine in the first place, but let's just pretend you have some and you want to spice it up a bit. The difference between amphetamine and methamphetamine is the addition of a single methyl group (CH3) to the amino group sticking off the middle carbon atom in the chain. Fortunately, substituting amines is really simple. Vaporize your amine (your amphetamine) with a bunch of vaporized chloromethane (CH3Cl, a solvent) and some gaseous pyridine... voila, the amino group takes the methyl from the chloromethane and lets a hydrogen go. The hydrogen joins the liberated chlorine, and the resulting HCl is soaked up by the pyridine. The pyridine is optional. Adding it drives the reaction a bit by pulling the excess HCl out of the equation, but it's not necessary.

Methylamine

From: dnaugler@sfu.ca (David Naugler)

jkenner@cello.gina.calstate.edu (Jason Kennerly) writes:
Does the P2P method [reductive amination] ever end up attaching TWO chains to the same methylamine, producing a crazy looking monster with two "wings"

This last question is solved be reference to a principle called the law of mass action. An excess of methylamine will inhibit the secondary reactions.

Typically, a reductive amination done in a parr bomb or using sodium cyanoborohydride is done with a five times molar excess of methylamine (or methylamine hydrochloride.)

Phenylacetone

From: jkenner@cello.gina.calstate.edu (Jason Kennerly)

Let me know how bromobenzene + acetone + NaOH turns out. I'm interested in this since I haven't seen it anywhere else (unlike some people, I don't have the Abstracts in my closet :)

Make sure to use an EXCESS of acetone, because 1 its more readily available and 2 it will prevent any diphenyl/triphenyl/xphenyl acetone from forming.

Hell, if your making straight amphetamine, you could even just go with acetone as the solvent too, if you could come up with a good way to separate the 2-aminopropane you'd make with the amphetamine. Given that this gunk has a bp of 33 or 34 degrees at standard pressure, it shouldn't be too hard. Smells like ammonia though... maybe you should "catch" it in HCl water when you distill.

As with any distillation there will be some left over. Never fear, 2aminopropane (or "isopropylamine") is water MISCIBLE. Yes, the BASE form is miscible w/ H2O! Amphetamine BASE is only "slightly" soluble in water, so if your really a purist you can dissolve your "mostly amphetamine some 2aminopropane" in ether and backwash with water maybe ONCE. Then precipitate the crystals with dry HCl or H2SO4?

Question is, how much ammonia and reducing agent are you willing to waste on making 2aminopropane?

Purification by Crystallization

From: csc@pilot.njin.net (Sean Casey)

For a purification by crystallization of any of the HCL salts of ephedrine and related illegals, I'd suggest a two solvent system with methanol and methylethylketone. This tends to occlude a slight amount of solvent so keep your crystal size small and grind and dry the result. Both these solvents are easily available if you know where to look.

I wouldn't suggest ethanol or acetone as they tend to easily collect H2O; this can happen unexpectedly and when it does, their solvency power will greatly increase, redissolving your crystals. Be careful as methanol is toxic; don't get it on you or breathe the fumes.

Read a lab handbook about two-solvent purification by crystallization. Fascinating stuff.


Related Chemistry

amphetamine

ephedrine

pseudoephedrine

phenylalanine


Street Knowledge

Very scientifically unsound, but interesting nonetheless.

Street Doses

An average wrap of speed contains less than 10% Amphetamines, (often as low as 2%) and over 90% of adulterants.

Coloration

From: jkenner@cello.gina.calstate.edu (Jason Kennerly)

Methamphetamine in its pure hydrochloride salt form is colorless. However, products on the market today are often not colorless. The following is a table of some common impurities and the colors associated with them. Note: There is no doubt a segment of the dealers who will add food coloring or some other such color to their drug to make it more appealing, with the philosophy that a brightly-colored product may sell better than an off color product. This is relatively uncommon however.

  • RED: The product was made from pseudoephedrine, and the red coloring of the tablet was not adequately washed away (it is difficult)

  • ORANGE: Ephedrine sulfate was used, and some of the sulfate was reduced to sulfur.

  • PURPLE: Iodine from a phosphorus-iodine reaction was not washed out.

  • GREEN: Copper (or other metallic) salts somehow made their way in to the mixture, probably due to the reaction vessel used in the manufacture.

  • BROWN: Oxidized red coloring (see above), or tablating agent was present in the reduction.

Sometimes "speed" is present as waxy rocks that almost seem wet, but do not dry out properly. I am not sure what the cause of this is, but its most likely some form of oil, either formed in the reaction or left over from a very poor solvent. It may or may not be harmless depending upon what it is. This oil is often removed with acetone, but ethyl-ether would be better suited for this as it dries faster.

Pure methamphetamine HCl melts at around 170c (338f ). The crystals can be carefully chopped and mixed with sodium carbonate, and when the resulting powder is heated (and the methamphetamine HCl melts) CO2 and methamphetamine base vapor is given off. This is probably one of the more effective ways of smoking meth if you are careful, however the hydrochloride salt is often the form smoked as the base form is often an oil and is difficult to store, transport, and work with. Smoking the HCl form is OK if you don't mind a small quantity of pyrolysed drug.

d-methamphetamine is, by nature, optically active. l-methamphetamine is also optically active, but in the "opposite" direction. You can test methamphetamine HCl for optical activity with the greyish-clear plastic pieces from a pocket video game. Dissolve the methamphetamine in distilled water, then place one of the optical filters (the grayish clear things from the games LCD display) in front, and one in behind of the solution. Rotate one filter, and note the angle that is brightest and the angle that is darkest. If many "swirlies" appear, either use a different vessel to hold the solution in, or make sure the solution is well stirred. After you have done this, repeat the procedure with distilled water. A handy thing to use as a "calibration" of sorts is to extract the l-desoxyephedrine from a Vicks Inhaler (which is l-methamphetamine), and run this test on it as well.

RESULT:

  • Same as water: DL-methamphetamine (or other inactive) Most likely made from P2P (methamphetamine) or DLPA (phenylalanine). The DLPA-crank may in fact only be dl-amphetamine. Might be 100% cut [read: nothing] also...

  • Same as Vicks: You've been ripped off ! -or- there's so much unchanged ephedrine as to cancel the dextrorotary effects of the meth (l-ephedrine, when reduced, is dextrorotary (see explanation elsewhere)

  • Opposite of vicks compared to water: DL-methamphetamine. Dextrorotary product is almost certainly methamphetamine (or extracted dexedrines?) as its is not worth the trouble to get other dextrorotary precursors or resolve dl-amphetamine...

  • Worth Noting: Cathinone and Methcathinone, when dissolved in methanol, will become racemic due to the nature of the molecule (keytone). I'm not sure what other conditions cause this but I am aware that it happens easily, so methcathinone from the black market is almost definitely racemic...

The EPHEDRINE/CAT TEST
Its probably not too uncommon that some guy screws up a synthesis, but by some chance gets a partial yield. Or a dealer uses Ephedrine as cut. The problem with Ephedrine (far more so than pseudephedrine) is its beta-agonist properties - it raises blood pressure and pulse far more per "unit of high" than methamphetamine.

It is advisable to become familiar with the many ways of synthesizing methcathinone from (pseudo)ephedrine, as just such a procedure can be used on freshly produced methamphetamine to verify that the (pseudo)ephedrine was in fact reduced.

The smell of basic methcathinone has been reported to resemble that of "pistachio ice cream". Suffice to say that it is sweet, pleasant, and to a cat-head, nirvana. You should become familiar with this as well, in order to be able to know if suspected methamphetamine is in fact actually methcathinone.

The "BURN TEST" [residue test]
Methamphetamine HCl is heated on a piece of foil over a flame. It should first melt (at over 170c) then begin to fume. Often the fumes will ignite. All amphetamines will pass this test that I am aware off, including the over-the-counter l-isomer present in vicks inhalers (the *only* way to check this is to check optical activity , either by resolution or by actually measuring it with optical filters). Methcathinone HCl has a higher melting point than methamphetamine HCl (like over 190c at least) and a characteristic smell, giving it away in an instant. Residue left behind may be by-product or "cut", there's no good way to tell which... Suffice to say that if there is more than a very small amount left afterwards, there is either cut or by-products present.

The TASTE TEST [illegal without prescription snicker snicker]
Methamphetamine has a very bitter taste. Amphetamine has a bitter taste, followed by some degree of numbness. This isn't the most useful test in the world, especially considering it relies upon subjective senses too much IMHO, but it may help discern the product. Methamphetamine is also more active on serotonin that amphetamine according to net resources.

From: dmurphy3@aol.com (DMurphy3)

Sometimes 'speed' is present as waxy rocks that almost seem wet, but do not dry out properly. I am not sure what the cause of this is, but its most likely some form of oil, either formed in the reaction or left over from a very poor solvent. It may or may not be harmless depending upon what it is.

It is more than likely the "didesoxyephedrine" referred to by Emde, a product of the coupling of two radicals of the reduced ephedrine or pseudoephedrine. It appears to some extent in almost all syntheses relying on reduction and typically appears at the very end of the process of forming the HCl salt by bubbling HCl through the mixture. And no, I haven't forgotten my promise to post this paper. The scans just sucked when I tried to scan as text (5 pages magically became 10-15 of scrambled text). I am currently trying gif type scans. The *oil* may be removed, as you stated, by washing with ether. However, it will never dry out as completely one might suspect. Even drying under heavy vacuum leads to only a temporary solution. Once it is exposed to air it quickly becomes an oil again. Often this is a brown color as you stated for other by-products. As far as the rest of the post, I find it very useful and agree with it completely.


Myths and Rumors

"Smelling meth on a person"

Fatigue causes secretion of different chemicals, including ammonia, from the body. Thus you are smelling fatigue, not meth.

"Made from poison"

Made from several toxic chemicals; this does not mean it is itself poisonous. For example, drinkable salt water can be made from lye and muriatic acid.

"Used to cut other drugs"

Overstated in this role. Usually something much cheaper (and less clean) is used.

"Meth Oil" ??

"Speed Bumps"

Incorrect Syntheses

Phrack Magazine

Volume One, Issue Four, Phile / 8 of 11
THE TRIED AND TRUE
HOME PRODUCTION METHOD FOR
"METHAMPHETAMINE"

Written and tested by: The Leftist.

What to do with it once you have made it.

Take a ball about the size of a lead pellet, and wrap it in tissue, and swallow, or you can put it in capsules and use it. You can smoke it, mix it with vitamin B-12, and snort it like cocaine. You can also sell it, for about $65-70.00 a gram, and don't forget to cut it. Remember, this is pure stuff!!


List of chemicals and materials

  • Dilute Hydrochloric acid--> This may be purchased at the hardware store. It sold as a brick and driveway cleaner. They call it muriatic acid.

  • Sodium Hydroxide--> This, you probably already have. It's called "lye" at most places; it's drain cleaner.

  • Ethyl Ether--> You'll probably have to make this. Don't worry, it's a breez Just go to your local K-mart or Auto parts store, and get a can of that "STARTING FLUID" it comes in a spray can. It's used for cold weather starting of gasoline engines.

  • "VICKS" nasal inhalers--> USE ONLY VICKS!! No other kind will work that I know of. These are at any drug store or grocery, etc.. You need 12 of em, but don't buy em' by the dozen, unless its winter time, then you can just say yer from some nursing home, and you're stockin up for the patients. Otherwise buy em' 2 at a time, if possible. Get a friend to help you. The druggists at the drug store usually will know what's goin on if you buy quantity.


LIST OF EQUIPMENT

  • Two large eyedroppers

  • ten small glass bottles

  • one large glass or porcelain bowl

  • coffee filters

  • one small jar with a top

  • one Pyrex baking dish

  • one glass test tube.


-==*(> N O T I C E <)*==-

PLEASE! DON'T SMOKE IN THE SAME ROOM WHEN YOU DO THIS. OPEN A WINDOW IN THE ROOM IF POSSIBLE. FOLLOW THESE INSTRUCTIONS EXACTLY. THIS RECIPE HAS BEEN TESTED AND THIS IS T BEST WAY TO DO IT. DON'T TAKE SHORTCUTS, AND DON'T EVEN START TO DO THIS UNLESS YOU HAVE ABOUT 3 HOURS SPARE.


PREPARING ETHER!

(DO THIS FIRST)

Take one of the small bottles and spray starter fluid in it till it looks half-full. Then fill the rest of the way with water, cap the bottle and shake for 5 minutes. Then, draw off the top layer with the eyedropper, and throw away the water layer. Repeat this until you have about 3 oz. of ether. Put the cap on it, and put it in the refrigerator if you can. (If you can't, don worry about it) You'll use this in the procedure below.


THE TRIED AND TRUE HOME PRODUCTION METHOD

  1. Break open the inhalers, a pair of real sharp scissors does this good. Place the cottons that were inside in a jar and close the lid. (Remember you use all 12 cottons.)

  2. In the bowl, combine 1- 1/3 oz. water and 2/3 oz. muriatic acid. Shred cottons in this solution, and knead for 5 minutes with hands. (ALWAYS BE SURE THERE'S CLEAN RUBBER GLOVES on your hands.) You can do it bare-handed if you' got tough skin. Squeeze all juice out of filters after you knead, and throw em away.

  3. Filter the remaining liquid into the quart jar. It will be necessary to this several times to get that awful smelling oil out. The chemicals in the inhalers have been bonded to the HCl, and the oils have been filtered off. Throw the filters away.

  4. Pour enough of the solution into a small bottle to fill it 1/3 full. Save any leftover juice for the second batch.

  5. Pour 1/4 teaspoon of the lye crystals into the bottle and agitate. Do this carefully, as the mixture will become hot, and give off a gas. Repeat this step until the mixture remains cloudy.

  6. Fill the bottle from step (5) up the rest of the way with ether. Cap the bottle, and agitate for about 8 minutes. It is very important to expose ever molecule of the free-base to the ether for as long as possible.

  7. Let the mixture settle. There will be a middle layer that is very thick. Tap the side of the bottle to get this layer as thin as possible.

  8. Remove the top layer with the eyedropper, being careful not to get any of the middle layer in it. Save the top layer, and throw the rest away.

  9. Fill a bottle half-way with water, and about 10 drops of acid. Pour the top layer from step (8) into the bottle, and cap it. Shake the bottle for 2 minutes. When it settles, remove the top layer and throw it away. The free base has now been bonded to the HCl/water mixture.

  10. If there is anything left from step (3), repeat the procedure with it.

  11. Evaporate the solution in the Pyrex dish on low heat. You can do this o the stove, but I have found that if you leave it on top of a hot-water heater (like the one that supplies hot water to your house) for about 2-3 days, the remaining crystals will be Methamphetamine.

Some notes:

Police are now calling this the "New Cocaine".

It is very easy to become delirious off the ether fumes, so be sure you are well ventilated, I mean it!!!

Small, aspirin, or experiment bottles seem to work the best for smaller batches. The measurements are not exact, so you don't have to be either.

In step 9, be sure you don't use too much water. Remember, this is the water you have to use to evaporate.

==Phrack Inc.==

From: rkhunter@hale.cts.com (Admiral Hunter)

(WARNING!) This recipe is bogus! YOU WILL NOT HAVE METHAMPHETAMINE! You have simple extracted pseudoephedrine! All this stuff will give you is engziety(sp?)...

There are better recipes out there but if you cant get your hands on sodium borohydride and a reflux condenser then don't even mess with this recipe!

But the ETHER extraction method is as true today as it was then!

From: ez026264@dale.ucdavis.edu (Speed Raver)

One, from Phrack magazine, is the "tried and true method" for prepping meth from Vick's nasal inhalers. Vick's nasal inhalers contain "l-desoxyephedrine," another name for "l-methamphetamine." The l- isomer of methamphetamine is the relatively inactive one, usable as a (mild) nasal decongestant. The d- isomer is the one that every one wants and that Uncle Sam has declared is just too cool for any one except doctors.

The procedure described would extract the l-meth from the inhalers and collect it and that's it. I'm sorry, but the Isomer Fairy can't wave her magick wand and reverse the chirality of the molecule. The only way to change between the two isomers is to oxidize the l-meth into phenylacetone, condense it with methylamine, then reduce it. Sorry, but soaking inhalers in HCl then separating the "juice" with Et2OH just won't do it. You'll get l-meth and that's that.

The same recipe (for extraction of l-isomer), reformulated:

List of chemicals and materials

  • Dilute HCl - also called Muriatic acid - can be obtained from hardware stores, in the pool section.

  • NaOH - also called lye - can be obtained from supermarkets in the "drain cleaner" section. "Red Devil Lye" recommended.

  • Ethyl Ether - aka Diethyl Ether - Et-0-Et - can be obtained from engine starting fluid, usually from a large supermarket. Look for one that says "high ethyl ether content", such as Prestone.

  • Desoxyephedrine - can be obtained from "VICKS" nasal inhalers. These are found at any drug store or grocery, etc. They contain 50mg of l-desoxyephedrin e per container. Also known as methamphetamine. 6 containers will give 300mg of l-desoxyephedrine.

  • Distilled water - it's really cheap, so you have no reason to use the nasty stuff from the tap. Do things right.

List of equipment

  • a glass eyedropper

  • three small glass bottles with lids (approx. 3 oz., but not important)

    • one should be marked at 1.5oz, use tape on the outside to mark it (you might want to label it as ether)

    • one should be clear (and it can't be the marked one)

  • a Pyrex dish (the meatloaf one is suggested)

  • a glass quart jar

  • sharp scissors

  • clean rubber gloves

  • coffee filters

  • a measuring cup

  • measuring spoons

Preparing your reagents

Preparing Ethyl Ether

WARNINGS: Ethyl Ether is very flammable and is heavier than air. Do not use ethyl ether near flame or non-sparkless motors. It is also an anaesthetic and can cause respiratory collapse if you inhale too much.

Take the unmarked small bottle and spray starter fluid in it until it looks half-full. Then fill the rest of the way with water, cap the bottle and shake for 5 minutes. Let it sit for a minute or two, and tap the side to try and separate the clear upper layer. Then, draw off the top (ether) layer with the eyedropper, and throw away the lower (water) and cloudy layer. Place the ether in the marked container. Repeat this until you have about 1.5 oz. of ether. Put the cap on it, and put it in the freezer if you can. Rinse the other bottle and let it stand.

Ethyl ether is very pungent. Even a small evaporated amount is quite noticeable.

Extracting l-desoxyephedrine

  1. Break open the inhalers, a pair of real sharp scissors does this well. Place the cottons that were inside in a bottle (the unmarked one) and close the lid. I use 6 cottons.

  2. In the Pyrex dish, combine 2/3 oz. water and 1/3 oz. muriatic acid. Shred cottons in this solution, and knead for 5 minutes with your gloves on. Squeeze all juice out of filters after you knead, and discard them. This step bonds the HCl to the meth, forming the HCl salt (what you want). The salt is soluble in water, and thus dissolves.

  3. Filter the remaining liquid into the quart jar. It will be necessary to this several times to get the awful smelling oils (check the packaging if you are interested in which ones). The chemicals in the inhalers have been bonded to the HCl, and the oils have been filtered off. Discard the filters and clean the Pyrex dish. Remember to wet the filters with distilled water before you pour, otherwise you'll lose some product.

  4. Pour enough of the solution into the clear bottle to fill it 1/3 full. Save any leftover juice for the second batch.

  5. Pour 1/8 teaspoon of the lye crystals into the bottle and agitate. Do this carefully, as the mixture will become hot, and give off hydrogen gas and/or steam. H2 gas is explosive and lighter than air; avoid any flames as usual. Repeat this step until the mixture remains cloudy. This step neutralizes the HCl in the salt, leaving the insoluble free base (l-desoxyephedrin e) again. Why do we do this? So that we can get rid of any water-soluble impurities. For 3 oz. bottles, this should take only 3 repetitions or so.

  6. Fill the bottle from step 5 up the rest of the way with ethyl ether. Cap the bottle, and agitate for about 8 minutes. It is very important to expose every molecule of the free-base to the ether for as long as possible. This will cause the free base to dissolve into the ether (it -is- soluble in ether).

  7. Let the mixture settle. There will be a middle layer that is very thick. Tap the side of the bottle to get this layer as thin as possible. This is why this bottle should be clear.

  8. Remove the top (ether) layer with the eyedropper, being careful not to get any of the middle layer in it. Place the removed ether layer into a third bottle.

  9. Add to the third bottle enough water to fill it half-way. and about 5 drops of muriatic acid. Cap it. Shake the bottle for 2 minutes. When it settles, remove the top layer and throw it away. The free base has now been bonded to the HCl again, forming a water soluble salt. This time, we're getting rid of ether-soluble impurities. Make sure to get rid of all the ether before going to step 11!

  10. If there is anything left from step 3, repeat the procedure with it.

  11. Evaporate the solution in the Pyrex dish on low heat. You can do this on the stove or nuke it in the microwave (be careful of splashing), but I have found that if you leave it on top of a hot-water heater (like the one that supplies hot water to your house) for about 2-3 days, the remaining crystals will be Methamphetamine HCl.

    If you microwave it, I suggest no more than 5-10s at one time. If it starts "popping", that means you have too little liquid left to microwave. You can put it under a bright (100W) lamp instead. Microwaving can result in uneven heating, anyway.

First Batch: 120mg Meth HCl
Estimated: 300mg (100% of theoretical, disregarding HCl)

Estimated Cost of Material (in US dollars):

   Ethyl Ether:          $ 1.59
   Inhalers:             $19.73
   Eyedroppers:          $ 1.09
   Pyrex dish:           $ 3.92
   Pyrex measuring cup:  $ 2.55
   Lye:                  $ 2.79

Catalytic Reduction

From: ez026264@dale.ucdavis.edu (Speed Raver)

A more credible sounding one mentions that "methamphetamine is prepared by the calalytic reduction of pseudoephedrine in acetic acid" blahblahblah and then goes on to describe, not catalytic reduction via acetic acid, but reduction with sodium borohydride. I'm sorry to say that no method attempting to directly reduce (pseudo)ephedrine's hydroxyl group is going to work. You can't expose it to a strong acid, or a weak acid, or sodium borohydride, or even lithium aluminum hydride and expect it to reduce at all. As with the Vick's Inhalers "recipe," you get a lot of SOMETHING, but it ain't d-meth. All you'll be left with is your (pseudo)ephedrine and a bunch of acid, lithium, and/or sodium and lotsa hydrogen gas. This is because the hydroxyl group (the OH in ephedrine) is on a very acidic carbon (the first carbon away from the ring) and a hydroxyl group is very basic. If the hydroxyl were on the second carbon from the ring (the carbon with the amine group, the NH2 or NHCH3), there might be some chance, but it's not and there's not. You're not getting a basic group off an acidic carbon without a fight, and acids, borohydride, and LiAlhydride aren't gonna fight that hard.

From: yshan@bcarh697.bnr.ca (Yogi Shan)

I'm sorry to say that no method attempting to directly reduce (pseudo)ephedrine's hydroxyl group is going to work.

Your post was interesting, but this is not quite true. Direct hydrogenation over Pd or Pd on a carrier is well known and facile. You add a little perchloric, phosphoric or sulphuric acid, which esterifies the-OH group that you're complaining about.

Thus making the intermediate halide via SOCl2, like you mentioned, is unnecessary.

Amphetamines Activate a Task-Specific Response

WESTPORT, Aug 13 (Reuters) - In the current issue of The Journal of Neuroscience, NIH scientists "...uncover the phenomenon of amphetamines."

Dr. Daniel R. Weinberger and colleagues report the surprising finding that amphetamines do not stimulate activity nonspecifically throughout the brain as was previously thought. Amphetamines, they have discovered, stimulate only the areas necessary to pe rform the task at hand.

Dr. Weinberger's group used positron emission tomography to analyze brain activity in eight normal men and women. The clinicians administered either placebo or dextroamphetamine to the subjects, and 2 hours later asked each subject to perform one of two t asks: an abstract reasoning test or a nonverbal intelligence test.

Under normal conditions, the NIH group explained, the abstract reasoning task would stimulate activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, and the intelligence test would activate the posterior cortex.

Dr. Weinberger reports that, "...during the [abstract reasoning task], there was increased 'signal' relative to the control task...in the superior portion of the left inferior frontal gyrus...and relatively decreased activation of the right hippocampus." The NIH group observed the opposite pattern of activation during the nonverbal intelligence test, "...increased right hippocampal 'signal' and decreased activation in the left inferior frontal gyrus."

The patterns observed were similar to those noted previously in studies of normal, untreated subjects.

J Neurosci 1996;16:4816-4822.  -Westport Newsroom 203 221 7648

Built for Speed?

Methamphetamine has reclaimed a place in the lexicon of "party" drugs. Hailed by nocturnal adventurers, condemned by raver idealists, is speed a sleepless dream or an addictive nightmare?

by Todd C. Roberts

Here at the end of the millennium, the pace of modern life seems fleeting -- a whirl of minutes, hours and days. In dealing with the changes, humans have equipped themselves with the tools to move faster, more efficiently. At the same time a dependence for the marketing, high-speed transportation and pharmacology of this modern age has evolved. In a race to outdo ourselves, we have moved dangerously toward the fine line between extinction and evolution. Therefore, the human capacity to handle the velocity becomes a fragile balance.

Our generation (see Gen X, 20-somethings) could be considered the sleepless generation. An age of society's children weaned on the ideals of high-speed communication and accelerated culture has prided itself in mastering many of the facets of human existence -- doing more, sleeping less. The machines of this age have in a way enabled us to create a 24-hour lifestyle. We have pushed the limits of the modern world further -- ATMs, high-speed modems, smart bombs and bullet trains. However, the limitations of human existence, like sleep, may still provide the stumbling block for infinite realization. That is, without chemical aid.

In many ways, capitalism fuels the idea. Our society is based upon the mass consumption of these substances. Cultural ideals, while seemingly benevolent as "Have a Coke and a smile" have sold the link to chemical substances like caffeine and nicotine to "the good life." Today, stimulants are the bedrock for consumer culture. For our generation, this appeal was heightened by raising the stakes in the '80s on what it meant to have fun.

Late night clubs, high speed music and 24-hour lifestyles brought the specter of drugs to the fold as a necessity for being able to attain more. Leaps away from the psychedelics of the '60s, in the '80s these stimulant drugs became tools -- utilitarian devices to gain wealth, intelligence and prestige. Sleep became a barrier for success. Dreams were the frivolous luxuries of childhood.

Raves, founded equally in the post-conservative underground late-'80s and the chaotic early-'90s, are part of the pastiche that has consequently become more dream-like, more unreal and still somehow manageable. The hyperreality of today goes hand in hand with the drugs being administered.

It's 6 a.m. Around the speaker bins are small packs of animated dancers grinding their feet into the floor and shaking their hands in front of them. The lookie-loos and weekend warriors have long since gone home. Absent from their faces are the smiles of midnight, replaced by the blank, vacant stare of sleepless dreams. They have a name in the rave community, they are "tweakers." "Tweaking," the common name for sniffing lines of speed, the drug methamphetamine, (popular for its availability and price) has somehow replaced MDMA and LSD as the perfect rave drug, allowing users the clear head and stamina to keep dancing long after their bodies have gone to sleep.

A prominent opinion during the aftermath of the Los Angeles Summer of Love was that speed killed the rave scene. Where speed had been seen in every scene from metal to the punk scene, for some reason it was shocking for some to see methamphetamine take hold, even though MDMA (an amphetamine-like substance) had been circulating for years. Some likened the rise to the quash of young newcomers, some equated it with the greed of drug dealers. Judging from today's roster of events throughout the nation, raves are still alive and well. However, many old-schoolers have been turned off by the newbie vibe that came with speed's rise in popularity. Some were casualties themselves of the drug's addictive nature. Others say that speed alone is what fuels the rave scene, keeping it from dying.

Amphetamine was first synthesized in 1887. First popularized by pharmaceutical company Smith Kline & French as the nasal inhaler, Benzedrine, in 1932. (Amphetamine is widely known as a bronchio dialator, allowing asthmatics to breathe more freely.) A probable direct reaction to the Depression and Prohibition, the drug was used and abused by non-asthmatics looking for a buzz. Jazz great Charlie "Bird" Parker would remove the inhaler's Benzedrine strip and soak it in his coffee.

Methamphetamine, more potent and easy to make, was discovered in Japan in 1919. The crystalline powder was soluble in water, making it a perfect candidate for injection. Also smoking the drug creates a similar rush. It is still legally produced in the U.S., most often prescribed for weight loss, sold under the trade name Desoxyn. As the name "speed" suggests, amphetamines elevate mood, heighten endurance and eliminate fatigue, explaining the drug's popularity with the military. Hitler was supposedly injected with methamphetamine.

Speed rose to popularity in California, home of many of the largest meth labs in the country, riding on the back of biker gangs. Bikers have been historically blamed for introducing the drug into the psychedelic '60s, subsequently bringing down a whole Summer of Love with violence and angst. Since then, speed has been given a bad rap. It has been called a trailer park drug for decades, due to the fact that it can be cooked up so cheaply and easily. It's the drug of choice for long-distance truckers and college students pulling all-nighters. Over the counter ephedrine, or "white crosses," has taken the place of pharmaceutical amphetamine as an easy-to-get alternative.

What is often misunderstood is the relationship between speed and crystal meth. The common reference to speed in the rave scene is the methamphetamine salt (HCl powder), whereas "crystal" usually refers to the free-base form of methamphetamine. Another form "Ice," a higher-grade, purer form of crystal meth is smoked, a single hit creates a high that lasts for hours and several hits can wire a user for days. However, its high price prevents it from taking hold. A gram of "ice" commands about $5,000 on the street.

Speed came to the rave scene in 1992. Theory: when the parties in '92 started to get really good, the police were cracking down more on the prime-time parties -- partiers needed to find late-night/early morning activities like after-hours. Consequently, the price of taking 3-4 pills of ecstasy became too expensive an option, speed took over as an easier to get and cheaper alternative. Now, the standard street price in Los Angeles for a gram of speed is approximately $100, where ecstasy sells for approx. $150 or more.

One major misconception is the link between methamphetamine and ecstasy [MDMA]. Ecstasy does not necessarily contain speed, yet both contain the methamphetamine structure. However, each affects a far different region of the brain resulting in different psychological effects. Ecstasy primarily effects serotonin in the brain -- the center for self-satisfaction and emotional systems. Speed affects dopamine primarily, a neurotransmitter linked to pleasure and reward. (Oddly, alcohol also affects a dopamine center.) Often, MDMA is "cut" with speed to lower the street price of the drug, thus changing the overall effect. The two are similar in chemical makeup but one cannot be made from the other. Slightly changing the chemical makeup produces a wholly different effect in the human brain. While both have addictive potential, speed, because of its dopamine ties, is much more profoundly addicting. Qualitatively, speed and ecstasy supposedly give off "glows" that are far different.

Ecstasy has a definite link to the rave scene. In some places it is synonymous. Speed too has been linked to the rave scene -- some say it was the death of the ideal. What's unusual, given the qualitative similarities between the two, are the differing opinions about speed. While many admit openly to taking MDMA, they will not condone or even accept speed as a "valid" recreational drug. The stigma that goes with "tweaking" can be quite severe.

"Speed is evil," says Dominic. "I have seen more people's lives twisted up off that drug than anything else in the world. I was first introduced to it about five years ago by a girl I was dating. I basically watched her use of it turn from an occasional party thing to basically the sustenance of her life. Her body withered way, and everything she did revolved around speed."

"Speed does not belong in the underground scene," he continues. "Something that is so damn negative could never co-exist with the positive ideals that we try to promote. If you want to get amped, feel energy and stay up all night, try alternatives -- using speed just to stay up is a total cop out." However, his opinion is that ecstasy has opposite effects and could actually save the rave scene. "[MDMA] induces a sense of spiritual enlightenment, happiness, and sometimes social understanding, something that could never be achieved by shoving a few rails of driveway cleaner up your nose."

"I'm all for consciousness expansion, even if by chemical means," says another critic, Michael. "Preferably organic chemistry. The problem is major parts of the scene moved away from enlightenment, transcendence and betterment of the self through involvement in community"

A regular user of the drug is DJ Velour, 19, also finds some criticism for it. "I believe that speed/crystal is one of the most psychologically addictive drugs around," he says "Whenever I get tired or wish I had more energy, I always think how nice it would be to have some speed. In that respect, I am addicted, because it is definitely a part of my thought pattern now. And I haven't done speed for over 3 weeks now." Even though his experiences have not all been good, he is still connected to the drug.

"Amphetamines, in my mind are not evil," says Velour, hoping to defend the drug against his critical peers. "They are simple chemicals, if there is anything evil it is the society we live in which dictates that they are illegal and thus makes them harder to get."

"I will admit one thing, it is very addictive," he goes on. "Once you take it a few times, you will continue to think about it after you stop. I haven't done speed for a month now and still some days will go by where I have only had 3 or 4 hours sleep, and I think to myself, 'You know, speed would really help out right now.' However, that is what makes me a more responsible user. I not only realize my desire for speed and other amphetamines and I curb the habit." He feels that his ability to control his habit is more powerful than his lust for it. "Many of my friends are long time users of speed. However, by no means have they ruined their lives."

DJ Velour believes that the rave community can co-exist with a drug like methamphetamine. He also, among others, mentions speed's many different appearances that make for different psychological outcomes. "Speed and other stimulants can be a positive part of a raving community. However, just like any other drug it depends upon the person taking it and the purity/mixture of the drug. As strange as this may sound, different speeds can evoke different emotions. They not only stimulate latent emotions, increasing their strength, but they can also enforce emotions much in the way ecstasy can. I have had some very "happy" speed that made me feel as happy as when I was on X. On the flip side I have had some lower grade speed that made me feel depressed."

Speedlore and Methology: Part I

"Of all the separate realities, legal landscapes, and metabolic metropolis that thrive beneath the surface of the Cleaver's USA, no subculture seems as pervasive or uniform as the nationwide-eyed, high dosage methamphetamine club.

This group is a tribute to the idea that some things stay the same across time or space... the members come and go, some leave quietly, some go snitch, croak, or disappear, some hang in there after their lights have gone out, and quite a few are dragged off at 6:00 a.m. Friday morning by blue windbreakers with yellow writing.

Getting in too deep is what we do, it's who we are.

But despite all this, there are a few of us who have managed to hang around the periphery for decades, avoiding the felonies, gunshots, big ripoffs, and crippling motorcycle accidents. Other than luck, the key to staying alive is knowing when to take a step back, on your own, and avoid the biggest bear-trap in the speed circus: taking yourself too seriously...

Truly not giving a fuck is the only way to maintain perspective. In other words, there are worse things that can happen, than having to lay down and go to sleep for a week... no drug or state of mind is worth dying for, killing for, or doing hard time for..." (Speed Phreak)

"My experience with speed-like substances really begins with coffee," says Mark, an addict that relates his experiences back to an early age. "I've been drinking the stuff since Jr. High School as my get me up and go thing. But the relationship with amphetamines starts six or seven years ago with poppers (ephedrine, mini-thins). I started taking them to stay awake in college to finish papers and the like."

"Things got really serious when I started doing CAT, a local low-grade speed that was in vogue about six years ago." CAT, or methacathinone, is a popular substance made from common household chemicals like drain-cleaner, Epsom salts and battery acid. "I realized how bad my problem was when right around the time the land war in Iraq began. I had stayed up for days on end, watching the planes bomb the Iraqis. It's the only drug I've done at work. To this day what was a six month period still seems to me to be several weeks. It's also the only drug I've done where my peers at work noticed mood swings, irritability, and sleeplessness. The CAT I knew dearly also tweaked me on methamphetamine when the CAT seemed to loose its luster." CAT is notorious for its hardcore addictive potential, apparently strong enough to hook users after just one sample.

"Even after I kicked the CAT habit, I would usually indulge my speed addiction by crushing up mini-thins and snorting them. This continued for about another year. Most recently (for about a year) I moved to MDMA as the speed kick. At first I did it about once a month, but that has fallen off to a much less frequent, but still regular usage."

"What caught me about speed, and what catches me now, is the feeling of invulnerability. I think I get from speed what most cocaine users get from coke. The feeling of being on top of the world. As a raver, speed is also a convenient way to keep dancing long after your body has gone to sleep."

Asked if the drug has improved his life, he answers, "What a joke. Improve? Beyond the nominal gain of being able to dance until the wee hours of the morning, it doesn't. And productivity? Any gains are ephemeral and short-lasted."

"I do in fact know some people who skate through life without problems with drugs. But I think more people than not overestimate their ability to handle drugs. Drugs can be fun, but they also tend to get in the way of being a functional human being with multi-dimensional interests, as opposed to being a full-time club kid, which gets you nowhere fast."

For "Pat," the drug poses a serious paradox. He was prescribed methamphetamine for a learning disability and consequently produced a problem through abuse. "I'm able to work with concentration on something far longer than a few hours," he says of meth. "I have Attention Deficit Disorder [and] speed seems to improve my attention span."

"It can be a transcendental drug if you do enough. I've had really intense thought about observations of myself, or new ideas about what I'd like to do with my music, or other creative thoughts. This occurs with other psychedelic drugs that I've done." Still, he describes the typical problem with drugs like speed. "Speed is funny. You think you've got it under control when you first do it because it's usually so nasty on the sinuses and your body that you don't ever think you could get used to the feeling... [However], you do."

Other users bring up the fact that MDMA also has an addiction factor, that many only attribute to meth. "I like speed just fine," says Benboy. "But I have seen many speed freaks go out like that. And I've seen a few 'E' freaks buy the farm too, even though I do think E is much safer). But a drug, whether it's strychnine, THC, caffeine or Prozac, is nothing more than an inert substance; as dangerous as a head of lettuce in itself. It's what you do with it that makes a difference. But the difference between jonesing for a sugar fix and a speed fix is only partially chemical and physiological. Most of it is social." The drug itself is not the problem, it's the setting involved. The availability and the motive to remain awake for long hours may compound the addiction of speed.

Still others attribute a great deal of positive qualities to methamphetamine. "My brain was so clear when I used this, that I came up with answers to problems that had been bugging me for months," says an anonymous post to one of the world wide web's drug archives. "This stuff makes your brain work at 100% efficiency and doubles processor speed. It makes you feel (and probably actually does) like your IQ jumped quite a bit." According to some medical journals, methamphetamine does produce slight improvements in mental acuity, though performance of only "simple mental tasks" is improved, although the amount of errors is not necessarily decreased.

Still many would attribute "wonder drug" status to meth, enabling them to get more done without sleep. Students, hackers and late-night workers rely on the drug to keep them awake. "Sleep will never even occur to you," the post continues. "Do two hits in the morning before work, and you will never miss the sleep from the night before. As a matter of fact, you will feel better than if you had skipped the drug and slept all night!"

Speedlore and Methology: Part II

"The American Speedfreak is not a lost soul. We know how to have fun between the first ether gasp and locking ourselves in the closet. A twisted wisdom creeps into those of us who manage to survive, a sort of collective unconsciousness, an unspoken Crankster ideology:

It's time to get some sleep when:
You're out of crank
Your face is bouncing off the table
Your veins have completely disappeared beneath pasty goose flesh
Your shoes don't fit anymore2
4 simultaneous projects have stalled for lack of floor space suddenly
everyone is a cop
You've just set yourself on fire, again
You're nodding out...
into glassware
15 minutes after shooting a 1/4g
at stoplights
in mid-sentence
in mid-shot
in mid-fuck"

(Speed Phreak)

Speed was created for a future world where everything moves at a faster clip, an unsettling velocity. Seemingly synthesized as an accessory to a fast car, high speed lifestyle, it has made mutations over the years to evolve for a new race. The punk, cyber, industrial and rave scenes has exemplified their fetish for speed. The desire for future frontiers -- high gloss veneers and space travel-- is not inhuman, but the problem comes with the human limitation to handle the extremes of rocket travel or the side-effects of re-entry. Like a space capsule falling to earth, the destruction that comes from the come-down can be severe.

The come-down is what many users refer to as "the crash." Usually symptoms like chills, nervous twitching, sweats and exhaustion are prevalent. The "high" produced is a result of extra activation chemicals in the brain. "The so-called stereotypic behavior in animals (compulsive gnawing, sniffing) is associated with dopamine release from reservoirs in neurons in the brain," says Matt Plunkett, an Organic Chemistry graduate student at U.C. Berkeley. "The increase in motor activity involves the noradrenaline system. [The drug] mimics the molecule noradrenaline (norepinephrine) at the receptors for this neurotransmitter. Hence your body acts as if there were more of it around."

Simply put, stimulants cause their effects by blocking re-uptake of neurotransmitters at a pre-synaptic membrane. The cell secretes activation chemicals, but cannot re-absorb them in the presence of cocaine or speed. The user feels "wired," full of energy, because their cells are receiving massive stimulation. The more concentrated the drug is, the more intense the rush is, and the more damaging the effects. In worst case scenarios, heart attacks occur from over stimulation and energy depletion.

The come down is a result of the chemical being released all at once, making you high, but then is subsequently degraded in the synapse. So once you come down, there's not as much as there normally should be, creating the "come-down blues."

Prevalent discussion between users on either side of the methamphetamine argument involves addiction. According to several studies, criteria for addiction includes: unsuccessful attempts to quit, persistent desire and craving, continued use despite knowledge of harm to oneself or others, taking the drug to avoid or relieve withdrawal. While the social definition for addiction is debatable, the chemical and physical activity in the body is founded in one of several compounds in the brain. "Many drugs that are addictive, have primary or major effects on the dopamine system (nicotine, amphetamine, cocaine, alcohol, heroine)," says Plunkett. "Drugs that don't have a major effect on dopamine generally aren't 'addictive' in the same way -- Marijuana, MDMA, LSD, psilocybin, etc. Although abuse potential is there, it doesn't generate the same kind of craving. Dopamine is normally involved with pleasure and reward, among many other biochemical roles."

With long-term abuse, the effects of methamphetamine become much more severe. Tolerance is an issue, like in most drugs, where more of the drug is needed to get "high." Psychosis, specific to methamphetamines usually sets in after a time which is said to include "suspicion, anxiety and auditory hallucination." Though reportedly, much more acute are the changes in lifestyle and eventually in personality that manifest. Users exhibit an affective disorder and subtle change in psychological temperament. Apparently, these symptoms can last up to five years. Many who have witnessed the changes in habitual users report the shift to aggressive or non-affectionate behavior which may also be attributed to methamphetamine. Also apparent is some nerve damage in habitual users (primarily crystal smokers) -- jaw clenching and facial ticks.However, how much can be attributed tot the drug and how much to sleep deprivation is unclear.

Meth is one of the most addictive drugs of today's commonly used drugs. According to one study that appeared in In Health magazine (Dec. 1990), the addictive potential inherent in the drug, methamphetamine, taken nasally ranks over cocaine, caffeine and PCP (angel dust) in addictive qualities. MDMA, marijuana, psilocybin and LSD ranked at least 50 points lower than meth on a 100 point scale, nicotine being the highest above both crack and crystal meth. Talk of "addictive personalities" have recently been founded valid, involving individual physiology, psychology, social and economic pressures to suggest a person's vulnerability to drug dependency. Therefore, it does rely greatly on the person when talking about their potential for abuse. Still, many theorists contend that stimulants -- lumping in caffeine, nicotine and amphetamines -- by their nature are addictive and must be reconsidered by society.

Ethnobotanist, drug theorist and author Terence McKenna calls the "dominator" drugs -- synthetic drugs that have been refined and concentrated, therefore losing their natural link to the planet and to human-kind. He equates them with the religious fundamentalism and beige fascism of the post-industrial, Western world -- the center for ego-dominator culture. McKenna considers the natural psychedelics, psilocybin and even LSD, to be more intuitive and based upon the natural human spirit.

"Dominator" drugs have been established and validated by "dominator culture," a culture interested in the mass consumerism of these legitimate substances -- sugar, nicotine, caffeine. He relates the emergence of drugs like methamphetamine back to the institutionalized abuse of these substances. "The history of commercial drug synergies -- the way in which one drug has been cynically encouraged and used to support the introduction of others -- over the past five hundred years is not easy to contemplate," he writes in his book Food of the Gods.

"The hypocrisy of dominator culture as it picks and chooses the truths and realities that it finds comfortable," he continues. Some drugs like alcohol and nicotine have long been legal and subsidized by dominator culture, however their qualitative separation from drugs like cocaine or speed is still unclear. "[These drugs] are still at the depths of drug depravity especially considering the violent or illegal acts that the craving may induce [because of their illegal status], however tobacco addicts (smokers) might kill for their fix too if they had to, but instead they simply walk out to a 7-Eleven and buy cigarettes."

While I am no proponent of speed or drug abuse, I have become glaringly aware of the hypocrisy prevalent in mainstream and underground culture regarding the legitimation of certain drugs. When finger-pointing, it is important to remember the glass houses we all live in. Addiction is a problem, but the bigger problem is sweeping it into a closet, pretending it isn't real, pretending that our own addictions are more manageable.

Speed is a potentially dangerous substance. It can be used as a tool, like late-night coffee drinkers. It can also be used as a recreational drug. However, it can also be abused and exploited to the point where the need for it besides soothing a craving is the only point. And then, there is no point. Some may argue that there is an aesthetic, a qualitative high, however, by methamphetamine's nature -- as a refined, concentrated addictive substance -- it only perpetuates the cycle for needing more.

There is very little factual information about amphetamines and their dangers available to the lay person. Research on the subject, aside from medical journals, is virtually nill. There is however a great deal of dangerous propaganda -- hear-say, lies, rumors. Misinformation sometimes is more dangerous than no information and real answers are only found through communication.

Many other drugs have been part of the rave community over the years -- nitrous oxide, Special K (ketamine) and especially ecstasy (MDMA) but none have exhibited the burn-out or addiction rate associated with methamphetamine. While meth (or any drug) is an inert substance that we cannot attribute blame to, by its nature it has raised the question "Are we really built for speed?" It seems that the human body, while naturally resilient to much self-inflicted abuse, may not be a reliable container for the soul at high speeds. Methamphetamine may have the ability to chemically fuel the ride, physically it may just prove the limitations for human society.

Control drugs. Don't let them control you.

Article originally appeared in URB Magazine, October 1995

 


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