All Tweakend Long: Methamphetamine Abuse Has Reached Epidemic Proportions in America

If you heard your teen talking about candy, chalk, cookies, dirt, eraser dust, glass, or ice – would you feel the need to be alarmed? Perhaps you should, these are all slang names for the illegal and highly addictive drug methamphetamine. Excerpt from Stop Meth Addiction “Meth addiction is a problem that has spread to all areas of the United States. During 1999 4.3% (9.4 million people) of the U.S. population reported trying meth at least once in their lifetime. The highest rate of meth use was among adults ages 18-25. Although meth use is an epidemic across the United States, nowhere is it a bigger problem that in the Midwest. Meth accounts for nearly 90% of all drug cases in the Midwest, and is most prevalent in Oklahoma. Meth is surpassing cocaine as the drug of choice in Oklahoma. The state medical examiner’s office reports the number of death cases testing positive for meth have been higher than cocaine for the past three years. The office also reports meth is found in more and more cases of homicides, and motor vehicle accidents.”

Methamphetamine works as a very powerful stimulant to the central nervous system. It targets the brain and spinal cord, causing disruption in normal neurotransmission. A chemical substance called neurotransmitters are naturally produced within nerve cells and work to regulate the way we think as well as regulating all other systems throughout the body. One neurotransmitter particularly effected by methamphetamine is Dopamine. The so called “feel good” neurotransmitter. Methamphetamine is a synthetic drug, originally derived from amphetamine, used in nasal decongestants, bronchial inhalers, and in the treatment of narcolepsy and obesity. In the 1970’s it was classified as a Schedule II drug, which means it has little medical use and high potential for abuse.

Where does the methamphetamine come from? The “cooking”, or manufacturing of methamphetamine from relatively common substances makes it one drug that is easily accessible. There are literally thousands of recipes and information about making methamphetamine on the internet. An investment of less than $200 in over-the-counter medications and chemicals can produce thousands of dollars worth of methamphetamine. The drug can be made in a makeshift “lab” that can fit into a suit case. Because the technology behind manufacturing methamphetamine is relatively simplistic, these labs are cropping up in basements, garages, inside homes, and even in automobiles all across America at an alarming rate. The average methamphetamine “cook” annually teaches ten other people how to make the drug. If those ten in turn teach another ten – it is easy to see how the spread of this powerful drug is gaining it’s momentum.

The processing of methamphetamine is dangerous. Ignitable, corrosive, reactive, and toxic chemicals can cause explosions, fires, toxic fumes, and damage to health and environment. Methamphetamine is different than other drugs because the chemicals used in the manufacturing are very dangerous and highly volatile. The careless practices of the untrained people who manufacture it in makeshift labs result in explosions and fires that injure or kill not only the people and families involved, but also law enforcement, emergency rescue personnel, and fireman who respond. Any number of solvents, precursors and hazardous agents are found in unmarked containers at these sites. Often gallon size milk and bleach jugs have been used. These potent chemicals can enter the central nervous system and cause neural damage, effect the liver and kidneys, and burn or irritate the skin, eyes and nose. The potential for explosion is at it’s highest during the “cooking” process, when heat is being introduced with the use of an open flame. However, when these dangerous chemicals are inadvertently mixed in an improper manner, they have the potential to combust. Each pound of methamphetamine produced leaves behind five or six pounds of toxic waste. “Cooks” often pour leftover chemicals down plumbing drains, storm drains, or directly onto the ground. These chemicals pose long-term hazards because they can persist in soil and groundwater for years. The clean-up of these make shift labs can be very expensive because solvent contaminated soil usually must be incinerated. The average cost of a cleanup is about $5,000 but some cost as much as $150,000.

Almost all of today’s methamphetamine is homemade and resembles a fine coarse powder, crystal or chunks. Its color varies from off-white to yellow, and it is furnished in plastic wrap, aluminum foil, capsules or tablets of various sizes and colors. It is taken into the body by swallowing, snorting or injecting intravenously. The long term effects of methamphetamine use can include hallucinations, disorganized lifestyle, violent and aggressive behavior, permanent psychological problems, behavior resembling paranoid schizophrenia, poor coping abilities, disturbance of personality development, lowered resistance to illnesses, possible brain damage, what is commonly referred to as “meth-mouth”, where the front upper and lower teeth begin to rapidly decay at the gum line, as well as rapid weight loss. Some lesser effects include, itching skin, acne, problems urinating, upset stomach and difficulty eating, sleeplessness, rapid heart beat, and heart palpitations. In some cases, depending the user’s tolerance, as little as 50 milligrams of pure drug can be a fatal dose, causing instantaneous myocardial infarction, or heart failure.

The abuse of methamphetamine, unlike other drugs, is not primarily in large metropolitan areas. The manufacturing and abuse of this drug is reaching epidemic proportions in rural areas, primarily the Mid West.

If you suspect a potential methamphetamine lab in your neighborhood and you live in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, or South Dakota a special “Crank Hotline” has been set up for you to report this activity directly to the proper Authorities who will respond with immediate action. The number is: 1-888-664-4673. Do not hesitate to place a call if you notice any of the following:

Unusual, strong odors (like cat urine, ether, ammonia, acetone or other chemicals).
Lots of traffic – people coming and going at unusual times, little day time traffic and a dramatic increase at night, visitors only staying for short periods of time (typically less than 10 minutes).
Excessive trash including large amounts of items such as: antifreeze containers, lantern fuel cans, red chemically stained coffee filters, drain cleaner and duct tape.
Unusual amounts of clear glass containers being brought into the home.
Windows blacked out or covered by aluminum foil, plywood, sheets, blankets, etc.
Persons exiting the structure to smoke. (Could indicate the presence of flammable chemicals inside).

This list is somewhat deceptive, because most of these items can be found in any home – and are being used for legitimate purposes. However, common items found in areas manufacturing methamphetamine include: alcohol, ether, benzene, toluene/paint thinner, freon, acetone, chloroform, camp stove fuel/Coleman fuel, starting fluid, anhydrous ammonia, “Heet”, white gasoline, phenyl-2-propane, phenylacetone, phenylpropanolamine, iodine crystals, red phosphorous, black iodine, lye (Red Devil Lye), Drano, muriatic/hydrochloric acid, battery acid/sulfuric acid, Epsom Salts, batteries/lithium, sodium metal, wooden matches, propane cylinders, hot plates, ephedrine (over-the-counter), cold tablets, bronchodialators, energy boosters, rock salt, and diet aids. If you are concerned that someone you know may be involved in the manufacturing of this drug, you should immediately contact your local Authorities.

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