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Candida L Eittreim

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Methamphetamines: Part One
by Candida L Eittreim   
Rated "PG13" by the Author.
Last edited: Monday, February 27, 2006
Posted: Monday, November 21, 2005

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The latest statistics indicate over 13,000,000 Americans have used methamphetamines.

We are facing a methamphetamine crisis. According to the National Institute on Drug Use and Health, 12.3 million Americans, aged 12 and older have used meth at least once. In a Monitoring The Future study in 2004, it was found that 6.2% of high school seniors, and 10.3% of 10th graders reported use of this potent street drug. This was essentially unchanged from the 2003 report..

Once a West Coast problem, this drug is now being found across the country in both urban and rural locations. There are no socioeconomic barriers to its usage, no stereotypical users. What exactly is methamphetamine, and how it impacts not only families but the environment as well, is the focus of this article.

Amphetamines were originally synethesized in Germany in 1887, but wasn't put to common use until the 1930's, when it was developed for bronchodilation. Sold as an inhaler it was widely used to treat asthma, hay fever and and colds. Not only was the Benzedrine Inhaler enormously successful, its marketing as an OTC pill  for epilepsy, narcolepsy, night blindness and mood elevator, brought it into mainstream use in a big way.

During WWII and Vietnam, troops were routinely given "pep" pills to help combat fatigue and stress. Over 7 million of these were distributed to combatants on both sides of the conflict. Adolf Hitler was reportedly heavily addicted to methamphetamine, and this has caused historians to speculate that many of his more atrocious acts were in fact triggered by his usage of meth.

Post war use among college students and truck drivers increased, and in fact, many cocaine abusers switched to methamphetamine because it was legal, and had very similar effects. It wasn't until 1965, that the FDA passed major controls on the use of amphetamines. Even though they were overprescribed into the 1970's, they were gradually replaced with better drugs, possessing fewer side effects.

In 1970, the Federal goverment made the possession of methamphetamine a criminal act, and enforced laws governing the sale and distribution of this drug. Ironically, this crackdown occurred alongside the Pentagon's  continued dispensation of meth to soldiers in Vietnam. Other users switched from the now illegal narcotic back to cocaine or heroin, and biker gangs soon became the premiere distributors of "street" meth.

Using labs, they hired "cookers" or chemists to  manufacture speed, which was often cut with paint thinner, warfarin  (rat poison), bleach, anti-freeze, brake or drain cleaners and paint thinners. The product often ended up being less than 45% pure, as red iodine and phosphorous were also used. Phosphorous is used in warfare, causing at its worst, flesh to melt down to bone, and is highly explosive.

In the late 80's and early 90's, the bulk of street meth was being imported and distributed by Mexican traffickers, who have access to acetone and other precursor chemicals more readily available in their country. In addition highly mobile labs were beginning to be seen in other areas of the country. These were found in apartments, homes and even the trunks of cars.

These labs represent a multiple threat both to the environment and the surrounding community. Highly volatile chemicals are left lying around, often within reach of children and flammable sources of ignition. First responders: firemen, police, and EMT's often suffer chemical burns and exposure after arriving on scene.

According to the National Office of Drug Control Policy, these labs and their end products, cause severe damage to the environment. to quote them: "

The manufacture of methamphetamine has a severe impact on the environment. The production of one pound of methamphetamine releases poisonous gas into the atmosphere and creates 5 to 7 pounds of toxic waste. Many laboratory operators dump the toxic waste down household drains, in fields and yards, or on rural roads.

Due to the creation of toxic waste at methamphetamine production sites, many first response personnel incur injury when dealing with the hazardous substances. The most common symptoms suffered by first responders when they raid meth labs are respiratory and eye irritations, headaches, dizziness, nausea, and shortness of breath"

I've included a series of links for those who may want more information about this often lethal drug.

In Part Two of this series, we'll take a look at "crystal " meth, a highly potent form of methamphetamines, and it's impact on HIV and sexual behaviors.

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