Methylamphetamine review

Document type
Corporate author(s)
Great Britain. Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs
Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs
Date of publication
17 November 2005
Substance Misuse
Social welfare
Material type

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Methylamphetamine (MA), commonly referred to as methamphetamine, is a member of a broad class of psycho-stimulant compounds called amphetamines which act on the central and peripheral nervous system. MA is produced as a medicinal product and is illicitly manufactured. Non-medical MA is produced in tablet, powder, or crystalline form. These products are consumed orally, by smoking and inhalation or can be prepared for injection. A crystalline form of MA, known as ice, is most commonly smoked in a similar manner to crack cocaine, and is typically of very high potency. MA is lipid soluble and readily crosses the blood-brain barrier. Once in the brain, MA increases activity in the dopamine and noradrenaline, neurotransmitter systems. MA increases arousal and motor activity, diminishes fatigue and sleep and suppresses appetite. It causes dose-dependent effects in the cardio-respiratory system producing vasoconstriction, hypertension and tachycardia. MA is a potent derivative of amphetamine with a substantial health risk and dependence liability. There is substantial evidence that MA is neurotoxic and is capable of inducing a brief psychotic state requiring hospitalisation. There are reasonable grounds and some evidence to argue that MA has a higher dependence liability and harm profile than other forms of amphetamine. Nevertheless, there does not appear to be evidence in the UK that MA is present in the drugs scene to any appreciable extent, although this may change. There does not, therefore, appear to be a firm foundation and rationale for reclassifying MA under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 at the present time. The authors of this review note that it is also possible that reclassification could have the unintended consequence of engendering interest in the drug amongst potential users. However, although the current prevalence of MA is relatively low in the UK, this may change and that it is essential to have strategies in place to detect any shifts in the pattern of prevalence of use.

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