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Meth Mouth Epidemic July 06, 2005 8:36 AM

The Progress Report

The Crystal Meth Epidemic

Ice. Crank. Glass. Meth. Chalk. Crystal. No matter what you call it, methamphetamine abuse is sweeping across the United States, leaving a devastating wake. Twelve million Americans have tried the drug; its effects are being felt in both urban and rural areas. Ten years ago, there were 912 meth lab seizures; last year there were nearly 16,000 seizures. More addictive than crack, crystal meth gives users a 12-hour euphoric high along with severe psychotic delusions, paranoia, random violence and extreme weight loss. Its side effects include upticks in violent crime, strained prison systems, and thousands children thrust into foster care. A new survey of the nation's sheriffs by the National Association of Counties found meth was "the nation's leading drug problem affecting local law enforcement agencies."

CRYSTAL CAUSES CRIME: According to the National Association of Counties' survey of law enforcement agencies in 500 counties in 45 states, crystal meth is the number one drug problem in 58 percent of all of the counties surveyed. According to cops, crystal meth is driving up the number of robberies and burglaries in 7 out of every 10 counties. That's the case in Lewis County, Idaho, which reports a 300 percent increase in crime due to crystal meth.

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con't July 06, 2005 8:37 AM

IDEAS FOR REFORM: The primary ingredient in crystal meth is pseudoephedrine, an ingredient commonly found in cold medications like Sudafed. (It's only in the pills; gel caps or liquid forms of Sudafed don't work.) The drug can be extracted using harsh chemicals like battery acid, brake fluid or Draino. "The problem is that you can get everything to start a meth lab at Wal Mart," says Florida law enforcement official Sgt. Scott Behringer. There are a number of ideas to address the problem. For example, Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Jim Talent (R-MO) recently introduced a bill to try to curb the mass sale of Sudafed, requiring pharmacies to keep Sudafed behind the counter. Customers would have to show a photo ID to purchase the cold medicine and would be limited to about 250 30-milligram pills a month. States like Oklahoma and California which have tried this have seen dramatic reductions in their meth problems. The first month the law was in effect in Oklahoma, for example, there was a 40 percent drop in methamphetamine labs; the number of labs is now down almost 80 percent in that state.

INDUSTRY FIGHTS BACK: Not surprisingly, powerful corporate interests, concerned with their bottom line, are fighting the Feinstein/Talent legislation. For example, Consumer Health Care Products Association lobbyist Mike Gardner warned, "let's not go overboard just because it's a noble goal."

BUSH BAILS ON THE PROBLEM: Instead of standing up to this drug crisis, President Bush has done the opposite, cutting funds for programs which fight the problem. In his last budget, Bush reduced funds for the Justice Department's methamphetamine initiative 60 percent, from $52.6 million to just $20 million. He also slashed anti-drug spending for high-intensity drug areas from $226 million to $100 million. He also eliminated a $634 million grant for state and local police. In response to the survey of sheriffs released yesterday, White House policy analyst Dave Murray "disagreed that [methamphetamine abuse] had reached the state of an epidemic."

METH LEADS TO DOMESTIC ABUSE: One of the more tragic side effects to the crystal meth scourge is its devastation of families. According to the National Association of Counties, 62 percent of counties reported spikes in domestic violence because of meth use. And kids pay the highest price for skyrocketing meth usage; with more and more parents becoming addicted, more and more children have fallen into the already strained foster care system. Mike O'Dell of Alabama estimates 80 percent of children currently in the state foster care system were removed from meth homes. During the past four years, 362 kids with meth-addicted parents entered the foster care system in Arizona; 770 children were removed from meth homes in Kentucky. Iowa now cares for 1,000 kids who were abused or neglected because of their parents' meth habits.

METH MOUTH: Another giant strain on taxpayers: the cost of medical care of meth users in prisons. In Kansas, for example, treating prisoners with "meth mouth" has driven state medical costs up as much as 8 percent. (Here's a photo of the "meth mouth" phenomenon. Don't view while eating.) Crystal meth eats away at tooth enamel while slowing the body's creation of saliva, eventually leaving teeth the consistency of "ripe fruit." Some prisoners require up to 14 root canals to repair their ravaged teeth or complete tooth extractions, at $500 a pop. Consider the case of Tennessee, for example, where nearly a third of all prisoners have teeth destroyed by methamphetamine; the costs begin to add up. And taxpayers are stuck with the bill.

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 July 06, 2005 1:22 PM

I know someone who is married to a crank addict. He has been to jail twice for beating her.She has told unbelievable stories of him staying up all night, walking around in the yard with a flashlight strapped to his head, and accusing her of all sorts of ridiculous things. So there were 912 meth labs ten years ago and 16,000 now??!! And Bush cuts funding by 60%!!!!!! What an incredible fool he is. If any of you get the chance to see the HBO documentory "Crank in America". don't miss it. They said the recovery rate for crank addicts is 6%, the lowest of any addictive drug. Once you get to the point of injecting it, you can not stop. One woman in the documentary said she realized she needed help when she got to the point where she was watching #### movies with her teenage son and his friends and she wanted to have sex with her son. She still couldn't kick it. Something major needs to be done. I hate to think of how bad it will be before this incompetent administration leaves.  [ send green star]
 July 06, 2005 1:23 PM

By the way, great post Dawn. Thanks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!    [ send green star]
 July 08, 2005 5:13 PM

I too wish something could be done to slow down the meth epidemic infecting our communties...I am sure a good many of these people are good people caught up in a horrible situation.  This drug is so addictive.  Keeping the police and public informed with as much information as is available, and hoping for snitches and informants, is the only way I can see to fight this problem...prisons are now beginning offer "help" for these people, but the jail is where it needs to start...Jails need to help these people, too. Some of these people spend time in jail before they get to prison.  Serious programs need to be put in place there get off these and other drugs will be a life long struggle for the people wanting and needing the help.  [ send green star]  [ accepted]
 January 10, 2006 4:47 PM

METH: A Country in Crisis

On A&E tonight at 8 PM, and Thursday 1/12 @ 7 PM

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Meth Article....tells it like it is January 31, 2006 8:50 AM


"Who wouldn't want to use it? You lose weight and you have great sex." -- Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Laymon

Hey kids. Crystal meth is created by cooking the ephedrine or pseudoephedrine found in cold medicines or weight loss aids. The pills are crushed into powder, then blended to a steady boil with other solvents like starter fluid or Coleman fuel. This creates a bubbly, sudsy chemical reaction which can be strained through one of your children's diapers and set aside to dry in the basement or living room.

The foaming white, crumbly residue can be smoked in a traditional, contemporary American crack pipe made from glass or ceramic [high in 3-5 minutes] -- or placed gently upon a small sheet of tinfoil, heated from below with a cigarette lighter and the vapors inhaled [high in 2-3 minutes]. If the end product looks more like crystals than powder, they can be melted over a spoon, sucked into a communal syringe, and injected into your bloodstream [immediately high]. If you just want to put it in your mouth and swallow, you have to wait fifteen minutes. A single dose of meth lasts for six to eight hours. The identical portion of cocaine would get you high for maybe twenty minutes.

Dr. Mary Holley, obstetrician and chairperson of Mothers Against Methamphetamine, informed the Associated Press that one's initial hit of meth is the equivalent of ten orgasms all on top of each other, each lasting for 30 minutes to an hour, with a feeling of arousal that lasts for another day and a half. She is quick to confess that the effect doesn't last long: "After you've been using [meth] about six months or so, you can't have sex unless you're high. After you have been using it a little bit longer you can't have sex even when you're high. Nothing happens. [Your penis] doesn't work."

And you're not obligated to keep referring to it as methamphetamine, Poindexter. Popular slang for this drug of course includes crystal, but more commonly tina -- a corruption of the word sixteen, based on the concept of one sixteenth of an ounce. When you see Craigslist classified ads from people searching for a "party with Tina," you can rest assured they're willing to spend anywhere from three to five dollars.

Meth Labs

Eighty percent of meth comes from Mexican drug cartels operating in the desolate expanses of central and southern California. Enterprising individuals armed with orange rubber hoses stretched like octopus arms across gas torches heating Big Gulp cups of isopropyl alcohol can make about 280 doses per concoction -- provided there's enough cat litter to absorb stray toxins. With commercial-grade lab equipment, a single basement can churn out close to a million units every two days using high-thread-count Martha Stewart linens to filter solids from liquids. The Oregonian reports that California's Central Valley, according to Fresno prosecutor Carl M. Faller Jr, is "Columbia for meth".

Might a portable meth lab in your car adequately pimp your ride? The Narcotics Digest Weekly tells of a federal grand jury in Kentucky who indicted two men for concealing ice methamphetamine in a motorized, 3-foot hobby rocket -- connected by wires to the vehicle's cigarette lighter. If stopped by police, the men planned to open the trunk of the vehicle, raise the methamphetamine-filled rocket into launching position using a string and pulley system, and launch the rocket into the air. These two men now host Methbusters on the Discovery channel.

Creating methamphetamine is a dangerous process. The chemicals and solvents are more than just flammable; they're highly volatile and downright explosive. If you're bubblin' up paint thinner in a $19.00 Family Guy coffee mug you ordered off a web site -- and it cracks in half over the Spider-Man 2 laser pointer doubling as a Bunsen burner -- well, nobody ever said finding the perfect recipe was gonna be easy. It's not Julia Child in the kitchen, it's Julia Child on meth in the kitchen: and she's in there whackin' on turkeys with croquet mallets and makin' those weird meth faces, going duh with all her stupid meth friends, knocking the pie into the propane, and generally being careless. When meth ingredients explode and glass containers burst, hot sticky chemicals splash outward in every direction. Meth labs don't "catch" fire, they're instantly placed into a state of violent, raging fire climbing up the walls and ceiling of your trailer home or apartment complex. So wear an apron. Nothing beats a picture of a burned-out Volkswagen bus meth lab with an upside-down teddy bear in the corner.

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con't January 31, 2006 8:52 AM

Perhaps investing in better lab equipment becomes pointless when (a) it might blow up at any moment, and (b) the police can seize all of it at any time. Individuals busted for developing in-house meth labs now face the same scrutiny as captured sex offenders: in December of 2005, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation launched an Internet Registry of convicted methamphetamine manufacturers.

In North Carolina, crystal meth is considered a weapon of mass destruction, invoked in accordance with the Patriot Act under the state's Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Weapons Act. Under the law, a meth conviction results in a sentence ranging from 12 years to life in prison on each count.

"The difference between a sex offender and someone involved in illegal narcotics is that you can get out of the illegal narcotics business," claims Sergeant Jason Grellner, commander of the meth unit in Franklin County, Montana. Mug shots and photographs of the offenders will not be included in the online expose, primarily because most rural sheriff's departments can't afford all that big-city digital camera paraphernalia.

One side effect of these new drug laws is the practice of "smurfing," a colloquialism so poorly coined it brings to mind only a handful of uptight squares or parents who don't understand. Smurfing is the act of considering every possible store in your area which might sell products with pseudoephedrine, driving to each store, and purchasing that store's two-package limit. The reason it's called smurfing is because large groups of meth addicts can be seen assembled together in this ritual, standing in a big conga line, clutching bottles of blue cough medicine. Plus if you squint your eyes and you're a totally uneducated huckleberry from Sticksville, Stupidland -- something about the whole deal reminds you of a bunch of Smurfs. Which makes the police Gargamel and the DEA Azreal. The word smurfing was originally a banking term which described the process of evading government scrutiny by breaking up one single mammoth financial transaction into many smaller ones. The term has been further corrupted to describe forging packets on a computer network to produce denial of service attacks.

Q: What's a cat's favorite drug?
A: MEOWthamphetamine

In December of 2005, Linda Green, the widow of an Oklahoma State Trooper killed by a violent meth addict, filed a wrongful-death suit against Pfizer, Wal-Mart, Walgreen, Dollar General and United Supermarkets -- arguing the companies knew they were supplying meth addicts with the tools of their trade. The word smurfing does not appear once in the document.

The War on Drugs is stronger now than it's ever been, and states like Oklahoma have already pioneered new laws banning certain types of cough syrup containing pseudo-ephedrine and other ingredients. The purpose of this legislation is to get pain relievers off the shelves where they might be bought in bulk. The bill passed easily in 2004, ushering in a new era of red-flagged sales, purchases tracked with fingerprints and photo IDs, and signature logs establishing direct paper trails capable of linking you and your stoner buddies to that basement treasure trove of Winnie the Pooh Sneezy-Head Flu gelatinous caps. Ephedrine all by itself, as an ingredient, can fetch $3,000 per pound on the street.

But law enforcement is essentially helpless: they can't possibly bust every single mobile and stationary lab in town. In Georgia, police chased the "Mailbox Meth Gang," a group of twenty talented addicts who kept an eye out for raised red flags on the mailboxes of their neighborhood's housing subdivisions. Such mailboxes were observed to contain checks, bank statements, credit card offers, and other forms of ID suitable for plundering. The Mailbox Meth Gang secured roughly 14,000 credit card numbers, which they used in the service of securing more meth. One defendant who pled guilty to fifty-six counts of identity theft received close to a full year in the county jail.


Dry mouth, one immediate side effect, is the result of depleted saliva glands, easily exacerbated by the acidic nature of the drug when smoked or snorted. Meth users often try medicating themselves with crazy, delicious liters of Mr. Pibb and Red Vines -- but syrupy, sugary candies and sodas only contribute to the decay. Meth cavities usually start between two teeth, trapezing from cuspid to cuspid across the network of enamel. The desire to grind one's molars together can easily result in multiple teeth snapping right out of your mouth and into the hot tub, or being left behind after a bite of your peanut butter sandwich. The meth mouth epidemic is widespread in prisons as well, where clean, sharp teeth are not always valued. Prisons are now obligated to devote a growing portion of their health-care budgets to emergency dental care, which costs taxpayers in every state a small fortune each year. Meth culture has emerged just in time to intersect with price reductions in false teeth and DaVinci Veneers.

The drug causes so much weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth that the phrase meth mouth has entered the public discourse. 

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con't January 31, 2006 8:53 AM

The heated substance, when fully aspirated, swirls through the users' teeth and gums, inevitably leading to sores which never heal. Tooth enamel wears away quickly as entire rows of teeth dissolve to the gumline. It collects in the nasal passages which drain in the back of the throat, effectively corroding your entire face.

Regular meth users are referred to as tweakers, so-called because they can go ALL TWEAKEND LONG, BABY. They can be awake for three to fifteen days straight: irritable, violent and paranoid. On the show Cops, tweakers are frequently witnessed at the scene of automobile accidents and domestic disputes, freaked out with their shirts off and not at all surprised they're being filmed by Cops. Prairie View Prevention Services, Inc. in association with MAPP, the Meth Awareness and Prevention Project, have created a small instructional flyer on how to handle tweakers:

If you notice that someone is tweaking, be careful how you handle the situation. Keep in mind these six safety tips for approaching a tweaker:

1. Keep your distance. Coming too close can be perceived as threatening.

2. No bright lights. The tweaker is paranoid and bright lights may cause them to react violently.

3. Slow your speech, lower your voice.

4. Slow your movements. The tweaker is paranoid and may misunderstand your movements.

5. Keep your hands visible, or they may feel threatened and become violent.

6. Keep the tweaker talking. A tweaker who falls silent can be extremely dangerous. Silence often means that his paranoid thoughts have taken over reality, and anyone present can become part of the tweaker's paranoid delusions.


Meth is the shortest word in the English language one can lisp while drunk and underage at a gay bar. It can therefore be no surprise that homosexual males have congregated around the substance since its inception. For every meth mouth, there is an equal and opposite meth dick. Just ask graphic designer and 27-year-old Chad Upham, who grew so concerned about how easily he could enjoy drug weekends and unprotected sexual encounters with same-sex partners found online that he printed up T-shirts bearing the slogan I USE CRYSTAL METHAMPHETAMINE.

"A lot of people I've met [online] are just messes," Chad confessed to Will O'Bryan in the D.C. MetroWeekly. "Their entire lives revolve around this. There's nothing but Gatorade in the refrigerator and candy all over the house. I saw a guy freak out, just yelling on his bed."

Rrrrrowr! But have you ever tried searching for such a needle in a gaystack? Not cool. Methamphetamine even has its own gay rainbow flag, a byproduct of the the cooking and straining process which commonly contributes unique colors, hues, and saturations to the dose. To be sure, unscrupulous dealers sometimes add food coloring to their stash, either to disguise their amateur technique or to peddle their warez more effectively.

RED: Meth was made from pseudo-ephedrine, and the red coloring of the original tablet was not adequately washed away.

ORANGE: Ephedrine sulfate was used, and a portion of the sulfate was reduced to sulfur.

PURPLE: Iodine from a phosphorus-iodine reaction was not washed out.

GREEN: Copper or other metallic salts made their way in to the mixture, probably due to the reaction vessel.

BROWN: Oxidized red coloring or tablating agent was present in the reduction.

Doctors and health advocates alike have come to demonize the drug, insisting that meth is systematically hunting down and exterminating the gay community from the inside out, just like that dinosaur in Jurassic Park who stalks and kills the one guy who looks like a cross between Gene Wilder and French Stewart. Consider the delicious warnings from Grant Colfax, a leading researcher with the San Francisco Department of Public Health:

"It makes them feel sexy," Colfax reports. "They feel that it enhances their sexual behavior. Meth enhances the release of neurotransmitters -- especially dopamine -- and this release is associated with increased energy, increased libido, and increased feelings of invulnerability."

Sage advice and brilliant wordsmithing indeed, although he could have just said if you want more dope, switch to meth. Furthermore, it's unclear if Colfax was referring to gay sex among adult males or velociraptors. Statistically speaking, gay men, with their patterns of heavy alcohol use and incessant where's-the-hood-at party mentality are far more likely in any city, suburb, or backwoods farmhouse (let's all say it together) to bend over willingly and take crank for hours. Meanwhile, health campaigns targeting the lesbian and gay community have only begun searching for the right words and pictures to deliver anti-meth messages, often referred to internally as anti-methages.

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finish January 31, 2006 8:55 AM

PARTY 'N' PLAY... OR PARTY 'N' PAY?? spurts one mammoth 8 x 11" placard positioned directly over the center-stage urinal at TUGS, an uptown gay bar in Seattle's famed Pike-Pine Corridor. Let us guess: it's a matter of life and meth? Another anti-crystal print and outdoor ad kicked off during Gay Pride in Canada, resulting in the wrath of Philip Morris' Marlboro brand but paving the way for mushy, meth-mouth movie magic like Brokeback Mountain.

Or maybe you just need a booty bump, a method of administering meth by mixing it with water, putting the liquid in a syringe with the needle broken off, sticking it up your ass and injecting it. Don Baird, former meth enthusiast, describes booty bumping as "an unusually high-maintenance spectacle which screams LOOK AT ME I'M PUTTING DRUGS UP MY ASS". It's no exaggeration to say the act casts an awkward shadow over the traditional greet-n-snort or ritualistic passing of the pipe.

So whether you're a spazzed-out circuit queen or a skinhead. Whether you call it crank, chalk, glass, ice, trash, tina, amp, laundry detergent, altoids, nazi dope, white house or just plain crystal, know the facts before making a meth out of your life.

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