Structural Biochemistry/Methamphetamine

Methamphetamine is a highly addictive drug and stimulant that enhances heart rate, blood pressure and physical activity. It was discovered by Japan in 1919, after amphetamine was synthesized first in January 1887 by Romanian chemist, Lazar Edeleanu. The first use of methamphetamine in 1919 was to alleviate fatigue and create awareness and then was marketed as Benzedrin, an inhalant use medically for chest congestion. Methamphetamine also known as crystal, crystal meth, and ice, was commonly used in World War II in order to stay awake and create more alertness.


Chemistry Methamphetamine’s chemical name is (S)-N,a-Dimethylbenzene-ethanamine; d-N-methylamphetamine and the chemical formula is C10H15N. Methamphetamine is created by attaching a methyl group to the side chain of an amphetamine As shown in the images. The Methyl group protects the amphetamine from degradation by a monoamine oxidase. Since a monoamine oxidase cannot degrade methamphetamine, this persists in the bloodstream, which causes long-term effects such as Alzheimer’s disease, paranoia, and psychotic behavior. Methamphetamine has two isomers as the methyl group could either attach to the left side or the right side of the amphetamine, creating two mirror images. The dextro-methamphetamine or the right handed methamphetamine is the more active and potent of both isomers.


How Meth Works Methamphetamine attacks neurotransmitters in order to create the addiction in the body. Dopamine, Norepinephrine, and Epinephrine are neurotransmitters that Methamphetamine attacks. Dopamine controls movement, pleasures, emotions and thought processes. The brain releases dopamine when humans accomplish something. The excess of Dopamine creates the feeling of euphoria and well being of a human being. What Methamphetamine does is that it stimulates the release of Dopamine and blocks the re-uptake of Dopamine as well, hence, creating a concentration of Dopamine as shown in the images. This concentration of Dopamine creates the feeling of exhilaration and well-being. When the effect of Dopamine passes away, the feeling of well-being passes away as well. This creates the addiction and the neediness of euphoria, therefore, the necessity of consuming methamphetamine. This concentration created leads to nerve cell death, which give long-term effects as schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease and psychotic behavior. Norepinephrine is responsible for controlling alertness, rest cycles, attention, and memory. Methamphetamine blocks the re-uptake of Norepinephrine as well which then creates more awareness and no need to rest. Epinephrine re-uptake is as well blocked by Methamphetamine, which again creates a concentration gradient that leads to the absorption of epinephrine in different parts of the brain, creating an adrenaline release, and a rush and excitement on the user.

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Dopamine Synapse and Methamphetamine Blocking receptors


Effects The effects of Methamphetamine range from increased physical activity, decreased appetite, alertness, increased heart rate and blood pressure, hyperthermia, paranoia, confusion, anxiety, aggressiveness, insomnia, tremors, and irritability.

Long Term effects range from violent behavior, mood disturbances, delusions, psychotic behavior, and hallucinations, Schizophrenia, Strokes and Alzheimer’s disease.


Methamphetamine is often called meth, ice, crystal, or glass for short. It is a psychoactive drug that is highly addictive. Methamphetamine can be smoked, injected, snorted or swallowed. It has been used to treat ADHD and obesity in low doses. At high doses, Methamphetamine has been known to lead to feelings of euphoria and libido. With prolonged use of Methamphetamine, brain damage, cardiovascular damage, and teeth decay can occur.


Methamphetamine has been used medicinally to treat ADHD and obesity. This is due to the fact that Methamphetamine's effects lead to increased energy and alertness as well as loss of appetite. This drug has been FDA approved. On the other hand, Methamphetamine has been used in recreation to achieve feelings of ecstasy due to its effects of a release of dopamine to the brain.


-Immediate effects:Feelings of euphoria, libido, increased energy and awareness, irritability, self-confidence, and violence. Physical effects that commonly take place are anorexia, dry mouth, headache, nausea, diarrhea, dry skin, insomnia, and irregular heartbeat.

-Long term: A build up of tolerance to Methamphetamine. Teeth decay and falling out. Strong addiction and craving for the drug. Drug related psychosis.

-Overdose: Cardiac arrest or stroke may occur and result in death. Massive hallucinations and sensation of flesh crawling also commonly occur.

-Withdrawal: Symptoms usually consist of fatigue, depression, increased appetite and anxiety. Effects usually last months.

Chemical summary

Its IUPAC name is N-methyl-1-phenylpropan-2-amine. Its chemical make up is C10H15N with a molecular mass of 149.233 g/mol. Methamphetamine is a member of the phenethylamine family, which is comprised of stimulants and hallucinogens. Methamphetamine has two enantiomers. The S-isomer is the one that is being described. It is often made into powder/crystal. Methamphetamine causes an increase in activity in the dopamine neurotransmiter system which leads to this feeling of euphoria.After uses of methamphetamine, dopamine and serotonin concentrations decrease from before.


Methamphetamine was first discovered and synthesized by chemist Nagai Nagyoshi in 1893 and was later crystallized by Akira Ogata in 1919.

Methamphetamine had been widely used during World War II to fight fatigue and hunger of the troops for both Allied and Axis forces. It later became FDA approved as a treatment for narcolepsy, depression, alcoholism, obesity and ADHD.