Stimulant drugs were designed to improve focus, assist with weight loss, treat disorders or illnesses that result in lethargy, increase energy levels, help individuals remain awake, and treat disorders where attention, hyperactivity, or lethargy is one of the main symptoms.
Meth, or crystal meth, is a very potent synthetic stimulant. Meth is not a new drug, although in the past several years, it has gained more attention due to its addictive potential and the ease which with the drug can be made. It is often produced from products that can be purchased over the counter, such as pseudoephedrine from cold or cough medications.
Amphetamine was first produced in the 1800s in Germany, and the more potent and easy-to-make substance, methamphetamine, was developed in Japan in the early 1900s. Methamphetamine was used relatively often during World War II by armies on both the Allied and Axis forces in order to keep soldiers awake and alert. In the United States, the drug was prescribed as a diet aid and to treat depression in the 1950s. In the 1960s, it became even more widely used as a stimulant to improve focus and keep people awake.
In the 1970s, following the Controlled Substances Act, meth became illegal to use without a prescription, and its medicinal use has been highly limited since that time. Currently, the drug is listed as a Schedule II controlled substance by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
Meth continues to be made in makeshift laboratories throughout the United States and used illegally. It is a significant drug of concern due to its potential for abuse. The drug often appears as glassy rocks that are either clear or bluish, and it is typically smoked, snorted, or injected by users.
The Length of Time Meth Remains in One’s System
Meth use affects numerous neurotransmitters, but it particularly activates norepinephrine, dopamine, and neurotransmitters that utilize glutamate (e.g., NMDA). The effects of using the drug can be particularly intense and brief. When dopamine and norepinephrine are increased in massive amounts in the central nervous system and then depleted rapidly, as occurs with the use of stimulants like meth, individuals have very intense, brief, euphoric periods followed by longer periods of depression, apathy, and a loss of motivation (known as “the crash”).
The amount of time the drug remains in one’s system is dependent on individual factors. When an individual uses meth, the person’s system will immediately begin to metabolize the drug as it circulates through their bloodstream (unless the system is metabolizing some other drug like alcohol). First, much of the meth is converted into amphetamine, and then, the body begins to metabolize the amphetamine and leftover methamphetamine in the system. The process of metabolizing and detoxifying in the system occurs in the liver and kidneys with the bulk of the drug eliminated through the urine. Small amounts of the drug are eliminated through other areas, such as perspiration and the lungs.
Most stimulants like meth are eliminated from the body relatively rapidly compared to lipophilic (fat-soluble) drugs like cannabis. In general, the plasma half-life of meth is 12-34 hours in most individuals. This means that the concentration of methamphetamine in an individual’s blood will be reduced by half its original concentration within this time period. After that time has elapsed, in an additional 12-34 hours, the remaining concentration in an individual’s blood will be reduced by half its concentration, and so forth.
The psychoactive effects of crystal meth can last up to 8-24 hours depending on the individual and other factors. Meth is typically detectable in urine for up to 72 hours after the last dosage. Depending on the individual and other factors, meth is eliminated from the body in 2-10 days.
Numerous factors will contribute to an individual’s ability to metabolize methamphetamine and eliminate it from their body.
- How much of the drug an individual typically used or how much of the drug the individual used at the last time of consumption affects the process. The more drug an individual uses, the longer it takes the system to metabolize it and eliminate it from the body.
- If an individual repeatedly uses a drug before it is totally eliminated from their system, there will still be plasma levels of the drug in the system as the individual adds more of the drug to their body. This results in overall higher concentrations of the drug and longer times for the individual’s liver to detoxify it from their system.
- If meth is used with other drugs, the elimination time will be affected. Individuals who use multiple drugs eliminate each individual drug more slowly from their system. This is particularly true for individuals who use drugs in conjunction with alcohol because the liver will metabolize the alcohol in the system before it metabolizes any other substances.
- Individual differences in metabolism will contribute to the time it takes meth to leave one’s system.
- Other individual factors, such as an individual’s weight, gender, age, etc., can affect the time it takes their system to eliminate a drug.
- The specific type of measure used to detect the drug in an individual’s system may also affect how long the drug can be detected, although it does not affect how long the individual’s system takes to totally eliminate the drug. For example, metabolites of certain drugs are detectable far longer in blood or hair samples than they are in urine.