The manufacturing, selling, and consuming of methamphetamine ("meth", "speed", or "ice") has been a fluctuating problem in the Dickinson area since the early 1990's. As of recent, the war on meth has been waged quite successfully. Recent legislation makes it harder for meth "cooks" to obtain large amounts of ephedrine. Therefore, the number of meth lab busts has significantly dropped within the last few years. However, the illegal use and sale of meth continues. Meth use affects everyone in the community, not just the user. Here is a brief description on meth and what you can do to help us fight the war.
What is meth?
Methamphetamine is an extremely addictive "Schedule II" stimulant that affects certain parts of the brain. The drug causes intense, but brief, euphoria for the user. Meth is usually found in powder or crystalline form and bears a white, off-white, yellow, pink, or even brown coloration, all depending on the method used to "cook" it. Most commonly, users smoke or inject meth into their systems, although they can eat or snort the drug as well.
How does it work?
In the brain of healthy adults, normal amounts of a chemical called "dopamine" are released when we experience happiness. When a meth user ingests meth into their system, an abnormal amount of dopamine is released in the brain, causing the intense euphoria. Over time, the brain gets use to the chemical reaction that meth causes, creating the need for the user to ingest meth more often and with a higher dose in order to achieve the same euphoric "high". This explains why the United Nations recently named methamphetamine as the world's most addictive illicit drug.
After the initial "rush", which lasts only a few minutes, the user enters a state of high agitation. This is commonly where meth users become violent to their spouses, friends, and law enforcement. The stage progresses into a state of insomnia and high energy, decreased appetite, irritability, nervousness, anxiety, and may even lead to a heart attack. Heart rate, body temperature, and blood pressure skyrockets at this point. Users display compulsive behavior, may use faster-than-normal speech patterns, and may even "see" bugs crawling under their skin. This stage is typically called the "tweak" stage.
After several hours or days without a new "hit" of meth, the user may go into convulsions and exhibit the effects of tremors. This is typically called "jonesing". Their withdrawal from the drug is so bad, they may sell or do anything in their power to get another "hit" of meth. Users may burglarize homes or businesses in their desperation to obtain money. Meth becomes so important to the user that oftentimes their families, their children suffer the loss of quality family time when the user is in their meth-induced frenzy. This leads to neglect of children, which only compounds the effects onto society.
How is meth made?
Unlike heroine, cocaine, or marijuana, meth is 100% inorganic. This means that meth is man-made from start to finish. The ingredients used to make the drug come from commonly used household products. The most important ingredient of meth is ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, which is the key ingredient in some cold medicines. Without either of the two, meth does not contain the chemical properties necessary to induce the sought-after "high" and the drug becomes useless. Hypothetically, the meth epidemic could be wiped-out if ephedrine was no longer produced at the select few (less than 15) factories that produce the ephedrine for pharmaceutical companies.
Local "meth labs" that you may have heard about are becoming scarce in the Dickinson region, partially thanks to newly enacted state legislation that places restrictions on ephedrine/pseudoephedrine purchase. Stores and pharmacies are now required to display the cold medicines containing the drugs behind the cash register or checkout area. A limit of 2 packs of cold medicine are allowed per purchase. A log of ephedrine purchases is maintained to track frequent buyers. Though these restrictions may be an inconvenience to a majority of the legitimate consumers, we hope they understand that these steps are essential to controlling the meth epidemic.
For those local "cooks" who do manage to obtain ephedrine, a large list of commonly-used household products are required to make meth. Products such as toluene, rubbing alcohol, lithium batteries, lye, acetone, ether, heat, rock salt, anhydrous ammonia, and many others are included in the "baking" instructions for meth. It has been said that meth is one chemical component away from being plastic.
During the cooking process, the meth cook is exposed to dangerous chemical fumes. Oftentimes, these labs are located in abandoned houses in the country, although urban labs have also been found within houses, apartments, and motels. Cooks may also have a "mobile lab", which is located within a vehicle. The chemical fumes (often ammonia or high chemical smell) create a danger both from a public safety and an environmental viewpoint. Labs can create explosions and fires. Cooks can become paranoid and are often armed with weapons. If you see or suspect a lab, DO NOT APPROACH IT. Instead, call the police (456-7759) right away. Your health, and even your life, may be in danger.
Local labs commonly use anhydrous ammonia in the cooking process. Since anhydrous is hard to obtain, local labs do not produce enough meth for resale, sometimes only a few grams worth. The resale meth that is found in Dickinson is seemingly from out of state from Colorado, Texas, California, and Mexico. In those states, the cooks use red phosphorous in the cooking process instead of anhydrous ammonia. As a result, giant "super labs" pump meth into the system by way of drug trafficking.
Below is a picture list of items used to cook meth. Be aware of large amounts of these products being disposed in your area and report them to the police. For evidence of anhydrous ammonia, be aware of discarded propane tanks with a blue-ish corrosion to the valve. Anhydrous eats away at the metal on the valve and turns it blue-ish in color.
What are the signs of meth use?
Meth pipe (with bowl)
Meth pipe (open end)
Light bulb (filament drilled out)
Soda can (hole drilled on side)
Burnt spoon w/white residue (used with syringe to "freebase")
Tin foil w/white residue (burnt bottom)
Small baggies (empty or containing a powedery/crystal substance)
Mirror w/white residue
Crown Royal bag (paraphernalia often carried in these)
Loss of weight
Withdrawl from activities
Scabs on skin (from excessive scratching)
Strong chemical body odor
Unusual obsessive/repetative behavior
Uncontrolled, often violent emotional outbursts
Full-blown toxic psycosis
Unusual/unfamiliar visitors to neighborhood/apartments
Frequent & different visitors to one location at different times of day or night
Out of state vehicles randomly/frequently visiting a house for short periods of time
Houses/Apartments with blinds constantly drawn
Evidence of surveillance cameras/lookouts
Please remember that simply just one of these signs may not indicate drug use. Use the totality of the signs to determine if drug use may be occurring. If so, contact the police department at 456-7759. YOU MAY REMAIN ANONYMOUS!!
How can I get help
If you or a loved one are seeking help from a meth or other drug addiction, we strongly urge you to seek professional help. This may come in the for of drug treatment centers, family counseling, or religious or spiritual guidance. Do whatever you can do to stop the addiction, even if as a last resort, that means contacting the police. Your life, or the life of your loved one, may be on the line. Below are some resources for you to begin the road to recovery:
Badlands Health and Human services - Outpatient
Pulver Hall, DSU Campus
ND Department of Health and Human Services
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health
Services Administration offers tips for
finding a drug treatment program. You can also call 1-800-662-HELP for
referral to a treatment program.
the North Dakota Retailers Meth Watch program to see how merchants are
participating in the state's war on meth.
"I AM METH"
(This was written by a young Indian girl who was in jail for drug charges, and was addicted to meth. She wrote this while in jail. As you will soon read, she fully grasped the horrors of the drug, as she tells in this simple, yet profound poem. She was released from jail, but, true to her story, the drug owned her. They found her dead not long after, with the needle still in her arm.)
I destroy homes, I tear families apart,
I take your children, and that's just the start.
I'm more costly than diamonds, more precious than gold,
The sorrow I bring is a sight to behold.
If you need me, remember I'm easily found,
I live all around you - in schools and in town
I live with the rich, I live with the poor,
I live down the street, and maybe next door.
I'm made in a lab, but not like you think,
I can be made under the kitchen sink.
In your child's closet, and even in the woods,
If this scares you to death, well it certainly should.
I have many names, but there's one you know best,
I'm sure you've heard of me, my name is crystal meth.
My power is awesome, try me you'll see,
But if you do, you may never break free.
Just try me once and I might let you go,
But try me twice, and I'll own your soul.
When I possess you, you'll steal and you'll lie,
You do what you have to — just to get high.
The crimes you'll commit for my narcotic charms
Will be worth the pleasure you'll feel in your arms.
You'll lie to your mother, you'll steal from your dad,
When you see their tears, you should feel sad.
But you'll forget your morals and how you were raised,
I'll be your conscience, I'll teach you my ways.
I take kids from parents, and parents from kids,
I turn people from God, and separate friends.
I'll take everything from you, your looks and your pride,
I'll be with you always — right by your side.
You'll give up everything - your family, your home,
Your friends, your money, then you'll be alone.
I'll take and take, till you have nothing more to give,
When I'm finished with you, you'll be lucky to live.
If you try me be warned - this is no game,
If given the chance, I'll drive you insane.
I'll ravish your body, I'll control your mind,
I'll own you completely, your soul will be mine.
The nightmares I'll give you while lying in bed,
The voices you'll hear, from inside your head.
The sweats, the shakes, the visions you'll see,
I want you to know, these are all gifts from me.
But then it's too late, and you'll know in your heart,
That you are mine, and we shall not part.
You'll regret that you tried me, they always do,
But you came to me, not I to you.
You knew this would happen, many times you were told,
But you challenged my power, and chose to be bold.
You could have said no, and just walked away,
If you could live that day over, now what would you say?
I'll be your master, you will be my slave,
I'll even go with you, when you go to your grave.
Now that you have met me, what will you do?
Will you try me or not? It's all up to you.
I can bring you more misery than words can tell,
Come take my hand, let me lead you to hell.