Pubdate: Fri, 02 Nov 2007
Source: Niagara This Week (CN ON)
Copyright: 2007 Metroland Printing, Publishing and Distributing
Author: Paul Forsyth


NIAGARA FALLS - Some of its street names suggest something delicate,
even pretty: crystal, glass, ice, tina.

But make no mistake about it, crystal meth is an ugly blight on
society that ruins lives and kills people, says Cpl. Brent Hill, an
RCMP officer specializing in combating the highly addictive drug.

Just as illegal marijuana grow-ops have become commonplace in Niagara,
Hill said it's only a matter of when -- not if -- clandestine crystal
meth labs that have proliferated in rural areas of the U.S. start
appearing in motel rooms, industrial buildings and right next door to
residential homes in the region.

Hill, based in Milton, works with retailers and the chemical industry
to try to keep the ingredients used to make crystal meth out of the
hands of those who produce it. But he told about 140 police officers,
public health officials, politicians and residents at the annual
community policing symposium at a Niagara Falls hotel Saturday that
the ease of finding the ingredients and the massive profits meth labs
can produce mean that's no easy task.

Anyone can get their hands on recipes for producing crystal meth via
the Internet and it's not difficult to obtain the necessary
ingredients such as fertilizers stolen from farms, lithium from camera
batteries and over-the-counter decongestant pseudoephedrine from drug
stores or variety stores, as well solvents, containers, coffee
filters, camper stoves and assorted other gear needed to cook up
crystal meth from hardware and department stores.

"The recipe's out, the genie's out of the bottle," said Hill. "If you
can cook cookies, you can cook meth."

Dealing with meth labs will be very costly, with some costing upwards
of $100,000 to dismantle, said Hill.

Crystal meth labs are also extremely dangerous: the toxic soup of
explosive, caustic gases and chemicals can be easily ignited by
something as simple as a light switch being flipped or a furnace pilot
light. Some of the gases are lethal even at levels as miniscule as
three parts per million, said Hill.

While so-called "cooks" who produce crystal meth can follow the
recipes, if something does go wrong -- a chemical reaction that can
cause a fire -- they don't have the expertise to respond to
emergencies, said Hill.

"They have no backup plan, often with tragic consequences. "They have
absolutely no concern for public safety."

The officer showed a photo on a projection screen of the corpses of
two men who were driving in a pickup truck with a thermos filled with
anhydrous ammonia, a nitrogen-based fertilizer used in meth labs. The
thermos leaked and the caustic gas horribly burned them.

"It will freeze dry your lungs," said Hill.

Unlike marijuana grow-ops, which require several months for a crop to
mature, crystal meth can be produced in as little as 24 hours, said

Often, people unknowingly moving into homes or apartments that were
used as meth labs are exposing themselves to toxic, dangerous
chemicals seeped into drywall, vents and carpets, he said.

Until recently, meth labs in Ontario were mostly smaller scale. But
Hill said organized crime is now taking over and in the last year and
a half, seven multi-million-dollar labs have been taken down.

"There's no community that's immune," he said after his presentation.
"This is a crime of greed -- the profits are enormous."

He said meth producers will typically target young people aged 12 to
25, hoping to get them hooked.

"That's the group they're going to target to get the next generation
of profit," he said. "If you wait until Grade 7 to educate your kids,
you've waited too long."

* * *


Drug can be smoked, taken by mouth, snorted or injected.

Affects the central nervous system, giving users a feeling of intense
euphoria and energy, similar to cocaine but much longer-lasting.

Effects can last for six to 12 hours.

Users often have extreme tooth rot.

Can create the feeling of bugs crawling over the skin, causing users
to constantly pick at their skin, creating weeping sores than can
become infected.

High doses can result in violent behaviour, insomnia, extreme weight

Can cause convulsions, irregular heartbeat, damage to blood vessels in
the brain leading to stroke and death.

Long-term use can lead to hallucinations, delusions, paranoia similar
to severe mental illnesses.

Users who inject can develop infections of the heart lining and
valves, liver or kidney disease and scarred or collapsed veins.

Sources: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, U.S. National Drug
Intelligence Center.
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