Though it seems that meth is a relatively newcomer to our culture, it was actually developed by a Japanese chemist in 1919. The Japanese and German governments decided its properties might be useful so during World War II it was distributed among soldiers and workers to increase productivity. Then the drug virtually disappeared until the 1960s and ’70s when athletes, college students and truck drivers used it to enhance performance and stay alert.
In 1980, crystal meth was developed and at twice the potency. It has been compared to high octane gasoline. Motorcycle gangs began cooking it for distribution as a convenient way to broaden income opportunities. Its popularity rose because it was easy, cheap and could be made from household products such as paint thinner, acetone and battery acid; unlike cocaine and heroin, which are made from plants. At this point Mexican drug cartels got involved by supplying the gangs with ephedrine, the main ingredient in meth.
Meth finally got the attention of the DEA in 1986 when they belatedly realized there was a major problem with this drug. The federal agency instituted a requirement for pharmaceutical companies to keep records on the 14 chemicals used in making illegal drugs. Naturally, companies’ legislative lobby took exception to this, but in 1988 a compromise was reached, even though there were gaping loopholes. A very obvious one was that companies selling a “finished” product didn’t have to keep such detailed records. This allowed the growing meth labs to switch to pills for the ephedrine that was needed. Meanwhile during this same timeframe meth use spread toward the East Coast and rehab facilities reported a huge increase in patients requiring treatment for meth addiction.
As the demand for meth increased, a pair of brothers named Amezcua, who operate one of the major drug cartels in Mexico, turned the small backyard “mom and pop” labs into gigantic super-labs. In 1994, the DEA reported that during one 18-month period, these brothers smuggled 170 tons of ephedrine in to the U.S.
Because “finished” pills weren’t being regulated, most domestic labs turned to using the blister packs of cold medicine to get the pseudoephedrine they needed. This was called “smurfing.”
In June of 1998, the Amezcua brothers were arraigned on charges of money laundering and racketeering. At that time the DEA estimated the Amezcuas controlled about 80 percent of the American market. Other major Mexican cartels were also involved in distributing meth. It was a lucrative business.
According to a national survey done in 2003, over 12 million Americans over the age of 12 have tried meth. In 2004, several states began realizing legislation was needed. Oklahoma was the first to limit the amount of pseudoephedrine a pharmacy could sell to a customer in any controlled period of time. In addition, these specified products could no longer be stocked on shelves. The customer had to go to the counter and ask for it. Thirty-four other states followed suit within the year.
The U.N. Drug Report of 2006 declared meth the most abused hard drug on earth with an estimated 26 million people using or addicted — 1.4 of those are in the U.S., but the largest concentration is in East and Southeast Asia.
And the war continues ...
(Information for this article was taken from PBS Frontline: the meth epidemic.)
Don’t use, abuse or be confused!
For questions or more information on the Gila County Meth Coalition contact Chair Claudia DalMolin at the Gila County Sheriff’s Office (928) 425-4440, Co-Chair Bianca DalMolin at (928) 701-1790, Facilitator Misty Cisneros (928) 425-1879 or Media Liaison Lu DuBois at (928) 425-4440.
Presented by the Gila County Meth Coalition