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August 2003
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*Meth / Speed / Crystal…

Meth / Speed / Crystal / Glass / Crank /Tweak / Yaba / Ice
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Peoria Pundit notes that two bills were signed by the Governor of Illinois this week to combat methamphetamine production (As Bill says “Yeah, well, that ought to solve the problem.”) These actually join other bills which were passed earlier this summer.
All over the country, legislators are clawing over each other in the race to pass enhanced penalties for every conceivable factor related to the “methamphetamine epidemic.” As always, they display either moronic ignorance or willful avoidance of the truth (or both) that criminal prohibition of a high demand commodity has never solved a problem. In the willful avoidance category, there is the case last month of the U.S. Attorney in Hawaii who lied about the prevalance of the ice problem to try to convince lawmakers to amend the state constitution to expand wiretapping and search/seizure provisions. And don’t forget the prosecutor that decided to charge a meth lab suspect with two counts of manufacturing a nuclear or chemical weapon!
Methamphetamine is a relative of amphetamine (speed) which, on the street, is in the form of a powder, pills, or larger crystals, and is administered through snorting, smoking, oral ingestion, or injection. It effects can include increased energy and alertness, decreased need for sleep, euphoria, excessive talking, weight loss, nausea, paranoia, hallucinations, itching, depression, and a wide variety of other factors. Long term use can be very damaging to organs, and cause severe psychological problems or death. Methamphetamine causes significant tolerance as well as psychological dependency.
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The effects of meth are presented in a wildly surreal manner in the recent offbeat comedy “Spun” (Jason Schwartzmann, Mickey Rourke, John Leguizamo, Mena Suvari). The movie won’t give you a realistic view of meth use, yet in a bizarre way it gives a more accurate visceral feeling than any description could.
Meth is prescribed for both children and adults for ADD under the brand name Desoxyn, and has chemical relationships to both Ritalin and Adderall.
The U.S. Government dispensed methamphetamine to our soldiers in World War II and Korea and even today, U.S. fighter pilots in Afghanistan were given amphetamines (a milder chemical relation) to stay awake on bombing runs.
Illegal meth labs are a direct result of the war on drugs. Increased controls on pharmaceutical grade amphetamines created a market for the homemade variety. This resulted in a tendency to go for the stronger high of meth (just as beer was replaced with high-proof whiskey during alcohol prohibition). Illegal meth production has grown in part due to the fact that it can be inexpensively made (through a dangerous process involving a number of toxic substances which can be found normally on farms and in drug stores). As enforcement and interdiction of other illegal drugs stiffened, the cheapness of meth increased its popularity, despite the dangers in production and use.
As opposed to pharmaceutical products, homemade labs produce drugs of uncertain and often dangerous quality, and leave toxic chemicals as a byproduct. This is reminiscent of another kind of illegal lab in another era of prohibition:

Adding lye to the mash accelerated fermentation but caused the consumer’s lips to swell painfully. Another shortcut consisted of routing the mixture through an automobile radiator and adding battery acid to the brew. This mixture could be cooked off in one day instead of the usual three or more. But lead absorbed from old radiators or improperly soldered connections could cause lead poisoning, partial paralysis or jake leg, permanent brain damage, or death. In addition to these harmful results, improperly manufactured moonshine might contain additives that tasted bad, even if they were not permanently disabling. Moonshiners and law officers have reported discovering dead raccoons, snakes, frogs, possums, and hogs floating in vats of untended moonshine.

In that previous prohibition, stories abound of entire towns burned to the ground by illegal alcohol stills. And today, explosions of instable meth labs destroy homes and apartments.
Another prohibition, another set of problems caused by our drug policies.

[For more information on meth, see the Vaults of Erowid]

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