Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Oregon Tries New Tack in Fight against Meth ; More States Consider Limiting Access to Cold Medicines That Are Used to Create Methamphetamines

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Oregon Tries New Tack in Fight against Meth ; More States Consider Limiting Access to Cold Medicines That Are Used to Create Methamphetamines

Article excerpt

Speed. Crystal. Ice. Glass. Crank. Tweak. Zip. It goes by many names, but methamphetamine - also known as "the poor man's cocaine" - is one of the most devastating drugs in the country today.

It's easy to make using legal chemicals found in hardware stores and pharmacies - rubbing alcohol, drain cleaner, matchbooks, and over-the-counter cold and allergy medicines. Recipes proliferate online.

Much of the problem starts in Mexico. But local meth labs are springing up around the United States by the thousands. The number broken up by federal authorities rose from 327 in 1995 to 13,092 in 2001. More than 500 have been found here in Oregon this year.

"Super labs" run by Mexican drug organizations can be found in the US - particularly in the West where they've spread from remote parts of California's Central Valley north to Oregon, Washington State, and Canada. And the problem continues to grow in Midwestern states.

Nowhere is the challenge more severe than in Oregon, which has the highest rate of residents in treatment programs in the country. Last week the state took the dramatic step of restricting the sale of nonprescription cold medicines that can be used to make meth, a move now being considered by many other states.

"Meth labs exist in Oregon homes, hotels, motels, apartments and even in automobiles," says Gov. Ted Kulongoski (D). "They are just as likely to be found in rural communities as they are in big cities, leading some experts to call this the first rural drug epidemic."

Meth is a highly addictive and powerful stimulant that can be smoked, snorted, ingested, or injected. The drug brings a sense of euphoria and a sense of invulnerability. But its aftereffects include nervousness, schizophrenia-like symptoms, and a propensity for violence.

To support their habit, many users commit serious crimes, including burglary and identity theft - the fastest growing white- collar crime in the US. The synthetic drug's waste byproducts are flammable and highly poisonous.

"Due to the extremely toxic nature of methamphetamine and its manufacturing process, we know that neighborhoods and the environment can be adversely affected for significant periods of time," Scott Burns, deputy director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, told a congressional panel earlier this year.

Another aspect of the problem relates to the fact that, unlike imported hard drugs such as heroine or cocaine, large quantities of meth are produced domestically by many thousands of people and used by an estimated 1.5 million people a year.

"For users and dealers, cooking methamphetamine has developed into a social activity," says Mr. …

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