Methamphetamine comes in many forms, including tablets, powder, and crystalline forms, and can be smoked, snorted, swallowed, or injected. The effect of a drug on a user depends on the characteristics of the drug, the route by which it was administered, its distribution, the metabolism of the user’s body, and the way the drug is removed from the body.
Common Forms of Methamphetamine: From left to right, tablets (ya ba),
crystalline methamphetamine (shabu) and methamphetamine powder.
There are four principal routes by which methamphetamine is ingested:
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4. Injection (parenteral)
Immediately after smoking the drug or injecting it intravenously, the abuser experiences an intense rush or “flash” that lasts only a few minutes and is described as extremely pleasurable. After the initial “rush”, the abuser is able to stay alert for at least four to eight hours. When the methamphetamine is smoked or injected, it suggests that it is the pleasurable effects that are sought rather than the ability to stay awake (i.e. stimulant effects). Abusers pursuing the pleasurable effects of methamphetamine abuse are more likely to ingest several tablets over a 24 hour period, and engage in “binge and crash” patterns of abuse.
On the other hand, snorting or oral ingestion produces euphoria, a high but not an intense rush. Snorting produces effects within 3 to 5 minutes while swallowing produces effects within 15 to 20 minutes. When swallowed, the drug must pass through the digestive system and is absorbed more slowly.
Many laborers in Southeast Asia take methamphetamine for its stimulant effects in order to prolong their alertness and endurance. These individuals usually swallow the tablets, and they will likely only consume on average less than a tablet a day, allowing them to remain alert for extended periods of time. However, studies indicate that the vast majority of methamphetamine abusers do not abuse the drug for its stimulant qualities.