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Methamphetamine: The Problems, The Drug

By now most of us have read articles, training information or investigated crimes that are directly associated to methamphetamine. Although methamphetamine has been around for many years, an understanding of what the drug is, how it works, what effects it has on the users and the violence that is associated to it, has been left to those who delve into the methamphetamine sub-culture. Many readers, who read about methamphetamine related crime, pass off methamphetamine as just another drug on the streets of America. The methamphetamine epidemic that has swept across the western and central united states is rapidly becoming the nations biggest drug related concern for Law Enforcement, Prosecutors, Medical Professionals, Firefighters, Hazardous Materials Units, Social Service Representatives and Communities. Why is methamphetamine any different from any other drug we have to deal with? The answer(s) really consists of many reasons. The purpose of this article is to discuss some of those reasons.What exactly is Methamphetamine?Methamphetamine is extremely powerful, psychoactive, central nervous system stimulant. Methamphetamine is very psychologically addicting and had an extremely long duration period. Methamphetamine belongs to the family of stimulant drugs known as amphetamines. Many stimulants belong in this family of drugs; methamphetamine is only one of them. Although there is a prescription form of methamphetamine named 'Desoxyn', the majority of methamphetamine on the streets is the product of illegally manufactured D-methamphetamine.D-methamphetamine is derived from common household chemicals that by them selves, are not illegal to purchase or possess. Methamphetamine comes in many colors, shapes and forms. Although there are some similarities, the final product's appearance depends on the method of manufacture, the primary precursor used during the process, which reagents and solvents that were used during the process and the ability and knowledge of the basement chemist that is making the drug. Unlike cocaine, methamphetamine starts from chemicals and ends with a powder form or salt (Hydrochloride). The drug is ingested into the system by snorting, smoking, intravenously, eating or even drinking. Types of MethamphetamineThere are three different types of methamphetamine and each affects the central nervous system differently. At the time of this writing, only two of them are considered controlled substances. The different types are:

  • Levo or L-Methamphetamine
  • Dextro/Levo or D/L-Methamphetamine
  • Dextro or D-Methamphetamine
Effects of Methamphetamine
  • Elevated Pulse (Beyond 100 bpm)
  • Elevated Blood Pressure
  • Elevated Body Temperature
  • Possibly dilated pupils
  • Irritability
  • Nervousness, Hyperactive
  • Aggressiveness, Potentially Violent
  • Body Tremors
  • Distinct odor
  • Poor Hygiene
  • Tooth Rot, Dark coloring around gums
  • Pale, Unhealthy appearance
  • Short Attention Span
  • Rapid Speech, Broken speech patterns
  • Burn marks on fingers
  • Severe Acne on skin 'Meth bugs'
Is Methamphetamine replacing Crack Cocaine?
  • More potent drug, (Lasts much longer than cocaine) the duration of cocaine is only 60-90 minutes. Methamphetamine can last up to 36 hours.
  • Cost - depending on where the user lives in the USA, the cost of methamphetamine is about the same as cocaine, generally around $80.00-$100.00 per gram.
  • Availability - Methamphetamine can be made within a few short hours. Having a recipe, which can be downloaded off the Internet and around $60.00 worth of easily purchased chemicals, can produce one ounce of methamphetamine. One ounce of methamphetamine can sell for $1,200.00 on the streets. With a large demand, the lure of easy, fast money brings many to the challenge of manufacturing and selling. With large-scale labs producing several hundred pounds of methamphetamine at a time, and the increase of local smaller labs, methamphetamine is very easy to get if the user wants it.
  • Effects of D-methamphetamine - the users when first introduced to the drug, experience an intense rush that can last up to 30 minutes. The rush and high is much longer and more intense than cocaine.
DownsideClandestine Laboratory Safety Issues
  • Explosive/Flammability - many of the reagents and solvents that are used are not only flammable but also explosive.
  • Toxicity - Many of the chemicals used in the manufacturing process are extremely toxic. Some of which produce an immediate threat and some that have a delayed effect. If exposed the unknowing receiver, may not notice the failure of certain vital organs for several years. THIS CAN HAPPEN BY SHORT, SINGLE, EXPOSURE!
  • Acids and Caustic ingredients - many of the chemicals used in the manufacturing process can cause severe burns to the skin, lungs, and eyes.
  • Safety Training, Equipment and an operation plan to deal with these situations. Recruiting assistance with children exposed, and contaminated residences. Do we have decontamination procedures, for not only law enforcement, but also the suspects that are arrested and transported to jail? Property landlords who do not provide remediation of their exposed residence properly add to the problem. The obvious problem here is the unsuspecting person who rents the property that used to contain a meth-lab, who is involuntarily exposed to the hazardous chemicals. This raises several questions, such as WHO is going to make sure that these outlying concerns are being followed up on? WHAT is our responsibility as a Law Enforcement entity with these issues?

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