Conflicting Priorities

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The nation's cops agree: crystal meth–which, as Michelle Malkin would point out, is what the kids call methamphetamine–is our new national scourge:

More than half of the sheriffs interviewed for a National Association of Counties survey released Tuesday said they considered meth the most serious problem facing their departments.

Trouble is, the Office of National Drug Control Policy still considers our old national scourge to be our current national scourge:

The report comes soon after the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy restated its stance that marijuana remains the nation's most substantial drug problem. Federal estimates show there are 15 million marijuana users compared to the 1 million that might use meth.

Given the progress of the war against weed, the prospects for eradicating a chemical that can be synthesized from household cleaning supplies and Sudafed might not be terribly rosy. Not that that will deter anyone from trying.

Story here; link via Death/Media Incarnate.

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  1. it’s funny that federal prosecutors would rather keep going after pot as justification for the drug war instead of meth, even though meth is infinitely, and infinitely more obviously, bad for you than weed is. they just don’t wanna chuck those nifty “stoned kids kill people” ads they seem to love so much.

    -sam

  2. Clearly, the White House is out of step with what Americans see as a real threat, kinda like that Osama thing when the House of Clinton changed hands to the House of Bush.

  3. The underground meth producers are, in fact, a big problem here in the Midwest. When I lived on a farm, the local sheriff actually advised me not to go into the far flung fields without a firearm. It seems they’d had several cases of people setting up U-haul based labs in remote fields and shooting when the farmers stumbled across them.

    Of course, that is a black-market problem. Still, as anti-drug war as I am, I have a hard time justifying legalizing that crap as anything other than a harm reduction measure.

  4. Meth is going to make more of a fool out of us than any drug before it. Happily our capacity to act the fool is entirely without limit. Billions and billions down the drain and people believing dumb shit. God Bless Our Land!

  5. I’m all for ending the drug war, so don’t assail me with reasons why it sucks–I know.
    But I was wondering if crystal meth were to be legalized, given all its harm, do you think legitimate companies would enter that market?

    I think the threat of lawsuits might be a huge deterrent, so companies might not enter, and the black market then wouldn’t be eliminated. I don’t know though. Any thoughts?

  6. I think this measure will succeed brilliantly at its unstated purpose: Small producers will be driven out of business, and big producers who can afford the necessary bribes and other methods for circumventing the law will stay in business.

    What, you thought this was about protecting the children?

  7. “Still, as anti-drug war as I am, I have a hard time justifying legalizing that crap as anything other than a harm reduction measure.”

    Except for two things.
    First, meth was legally available in the US for a long time, and we’re only seeing real problems now? Seems to me like the problem runs deeper than any particular drug.
    Second, meth has legitimate medical uses (although it has such a bad reputation that I doubt there are many doctors willing to prescribe it).

    If people want to take it, that’s their choice. If they do anything bad while under the influence, then they should be punished for their actions. Simple.

  8. Meth is not our worst national scourge. You worst national scourge is a fake disease that is used as an excuse to prescribe amphetamines to kids and get them hooked on government drugs for life. When I was in third grade I hated school, and when my parents took me to a psychologist she told them I had “Attention Deficit Disorder”. I was on it for two weeks, and it made me twitch (like Mike Tyson in the neck) for years afterward. Turns out that I actually had a hereditary tic disorder, and the Ritalin made it that much worse. My parents called it ADD until I flipped out earlier this summer.

    I can focus very well when I want to. Shrinks call this a “motivational disorder”. I say that school has a problem, not me.

  9. Tros-I agree. And I’ll leave it there, lest I be provoked into yet another patented Number 6 ritalin/ADD rant.

  10. Eion-I know amphetamine has been a common, medically prescribed drug in the past. I thought meth was a different, higher-octane animal. Am I wrong?

  11. Number 6 – yes, you’re wrong.

    Methamphetamine is methamphetamine. A big problem with meth is that people smoke it. Especially if it’s not particularly pure, it will definitely fuck with your mind. The other thing that make people go psychotic on it is that folks won’t sleep for days when they’re on it. And while they’re not sleeping for days, they will just keep doing it and doing it.

    Still, not everyone who does it becomes an addict, not everyone does it the way I just described, etc, etc, so I don’t see that it’s some huge deal.

    As to whether any legit companies would make it, I imagine that some would. I would love to have it available in a time-released pill form for those times when you just absolutely need to stay up for a decent amount of time, or when you need to get up for something very important and weren’t able to sleep the night before.

  12. Now the flame that burns twice as bright
    Burns only half as long
    My eyes are growing weary
    As I finalize this song
    So sit back and have a cup o’ joe
    And watch the wheels go round
    ‘Cause those damned blue-collar tweekers
    Have always run this town

    — Primus, Damn Blue Collar Tweekers

  13. If pot is a gateway to using harder drugs, then why are there 15 times more pot users than tweakers?

  14. Number 6 – it’s called Desoxyn. It’s made by Abbott Labs, and it is *expensive*.

    To Tros and Number 6 – ADD/ADHD is a very real condition as far as I’m concerned, and for those people who really have it, treatment is a big help.

    To independent worm – what, no mention of Dexy’s Midnight Runners?

  15. How to manufacture a drug epidemic in 3 easy steps:
    1) Ban a relatively benign narcotic.
    2) Watch as black marketeers synthesize substitute from toilet cleaner.
    3) Cite toxicity of black market product as proof that further crackdown is necessary.

  16. But Annie kept on speeding
    Her health was getting poor
    She saw things in the window
    She heard things at the door
    Her mind was like a grinding mill
    Her lips were cracked and sore
    Her skin was turning yellow
    I just couldn’t take it no more

    She wouldn’t heed my warning
    Lord, she wouldn’t hear what I said
    Now she’s in the graveyard, and she’s
    Awfully dead

  17. That Michelle Malkin thing is a parody, right?

    I mean, she didn’t really write that, did she?

    No one can possibly be that stupid.

    Right?

    Guys?

  18. Eion, I think you’re forgetting that there’s no such thing as a chemical imbalance. I mean, you’re being glib Matt, you’re being glib.

  19. I’m all for ending the drug war, so don’t assail me with reasons why it sucks–I know.
    But I was wondering if crystal meth were to be legalized, given all its harm, do you think legitimate companies would enter that market?

    I think the threat of lawsuits might be a huge deterrent, so companies might not enter, and the black market then wouldn’t be eliminated. I don’t know though. Any thoughts?

    That’s a good question, I would imagine some drug dealers might just ‘go legit’ with it, maybe open meth cafes or something…but besides that, if the drug were legalized and no ‘legitimate’ (I guess by legitimate we mean taxpaying?) business entered, and people just brewed the stuff at home or whatever, wouldn’t the market no longer be black? I guess it would in the sense the people are evading taxes, but the product would no longer be illegal so the dealings would not have to be hidden, and that could possibly eliminate the trailers in the middle of nowhere type setups, though I suppose the makers would still have to worry about rival dealers and stuff. That movie Spun was about all that stuff I think.

  20. “But I was wondering if crystal meth were to be legalized, given all its harm, do you think legitimate companies would enter that market?”

    Two comments here.

    1. If I recall correctly I think Bayer voluntarily withdrew Heroin from the over-the-counter market.

    2. Meth is nasty shit. But it gets bad because it is frequently abused, and therein lies the rub.

  21. Tros, but Ritalin is so much easier than parenting. No offense to your parents intended.

    In the old days they used to say “boys will be boys”. Now they murmur and say “Ritalin”.

  22. 1) My wife has ADD and takes a new expensive drug for it. But she took ritalin for a long time to control it, and let me tell you: it works. It actually has different neurochemical effects in the brains of ADD-sufferers.

    2) People talking about how awful and terrible meth is: You’ve bought the same propaganda that the drug warriors have been shoveling about pot. Yes, tweakers are bad. Tweakers are abusing amphetamines. I find them about as obnoxious as people I know who smoke 5+ bowls of chronic a day.

    Take it from someone who has used crystal meth in the past (and the ‘you will be instantly addicted’ thing? Bullshit. I was on it for a month and then I ran out and shrugged and said, ‘Oh well, that was fun while it lasted.’): it is not a particularly nasty, harmful, or otherwise horrifying drug. It’s just amphetamines. It’s amphetamines in a poor-dosage-control form, but that’s what you get from criminalization.

    I’ve also taken ephedra, and I have to point out that ephedra was significantly stronger and scarier than meth. Chemically, they’re almost identical. Amphetamines resulted from an attempt to synthesize ephedra artificially, because growing ma huang in the US was prohibitively expensive.

    And, lest we forget, amphetamines were used legally and safely in the US for decades before they were banned; they are *still* given to US Navy pilots, and to people with chronic fatigue syndrome.

  23. Penry (or any who care to reply),

    I’m largely ignorant, but have believed meth was seriously addictive and physically destructive to users and anyone unfortunate enough to be exposed to a lab. When you say meth was “a relatively benign narcotic,” can you detail or point me to a source to learn more?

  24. By legitimate I was referring to trust-worthy, I guess. Most proposals for legalization usually endorse stores selling regulated drugs. So, in that respect, I would think not many companies would want to go into that, and there would still be incentive for street drug dealers.

  25. To Tros and Number 6 – ADD/ADHD is a very real condition as far as I’m concerned, and for those people who really have it, treatment is a big help.

    ADD is a very real problem, but it is not a real condition. There is almost always some more complicated problem that has a stigma so people are reluctant to talk about it. Instead the only complain that they are distracted, and they don’t know why. How often do men think about sex? After how many seconds? My meds made me impotent, and I thought I was gay. I know it was the meds and not me. Now I’m bisexual. No more ADD.

    There is another equally not-real condition called Oppositional Defiant Disorder, which is characterized by irrational hostility to authority figures in children and adolsecents. I’m a college student on a leave of absence living in my parents house. I have an acute case, because my parents are condescending assholes who don’t know what the fuck they’re doing.

  26. My wife has ADD and takes a new expensive drug for it. But she took ritalin for a long time to control it, and let me tell you: it works. It actually has different neurochemical effects in the brains of ADD-sufferers.

    Absolutely. I have a friend who did mad meth when he was in high school. He says Adderall makes him “procrastinate at high speeds”. Amphetamines make me very, very productive. When I come down I get “ADD” symptoms until it’s out of my system.

    In case anybody is interested in the social construction of ADD, I wrote this while I was on Adderall.

  27. I’m with isildur on this – the “seriously addictive and physically destructive” effects of amphetamines are seriously over-stated.

    If you use it to stay up for several days at a time, you’re going to feel bad. If you snort something someone made in a bathtub, that’s probably not going to be good for you (people die from bathtub-produced alcohol in some countries, but I assume you wouldn’t call for a return to Prohibition?)

    People wouldn’t get exposed to meth labs if it were only made in proper facilities. Funnily enough, chemical manufacturing plants aren’t the safest place to be.

    To Tros: if it’s a made-up condition, would you care to explain how many people who are described as having the condition all have similar (problematic) symptoms, how stimulant medications tend to make them calmer (which is apparently not the case for non-ADD people), and how brain scans have shown differences in ADD and non-ADD brains?

    ADD is a lot more than just distraction. Just because you were mis-diagnosed and the meds had a bad effect on you, doesn’t mean that everyone who the meds do work for is lying.

  28. “When I come down I get “ADD” symptoms until it’s out of my system.”
    Whereas people with ADD have the symptoms with nothing at all in their system. And like I said, the symptoms are more than just distraction.
    Lastly – ADD is a spectrum disorder, so different people will have different levels of symptoms.

    I don’t care if you think it’s real or not (and before I was diagnosed, I didn’t think it was a real condition either). Then a friend of mine suggested that I might have it, and as I researched further it was like all the puzzle pieces falling in to place. All I know is that amphetamines help to relieve my symptoms, and that’s really all I need to know.

  29. All I know is that amphetamines help to relieve my symptoms, and that’s really all I need to know.

    That’s called “psychological addiction”.

  30. Yes, of course. Except that they relieved my symptoms the first time I took them (and was not addicted), and I haven’t take them for a while because I’ve been putting off seeing a doctor.

    Oh, and I had the symptoms before I ever took amphetamines. Was I psychologically addicted without ever knowing it? Am I psychologically addicted to the painkillers I take if I have a headache?

  31. You are psychologically addicted if you use a drug to deal with the adverse effects of your atypical brain structure. My brain is just as different as yours, and my parents buy into the bullshit line on ADD. Because I had such a dramatic reaction to the drugs I was scared to death of taking them until I went to college and began “experimenting”. If I had used the more refined versions in high school my life would have been dramatically different.

    I used to have ADD. I had the same symptoms, and I had no idea where they came from. Now, I don’t say “I have a problem”, I say “Society has a problem”.

  32. “You are psychologically addicted if you use a drug to deal with the adverse effects of your atypical brain structure.”
    So taking something for a headache would qualify as a psychological addiction. What about (say) treatment for a brain tumour?

    Are diabetics addicted to insulin? They use a drug to make up for the adverse effects of the atypical structure of their pancreas. I know you said “brain”, but they’re both organs, both have structures that may or may not be atypical, and both can make your life miserable if they go wrong.

    I don’t believe that a well-recognized medical treatment that one can stop and start at will (although when coming off amphetamines cold-turkey I do feel tired for a while – whodathunkit? – and obviously my symptoms return when I’m off the drugs) really qualifies as an addiction.

    “Now, I don’t say “I have a problem”, I say “Society has a problem”.
    I guess deep down I’d rather be a productive member of society. Taking amphetamines helps me to do that. Doctors agree with my assessment. Without being glib (thanks, Daniel Koffler!), the solution seems simple to me.

  33. Sorry to get all statist, but the same survey found a dire lack of treatment services for methamphetamine in the couties surveyed — only 16%. When law enforcement talks about the need for treatment, they are usually talking about jail-based treatment, which is almost uniformly unsuccessful.

    JAIL IS NOT THERAPY!

  34. I guess deep down I’d rather be a productive member of society. Taking amphetamines helps me to do that. Doctors agree with my assessment. Without being glib (thanks, Daniel Koffler!), the solution seems simple to me.

    I know exactly what you mean. Being a “productive” member of “society” doesn’t really appeal to me, and that’s why I’m a dirty hippie. If I wanted to put up with all the stupid bullshit I’m exposed to on a regular basis, I would become physically addicted. Hence, for me at least, believing that ADD is a real disorder constitutes psychological addiction.

    Luckily, I use various drugs to “self medicate” without consulting a “qualified” “professional”. I am not opposed to occasional use of amphetamines, provided that it isn’t the raw shit.

  35. Eion — agreed on the bathtub thing. Meth *is* nasty, because it’s made by tweakers in trailers in the woods. Prescription speed is smooth, pleasant, and has no ill effects (unless you don’t like being under the influence of speed, which would count as an ‘ill effect’ the same way that ‘loss of motor control’ is an ill effect of alcohol).

    Would legitimate companies sell amphetamines? Well, how many were selling ephedra before the ban? People *want* amphetamines. People want them for the anti-fatigue effects, for the focus and productivity effects, and for the appetite suppressant effects. The last of those three alone is sufficient to guarantee that, if amphetamines were legal OTC drugs, manufacturers would be falling over themselves to get speed into drugstores.

    tros — Happy that you’ve made up your mind about ADD. From my perspective, I either have a wife who, medicated, is able to perform the tasks that are basic human functionality, or I have a wife who, unmedicated, can’t even remember to shower because she gets distracted on the way to the bathroom. Me, I like ADD medication. Because of it, we can have a normal life.

    And when I see people arguing that ADD isn’t ‘real’, I think about what she was like when she wasn’t medicated, and I have nothing but contempt for those people. Is ADD overdiagnosed? Maybe. But that’s no cause for stigmatizing those people who really do have it, and who really do benefit from medication.

  36. Because I’ve been getting long-winded in my sentences, I will hereby start experimenting with footnotes…

    Still, as anti-drug war as I am, I have a hard time justifying legalizing that crap as anything other than a harm reduction measure.

    Would people* really buy homemade meth from a twitchy guy with a shotgun if less generally dangerous drugs like cocaine** were available in medically pure form in stores?

    * or remotely as many people – you always get nutty outliers

    ** a comparison suggested to me by a friend with more recreational chemical expertise.

  37. Or even clinical speed, as isildur mentions.

  38. And when I see people arguing that ADD isn’t ‘real’, I think about what she was like when she wasn’t medicated, and I have nothing but contempt for those people. Is ADD overdiagnosed? Maybe. But that’s no cause for stigmatizing those people who really do have it, and who really do benefit from medication.

    I don’t want to stigmatize those people. I experienced that stigma a month after taking LSD for the first time, and it made me flash back for 3 days and then stop sleeping. I wish they would stop using these fucking acronyms. I can’t tell you how much time I spend arguing semantics with my mother. She did a lot more drugs than I did when she was in college, and she is a posterchild for Adult ADD. Now she takes diet pills, and doesn’t believe me when I tell her that ADD meds would do the exact same thing.

  39. “Being a “productive” member of “society” doesn’t really appeal to me, and that’s why I’m a dirty hippie.”
    Well, I’ve got to pay off my student loans somehow. ;?)

    “Luckily, I use various drugs to “self medicate” without consulting a “qualified” “professional”.
    As, I suspect, do many of us. I’d certainly prefer a legal regime where I could just buy the stuff that I feel I need (or want – whatever). But that’s not the world we live in currently, so pragmatism leads me towards the doctor rather than towards my kitchen/neighbourhood dope dealer.

  40. Well, I’ve got to pay off my student loans somehow. ;?)

    I’ve got a full scholarship to Yuppie Academy, where they pay consultant types to pretend to teach. Students learn to suck up and pretend to work, then get placed in a job to work off their debt until they’re 30. I would be studying economics, but you know, “liberals” and Marx and all that. This conversation is part of my curriculum in “practice oriented” psychology.

  41. Are the folks who can’t get their scourges straight the one’s telling us which color terror alert?

    I can hardly believe my eyes at a poster or two above. To wit: “I’m for legalizing almost everything, but this or that is some really scary shit…. ooooh, I’m peeing myself.”

    The illegality is the problem. Alcohol is scary. Always was. Still is. Prohibition. Prohibition repealed. Duh.

    Do we own our bodies, or do politicians?

    If you want to get a friend off some scary shit, do you think you can call 911 and get a politician or bureaucrat to come running like a firefighter to do it for you?

    Grow up!

  42. “I’ve got a full scholarship”
    Well, it’s alright for some – I have to take out loans to cover the cost of my edumacation (fortunately at a very libertarian-friendly place).
    But we’ve wandered well off-track.

    “Would people* really buy homemade meth from a twitchy guy with a shotgun if less generally dangerous drugs like cocaine** were available in medically pure form in stores?”
    Your footnote system makes quotations trickier. I’ve always been a fan of parentheses (which I’m sure no-one would ever have guessed!)
    Anyway, there’s no accounting for tastes. It would probably depend on the relative cost of the alternatives (which would undoubtedly be taxed to hell and back).

    “The illegality is the problem.”
    Amen to that, but you’re preaching to the choir here.

  43. I have lived in several rural counties across this great nation and I have come to the conclusion that anytime the budget was getting crunched at some Sherrif’s office, a drug problem gets hyped to the point where congress rushes through an appropriation bill to fund these poorly managed offices. And guess what, the next year and years after, the problem is still getting worse.

    I have actually witnessed a meth lab explosion, at least the aftermath, and still don’t buy into this scrourge. Yes, lab explosions can kill and that is a problem, but it in no one equates to what alcohol does on a daily basis.

    Cops can cry all they want, but until there is a serious drug policy in this country that doesn’t cost billions more each year while the problem gets worse, then I am against further prohibition, crack downs, and appropriation bills. The problem isn’t the drug or its users, its how the non-user reacts to the use of the drug.

  44. Eion,
    I may be preaching to the choir, but there are a few parasites in robes here who can’t carry a tune.

  45. One of the weirdest things I heard recently: I went to buy some allergy medication at the store, and the message “Please show your ID to the cashier” popped up — the same message that pops up when you buy alcohol. I was confused, and actually, so was the cashier. Then one of my friends said it was because you could use the pills to make meth, and some stores make you sign for it.

    But the more I think about it, the weirder that is. What are the police going to do, call up every single person with allergies and ask “Are you making meth?” Of course, everyone would say no, so you have to do further investigations, so you get a warrant on everyone with allergies? Because if you had any way to narrow it down, you probably wouldn’t need the list in the first place.

  46. Hmm . . just before I left Seattle back in March, they were tossing around the idea of requiring drug stores to keep cold medicine behind the counter, and requiring people to sign something in order to buy it. Was this part of the anti-meth program, or some other drug? I remember this with particular ire because I, at the time, was suffering from the Cold To End All Colds, and thinking about the various violent measures I would have undertaken against anyone who got between me and my Nyquil.

  47. My statement to the choir:

    The chemicals are ethically/morally neutral. What (some) people do to get them, or while under the influence, is bad, scary stuff. Kind of like how a bomb on an airplane can be “cargo” if well-wrapped and supervised, or “terrorism” if meant to blow up the people you like.

    thoreau: As a generalization, the small producers in the U-Hauls make ugly tainted stuff. Big players tend to cut down on the straight poison component. If you’re going to have government regulating stuff, it kind of make senses to limit it to the groups who do a better job, even in criminal enterprises. On the other hand, I would LOVE to meet a boutique chemist making LSD for the love and hippie good intentions.

  48. “What (some) people do to get them, or while under the influence, is bad, scary stuff.”
    Legalization would alleviate the first problem. As to the second problem, I would say that legalization would allow for better dose control (because it would hopefully be unadulterated and sold in properly measured doses), which would reduce the chances of someone being more under the influence than they expected, and people who commit crimes while under the influence should of course be appropriately punished. Just as if they were, y’know, not under the influence.

    I’m not sure that I agree with your bomb analogy. Bombs are very much destruction-oriented and are used to kill people, whereas people use amphetamines for medical reasons or to alleviate unhappiness, boredom and the like – the latter being a far more laudable objective than the former.

  49. Do-gooders have been trying their hand at protecting humanity from itself for thousands of years. Still doesn’t seem to work. And it still doesn’t seem to dawn on the helpers that it’s been tried before and failed.

    Some people want to drink their way into early “retirement.” Let ’em. Some want to tweak themselves silly. Fucking let them.

    It’s like the dumbasses that want to ban smoking in prison to reduce healthcare costs. Did it ever occur to the bumblefucks that the state is paying for the graybar hotel when there’s an extended stay? It all works out the same.

    The population needs its bread and circuses. Take away every vice, and see how fast the population revolts.

  50. I’m not a parasite. I don’t even know if that comment was directed at me, but I still found it offensive. And no, it’s not off topic. If my parents weren’t overprotecive liberals, I would be a tweaker and probably fucked up beyond recognition.

  51. Hi tros.

    Perhaps you should concentrate on fixing your own problems instead of going around making half-baked assertions as to what’s wrong with others and how they should fix it.

    Cheers,

  52. If Terri Schiavo had fallen into her PVS after a meth-induced heart-attack, would anyone have cared, even after fifteen years?

  53. Perhaps you should concentrate on fixing your own problems instead of going around making half-baked assertions as to what’s wrong with others and how they should fix it.

    1.) I did fix them.
    2.) I’m baking my assertions right now.
    3.) It’s a good thing I don’t care what a bunch of media geeks on some obscure website think of me. When I apply for one of those cushy internships, I’ll use my real name.

  54. A big part of the problem with meth is “coming down.” It makes you a bit weird in the head, partly because of the drug itself and partly because you can’t sleep. Actually missing sleep can really mess with your head, drugs or no drugs. A solution could be to also legalize some sort of downer which would help you “come down” softly.

    The miliary does this with pilots. I think they call them “no go” pills (as opposed to the “go” pills).

  55. The miliary does this with pilots. I think they call them “no go” pills

    I guess that’s where dosage control is an issue. I could use something like that right now, but with all the downers I can think of I would need an upper to get up at a decent hour. Or I could go to a shrink for “insomnia” and get prescribed gawd knows what.

    Now I’m just going to drink 2 cups of coffee and be irritable when I see my therapist tomorrow. I am positive that he will blame my Attention Deficit Disorder and affects the “executive function” portions of my psyche. I think he’s a robot that’s taking my parents money, so I don’t really give a shit. It’s his job to deal with me when I haven’t had any sleep, because my parents don’t have the patience.

  56. Oh yeah, and this was a stupid conversation anyway, because this whole speed thing has been really obvious for some time now.

    Ah get born, keep warm
    Short pants, romance, learn to dance
    Get dressed, get blessed
    Try to be a success
    Please her, please him, buy gifts
    Don’t steal, don’t lift
    Twenty years of schoolin’
    And they put you on the day shift
    Look out kid
    They keep it all hid
    Better jump down a manhole
    Light yourself a candle
    Don’t wear sandals
    Try to avoid the scandals
    Don’t wanna be a bum
    You better chew gum
    The pump don’t work
    ‘Cause the vandals took the handles

  57. Number 6: “I know amphetamine has been a common, medically prescribed drug in the past. I thought meth was a different, higher-octane animal. Am I wrong?”

    Lowdog: “yes, you’re wrong.”
    “Methamphetamine is methamphetamine. A big problem with meth is that people smoke it. Especially if it’s not particularly pure, it will definitely fuck with your mind. The other thing that make people go psychotic on it is that folks won’t sleep for days when they’re on it. And while they’re not sleeping for days, they will just keep doing it and doing it.”

    From a physiological standpoint, number 6 is closer to the truth than Lowdog. Meth is amphetamine with a methyl group on the amine (the chemical name for dextroamphetamine is D-phenylisopropylamine, and dextromethamphetamine (the more potent and more common isomer) is D- n-methyl phenylisopropylamine). They are physiologically quite similar–both are believed to cause the release of dopamine by producing activity at the presynaptic norepinephrine sites. Meth is simply more potent, has a longer halflife, and more neurotoxic. The mechanism of neurotoxicity is not very well understood, but meth is more dangerous for this reason. While it is possible to smoke amphetamine, the amount required (and the physical side effects) would make this procedure arduous. I’ve tried both, and I find their mental effects indistinguishable. To get an equivalent amount of mental effects from amphetamine produces more unpleasant physical symptoms–a natural check on taking too much.

    “Still, not everyone who does it becomes an addict, not everyone does it the way I just described, etc, etc, so I don’t see that it’s some huge deal.”

    Taken in large doses, meth can be extremely dangerous. It can cause hallucinations, violent outbursts, and paranoia. I could actually see a public safety argument for keeping meth illegal, if safer alternatives were legal.

    “As to whether any legit companies would make it, I imagine that some would. I would love to have it available in a time-released pill form for those times when you just absolutely need to stay up for a decent amount of time, or when you need to get up for something very important and weren’t able to sleep the night before.”

    Indeed. I used to make and use meth regularly (using a method which didn’t involve stealing anhydrous ammonia from farmers), and I mainly took it in small oral dosages to increase creativity and abate sleep. However, I think that meth is a much less safe drug than amphetamine for the reasons mentioned above (though psychosis can result from excessive amphetamine use as well). If amphetamine were legalized again, but meth remained illegal, I think the illicit market in meth would essentially disappear, as users switched to cheaper amphetamine tablets. This is exactly what happened to the illicit cocaine market when amphetamine was legal. If meth were legalized, I suspect that no major corporation would make it in pure smokable form. The product liability would be too large, and it would impossible to get insurance. Large companies might make small (e.g. 5mg) tablets of it, but the meth would be made difficult to isolate (not that that stops methamphetamine producers from isolating pseudoephedrine from tablets now). Small companies which exist for only a few years or months would probably make crystal meth, though I doubt that many stores would carry it, again due to liability concerns.

  58. “As to whether any legit companies would make it, I imagine that some would. I would love to have it available in a time-released pill form for those times when you just absolutely need to stay up for a decent amount of time, or when you need to get up for something very important and weren’t able to sleep the night before.”

    Adderall. Get high before you take the diagnostic test at your local quack.

  59. Luisa: “I’m largely ignorant, but have believed meth was seriously addictive and physically destructive to users and anyone unfortunate enough to be exposed to a lab. When you say meth was “a relatively benign narcotic,” can you detail or point me to a source to learn more?”

    As to meth being seriously addictive, I think it depends on your personality. I didn’t have much difficulty quitting it, but different people can find the high nearly irresistible. I’m going to try to describe what smoking a large amount of meth (about 40mg) feels like, but it’s difficult to put into words.

    Imagine that you’re holding a pipe filled with the meth, and you apply heat to it, inhale, and hold in the vaporized drug. You hold it for about 10-15 seconds, and as you exhale, you’re already starting to feel it. At first, you’re not sure if it’s oxygen depravation, but after a few breaths of fresh air, you start to realize that you’ve never felt this good before. This isn’t the kind of “feeling good” that you normally think about (e.g. kissing your love, or having sex). It’s like the feeling you get after you accomplish something really good (ace a test, win a race, etc.), only infinitely more intense than you’ve ever felt it before. You feel confident, energetic, sexy, intelligent, and just like a fucking great person. If you’re like me, you can’t stop smiling–not everyone does, but I look like the Joker in Batman. You feel like you could run a marathon, outsmart whoever you’re around; your mind feels *bigger*. Your body also feels great. The closest analogy is sexual pleasure all over your entire body, but the feeling is a bit different–not as layered or complex–just an intense feeling of goodness. You start talking really fast, about whatever comes into your mind, and (in my case, at least) people around me were intensely interested in what I had to say. I was much more interesting, intelligent, and I segued from one random topic to the next, giving a fast summary of all my thoughts on the issue. You start to wonder how you can feel this good, how that’s even possible. This lasts about an hour. After that, you feel really energetic and confident for about 10 hours. You get all the little things you’ve been procrastinating done, and then you start to feel kind of cranky. If you have more meth, you’ll use more at this point. If not, then you’ll start to feel really angry, and little things can set you off. After a while, you’ll fall asleep, but you’ll be half awake for a while. The next day, you feel a new level of awful. This is everything the high wasn’t–you feel depressed, like you’re worthless, your life sucks, you can’t do anything right. More meth can solve this problem, and that’s not far from your mind.

    The right kind of person can look at this experience, and say “look, this isn’t where I want to be,” and won’t suffer ill effects from ceasing use. The wrong kind of person will say “I need more meth, so I can feel like that again.” I suggest looking at erowid.com in the methamphetamine section.

    As for the danger from labs, this is real, but overstated. I ran a meth lab for several months last year using the so-called “red phosphorus method.” This involves mixing red phosphorus from matchbook strikers with iodine, pseudoephedrine and a little bit of water. The product is then purified through steps called an acid/base extraction (involving hydrochloric acid, naptha, and sodium hydroxide from drain cleaner), then recrystalization (this step is usually skipped by clandestine chemists, but it involves rubbing alcohol and acetone). The chemicals used here are relatively benign if handled properly. The dangers lie in excessive exposure to iodine, and the production of phosphine gas during the reduction. The former can be dealt with by proper handling, and the latter by adding enough water to the reaction mixture. Of course most clandestine chemists weren’t as careful as I was. The other method (besides a direct synthesis) is to reduce pseudoephedrine by “Birch reduction”, which involves mixing pseudoephedrine, lithium metal from batteries, and anhydrous ammonia. In some ways, this is safer than the previous reaction. Large amounts can be produced very easily, and the product is less likely to contain toxic impurities. However, anhydrous ammonia is a gas at room temperature–it boils at -28F. It’s highly caustic, reacts with water, and is very explosive. It is difficult to produce without blowing oneself up, so it’s usually stolen from farms, frequently by circumventing the safety equipment attached to the tanks. This is dangerous both for the cook, the farmer, and whoever the cook happens to be around.

    Isildur: “Meth *is* nasty, because it’s made by tweakers in trailers in the woods. Prescription speed is smooth, pleasant, and has no ill effects (unless you don’t like being under the influence of speed, which would count as an ‘ill effect’ the same way that ‘loss of motor control’ is an ill effect of alcohol).”

    Very pure meth is superior in terms of physical side effects to adderall or pure dexadrine (USP grade, both).

    “Would legitimate companies sell amphetamines? Well, how many were selling ephedra before the ban? People *want* amphetamines. People want them for the anti-fatigue effects, for the focus and productivity effects, and for the appetite suppressant effects. The last of those three alone is sufficient to guarantee that, if amphetamines were legal OTC drugs, manufacturers would be falling over themselves to get speed into drugstores.”

    No, this is a false analogy. Ephedra is far less dangerous from a cardiovascular standpoint than meth or normal amphetamine. Furthermore, there is the liability of the violent acts committed under the influence of amphetamine psychosis, which most major companies would be unwilling to accept. See my predictions in a previous post.

    Dynamist: “The chemicals are ethically/morally neutral. What (some) people do to get them, or while under the influence, is bad, scary stuff.”

    I think that certain chemicals have different proclivities for producing undesirable effects in people. THC, for example, has very little ability make a previously nonviolent person violent. Meth has that ability if used in large enough doses.

    “As a generalization, the small producers in the U-Hauls make ugly tainted stuff. Big players tend to cut down on the straight poison component.”

    I don’t know exactly what meth is usually cut with, but I suspect that most things are fairly harmless. Cocaine, for example, is usually cut with some “variety pack” of compounds, including: maltose, lactose, lidocaine, caffeine, ephedrine and pseudoephedrine (you can read about it on the DEA’s website). These are all pretty innocuous. Think about this rationally, if meth were cut with rat poison, no one would buy it because of the risk of immediate death.

    “On the other hand, I would LOVE to meet a boutique chemist making LSD for the love and hippie good intentions.”

    And you’re very, very unlikely to meet such a person. LSD is very hard to manufacture without access to some pretty weird chemicals (including the lysergamide precursor–usually ergotamine diverted from medicine). The boutique LSD cook has been left in the ’60’s, when the precursor chemicals were all very easy to obtain.

    (Sorry about the length of this post, but I think I know a lot more about meth than most of the commenters on this thread, including current or former users.)

  60. asd,

    Thanks much for the detailed response!

  61. Good information, asd. Still, let’s state a few points that are probably obvious to most people here. Essentially, laws against recreational drug use are about protecting people from themselves, not about protecting other people. Regardless of the effects of various drugs, drug users choose to use them. How many times have you ever heard of someone who was forced to take marijuana, cocaine, or meth against their will?
    George Will once said in a column that taking a general social problem (drug use) and making it into a localized crime problem was an acceptable idea. I disagree. Besides the problems caused by criminalization and law enforcement, it should be obvious that drug use is hardly “localized” in our society.

  62. “I’m a college student on a leave of absence living in my parents house. I have an acute case, because my parents are condescending assholes who don’t know what the fuck they’re doing.”

    I’ll say. For starters, they seem not to know that they’re harboring an ungrateful schmuck.

  63. mediageek: Malkin is the columnist who several years ago suggested (with a perfectly straight face) that parents throw out their kids’ Britney Spears CDs and replace them with Charlotte Church. More recently she said she would never watch a TV show or movie that she couldn’t watch along with her three year-old son.

    Yeah, she is that stupid.

  64. Superb information, asd. And I didn’t realise I had written meth-amphetamines when I was really just trying to talk about amphetamines.

    Regardless, I bow to your superior knowledge of the subject!

    Really, though, cops are full of shit when it comes to drugs. I think that’s the main point.

  65. I’ll say. For starters, they seem not to know that they’re harboring an ungrateful schmuck.

    They definitely think they are. But they, as well as you, happen to be clueless. They know me just about as well as you do. Considering that I have always been required to work for them “because I live in their house”, I feel free to pass on that particular commandment. Since they refused to pay for the education that they always felt was so important, and I completely wasted 3 years of my life to pay for it, I’m not worried about being “ungrateful”. The only thing I have to be grateful for is growing up feeling like a tenant.

  66. You are all completely off base. the question shouldn’t be whether or not meth or pot or anything else is harmful. The question should be whether or not the government has the right to tell us what we can do with our own bodies. We already have laws to deal with any potential external consequences.

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