The Methamphetamine Epidemic

The methamphetamine epidemic is the most serious drug problem that America faces today. Meth, as it is commonly referred to, has been running rampid through America like an uncontrollable cyclone, destroying everything that hinders its path. It has stirred up such a ruckus that it was brought to the attention of Congress recently and a bill was proposed specifically to fight against methamphetamines. Everyday more and more people begin to use and more and more become addicted to methamphetamines. Everyone is using; from housewives to teens and, believe it or not, even some pre-teens. Meth is nothing to be taken lightly it is destroying millions of people’s lives in our society every year and if a plan is not implemented it could eventually destroy our society as we know it.

Last year approximately 18 thousand methamphetamine labs and dump sites were seized across America, which is an extremely high number considering the number of methamphetamine labs that were busted in 1995, which was only 327. These sites were said to be relatively smaller labs that were only capable of cooking up somewhere around ten pounds of methamphetamines per cycle. These kinds of labs have become very popular throughout the country, while the number of “super labs,” which have the power of mass production, are slowly declining. Small labs are often discovered in people’s homes when law enforcement officers are responding to domestic calls.

The clean-up of methamphetamine labs can also run a pretty penny. The Drug Enforcement Agency manages a 20 million dollar program that covers the cost of the initial site clean up, consisting of gathering evidence and chemical removal. The rest of the clean up operation can range anywhere from $3,000 to $8,000. The clean up of these labs, no matter what size, are also capable of shutting down the entire neighborhood in which it was being operated in because of the chemical clean up. A lab that produced mass quantities of methamphetamines was uncovered in Livermore, California, an area where there are many farms and ranches. The lab had a pit that was used to dispose of toxic waste from the production cycle and because of this Alameda County health officials were made to test the water supply for an entire year after the meth labs closure. They were forced to do this to make sure that not of the material had leaked into the groundwater supply.

Discovered in Japan, by a Japenese scientist in the 80’s, methamphetamines derived from amphetamines. Meth is a very strong psycho stimulant that affects a person’s central nervous system. It is not very difficult to manufacture methamphetamines either. It is actually quite easy. All that someone would need in order to cook up a batch of methamphetamines is a heat source and ephedrine or pseudoephedrine and a combination of other chemicals, such as hydrochloric acid and red phosphorus. Pseudoephedrine can be purchased at most local retail stores. Red phosphorus can be easily obtained through road flares or matches. Once you get all the ingredients then all you have to do is get on the internet and search for “how to make methamphetamines” and it will come right up. Now isn’t that just a little too easy? There is also another way to manufacture methamphetamines, it is referred to as the “Nazi” way. When using this method the maker would add anhydrous ammonia, which can come from any farm supply store or can be stolen from tanks on farms. This method also calls for the use of lithium, which is a metal that can be extracted from batteries. Perhaps methamphetamines are becoming so widespread because of how easy it is to get access to. Meth is easy to make, and all the ingredients that are needed for the recipe can be purchased at local convenience stores at relatively inexpensive prices.

There are various ways to use methamphetamines, it can be taken orally, snorted, smoked, or injected. Upon use, it is reported that an intense rush can be felt, a feeling of euphoria, and your heart rate and body temperature rise. The intense rush felt from the drug is caused by the release of high levels of dopamine into the user’s brain. These affects can last up to twelve hours, which is much longer than any other drugs’ affect would last.

Methamphetamines are commonly substituted for cocaine by users because it is not as expensive, it has very similar effects which last much longer, and you do not have to use as much of the drug to experience the high. It is said that if you snort a line that is as big as the tip of your pinky finger you will experience an intense high for hours. That is how it gets its nickname, “poor man’s coke”. According to the Drug Enforcement Agency in 2001, the price per pound of methamphetamines was anywhere from $3,500 to $23,000, whereas the price for a pound of cocaine can range anywhere from $15,000 to $30,000. The price obviously fluctuates due to the purity of the substance. So the price of methamphetamines was highest in 1994 when its purity was said to be 71.9%. Now, because of international controls, availability of chemicals needed to make such pure methamphetamines has been reduced and in 2001 it was reported that the purity of methamphetamines was only 40.1%.

Crystal meth can be quite appealing to anyone who tries it. It is twelve hours of pure energy, joy, and self-confidence all in chemical form. It was reported that people have had their most productive days of work while high on meth, and others said while they were high they felt like they could do almost anything. So if there is such an upside to using methamphetamines then what is so bad about the drug? Well beside from the side effects of convulsions, sky-high blood pressure, stroke, cardiac arrhythmia, stomach cramps, and shaking, abuse of meth can also lead to severe paranoia, hallucinations, users could even die. After methamphetamine use is stopped withdrawal symptoms will take place. These symptoms include depression, anxiety, fatigue, paranoia, aggression, and an intense craving for the drug. Psychotic symptoms can also occur, and they usually take place for months or years after a user quits.

Not only are methamphetamines destroying the lives of the people using the drug, but also the lives of their family members and friends. They become so addicted to the drug that nothing can stop them from getting their fix. There have been reports of methamphetamine addicts breaking into their friends and family member’s houses stealing anything from computers to televisions so that they can sell it for money to buy some methamphetamines. Children are also being put in harms way. If they are around toxic dumps they are exposed to toxic chemicals which present serious health risks, according to the policy brief by Carneval Associates, 3,419 children were harmed by the production of meth in 2003, and 60% of those children had mathamphetamines in their system when removed from the home. Also in that same year, due to the rise of arrests, there were about 3,000 “meth-orphans” produced. A “meth-orphan” is a child who becomes an orphan or is put into foster care because their parents or guardians are in jail or dead due to methamphetamines. It is so sad to see and hear about families that fall apart because of drug use, nothing should come between family and that is what the problem is with the methamphetamine epidemic, it is so versatile that it can rip our society apart in almost any way.

Methamphetamines are also becoming a serious problem throughout homosexual communities. In West Hollywood, California the mayor has declared a methamphetamine “epidemic” among the city’s homosexual community. Also the city council has released $25,000.00 to open up clinics to treat speed and methamphetamine addicts. Meth is said to be a huge problem in the homosexual community’s party circuit, and if something is not done about the epidemic soon it could be another reason for AIDS to begin spreading throughout these gay communities.

Rural areas have also been hit hard with the methamphetamine epidemic. It is easy to find abandoned buildings or houses that occupy remote roads. These buildings or houses are ideal places to house meth labs. Also anyhydrous ammonia is a main ingredient in manufacturing methamphetamines and this can be found easily on any farm.

As of April 2004 in Oklahoma you will not be purchasing any cold medicines at your local thrift stores. Oklahoma has implemented its most serious law yet in efforts to stem the methamphetamine epidemic in their state. The law, signed by the governor, simply states that no one is permitted to purchase cold tablets that contain pseudoephedrine over the counter. Pseudoephedrine is a very important ingredient in the production of methamphetamines. These cold tablets are to be sold only by pharmacists. Customers are required to show identification and sign registries that show where, and the number of pills they purchased. Twenty-eight states have now put limits on the access to methamphetamine ingredients. Ten states have limited the number of cold packages you can purchase. In Missouri a law was passed last year that stated cold medicine that contains pseudoephedrine must be placed behind or within 10 feet of the cash register in clear view.

Most recently a bill was proposed to the senate concerning the methamphetamine epidemic. The bill’s main objective was to fight against meth’s widespread use throughout America, but how? If passed the bill would create grant programs to treat addicts of methamphetamines and to support research on effective treatment modalities. The bill also would provide funding for the training of state and local prosecutors, including law enforcement officials on investigating and prosecuting methamphetamine related offenses.

In 2001 there were 3,932 Federal drug arrests for methamphetamines. This would account for 12% of the drug related arrests from October 1, 2000 to September 30, 2001. Also 2,807 kilograms of methamphetamines were seized by Federal law enforcement in 2001, which was down from the numbers of the previous year in which 3,373 kilograms of methamphetamines were seized. Federal authorities also managed to seize 301,697 Yaba tablets in U.S. Postal Service facilities in Oakland, Los Angeles, and Honolulu. This number represents a 656% increase from the number of Yaba tablets seized the prior year.

Still, despite all the efforts of the law enforcement and the Drug Enforcement Agency, methamphetamines are becoming more and more available to people in America. Now, a new and improved form of methamphetamines is hitting the streets. It comes in the form of a tablet which is small enough to fit into tip of a drinking straw, the tablets are usually reddish-orange or greenish in color with various logos appearing on them. It originated in Thailand and is referred to as Yaba. A Yaba tablet contains a high-purity dosage of methamphetamines mixed with caffeine. The tablets are very popular in Southeast Asia and East Asia, where they are produced. It has even started to appear in Asian communities that exist in California. Indications also lead us to believe that these methamphetamine tablets are becoming extremely popular in the rave scene because of how similar it is to club drugs such as ecstasy.

You see the methamphetamine epidemic is very serious, it is even changing the everyday lives of people who do not even use the drug. If you have a cold, now you have to sign papers and show identification to get the medicine you need. Children are being harmed, they are the future and if the number of “meth-orphans” keeps rising eventually foster homes will become over packed and there will be no where for them to go. Something more should be done to prevent how easy it is to get a hold of the ingredients to manufacture methamphetamines, and also to prevent how easy it is to get the recipe on the internet. The government is taking steps in the right direction but they need to implement more laws to prevent this epidemic from becoming so widespread in our society.