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P2P Meth: The Newest Product of the Meth Epidemic, and How We Got Here

This new type of meth is more dangerous, and users have an increased likelihood of developing severe mental illness.

The meth epidemic has taken a backseat in national attention because of the spotlight on opioids, but a new type of methamphetamine has created a spike in meth use. It's known as P2P (phenyl-2-propanone) meth, and it's the subject of recent debate: What makes P2P meth different from other forms of methamphetamine? What are its effects and dangers? How does it affect a person's mental health? Can it cause severe mental illness?

Let's cover the basics. What is methamphetamine?

Methamphetamine, usually referred to by its shorthand "meth," is a central nervous system stimulant. Meth can be snorted, smoked, injected, or taken orally, and its highs are characterized by increased energy and an elevated mood state. It is closely related, in both chemical structure and effect, to amphetamines, but meth has more potent effects and is usually manufactured illegally.

What's the history behind meth and amphetamines?

Amphetamines have a long history of abuse that predates World War II, and soldiers on both sides allegedly abused the drug to help with fatigue. After the war, amphetamines were introduced and popularized across the United States when doctors commonly prescribed them to treat various health conditions. Amphetamines are still prescribed for ADD and ADHD and less frequently for narcolepsy and weight loss.

When the crackdown on legally prescribed amphetamines began, the production of meth ramped up. The Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970 limited people's access to amphetamines, unintentionally creating a larger market for illegally manufactured methamphetamine.

Is this when the epidemic began?

Yes, the meth epidemic informally began in the 1970s when legislation limited the prescription of amphetamines. The production and use of illegal methamphetamine slowly traveled across the United States, starting on the West Coast and eventually, in the 1990s, finding a home in the central and eastern parts of the country.

What did the illegal manufacturing of meth look like?

Also known as speed and glass, methamphetamine was initially cooked in home-grown laboratory set-ups using cold medicine products that contained ephedrine. Meth made from ephedrine was readily available in most of the United States until the past decade when pharmacies became required by law to limit the sale of products containing ephedrine. Eventually, the Mexican government outlawed ephedrine, forcing drug traffickers to reinvent the process used to create methamphetamine.

What makes P2P meth different? Let's look at the chemical makeup.

Since the crackdown on ephedrine-based cold remedies, the production of meth has changed, giving rise to newer chemical makeups like P2P meth. Replacing ephedrine, meth is now produced with chemicals like:

  • Acetone

  • Cyanide

  • Lye

  • Mercury

  • Sulfuric acid

  • Hydrochloric acid

  • Nitrostyerence

  • Racing fuel

Beyond just the ingredients, P2P meth also has a higher concentration of the isomer called d-methamphetamine. For reference, there are two forms of meth: d- and l-methamphetamine. Both are methamphetamines, obviously, but the two often come in different forms. The d-isomer is found in prescription drugs, whereas the l-isomer is found in over-the-counter products. And street drugs contain both but generally have more of the d-isomer because of their enhanced effects.

So what are the effects of this d-isomer in P2P meth?

P2P meth can be snorted, smoked, injected, or taken orally. Snorting or smoking meth produces a faster high than injection or oral ingestion. Injecting meth into a vein causes the user to tolerate the drug quickly.

The d-isomer produces the high, and the l-isomer affects the body. So P2P, with its heavy concentrations of d-isomer, creates a different and very intense high for its users.

Methamphetamine produced from ephedrine generally prompts those using it to stay up and socialize, sometimes for days, due to lower levels of the d-isomer. At the same time, users of P2P meth experience very different effects, including severe mental illness, psychosis, the desire to isolate, and hallucinations or delusions.

The incalculable danger of P2P meth

Because the manufacturers of P2P meth often produce the drug in unhygienic environments and the producers aren't professional chemists, the consumers often suffer from additional and significant side effects. Street manufacturers' main priority is making money, and they don't generally worry about delivering a quality product.

This new type of meth is more dangerous, and users are more likely to develop severe mental illness and other adverse mental health effects. P2P meth tends to be laced with other drugs like fentanyl, and users who seek help for their addiction have reported a detox process of nearly six months. Additionally, a person who uses P2P meth will likely experience a rapid decline in physical health, including liver failure, after even short periods of using the substance.

Symptoms and side effects of P2P methamphetamines

The side effects of P2P meth are similar to those of ephedrine-based meth. Meth changes the physiological and psychological functioning of the body and brain. Meth abuse causes heightened blood pressure, heart rate, and respiratory rate. Psychological signs that a person might be using meth include temporary euphoria and energy and increased anxiety, paranoia, aggression, hallucinations, and mood disturbances when dopamine levels taper off after use.

  • Severe mental illness

  • Psychosis

  • Violent paranoia

  • Isolating behavior

  • Hallucinations

  • Delusions

  • Jumbled speech

  • Massive memory loss

How to get help for an addiction to methamphetamines.

Treatment and recovery are available to all. There are specialized treatment services and programs to help with meth addiction, and there is a hopeful path forward from here. But it's essential that a medical professional evaluate you before you begin the detoxification process.

Seek an in-patient or outpatient treatment assessment, and attend groups like AA, NA, or other peer-driven recovery support groups. Addiction is not the end. If you are concerned about your meth use, or someone else's, reach out for help today.

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Base Data Source: Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation

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