Crystal Meth


Kamikaze pilots were given methamphetamine before their suicide missions.
Kamikaze pilots were given methamphetamine before their suicide missions.

Methamphetamine is not a new drug, although it has become more powerful in recent years as techniques for its manufacture have evolved.

Amphetamine was first made in 1887 in Germany and methamphetamine, more potent and easy to make, was developed in Japan in 1919. The crystalline powder was soluble in water, making it a perfect candidate for injection.

Methamphetamine went into wide use during World War II, when both sides used it to keep troops awake. High doses were given to Japanese Kamikaze pilots before their suicide missions. And after the war, methamphetamine abuse by injection reached epidemic proportions when supplies stored for military use became available to the Japanese public.

In the 1950s, methamphetamine was prescribed as a diet aid and to fight depression. Easily available, it was used as a nonmedical stimulant by college students, truck drivers and athletes and abuse of the drug spread.

This pattern changed markedly in the 1960s with the increased availability of injectable methamphetamine, worsening the abuse.

Then, in 1970, the US government made it illegal for most uses. After that, American motorcycle gangs controlled most of the production and distribution of the drug. Most users at the time lived in rural communities and could not afford the more expensive cocaine.

In the 1990s, Mexican drug trafficking organizations set up large laboratories in California. While these massive labs are able to generate fifty pounds of the substance in a single weekend, smaller private labs have sprung up in kitchens and apartments, earning the drug one of its names, “stove top.” From there it spread across the United States and into Europe, through the Czech Republic. Today, most of the drug available in Asia is produced in Thailand, Myanmar and China.


  1. European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, Statistical Bulletin 2008
  2. Interpol report on Methamphetamine, 27 September 2005
  3. “Methamphetamine Facts & Figures,” Office of National Drug Control Policy, 2008
  4. Narconon International information on methamphetamine,
  5. Newsweek, “The Meth Epidemic: Inside America’s New Drug Crisis,” 8 August 2005
  6. State of Hawaii, Office of Lt. Governor news release, 31 October 2007
  7. “County knocks meth use,” 9 July 2008,
  8. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration news release, 15 February 2008
  9. United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime report on Methamphetamine, 1998
  10. Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System 2007 study, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  11. U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration report on Methamphetamine, October 2005
  12. U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse report on Methamphetamine, May 2005
  13. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime World Drug Report 2008
  14. “National Methamphetamine Threat Assessment 2008,” National Drug Intelligence Center, U.S. Department of Justice