There is such a wide variety of disheartening stories regarding individuals from every walk of life concerning their addictions to ‘crystal meth’ that methamphetamine is now considered a household word.
They come in all shapes and sizes and they’re from all walks of life. Teen crystal-meth users are everywhere, looking for their next hit of the dangerous and deadly “Drug Next Door.” (Booth 2006)
The fact that the drug is becoming prevalent in such obscure places as the rural midwest and south regions of the country causes some major headaches for law-enforcement officials trying to combat its effects on the community.
One of the reasons for such prevalence is the low cost and long-lasting effects of the drug, as well as its simplicity in manufacturing. One addict described the drug’s initial effect as; “less than half an hour after I smoke the dope, it kicked in. I had more energy than ever before. My life was suddenly perfect, and I was perfect. I didn’t want it to end.” (Booth 2006)
With such a powerful allure, the drug has swiftly made it in to all cultures and climes. The drug has special appeal to ‘new moms’, teens and is one of the accepted drugs of choice in the gay/lesbian community as well. Much of the time (for the addict) the drug’s allure seems more beneficial than its devastating long-term effects, which can include; brain damage, stroke and psychotic symptoms. The drug also causes a lowering of inhibitions, more energy and a long-lasting feeling of strength, power and energy.
The lowering of inhibition is especially harmful in the gay community, since it seems to lead to more men accepting much more risky sexual behavior, which can be a leading cause of HIV and STD’s.
Urban75, a popular e-zine for youth and young adults describes crystal meth in the following manner; the drug can either be snorted or injected, or in its crystal form ‘ice’ smoked in a pipe, and brings on a feeling of exhilaration and a sharpening of focus. Smoking ice results in an instantaneous dose of almost pure drug to the brain, giving a huge rush followed by a feeling of euphoria for anything from 2-16 hours.” (Urban75 2004)
Urban75 is a good example of those individuals who are on the fringe of society that are interested in publishing information regarding the acceptability and use of drugs by those who are most susceptible to the drug’s harmful affects. The article continued on by stating; “For some this (feeling of euphoria) could result in obsessive cleaning or tidying, but for many the biggest bonus is the sense of sexual liberation which can result in mad, abandoned sex for hours – sometimes days – on end.” (Urban75 2004)
The mad, abandoned sex is the specific allure in the gay/lesbian community, and it, in turn, leads to a heightened risk of contracting other diseases, besides the assumed risk of drug abuse or addiction.
The drug is also becoming prevalent due to the physical effects it can have on an individual’s body. “Methamphetamine is a stimulant which increases the brain’s production of the chemicals that act as neurotransmitters.” (Times 2006-page 11)
Many medical experts believe that the almost immediate, and very heavy psychological dependency displayed by those who sample the drug is due to the affect the drug has on those transmitters, and that the affect can be reversed by allowing the brain a long enough time to repair itself. Some of these same medical experts are coordinating with local police authorities in developing programs to inform meth addicts of the medical facts.
After researching how meth destroys the brain – and realizing the damage is partly reversible – Holley launched a crusade to bring that message to addicts in her county (pop. 87,000) where 173 illegal meth labs were busted last year.” (Schindehette 2005)
Mary Holley’s brother, Jim, had committed suicide after becoming addicted to crystal meth and fighting the addiction for over 18 months.
If I had known then what I know now, she says, Jim might still be alive.” (Schindehette 2005) Mary is just one of the many interested, and involved individuals working to spread the message of how insidious the drug really is. Her audience is well aware of that fact, and many appreciate her efforts.
Mary is attempting a ‘different’ approach than what has been tried by other medical and law enforcement associations. Rather than trying ‘tough love’, Mary founded Mothers Against Methamphetamine, which is a Christian recovery program.
In speaking about her brother, Mary says; “The family tried tough love – I thought he was just a drug addict and a couple of nights in jail would straighten him out….but with no success: When they closed the lid on his casket, that’s when it hit me: He’s not coming back.” (Schindehette 2005)
Law enforcement agencies appreciate the assistance that individuals such as Mary can, and do provide, since many of these same agencies are constrained by financial and other restraints in their fight against the onslaught of this drug. The production of this drug is a relatively simple and inexpensive process, and the simplicity has led to an increasing number of meth labs popping up around the country, especially in the secluded, rural areas of the south and midwest.
These are precisely the areas that are the most difficult to monitor, which is another reason why law enforcement agencies have to, and are, coming up with a variety of new programs to combat the spread of the drug. Many of the programs have to do with informing the public, with particular emphasis on those who are most susceptible to trying and becoming addicted to crystal meth, of the dangers and pitfalls of the drug.
On November 3 the Stop AIDS Project reported a dramatic decline in meth use among San Francisco’s gay and bisexual men. “By opening a community dialogue and putting forth honest campaigns, the norm of crystal use that peaked two years ago is changing,” said gay San Francisco city supervisor Bevan Dufty.
We’ve tried to come forward in an open and honest way to relate the stories of people who’ve been in the grip of meth addiction. I would say these results are an incentive to do more.” (Gaining 2005-page 24)
According to Bevan the information and dissemination of that information was one of the primary reasons why a dramatic decline took place. Other agencies and individuals agree with Bevan, and there are a number of programs similar to the program that Bevan uses that are being implemented across the nation targeting a wide variety of potential drug users with information.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control found in 2004 that about 20% high school seniors had used marijuana in the preceding month. This was down from nearly 34% in 1980, but up from 14% in 1990. The long-term decline probably owes something to high-schoolers knowing more about the potential harmful effects of the drug.” (Halperin 2006-page 1)
Halperin suggests that providing information to those who might be susceptible is working but that it is not enough to stem the tide. He states that the border patrols that are searching and monitoring the country’s borders are also part of the overall picture.
Sophisticated border surveillance techniques employed by the Homeland Security Dept.’s Customs and Border Protection Division may have affected the decline.” (Halperin 2006-page 1)
Homeland Security has had a huge impact on the way the war against drugs, such as crystal meth, is waged by law enforcement officials, including but not limited to the way the country’s borders are patrolled.
The problem, however, is not that the illegal production of the drug is isolated among certain communities, in certain areas, or even to the United States. The problem is world-wide and law enforcement officials, as well as public officials are aware of the nature and potentially devastating effects to the communities that such production and distribution entails.
Canada’s small towns long ago graduated to big city problems. Drugs permeate every corner of our society, says Chief Edgar MacLeod of the Cape Breton Regional Police Service. The simple fact is that the impact of drugs on quality of life, on families, communities and neighbours, is the same regardless of where it happens.” (Gatehouse 2005-page 29)
Whether the drugs are being produced in rural Canada, rural America or downtown New York City, the problems associated with such production are quite numerous.That the drug labs have to be dismantled by individuals wearing hazardous materials suits is a sure sign that the production of the drug can lead to very dangerous situations.
Those possibilities would include, but not be limited to; fire, explosions (from the mixing of lethal chemicals, and even death. The chemical ingredients necessary to concoct crystal meth are often highly volatile and dangerous.
People who sell drugs can be tech-savvy. Law enforcement agencies have found hyper-sophisticated setups of crude laboratories and hydroponic pot greenhouses, which are used to synthesize crystal meth out of an ingredient found in over-the-counter medicine. When found, these labs must be dismantled by people wearing hazardous material suits.” (Halperin 2006-page 1)
With the huge budget allocated to Homeland Security, many of the tech-savvy drug producers and dealers can be tracked and busted with the same type of weaponry they use to create the drug product in the first place. Homeland Security’s budget allows for the purchase and training for officials. This training allows them the capabilities to combat the ever increasing sophistry of the drug dealers.
That a high percentage of the crystal meth drug dealers also consume their product is another potentially dangerous situation. The drug itself can lead to paranoia and psychological problems and if the drug dealer is ingesting the drug the result is that many times the environment in which the drug is being produced is one of great volatility, both due to the nature of the chemicals themselves as well as the personalities of the people producing it.
Using crystal meth can cause drastic changes in an individual’s character, causing many individual users of the drug to experience dramatic mood changes, violent rages and psychotic episodes.
Using crystal meth also affects more than just the user, the producer or the seller of the product. It also affects friends, families, co-workers and associates, as well as innocent bystanders and the authorities.
Some experts believe that law enforcement agencies should show more attention to the victims of drug related crimes, than what is currently shown. One expert, Thomas a. Constantine, a 39-year veteran in active law enforcement at the local, state and federal level, stated in a recent speech that in his experience, law enforcement officers (dedicated to drug distribution) spend 99% of their time searching out and arresting those individuals involved in the selling and distribution of drugs, and only one percent of the time on the victims of those crimes.
He said; “The area of this work ranges from street level dealers who may make $500 per day, to mid-level crime bosses who make $500,000 per year, to the pinnacle Mafia leaders in Columbia or Mexico who literally make hundreds of millions of dollars per year in drug profits from their organizations. Unfortunately, there are real victims who suffer from these drug sales. These victims are individuals who become addicted to drugs, individuals who die as a result of overdosing on drugs, family members who are neglected and abused, and neighborhoods that are destroyed.” (Constantine 2000-page 687)
Constantine feels that if law enforcement agencies were given more leeway to go after low-level drug users and dealers that the overall crime rate would decline.
He also believes that there would be far fewer victims to the crimes related to the drug use that is so prevalent. The figures he espoused in his speech would bear out such a statement.
He said; “Now, I can’t tell you what an index crime costs — I mean there are government costs, personal costs, hospital costs, and intangibles I don’t know if you could put a price tag on. But if you put a moderate tag of $1,000 per crime then, in essence, you have saved $750 million if you can reduce 750,000 index crimes. To this day — in fact I talked about this with the former Dean of the School of Criminal Justice — nobody has studied this New York City experience, which is probably one of the great social experiments over the last 30 or 40 years in reducing crime and making people’s lives a little bit more bearable.” (Constantine 2000-page 687).
Constantine was speaking about the lower crime rate experienced by New York City over a five-year time frame when more police were hired, and they were given the admonition to search out and obliterate all drug related crimes, from the street level up to the organized crime level. The program worked in a tremendous fashion, with all crime levels throughout the city from 1993-1998 declining in a dramatic fashion. Constantine also used the city of Baltimore as an example of the exact opposite approach, having the exact opposite results. A former mayor of the city of Baltimore told the public that the police would no longer arrest individuals or groups involved in small scale drug crimes.
In essence, the mayor told the public that it was a complete waste of time to do so. Since that time Baltimore has lost nearly 1200 citizens per month who have moved out to find safer climes. The crime rate has shot up as has drug abuse, addiction and distribution. Statistics now show that there “is one heroin addict for every 17 people in the City of Baltimore. So, when you take out elderly people and very young people, you can see the focus and what the costs are in the City, particularly healthcare costs, criminal justice costs and the impact on that particular community.” (Constantine 2000-page 687)
Baltimore was, in essence, implementing a program called ‘harm reduction’. Needless to say, that according to Constantine (and the figures bear him out) such a program was a complete failure.
Having seen what is successful, and observing what was not, it would seem that what Constantine was touting would make a lot more sense for most communities than what the mayor of Baltimore was touting. A realistic problem that his proposal does not take into account is that many of the small towns in which meth labs seem to proliferate do not have the resources to combat such proliferation.
Constantine provided a possible solution to that problem by emphasizing the fact that there are national level groups that will come in to train and work with local authorities. The Drug Enforcement Agency is one organization that provides those services and they have been quite effective in their efforts.
That program can be a relatively short-lived option or one that can last upwards of a full year. The problem still remains of having the resources to continue their efforts even after such a training program is implemented. It may make sense therefore to publicize the effectiveness of this, and similar programs, since the long-term results seem to justify the short-term costs.
Constantine is not the only one that sees the potential of tracking down and arresting all individuals regarding drug related crimes. The Bureau of Justice published a report that showed the incidence of crimes related to drugs. The report shows “that 60% of all individuals imprisoned for burglary or robbery indicated that they abused drugs at least one month prior to their arrest, and that 40% were under the influence of drugs at the point in time when they committed the crime.” (Constantine 200-page 687)
Other studies provide more positive fodder for Constantine’s remarks. A recent study conducted by economist Steven D. Levitt indicated that “increases in police forces in large cities are concentrated in mayoral and gubernatorial election years. Thus, changes in crime rates during such years provide an independent measure of the impact of police on crime. Levitt’s analysis of data from 59 cities from 1970 to 1992 indicates that adding a police officer eliminates about 8 to 10 serious crimes in a year.” (Koretz 1995-page 26)
If adding a police officer eliminates 8 to 10 serious crimes, and a cost of approximately $5,000 per crime (all costs; including expenses dealing with courts, jails and treatments) is affixed to each crime, it would be a tremendous savings.
Based on those savings, it would make sense that hiring more cops would definitely be cost effective, even for small town and rural areas of the country. The key would be, therefore, to publicize such findings, in order to convince the citizenry of the necessity of adding more police officers as well as the taxes needed to pay the costs of doing so.
There are many times when the law enforcement officials are handcuffed as to their efforts to free certain areas of drug related crimes. One such example would be in Edmonton, Canada when police attempted a number of times to force drug dealers from a fortified rental property that was known as a very popular drug supply house.
Edmonton police tried for years to shut down the Fortress, a heavily barricaded inner-city drug den owned by an absentee landlord. After numerous raids, the Fortress is now reportedly out of commission.” (Verburg 1994-page 18)
In response to the difficulties faced by the police to shut down the known drug den, a law was passed that required absentee landlords to purchase a renewable license for $33 that would allow the police to pull the license for certain houses (making them un-rentable) if suspected drug dealings were taking place at the residence. The problem with such an approach is that (at least initially) the landlords saw it only as an additional tax. Since there were only a suspected 12-24 houses (out of over 16,000 rental properties) that were suspected of housing drug activities, the landlords were probably right to suspect such a thing out of city officials.
What is required, therefore, to ensure that the epidemic that is known as crystal meth is obliterated from the streets of not just large cities, but from rural areas as well, would more than likely encompass a number of activities and programs implemented with the assistance and knowledge of all concerned parties. These programs could include all of the above discussed programs as well as others that would be equally helpful.
The victims of other crimes (since many are drug related), the friends, families and loved ones of current meth users, the police authorities, drug agency employees, community and school officials all would need to make a concerted and ongoing effort to end this epidemic, by using a variety of programs and measures to disseminate information, as well as heavy punishments for the dealers of this drug. At the same time, users and addicts need to be treated with programs that will allow them the opportunity to turn their lives around. Since the community is in this together, together the problem can be solved.
Booth, Stephanie, (2006) the Faces of Meth, Teen People, Vol. 9 Issue
Constantine, Thomas a. (2000) Victims: The Forgotten Ingredient, Albany Law Review, Vol. 63, Issue 3, pp 687
Crystal Meth (2006) Times Educational Supplement, Issue 4674, pp 11-14
Gaining Against Crystal (2005) Advocate, Issue 953, pg 24
Gatehouse, Jonathan (2005) the Rural Jungle, Macleans, Vol. 118, Issue 11, pg 29
Halperin, Alex (2006) in This War, Technology is Key, Business Week Online, pp 1
Koretz, Gene (1995) the Payoff From More Cops, Business Week, Issue 3414, p 26
Schindehette, Susan, Truesdell, Jeff (2005) Crystal Meth Killed Her Brother, People, Vol. 64 Issue
Urban 75 (2004) Crystal Meth, http://www.urban75.com/Drugs/meth.html, Accessed February 10, 2007
Verbur, Peter (1994) to Fight Drug Crime, Ding Renters $500,000, Alberta Report, Vol. 21, Issue 28, pg 18
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