Methamphetamine (2S)-N-methyl-1-phenyl-propan-2-amine

By Alvin Tang Block C

Methamphetamine external image methamphetamine_crystals__i2003e0628_disp.jpg

IUAC name: N-methyl-1-phenyl-propan-2-amine

Methamphetamine is a synthetic compound that is used as a psychoactive stimulant drug.It is derived from an amphetamine (Methedrine) and used in the form of crystalline hydrochloride. Its use as a stimulant drug affects the nervous system and suppresses appetite. It is commonly associated and known as "chalk, glass, trash, meth ice, deoxyephedrine" but in the injectable form of the drug it is known as "speed " and the smokable form as "crystal meth". The process of creating methamphetamine is by synthesizing the chemical through the reduction of ephedrine, its derivative. Unlike most psychoactive stimulants, such as cannabis and cocaine, methamphetamine is created through chemicals that can easily be found in the household, as the easy process of reducing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine have allowed a growing number of 'household' meth labs and its increased use. Because methamphetamine can be easily produced, it can come in many different forms:

  • crystalline form, irregular chunks
  • powder form which can come in varying colours
  • pills or tablets in different colours

Although methamphetamine or 'meth' as its commonly known is usually referred to the addictive substance, there are actually two enantisomers (optical isomers) of methamphetamine: d-methamphetamine and l-methamphetamine. The methamphetamine known for its psychoactive and physical properties is d-methamphetamine but also the racemic form, a combination of both, is used frequently.


The structure of methamphetamine is very similar to the amphetamine since it is a derivative. Methamphetamine differs from amphetamine because of the methyl found at the end of the chain. The molecular chain of methamphetamine is C10H15N, as its name proposes, N-methyl-1-phenyl-propan-2-amine is made up of different bonds into the structure.
Methyl: A carbon methyl found at the end of the amine, NH.
Phenyl: The phenyl ring found at the beginning of the propyl chain, the ring can be described as an aromatic ring.
Propan: The propyl chain that makes up the main chain of the compound.
Amine: The NH found at the second carbon of the propyl chain, it makes the compound into an amine.
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  • Amphetamine, the compound which methamphetamine derives from, was first synthesized by Lazar Edeleanu at the University of Berlin in 1887. Then, amphetamine was not clinically used until it was re-synthesized in the 1920's to treat asthma, colds and fever.
  • It was then in 1932 that the first amphetamine produced, Benzedrine, was first marketed for consumption as a medication to treat nasal congestion.
  • Methamphetamine, was first synthesized in 1893 in Japan by Nagayoshi Nagai from the chemical ephedrine.
  • In 1919 the crystallized form of methamphetamine was synthesized through the reduction of ephedrine by using red phosphorus and iodine by A. Ogata.
  • In December 1944, methamphetamine was approved for commercial clinical use by the FDA in the US. This was put forward by the Abott Laboratories for the treatment of different cases including alcoholism and depression, but of the proposed treatments methamphetamine could have, only treatments for Attention Defecit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and exogenous obesity were approved for commercial marketing.
  • During World War II, the alleged use of methamphetamines were found in both Allied and Axis fighters as these were consumed to heighten reflexes and senses in soldiers.
  • After the war during the 1960s, clandestine labs produced 'homegrown' methamphetamine and meth use increased as a recreational drug.
  • In 1983 the US made limitations over the control and use of chemicals and equipment to create methamphetamine though preventive methods have been increasingly imposed to limit the amounts of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine drugs due to the ability of people to create their own methamphetamine laboratories.

How it is produced

Methamphetamine is very easy to produce because over the counter drugs and chemicals can be easily found in households and the process in which its made often requires a few steps. The creation of methamphetamine requires the extraction of the active chemical, ephedrine or pseudoephedrine.
external image meth-lab.JPGexternal image meth-chemicals.jpgexternal image meth-inside.jpg
The original method of synthesizing from Akira Ogata involves the reduction of the active ephedrine with red phosporus and iodine.
Over the years there have been changing methods of producing methamphetamine, two of which involve the reduction of ephedrine or pseudoephedrine and through reductive amination of phenylacetone with methylamine.
Most chemicals required in producing methamphetamine are:

  • Ephedrine or Pseudoephedrine: Main compounds required for the creation of methamphetamine. An over the counter drug is Sudafed.
  • Red Phosphorus : chemical found in the head of matches, highly flammable.
  • Iodine: Toxin when combined with red phosphorus yields Hydriodic Acid, ingredient required in methamphetamines. Hydriodic acid is a very corrosive material. This chemical and red phosporus are both used in the red phosphorus method of synthesizing methamphetamine, it is the same method as Akira Ogata's first synthesizing method.
  • Drano or battery acid: The lithium acid found inside these products is used during the process of reducing ephedrine.
  • Anhydrous Ammonia: Ammonia lacking water. Ammonia is used along lithium to create a reaction similar to the red phosporus-iodine method. Both lithium and ammonia make up the Birch reduction method to create methamphetamine from the reduction of ephedrine or pseudoephedrine. This is the most common and highly dangerous method of creating methamphetamine.
  • Caustic soda: Neutralizes with the acid in the meth. Caustic soda is a base.
  • Hydrogen chloride: Turns the meth into salt and lowers its acidity making the meth consumable

Red Phosphorus Method:

  1. Over the counter pills containing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine are grounded into powder. Some of these drugs include Sudafed and Contac, although some meth cooks have also used Vick's Vapour Inhalers because of its content of l-methamphetamine.
  2. Grounded powder is dissolved in water and a solvent is added then the solid material is filtered out.
  3. The solvent is boiled away and pure psuedoephridine is left.
  4. Iodine and red phosphorus are added in low heat to the pure pseudoephredine, methamphetamine is produced though it is too acidic. The reaction of iodine and red phosphorus forms Hydriodic acid, an extremely dangerous and corrosive material.
  5. The solution goes through filtration, red phosphorus is filtered out.
  6. Caustic soda is added to neutralize the acidity of the methamphetamine, this creates enormous amounts of heat.
  7. The liquid meth is then separated and added hydrogen chloride. The hydrogen chloride lowers the acidity and transforms the meth into a salt.
  8. The meth is filtered out and dried, finally it is weighed and packaged.
Other chemicals are used during this process including sodium hydroxide, lithium, anhydrous ammonia and potassium.
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Methamphetamine nowadays is mostly used illegally in the form of psychoactive drugs, ranging from a powder form to crystal form. Although it is illegally used and created, methamphetamine is a controlled and regulated form in l-methamphetamine and certain drugs containing d-methamphetamine. Since its reintroduction and recreational use as a drug, methamphetamine has gained notoriety for its many implications connected with it, how easy it is to create it, and the many forms that it comes in. Methamphetamine can range in a wide range of forms. Beginning with the legal drugs:

  • Desoxyn®
(methamphetamine hydrochloride tablets)
Desoxyn is an FDA and DEA approved drug which contains 5mg of methamphetamine, it also contains other inactive ingredients. The drug is used for treating short-term weight loss, suppressing appetite and in dietary tests, is more successful when helping weight loss than placebos and diets. For the treatment of Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, Desoxyn is just part of other remedial measures to stabilize the behavioral syndrome affecting children over the age of 6. The use of Desoxyn is made on a diagnosis of ADHD because it stimulates the central nervous system. There is not enough sufficient information on the effects on Desoxyn to establish it as a safe drug for children under 12 or over 65. Because Desoxyn contains the psychoactive d-methamphetamine, the chance of becoming addicted and dependent on the drug is high.

  • Vicks Vapour Inhaler
Vicks Vapour Inhaler contains 50mg of l-methamphetamine. Although it contains this compound, Vicks markets the product as containing Levmetamfetamine. Since l-methamphetamine has no psychoactive and addictive potential, it is used as a nasal decongestant.

For the illegal uses of Methamphetamine, both racemic form and d-methamphetamine are produced and used. Since production of methamphetamine varies, and in recent years meth cooks were aiming for early use, methamphetamine can vary in form, smell and taste. Methamphetamine can come in the forms of:

  • Crystal Meth
Crystal meth is a white, odourless and bitter crystalline powder that can be smoked, injected, snorted and orally consumed. It can also be pink or yellow, this is attributed to contamination of the methamphetamine with leftover residue. The clearer the meth is the higher purity and quality it is.
Crystal meth is used to create a euphoric feeling in the user caused by the release of high levels of dopamine, increasing the pleasure. Meth takes different times to react depending on the method it is taken in and the amount:

  1. Smoking or injecting(IV) takes 0-2 minutes to take effect, lasting from 1-3 hours and a coming down of 2-4 hours.
  2. Snorting takes between 5-10 minutes to begin work, lasting from 2-4 hours and a coming down of 2-6 hours.
  3. Oral Intake takes 20-70 minutes to being its effects and lasts for 3-5 hours.
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Methamphetamine has both positive and negative effects connected with the drug. The drug is often abused because of its euphoric inducing effects and thus leads to addiction, some of the effects created by methamphetamine are:


  • Increased energy and alertness
  • decreased need for sleep
  • euphoria
  • increased sexuality
  • weight loss
  • increase focus
  • nasal decongestant
  • Disturbed sleep patterns
  • loss of appetite, leading to anorexia and eating disorder
  • over time, loss of interest in sex
  • nause, vomiting, diarrhea
  • moodiness
  • aggressiveness
  • severe depression and suicidal tendencies
  • false sense of confidence and power
  • welts on skin
  • Meth mouth: rapid tooth deterioration due to the chemicals in meth
external image 320px-Effects_of_metamphetamine.pngexternal image 0421methmouth-autosized258.jpgexternal image Meth+User+over+10+years.jpg
Prolonged and habitual use of the drug leads to long term physiological and psychological effects. Physical effects from the prolonged use of methamphetamine are kidney and lung failure, liver damage, lowered resistance to illnesses and a higher possibility of strokes. Psychological effects of methamphetamine are possible brain damage, permanent psychological problems and addiction. Addiction of methamphetamine, or any amphetamines over a long period of time causes mental instability, schizophrenia and paranoia. These symptoms often disappear after the drug's consumption is stopped.
Treatments for meth include the use of antidepressants, which affect serotonin, the neurotransmitters in the brain. Another treatment could be mental and physical intervention of using the drug.

Not only do the effects of methamphetamine create a toll on the user's physiological and psychological state, but the creation of meth often requires the use of highly flammable, highly dangerous products. It is known that meth 'cooks', amateurs dealing with chemicals, suffer severe burns due to explosions, death from dangerous gases released during the procedure and even death.


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