Strawberry meth scare

Pink Peril

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In December the Texas PTA distributed a "legislative alert" about "a type of crystal meth going around that looks like strawberry pop rocks" and "smells like strawberry." The group warned parents that the stimulant, known as "strawberry meth or strawberry quick," is "being handed out to kids in school yards." According to the alert, children "are ingesting this thinking that it is candy and are being rushed off to the hospital in dire condition."

The message, which was posted and forwarded by panicky parents throughout the state, was the latest incarnation of a scare that has been debunked by Snopes.com, by the drug policy organization Join Together, and even by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The January 2009 issue of the DEA newsletter Microgram noted that "'flavored methamphetamine' (most notably 'strawberry meth') has received extensive and often alarmist coverage in the mass media over the past two years." But with the exception of a single grape-smelling sample tested by a DEA lab in late 2008, which included "tiny purple specks" that may have been "bits of a grape flavored candy or lollipop," the agency has not been able to confirm the existence of anything like the bright pink, strawberry-flavored meth described by the Texas PTA, let alone the "chocolate, peanut butter, cola, cherry, grape and orange" versions it said are also available.

The PTA later retracted the warning, which it blamed on bad information from Texas Crime Stoppers. Although the latter group quoted an addiction expert who called the candy-flavored meth story "an urban legend," it refused to back down completely. "The fact that 'strawberry quick' is not present in Texas in no way invalidates the urge to caution and to be fully aware regarding drug and alcohol promotion or usage amongst our Texas children," it insisted. "Forewarned is forearmed."

The apparently apocryphal nature of these products has not stopped members of Congress from trying to legislate against them. Around the same time the DEA was noting the elusiveness of candy-flavored meth, Sens. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) reintroduced the Saving Kids From Dangerous Drugs Act, which would double penalties for anyone who "manufactures, creates, distributes, or possesses with intent to distribute a controlled substance that is flavored, colored, packaged or otherwise altered in a way that is designed to make it more appealing to a person under 21." Explaining the need for the legislation, Grassley said "it's disturbing that drug dealers are trying to lure teens and young kids by flavoring drugs to taste like candy." 

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