When Was Meth First Invented?

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Methamphetamine (meth, crystal meth) was first developed in 1893 and was historically used for certain medical purposes. (1) Today, it is most often found illicitly as the product of clandestine labs in the U.S. and abroad. Its high potential for addiction makes it unpopular for clinical use, sometimes only as a last resort, but also drives recreational use among those who become dependent. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, it’s important to seek professional help.

At Guardian Recovery, comprehensive rehab programs feature individualized treatment plans specializing in the misuse of meth, other drugs, and alcohol. Contact us today to learn more about our evidence-based therapies and services and our dedication to helping those suffering from addiction recover and regain control of their lives.

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How Was Meth Used Historically?

Meth was first synthesized in 1893 by a Japanese chemist, Nagai Nagayoshi, from the central nervous system stimulant ephedrine, which he previously isolated from the Ephedra distachyathe plant in 1885. (2) Meth was difficult to manufacture until 1919, when another Japanese chemist simplified the process by using phosphorus and iodine to reduce ephedrine into a crystallized form—thus creating the world’s first crystal meth.

Still, it was not until the 1930s that meth began to be used medicinally, specifically as a nasal decongestant and bronchodilator, as well as for conditions such as obesity and narcolepsy. During World War II, meth was used by soldiers to help them stay alert and combat fatigue. After the war, meth use spread among civilians, particularly in the United States.

When Did Meth Begin Being Used in Medicine?

After World War II, meth continued to be used as a prescription medication, particularly in the United States, where it was used to treat conditions such as narcolepsy, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and obesity. In the 1950s and 1960s, meth was also prescribed as a treatment for depression.

However, as the addictive nature of meth became more evident and it became increasingly associated with illegal misuse, its use as a prescription medication was further limited. Today, meth is almost exclusively found as an illicitly manufactured recreational drug, but it is technically still a controlled substance in the United States, available only for medical use under strict regulations.

The History of Recreational Crystal Meth

By the mid-20th century, meth in its crystalline form had become popular as a recreational drug. During the 1960s and 1970s, biker gangs and other criminal organizations began producing and distributing crystal meth in the United States. The drug’s use became more widespread in the 1980s and 1990s, especially in rural regions and among certain populations, such as gay communities and the rave scene. Crystal meth has also been produced and trafficked by Mexican organized crime groups and cartels, as well as by labs in China.

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The Spread of Illicit Meth

Illicit meth use has been propagated through various means, including the black market, illegal drug trafficking, and underground laboratories. One of the reasons for this is the relative ease of making it. Meth can be manufactured using inexpensive ingredients, such as ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, which are found in certain cold and allergy medications. This made it easier for individuals to produce the drug, often in home labs in rural or remote areas.

One of the key reasons for the spread of meth use is the drug’s highly addictive nature. When ingested, it induces intense feelings of euphoria and increased energy, which can rapidly lead to dependence. As people became addicted to meth, they would have increasingly turned to illegal sources to obtain it, resulting in increased demand and supply.

The illicit distribution of meth has also been enabled by the transportation and communication networks of criminal organizations. These groups are able to traffic the drug across international borders and distribute it to various regions, contributing to meth use worldwide.

Popularity of Recreational Meth Use

Recreational use of meth is a significant problem in many countries, particularly in North America, Southeast Asia, and Australia. However, due to the illicit and typically secretive nature of meth manufacture and use, it is difficult to estimate the exact number of individuals who use it for non-medical purposes. Still, some statistics have been gathered.

Meth Use & Overdose Statistics Include:

  • According to the 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, among people aged 12 or older in 2021, 0.9% (approximately 2.5 million people) reported past-month meth use. Furthermore, 0.6% (approximately 1.6 million people) reported having a past-year meth use disorder. (3)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that in 2021, approximately 32,537 people died from an overdose involving psychostimulants with misuse potential other than cocaine (primarily meth). (4)

When Did Meth Become an Illegal Substance?

Meth was first classified as a controlled substance in the United States under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, which classified it as a Schedule II drug, meaning it was considered to have a high potential for misuse and addiction as well as limited medical use. (5)

Over the years, the laws and regulations related to meth have become increasingly strict. For example, in 2005, the United States passed the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act, which put additional restrictions on the sale of products containing pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient in the production of meth. (6) Also, federal and state legal penalties for illegal meth manufacturing, distribution, and possession are severe and can include fines, imprisonment, and other legal consequences.

As of 2023, meth remains a highly regulated and illegal drug in most countries, due to its potential for addiction and harm. Meth manufacture and distribution are largely controlled by criminal organizations, and the drug’s illicit status contributes to the many social, economic, and health-related consequences associated with its use.

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The misuse of meth is extremely dangerous and can lead to a wide range of mental and physical health problems that can be severe and long-lasting. Due to meth’s addictive potential, users also risk becoming dependent, making it challenging to quit without professional care, guidance, and support.

If you or a loved one is suffering from meth addiction, reach out to Guardian Recovery today to learn more about our straightforward admissions process and variety of evidence-based services, including medical detox, behavioral therapy, and holistic activities. We offer personalized treatment plans that address each individual’s unique needs while promoting the best possible outcomes for our clients. Contact us for a free, no-obligation health insurance benefits check and begin your journey to long-term recovery today.

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Disclaimer: Does not guarantee specific treatment outcomes, as individual results may vary. Our services are not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis; please consult a qualified healthcare provider for such matters.

(1)https://www.history.com/topics/crime/history-of-meth (2)https://www.conifers.org/ep/Ephedra_distachya.php (3)https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/reports/rpt39443/2021NSDUHFFRRev010323.pdf (4)https://nida.nih.gov/research-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates (5)https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/schedules/ (6)https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/meth/index.html

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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave

L.M.H.C.

Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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