Pubdate: Thu, 07 Feb 2002
Source: Daily Courier, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2002 The Okanagan Valley Group of Newspapers
Author: Chuck Poulsen
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


Methamphetamine is called meth these days, but you may remember the drug 
from the 1960s under the street name of speed. Meth is on the drug world's 
fast track. It's being described as an epidemic in the U.S. that's invading 
B.C. and climbing past cocaine and heroin on the popularity list of 
potentially deadly drugs.

It showed up in a big way in the Okanagan on Dec. 3 when RCMP raided a meth 
lab on Postill Drive, described by police as a "major production" point for 
the Valley.

On Tuesday, RCMP arrested one woman and five men - all with ties to the 
Hells Angels - in a meth manufacturing and trafficking operation with 
connections to Vancouver and Calgary.

Searches were carried out in upscale neighbourhoods at residences on 
Woodcrest Court, Quail Lane, Via Centrale Drive and Abbott Street in 
Kelowna as well as San Clemente Avenue in Peachland before the arrests were 
made. More of the meth, other drugs and $80,000 in cash were seized during 
the searches.

Neighbours of one of the suspects in the Quail Ridge golf community 
described him as "completely normal S he was always having barbecues with a 
few friends over, but no one would have thought he was with the Hells Angels."

The image seems to be par for the course for a drug that is becoming 

"It's gone absolutely mainstream," said RCMP drug awareness program Cpl. 
Scott Rintoul. "It's going to get worse because you don't need the 
Colombians or Mexican cartels to bring it in. It can be made right here."

Cass Crest, a teacher at the Storefront School in Kelowna, said she has 
heard about meth use from older students who have given it up and returned 
to classes there.

"They describe it as a vicious drug," she said, adding that alcohol and 
marijuana use also continue to be major concerns.

Meth, also known as jib, is a dangerous, sometimes lethal and unpredictable 
drug. Like cocaine, meth is a potent central nervous system stimulant.

Its use increases the heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, rate of 
breathing and it frequently results in violent behaviour in users. It can 
lead to damage of the heart, lungs, liver - and brain damage similar to 
Alzheimer's, stroke and epilepsy.

Meth produces temporary euphoria, a sense of increased energy and tremours.

Chronic abuse produces a psychosis similar to schizophrenia and is 
characterized by paranoia, picking at the skin and hallucinations. The most 
dangerous stage of the binge cycle is known as "tweaking." Typically, 
during this stage, the abuser has not slept in three to 15 days and is 
irritable and paranoid.

The tweaker has an intense craving for more meth, however, no dosage will 
help recreate the euphoric high. This causes frustration and may lead to 
violent and erratic behaviour.

"They are describing meth use in the U.S. as an epidemic," said Const. 
Colleen Yee, Vancouver drug awareness co-ordinator. "We are on our way here 
to following suit. It's easy to produce and cheap to buy."

A 20-minute hit of cocaine costs $10. A $10 hit of meth will last up to 
eight hours.

"It's present at the all-night dance parties, even in the schools," said 
Yee. "It's part of the DJ and light show scene. People have grown tired of 
ecstasy, so they've turned to meth. But meth is a lot more addictive than 
cocaine and harder to get off of."

Meth can be smoked, snorted, injected or taken orally.

It can be manufactured with products bought in any drug or grocery store - 
such as cold tablets containing pseudoephedrine.

The hardest ingredient to find is anhydrous ammonia, which farmers use by 
the ton to improve the nitrogen content in their fields. The drug-makers 
have simply turned to stealing the ammonia from farmers.

"You can find the recipe by running any search engine on the Net," said Yee.

Labs such as the one on Postill Drive produce toxic fumes from ingredients 
that are likely to explode. Busting a lab is costly and dangerous. Police 
are advised to wear full protective gear with the fire department on standby.

In Canada, possession of meth is a criminal offence with a maximum jail 
term of three years. Traffickers face up to 10 years.

The five arrested have been released from custody. They are scheduled to 
appear in provincial court June 6 on conspiracy to produce and traffic in a 
controlled substance.

Their names aren't expected to be released until then.
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