by Detective Scott Purcell
In the mid to late 80's a new more powerful drug rose to prominence in the western United
States, most notably California and more specifically Southern California. The new drug
was methamphetamine, a stimulant. On the streets it is more commonly refrred to as simply
"meth" or "speed". It's rise to prominence was based on 3 major
1) The effects of the drug lasted much longer than
another stimulant, Cocaine
2) It was cheaper to obtain. It is also referred to as the "poor mans cocaine"
3) It is synthetic or man made. This allows users or those that wish to sell it for
profit the opportunity to produce or manufacture the drug themselves.
SYMPTOMS OF USE
Methamphetamine is a powerful crystal like synthetic stimulant whose effect on the central
nervous system lasts up to 10 times longer than cocaine. while cocaine's effect can last
anywhere from 90 minutes to 2-3 hours, methamphetamine can last for up to 12 hours or
longer. Being that it is a stimulant much like cocaine, users will experience or display
many similar symptoms of the drugs effect. Restlessness, agitation, rapid speech, dilated
(large) pupils that do not respond to changes in light and increased heart rate (up to 140
beats per minute) are commonly exhibited by those under the influence of the drug.
METHODS OF INJESTION
Methamphetamine can be ingested in many different forms. Injection into a vein, snorting
or smoking are the most common methods, with smoking the most prevelant. One who smokes
the drug places a small amount of the powder into a clear glass tube that is round or
bulbous at one end. The user heats the powder in the bulb with a heat sourch such as a
lighter or small butane torch. The heat causes the powder to fill the tube up with a white
smoke that is inhaled by the user.
THE MAKING OF METHAMPHETAMINE
Of particular concern to law enforcement officials is the manfacturing or making of
methamphetmine. As mentioned before, meth is a synthetic product that can be made with the
assistance of numerous household products. Some of thses products include; Red Devil Lye
(used to unclog drains), lighter fluid, muriatic acid (used in swimming pools), denatured
alcohol and distilled water.
Other ingredients are neccessary and harder to obtain. Items such as Iodine Crystals (used
by veterinarians) and Red Phosporous ( a highly toxic/combustable substance used in
fireworks and in certain military ordinace).
However, the prime ingredient is ephedrine. Ephedrine is the main ingredient in cold
tablets like Sudafed or Actifed. If a "cook", as manufacturers are called,
cannot purchase ephedrine either legally or illegally, they will resort to buying or
stealing large amounts of the cold tablets from stores that stock these products. Some
cities in Southern California had passed laws limiting the number of boxes of cold tablets
a customer can purchase. In addition, most stores will secure the boxes of cold tablets to
Once the "cook" has his cold tablets, he then has to seperate the ephedrine from
the binder (ingredients holding the tablet together and other inert ingredients). Once
done he has his ephedrine and can start the manufacturing process. The process can take up
to 12 or more depending on the amount of meth desired or the process used.
The reason the manufacturing of meth is of such concern to law enforcement and other
public safety officials is due in part to the extreme volatile and unstable chemical
chnages that occur during the mixing of the ingredients. It is not at all uncommon for
explosions to occur during a "cook". These explosions have criticallly injured
and killed many in the last few years. Quite often, innocents are caught up in this
diabolical mess. In the early 90's in Riverside County, Calif. a woman and her male
friends were manufacturing meth in her mobile home. An explosion took place, killing the
womans young children.
In summation, while meth is very similar to cocaine, the aspect of major concern is the
manufacturing of the drug. It is cheaper, lasts longer and can be made at home. Furture
articles will discuss what to look for if you suspect that manufacturing is taking place
in your neighborhood and the types of household items/appliances used.
Scott Purcell is a Detective with the Covina,
California Police Department. Throughout his long and distinguished career Detective
Purcell has observed first hand the effects that drugs have had on his community. He has
been involved in several major investigations involving the manufacture and sale of