Academic journal article Journal of Environmental Health

Clandestine Methamphetamine Labs in Wisconsin

Academic journal article Journal of Environmental Health

Clandestine Methamphetamine Labs in Wisconsin

Article excerpt

  "Criminal charges are expected today against a Menasha man suspected
  of operating a methamphetamine production lab in his ... home."
  (Collar, 2003)
    "It was an anonymous tip that led drug investigators to a house in
  Little Chute where a meth lab was discovered."
  (WLUK Fox 11, 2003)
    "In early October, more than 20 state and local agents busted a meth
  lab in remote northwest Waupaca County that was in the process of
  cooking drugs."
  (Lee, 2002)


News reports like these are becoming more and more common in local broadcasts in Wisconsin and throughout the United States. Clandestine drug use and methamphetamine labs are on the rise. Methamphetamine can be produced with a variety of household products, in a small space, and in a relatively short amount of time. As a result, meth labs are being discovered in hotel rooms, storage units, fields, vacant buildings, campers, trunks of automobiles, and rural homes throughout Wisconsin.

Once a criminal investigation has been completed, local public health officials are responsible for declaring the area fit for reoccupancy and use. Even after the chemical waste has been removed, however, hazardous residual contamination may be present. The methamphetamine-manufacturing process is a new topic about which many professionals in the field of public health have minimal knowledge. Public health officials often receive a methamphetamine crash course when a lab is found in their jurisdiction.

In 2002, the number of methamphetamine labs seized in Wisconsin almost doubled, from 44 in 2001, to 86. Because of its strong addictive properties, methamphetamine is the most common clandestine drug. It is known as "speed," "crank," "crystal," "meth," or "ice." The name used can vary, depending on the how the drug is used and the geographic location of the user. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy reports that "according to the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, 2002, 5.3% (over 12 million people) of the U.S. population reported trying methamphetamine at least once in their lifetime. The highest rate of methamphetamine use was among the 26 to 34 age group, with 6.7% reporting lifetime methamphetamine use during 2002" (2003). The same survey found that 5.7 percent of the 18-to-25 age group reported lifetime use of methamphetamine. Meth users snort, swallow, inject intravenously, or smoke the drug.

The method used depends on the way the user wants to feel. Smoking or injecting meth provides an immediate pleasurable feeling known as a "rush" or "flash" along with the high. This extreme euphoria lasts only a couple of minutes, however. Snorting gives the user a high within three to five minutes, but no rush or flash. When meth is ingested, the high is reached in 15 or 20 minutes, without the intense feeling (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2002). Depending on the purity of the drug, meth can produce a high lasting up to 12 hours (White House Office of National Drug Control Policy).

Methamphetamine is a strong stimulant that affects the central nervous system. It stimulates excessive release "of the neurotransmitter dopamine into the areas of the brain that regulate feelings of pleasure" (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2002).

As a result of the sensation of extreme pleasure, many users often fall into the "binge and crash" pattern, binging to maintain the high at the same level for some length of time. Binging can continue for three to 15 days (Chesley, 1999). During this time, the abuser has to take larger and larger doses of meth to achieve the same feeling that occurred with the initial exposure. When the drug no longer produces the rush or high feeling, the tweaking phase is reached. The user may start to take other drugs, such as alcohol and heroin, to achieve the euphoria feeling. The drug addict is considered most dangerous during the tweaking phase because he or she will do anything to try to maintain the high. …

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