Through The Years

Pretending that there is a new "epidemic" involving methamphetamines every few years may help to sell newspapers and increase local police budgets, but there really is nothing new about the use of amphetamines. Speed, crank. meth, ice -- really it's all the same basic drug. Today, as always, amphetamines are simply not a very popular class of drugs -- that is, not that many people actually use them. And, of course, of those who do choose to use them, not that many actually become addicted. But we can't let reality get in the way of selling newspapers or fanning the flames of drugwar, now can we?

Clearly though, there are ramifications to meth being illegal -- including the storied meth lab explosion in the middle of the night at some run down motel. There is a really easy way to avoid having meth labs in every other kitchen in America: leave the manufacturing process to the pharmaceutical companies that already manufacture "dangerous" drugs safely.

Epidemic Flavor of the Month: Methamphetamine

Methedrine, a powerful amphetamine known to hippies as "speed," is fast becoming one of the freakiest and most dangerous ways of turning on in the drug users' pharmacopoeia. p.54

The number of speeders -- called "speed freaks," or "meth freaks," "meth monsters," or "meth heads" -- has, according to the hippies, increased enormously within recent months. Researchers writing in the Journal of the American Medical Association estimate that in San Francisco alone, 4,000 people regularly inject themselves with powerful amphetamines. p.54

Obtainable legally only by prescription, the crystalline drug is, like LSD, relatively easily manufactured, with a production cost of something like $25 a pound. p.54

Because of its end effects, genuine hippies have never taken to speed to any great extent and look with alarm, like the Avatar, at its growing use in their communities, mostly by teen-agers and would-be hippie converts ... p.54

The potential for addiction, warn the article's authors, is comparable to that of opiates or cocaine. Worse still, the drug may lead to psychosis or brain damage. p.56

"From descriptions of the intensity of the paranoid state and the hypertension associated with amphetamine use," adds the article, "crimes of violence by amphetamine users appear likely in the future." p.56

Source: Time, Unsafe at Any Speed, Oct 27, 1967, pp.54-56

Psychologically more destructive than heroin -- and now more available than marijuana -- amphetamines are in many ways the most treacherous of all abused drugs. Despite the threat they pose, a recent survey by the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs revealed that 92% of the speed and pep pills in illicit traffic were manufactured by legitimate U.S. drug firms. p.18

An estimated 8 billion amphetamine pills are produced each year in the U.S. Federal officials estimate that no more than half this production is routinely dispensed by medical prescription. Much of the remainder is diverted to criminal channels by loss, theft and misdirected shipments. p.18

A congressional investigator charged that 60% of the amphetamine pills exported to Mexico return to the U.S. via illegal channels. The movement of American amphetamines through Tijuana has prompted Mexican customs officials to call it "pill city." p.18

Another retired speed entrepreneur testified that he easily obtained the ingredients for making amphetamines from wholesale chemical companies. p.18

Source: Time, Speed Demons, Oct 31, 1969, p.18

The basic ingredients -- ephedrine, red phosphorous and hydriodic acid -- are available from almost any chemical company, no questions asked. The lab equipment is rudimentary and widely available. For a total ivestment of less than $5,000, an underground chemist can make approximately 10 pounds of "crystal meth," one of the most potent and sought after forms of amphetamine on the street. Although the risks are high -- making crystal meth is potentially explosive as well as illegal -- the profits are even higher. Each pound sells for $10,000 to $15,000 wholesale, or up to $150,000 for the 10-pound batch. And the value of the same batch at retail prices may be as much as $15 million. p.25

Fueled by this country's seemingly unquenchable thirst for drugs, underground labs are becoming a multimillion-dollar business. Most are operated by individual free-lancers, rather than drug gangs. The labs produce crystal meth and other forms of speed, PCP and even synthetic heroin. Nationwide, state and federal authorities raided 647 clandestine labs during 1987, an increase from 479 during 1986. Three-quarters of those labs were located in southern California. p.25

Clandestine drug labs have been a factor in California's drug underworld since the mid-1960s, when the Hells Angels motorcycle gang began setting up operations to produce speed. But the situation took a dramatic turn for the worse in the early 1980s with the advent of crystal meth. p.25

They sometimes find crystal-meth operations when the laboratories blow up. "Sometimes the cooks forget to turn off the pilot light in the stove, or they light a cigarette," says state investigator Dan Largent. "All it takes is a spark." p.25

Ultimately, these officials suggest, the federal government will have to impose nationwide restrictions on certain "precursor" chemicals. Skeptics say, however, that would only force criminal chemists to find new substitutes for the controlled chemicals they use -- which is how crystal meth was developed in the first place. p.25

Source: Newsweek, An Explosion of Drug Labs, Apr 25, 1988, p.25

Clarence Summerfield was dozing in his ranch-style farmhouse near Willow Springs, Mo., one day last month. Suddenly armed invaders, dressed in protective gear that made them look like spacemen, stormed into his home. They were cops, and they had good reason to be there. Tucked away in the Ozarks, the house functioned as a laboratory where Summerfield allegedly used highly flammable chemicals to "cook" illegal methamphetamine, a form of speed. The raiders say they found 25 pounds of powdered "crank." The street value: $1 million. p.20

Dangerous street drugs, once regarded as an urban plague, are now for sale in the nation's remotest country lanes. Drug rings in Eastern cities are supplying small-town contacts with increasing quantities of cocaine and crack, and business is booming. In a recent survey, 83 out of 100 Southern sheriffs polled said crack is a "significant" problem in their areas. In the West and Midwest, according to an estimate by federal officials, mom-and-pop crank labs will produce 25 tons of the narcotic next year, at a profit of $3 billion; the National Institute on Drug Abuse says crank "looms as a potential national drug crisis in the 1990s." p.20

The would-be crank dealer needs only about $10,000 for chemicals and $2,000 for lab equipment to whip up $200,000 worth of crank. But even as they're raking in illegal money, most rural drug dealers maintain a low profile, running a farm or holding down a regular job. The invisibility of dealers, and their customers, frustrates authorities. Says Michael Quinn, a state drug- enforcement official in North Dakota: "there just isn't any stereotype anymore like there used to be in the '60s." p.21

Source: Newsweek, The Newest Drug War, Apr 3, 1989, pp.20-22

Even as the U.S. struggles with crack cocaine, a more chilling drug has appeared: "ice." Like crack, ice is not a new drug but a smokable version of an old one -- crystallized methamphetamine, better known as 'crystal meth" and speed during the 1960s and '70s, when it was usually taken as pills or injected. In Hawaii, where the smokable version first appeared this year, it is sold in $50 cellophane packets that contain about a tenth of a gam, good for one or two hits. But smoking ice provides a high for eight hours or more, compared with less than 30 minutes for crack. It shares crack's addictive properties and produces similar bouts of severe depression and paranoia, as well as convulsions. p.28

The frustrating prospect is that if the effort to stop the cocaine flow from Latin America makes crack harder to get, users will simply shift to easily available speed. Jubilant would-be speed kings from Portland to Dallas are already making plans for vast expansions in production. p.28

Source: Time, The Menace of Ice, Sep 18, 1989, p.28

The Japanese call it shabu to Koreans it's hiroppon. To American addicts just discovering its intense highs and hellish lows, the drug is simply "ice," after the clear crystal form it takes in the manufacturing process. As addictive as crack cocaine but far more pernicious, ice -- a type of methamphetamine, or speed -- is a drug that seems culled from the front pages of science fiction. In contrast to the fleeting 20-minute high of crack, an ice buzz lasts anywhere from eight to 24 hours. Unlike cocaine, which comes from a plant indigenous to the Andes, ice can be cooked up in a laboratory using easily obtained chemicals -- a drug for the scientific age. p.37

Ice is not a new drug, but a more powerful form of a substance that has been popular in Western states for several years. Purer and more crystalline than the "meth" or "crank" manufactured in cities like San Diego, ice comes from Asia. p.38

A common factor among some users: jobs with high stress and long hours. "It's a very suitable drug for workaholics," says journalist Cho Gab Je, author of "Korean Connection," a book about the hiroppon trade. p.38

At first puff, ice seems irresistible. Cheap and long lasting, the drug provides users with a sense of well-being. A penny-size plastic bag called a paper costs $50 and, when smoked, can keep a novice high for up to a week. p.38

Source: Newsweek, The Fire of 'Ice', Nov 27, 1989, pp.37-40

In the winter of 1991, a police informant left the second-floor apartment of a squat brick building in this college town, carrying a quarter gram of cakey off-white powder in a small paper pouch. The informant called the powder "cat" and claimed it was a brand- new drug, more potent than crack cocaine. Lt. Richard Killips of the Michigan State Police was skeptical: Drug fads start in California, he thought, not in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Nevertheless, Killip's men sent the sample to the lab, unaware that it was the first sign of a devastating new drug scourge that federal officials now say could threaten the entire nation. And the sad part is that the spread of cat might have been prevented. p.20

The substance was methcathinone, an obscure but powerful amphetamine never before seized in the United States but widely abused in, of all places, the former Soviet Union. Chemically, the drug is related to the leafy stimulant khat, chewed throughout Somalia. It is also similar to methamphetamine, a type of speed known on the streets as "crystal meth." Methcathinone was so new, however, that no law specifically forbade it. p.20

Of course, police and the media have hyped other drugs, like "ice" (a potent form of methamphetamine), as the next crack only to find that the fads fizzled. Cat, however, may prove different because it is so easy to make. All that's required is a Mason jar, some hardware-store chemicals and a certain over-the-counter cold medicine. The profit potential is huge: Just $500 worth of ingredients can yield a kilo of cat, with a street value of $15,000. p.21

Says Killips: "Sometimes I get nostalgic for the days when all we had to worry about around here was coke and marijuana." p.21

Source: U.S. News & World Report, The New Drug in Town, Apr 26, 1993, pp.20-21

These days, it's called crank. In Los Angeles, it's known as crystal, or crystal meth. In Hawaii, it exists in a very pure form called "ice." In parts of the Midwest, a cranklike substance called "cat" is made in a different but no less potent way. Most of us know it as speed, or as it is officially called, methamphetamine. Commonly, it is snorted like cocaine, though ice is smoked (injecting has become rare). While speed has been around for decades, drug experts and law enforcement officials say it's now cheaper, easier to get, and more powerful than ever. It's also a fast-growing favorite among suburban middle-class teenagers. p.86

In California, methamphetamine use has reached epidemic proportions among teenagers, say drug experts. "You can go into any school in San Diego County," says Jack Hook, special agent with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in San Diego, "and ask what 'crystal' is, and many will be able to tell you, and also where to get it. That's how prevalent it is here." p.86

Source: Good Housekeeping, The New Suburban High, Sep 1995, pp.86-89+

Abuse of the powdered stimulant also known as speed, crank or crystal is rising dramatically throughout the western United States. In areas such as San Diego, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Phoenix, methamphetamine is starting to supplant cocaine as the drug of choice; emergency room episodes in these areas involving meth showed triple-digit increases between 1991 and 1994. The statistics also are alarming in Dallas, Denver and Seattle, and in parts of Utah, Idaho, Oregon and Wyoming, as well as farther east in Arkansas, Minneapolis/St. Paul, St. Louis and Atlanta. Nationally, methamphetamine-related deaths nearly tripled between 1991 and 1994, from 151 to 433. Drug Enforcement Administration chief Thomas Constantine calls the situation a "coming epidemic" p.50

Methamphetamine isn't new. It was used extensively by all sides in World War II to fight fatigue and enhance performance, and Hitler was believed to have been a meth addict. President Kennedy used meth as well, and increased availability of injectable meth led to a spike of abuse in this country by so-called speed freaks in the late 1960s. p.50

This past July, a Yuma County sheriff's deputy -- who authorities say later tested positive for methamphetamine -- allegedly shot to death two officers with whom he'd worked on a narcotics task force. Arizona Fife Symington then asked the state Criminal Justice Commission to formulate a strategy to fight methamphetamine, calling it "an unprecedented threat to public safety." He followed up last month by naming a methamphetamine "czar." p.50

Source: U.S. News & World Report, A new drug gallops through the West, Nov 13, 1995, pp.50-51

All over Billings, ... people are losing everything to crank -- their families, their jobs, their homes, their bank accounts and, perhaps irretrievably, their minds. The potent, man-made stimulant -- invented 80 years ago in Japan, issued to soldiers in World War II, prescribed to chunk housewives in the '50s, known to '60s hippies as speed and now sometimes passed out to antsy third- graders with attention-deficit disorder -- is, at least in its crumbly, powdered street form, an upper that leads straight down. p.26

For law enforcers, methamphetamine is a tough drug to pin down. It's sold hand to hand behind closed doors, in homes and motel rooms, in the style of a Tupperware party. Worse, its production requires little overhead. Ephedrine, an over-the-counter cold medication, can be combined with a shopping list of chemicals easily obtained from stores and industrial-supply companies (common drain cleaners figure in some formulas) and cooked in a kitchen sink from recipes downloaded from the Internet. pp.26-27

"The current culture is 'Keep going, keep moving and do it all.' That would be the initial draw, I think," says Nancy Waite-O'Brien, PhD., director of psychological services at the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif. Add to this the wannabe-supermodel factor. "Women," observes Waite-O'Brien, "get into meth because they think it will manage weight. Which I suppose it sometimes does -- at first." p.27

In cities large and small across the West and Midwest crank belt, from Oregon to Iowa, where the drug is known as the poor man's cocaine in towns that barely had cocaine in the first place, the drug arrives nonstop from every direction and by every imaginable route. Wrapped by the ounce and the pound in duct-tape eggs that can be stashed in the air vent of a car, crank comes up the interstate from California and Mexico, where it's produced in massive quantities by organized criminal gangs. Sometimes it even comes by UPS. p.27

Source: Time, Crank, Jun 22, 1998, pp.25-32

America's Indian reservations have a meth problem. "Meth is becoming the drug of choice in Indian Country." says Duwayne Honahni, chief of special investigations for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, noting that crystal methamphetamine now ranks second only to marijuana among illegal drugs on reservations. A pure form of it called "glass," or "G," has flooded the United States' largest reservation, the Navajo Nation, where 180,000 people live in an area the size of West Virginia straddling the Four Corners region of the Southwest. Powerful and cheap, glass is diabolically seductive for a place short on economic opportunity. p.30

For as little as $20, three or four users can get an all-day high, snorting the drug, injecting it or, in most cases, smoking it, often with makeshift pipes fashioned from hollowed-put light bulbs. The highly addictive intruder led to a dozen deaths near Tuba City, Ariz., alone last year, and it's now a factor in half the serious crimes on the reservation, estimates FBI Agent Nick Mannus. p.30

The number of people treated for amphetamine use at Indian Health Service sites has doubled -- from 2,167 in all of 200 to 4,077 through early September; officials warn that owing to reporting problems, those numbers likely understate the case. p.30

Already hit hard by intransigent poverty, alcoholism and a 43 percent unemployment rate, the Navajo were slow to realize the depth of their meth problem. But they are now beginning to mobilize. Tribal lawmakers plan to criminalize the drug to make prosecutions easier: at present, meth is not illegal under tribal law, and even misdemeanor cases have to be tried in federal court in Flagstaff, 100 miles away. p.30

Source: Newsweek, A New Menace on the Rez, Sep 27, 2004, p.30

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