Methamphetamines

Methamphetamines Methamphetamines are powerfully addictive stimulants that dramatically affect the central nervous system. The drugs are made easily in clandestine, or illegal laboratories with cheap over the counter ingredients. These factors combine to make methamphetamines drugs extremely dangerous, and vulnerable to widespread use. Methamphetamines are also commonly known as speed, meth, or chalk. In its smoked form they are often referred to as ice, crystal, crank, or glass. They are a white, odorless, bitter-tasting crystalline powder that easily dissolves in water or alcohol. Methamphetamine’s chemical structure is similar to that of amphetamine, but it has more pronounced effects on the central nervous system.

Like amphetamines, they causes increased activity, decreased appetite, and a general sense of well being, which can last 6 to 8 hours. After the initial rush, there is typically a state of high agitation that in some individuals can lead to violent behavior. Contrary to the stereotype of rural areas as idyllic, protected environments in which to raise families, substance abuse is as great a problem as it is in the cities. One must realize that rural communities vary in characteristics considerably, which complicates our understanding of rural substance use problems and increases the need for prevention, intervention, and treatment programs. For too long, the problems of alcohol and drug abuse in rural areas have received little attention from the federal level.

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As national studies show, those who live in rural areas are just as likely to have alcohol and other drug problems as those who live in large and small cities. The choice of addictive substances may differ, but the prevalence of abuse is virtually the same for country and city dweller alike. Less attention has been focused on drug use in rural than urban areas despite evidence that metro and nonmetro differences in rates of substance abuse have been declining. Between 1975 and 1991, the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (NHSDA) collected drug, alcohol, and tobacco use data from individuals age 12 and older living in U.S. households.

These data are used to report trends in illegal drug use for large and small metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas of the United States. Lifetime-use patterns of marijuana, hallucinogens, inhalants, and cocaine by age group for the three population density areas are compared. In general, nonmetropolitan prevalence rates for the four drugs were slightly lower than those for the two metropolitan population density areas, however, the rates appear to be converging. Lifetime substance use was highest for those age 18 to 34. (Moxley,1992 p.119) A clandestine laboratory is a laboratory used for the primary purpose of illegally manufacturing controlled substances, such as cocaine and methamphetamine. Clandestine labs are typically small, utilizing common household appliances, glassware, and readily available chemicals. (KBI, 1997, p.1-2) Clandestine laboratories come in all sizes and are found in a variety of locations.

The most common and the fastest growing type of lab is the methamphetamine lab, or crank lab. Methamphetamine laboratories have been seized in homes in residential areas, vehicles, apartments, hotels, kitchens, bathrooms, garages and various other outbuildings. (University of Kansas, 1995, p. 6) There are many different methods for producing Methamphetamines. Each method has its own inherent dangers.

Many of the chemicals used are corrosive or destructive, and some of the processes create noxious and harmful fumes. Additionally, many of the chemicals can be found in common household items such as Coleman fuel, some cleaners, and diet pills. The most productive laboratories are commonly located in rural areas, such as farms, rural residences and forestry land. Rural areas are often targeted for laboratory manufacturing to avoid detection by law enforcement. Often these labs are larger and produce strong chemical odors, which could be easily detected by neighbors. (Weisheit, Wells, 1996, p.384) Clandestine laboratories are commonly operated on an irregular basis.

Operators often produce a batch, or conduct one step in the process, then disassemble and store the lab, or move the lab to another location to complete the process. This is often done in order to avoid detection by law enforcement. (KBI, 1997, p.2) Methamphetamine labs are increasingly becoming a public safety hazard. Even months after a lab has been closed, chemical residue that has seeped into carpet or wood can be dangerous. (Gallon, 1998, p.48) Police and Firefighters must take special safety courses to handle meth situations because of the likelihood of explosions, invisible poison gases and other dangers. People who come into contact with the highly toxic chemicals that are used to make the drug can become sick and prolonged exposure can lead to cancer.

The majority of methamphetamine labs are of the smaller type where the operators are use canning jars or other glass dishes. These labs are extremely dangerous for several reasons. These lab operators are not using the proper type of glassware that would prevent explosion or exposure to deadly gases released from the cook, and these operators are commonly users of crank and are under the influence while operating the lab. (http://www.sema.state.mo.us/metham.htm) Methamphetamine does more than boost the crime rate; it creates drug addicts and turns normal lives into nightmares. Its manufacturing process presents an immediate environmental hazard. The cost of cleaning up these sites can be enormous. (Kaufman, 1998, p.

89) Not only are methamphetamine laboratories used to manufacture illegal, often deadly drugs, but the illegal and dangerous nature of production, has resulted in explosions, fires, toxic fumes, and irreparable damage to human health and to the environment. Every year, fires or explosions occur at a number of clandestine laboratory sites, which lead to their discovery. Hazardous chemical wastes, which are the by-products of the illegal drug manufacturing process, are more times than not disposed of using unsafe and illegal methods. Operators dump them on the ground in streams and lakes, local sewage systems or septic tanks, or bury them. Law enforcement personnel engaged in clandestine drug laboratory seizure and recognition require specialized training in the investigation of such facilities, including training in appropriate health and safety procedures and in the use of personal protective equipment. (University of Kansas, 1995, p11) Cleaning up a seized clandestine drug laboratory site is a complex, dangerous, expensive, and time-consuming undertaking. The amount of waste material from a clandestine laboratory may vary from a few pounds to several tons depending on the size of the laboratory and …