Pubdate: Sun, 03 Feb 2008
Source: Rutland Herald (VT)
Copyright: 2008 Rutland Herald
Author: Daphne Larkin
Bookmark: (Ecstasy)
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


The Clover Leaf Is More Than A Good Luck Symbol For Some These Days.

That image, along with others like kittens and the Adidas logo, have 
been misappropriated by illicit drug manufacturers in Canada. The 
colored branding images are used to popularize a new drug being 
exported into the United States: Ecstasy mixed with methamphetamine.

The powders of the two drugs are pressed into pill form and smuggled 
across the U.S. border, according to law enforcement officials. 
Approximately 2 million tablets a week are manufactured in Canada, 
federal authorities say.

Vermont State Police say they are seeing the drug crop up in pockets 
around the state.

"It's started now, so it doesn't look like it's leaving," said 
Vermont State Police Lieutenant Leo Bachand, the commander of the 
Northern Drug Task Force.

Bachand said his team has made two controlled "hand-to-hand" buys of 
the drug from a man in St. Johnsbury. The orange pills, about the 
size of aspirin, came from Massachusetts, but Bachand said his team 
has arrested several people at the Canadian border attempting to 
cross with quantities of the drug that were manufactured in Canada.

According to Ted Woo, chief public affairs officer for the New 
England area for U.S. Customs and Border protection, there have been 
no major seizures of the drug in New England border states.

But local officials said they are starting to see it arrive in Vermont.

"We've made other arrests of small amounts that (were) manufactured 
up there in Canada," Bachand said. "Those pill presses put out in 
huge amounts."

Investigators said they purchased 10 pills one time and four pills 
another time from 27-year-old Christopher Laberge, of St. Johnsbury, 
who reportedly obtained the drugs from Massachusetts. Investigators 
paid $20 a pill for the Ecstasy mixed with methamphetamine.

Laberge will face charges of possession and sale of a controlled 
substance and aiding in the commission of a felony in Vermont 
District Court in St. Johnsbury on March 24.

The mixed drug is largely known as Ecstasy but goes by nicknames that 
correspond to the pictures printed on them like "green clovers" and 
"Adidas." The images are specific to the different drug 
manufacturers, Bachand said.

Ecstasy, which was widely associated with the "rave" culture of the 
1990s, is also getting combined with cocaine and heroin for various 
effects, according to Bachand.

Although Vermonters are not throwing "raves" these days, the drug is 
popular at house parties now among people ranging from teens to early 30s.

"One will pump you up," Bachand said. "They use that as part of their 
partying type stuff, to speed them up and keep them going, and then 
they use other stuff to mellow out at the end.

"So parties go on for hours and hours and hours. We've had guys be up 
for a week, and then they crash for a week."

The drug produces a high that mixes euphoria with speed. The drug is 
consumed in pill form, lasts for a couple hours, depending on body 
type, and costs between $18 to $20 a pill. Bachand said dealers also 
sell the pills in quantity and a person can buy 100 pills at about $10 each.

Officials warn that the combination of methamphetamine and Ecstasy 
may be more destructive to neurochemical and behavioral functioning 
that either drug alone. And it can cause hyperthermia, which can 
result in liver, kidney and cardiovascular system failure and death.

"The potential for a life-threatening or fatal overdose is also 
increased when meth-laced Ecstasy is combined with alcohol," 
according to a statement issued by the White House Office of National 
Drug Control Policy.

A local investigator described the physical appearance of a user as 
agitated, constantly touching and rubbing the eyes and being in 
constant motion.

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy issued a press 
release in early January warning of the influx of the drug coming 
across the border from Canada, where they say the drug is being 
manufactured in large quantities.

"The Royal Canadian Mounted Police estimates that the current 
combined production capacity of Canadian Ecstasy laboratories exceeds 
2 million tablets per week," the ONDCP said in a statement.

Federal officials say they are working in conjunction with Canadian 
authorities through intelligence-sharing and combined enforcement 
efforts and that Canadian officials are focusing their efforts on the 
importation of precursor chemicals used in drug production.

According to ONDCP, "in 2003, 568,220 dosage units of Ecstasy were 
seized federally in the ten Northern border states; in 2006, 
5,485,619 dosage units were seized."

The trend of mixing ecstasy with other narcotics has surfaced over 
the past two to three years, according to Rafael Lemaitre, 
spokesperson for the ONDCP. Prior to that most Ecstasy coming into 
the United States came from the Netherlands and Belgium.

"U.S. and Canadian intelligence reports indicate that Canada-based 
drug trafficking organizations are attempting to fill the supply 
void, and have drastically increased their Ecstasy production and 
trafficking," according to the ONDCP.

Officials say more than 55 percent of the Ecstasy samples seized in 
the United States last year contained methamphetamine, a cheaper drug 
than Ecstasy, which increases profits for manufacturers and likely 
increases the potential for addiction.

"It's increasingly concerning us because we're seeing in surveys that 
use of Ecstasy is rising again while the perceived risk of use is 
dropping," Lemaitre said.

Officials say that Ecstasy use was at its highest during the 
late-1990s "rave" culture, but coordinated international efforts 
reduced its prevalence.

In fact, the U.S. witnessed a 54 percent reduction since 2001 in the 
number of U.S. teens using Ecstasy in the past month, however recent 
data show progress against the drug has ebbed.

The number of Americans who reported that they tried Ecstasy for the 
first time during the past year increased 40 percent between 2005 and 
2006, from 615,000 to 860,000. One-third of these new users in 2006 
were under age 18 when they started using Ecstasy, according to the ONDCP.

"Desperate to develop their client base, they are dangerously 
altering a product for which demand by youth and young adults had 
plummeted, and are exploiting vulnerabilities along our shared 
border. This is alarming for the youth of both Canada and the United 
States," John Walters, the nation's "drug czar," said in a statement.

In Vermont, investigations continue into the newly formulated Ecstasy 
as investigators work on setting up controlled buys in order to snag dealers.

"We've had people mention that it's around and available," Bachand 
said, who recommended that parents "be careful; pay attention to your 
kids; talk to them and educate them."

Walters echoes that sentiment: "Just as we must teach new generations 
of children to read, we must continue to educate new generations of 
young people on the harms of drug use.

Walters is urging state and local public health officials to 
reinvigorate prevention efforts, to enhance educational outreach to 
youth, parents, school systems, emergency departments, medical 
examiners, poison control centers, and law enforcement agencies 
regarding the hazards of Ecstasy and methamphetamine, to shore up 
treatment systems to look for and address the unique and well known 
challenges of meth addiction.
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