Pubdate: Sun, 25 Sep 2005
Source: Napa Valley Register (CA)
Copyright: 2005 Pulitzer Community Newspapers, Inc.
Author: Marsha Dorgan, Staff Writer
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


It destroys. It kills. It's euphoric.

It's methamphetamine, also known as speed, crank, glass -- and as 
perhaps the biggest narcotics problem facing American families and 
law enforcement agencies today, including those in Napa County.

"I have seen the addiction to the drug destroy families," said Gary 
Pitkin, director of the Napa Special Investigation Bureau. "I've seen 
parents walk away from their children, jobs, homes and everything 
they own because of the powerful addiction the drug has on them."

NSIB, made up of peace officers from each of the county law 
enforcement agencies, is the county's policing arm for anti-drug 
enforcement. Eighty percent of NSIB drug arrests involve meth, Pitkin said.

"The majority of the time it is also the root of all other crimes, 
such as domestic violence, child abuse, theft, robbery and burglary," 
he said. "Many of the meth arrests are the same people. We have just 
far too many repeat offenders. When they get arrested on possession 
(of meth) they usually also get charged with violation of probation 
or parole at the same time. Once the drug gets hold of you, it's got 
you for good. It can destroy the life of anyone."

A derivative of amphetamine, meth is a powerful stimulant that 
affects the central nervous system. Amphetamines were originally 
intended for use in nasal decongestants and bronchial inhalers. They 
were also used for weight control and to treat attention deficit disorder.

The illegal drug, a powerful upper, produces alertness and elation. 
Chronic use of the drug can lead to psychotic behavior. Hard-core 
users also develop major health problems, including rotting teeth, 
respiratory ailments and body sores.

"The effects and addiction to meth is like no other drug," said 
Michael Spielman, executive director of Turning Point, a residential 
drug abuse treatment program in Santa Rosa. "Once a person gets 
hooked .. it runs their life. It has side effects that can put a 
person in a mental hospital."

The Easy-To-Make Drug Of Choice

Meth is the current drug of choice in the United States, with at 
least 12 million Americans admitting to trying the drug, according to 

It can be manufactured in as little as 45 minutes, Pitkin said. "I 
know of an instance where a guy was busted for making meth while 
driving his car on the freeway."

Meth can be made using household cleaners, cold medicines, solvents, 
acids and many other products on grocery store shelves.

Thousands of recipes for meth are available on numerous Internet 
sites. The drug can be made in a makeshift lab that can fit into a 
suitcase. The average meth "cook" teaches 10 other people how to make 
the drug each year, Pitkin said.

Most homemade meth recipes call for a long list of routine items: 
bottles, funnels, coffee filters, a blender, paper towels, rubber 
gloves, hot plate, aluminum foil and tape.

When smoking, snorting or swallowing their drug of choice, meth users 
are usually ingesting brake cleaner, fertilizer, drain cleaner, lye, 
iodine or sodium metal, along with myriad other solvents and cold remedies.

"It's pretty amazing what people will put into their bodies," Pitkin 
said. "The process of making meth is to cook, extract and refine. In 
the last stage, you end up with a white powder that looks much like 
granulated sugar."

The so-called Nazi method is one variation of making meth. It got its 
name because it allegedly mirrors a drug recipe used by the Germans 
in World War II. The Nazis are said to have used an ammonia-based 
liquid found in fertilizer and stored in large tanks on farms, and 
meth makers in the United States today have been known to steal 
fertilizer in the middle of the night and set up quickie meth labs 
near such tanks.

If making meth at night is too tiring for some home cooks, there is 
another, more down-to-earth process.

Areas where meth by-products have been dumped can be a meth maker's 
haven. Cooks excavate hundreds of yards of earth from these sites, 
process the dirt and extract the chemicals to make another new batch 
of the drug.

Meth's cousin, ice, is a potent, smokable form of the drug. It got 
its name because it looks like a chip of ice or rock candy. Hawaii is 
known as the ice capital of the world.

Cheap Drugs

The going cost for one gram of meth is between $60 and $100, Pitkin said.

One gram of meth is the size of a sugar packet. "There are usually 10 
hits from one gram of meth," he said.

A glass-smoking pipe is the most common way to use meth, though meth 
users also get high by snorting the drug the way that cocaine users 
do, or swallowing it in some type of liquid.

Users also dilute meth with water and shoot up using a needle. Other 
methods of using the drug involves wrapping meth in toilet paper, and 
eating it or mixing it with a soft drink, Pitkin said.

The intense rush and high felt from meth results from the release of 
high levels of dopamine in the brain.

Since chronic users of meth build up a tolerance, they frequently 
began using higher doses of the drug and more frequently," Pitkin 
said. "They go on a binge, called a run, where they don't eat or 
sleep for days. This can go on for as much as 10 days until they run 
out of the drug or they are too dazed to continue. Then they crash 
and will sleep for days."

During a run it's not unusual for a user to shoot up a gram of meth 
every three to four hours.

All Types Of Users

Pitkin and others say that while Napa County has plenty of users, the 
drug is not manufactured in large quantities here. Most of the meth 
available on the West Coast, they say, is made in Mexico.

While the image of drug users is of people who are otherwise involved 
in criminal activity or are hanging at the margins of society, law 
enforcement officers say the use of meth is more widespread than most 
people believe.

"Those high on the economic scale are just as addicted to the drug. 
No one is immune," said Napa County Sheriff's Capt. Mike Loughran. 
"I've seen highly successful professional businessmen lose everything 
because of their addiction."

"We see school kids, housewives, blue-collar workers and 
professionals hooked on the drug," Pitkin said. "It is one of the 
most addictive drugs we have ever come across. You almost have a 
better chance of winning the lottery than kicking the addiction."
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