Tuesday, September 21, 2010

"Vice Pioneers" : Methamphetamine

Methamphetamine, or Crystal Meth

Breaking Bad: Putting a new spin on the drug

Hitler: crystal meth head

I'm just now starting to catch up on the series "Breaking Bad" and thought I would examine methamphetamine, aka crystal meth, for "Vice Pioneers" this week. The drug is by far one of the most damaging drugs on the market, but its popularity has soared. Here's a more in depth look at the drug.

From Wikipedia: Methamphetamine was first synthesized from ephedrine in Japan in 1893 by chemist Nagai Nagayoshi. In 1919, crystallized methamphetamine was synthesized by Akira Ogata via reduction of ephedrine using red phosphorus and iodine. In 1943, Abbott Laboratories requested for its approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of narcolepsy, mild depression, postencephalitic parkinsonism, chronic alcoholism, cerebral arteriosclerosis, and hay fever. Methamphetamine was approved for all of these indications in December, 1944. All of these indication approvals were eventually removed. The only two approved marketing indications remaining for methamphetamine are for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and the short-term management of exogenous obesity, although the drug is clinically established as effective in the treatment of narcolepsy.

Second World War
One of the earliest uses of methamphetamine was during World War II, when it was used by Axis and Allied forces. The German military dispensed it under the trade name Pervitin. It was widely distributed across rank and division, from elite forces to tank crews and aircraft personnel, with many millions of tablets being distributed throughout the war. From 1942 until his death in 1945, Adolf Hitler may have been given intravenous injections of methamphetamine by his personal physician Theodor Morell. It is possible that it was used to treat Hitler's speculated Parkinson's disease, or that his Parkinson-like symptoms that developed from 1940 onwards resulted from using methamphetamine.

Post-war use
After World War II, a large Japanese military stockpile of methamphetamine, known by its trademark Philopon, flooded the market. The Japanese Ministry of Health banned it in 1951; since then, it has been increasingly produced by the Yakuza criminal organization. On the streets, it is also known as S, Shabu, and Speed, in addition to its old trademarked name.

In the 1950s, there was a rise in the legal prescription of methamphetamine to the American public. In the 1954 edition of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, indications for methamphetamine included "narcolepsy, postencephalitic parkinsonism, alcoholism, certain depressive states, and in the treatment of obesity."

The 1960s saw the start of significant use of clandestinely manufactured methamphetamine as well as methamphetamine created in users' own homes for personal use. The recreational use of methamphetamine continues to this day.

Legal restrictions
In 1983, laws were passed in the United States prohibiting possession of precursors and equipment for methamphetamine production. This was followed a month later by a bill passed in Canada enacting similar laws. In 1986, the U.S. government passed the Federal Controlled Substance Analogue Enforcement Act in an attempt to curb the growing use of designer drugs. Despite this, use of methamphetamine expanded throughout rural United States, especially through the Midwest and South.

Production and distribution
Until the early 1990s, methamphetamine for the U.S. market was made mostly in labs run by drug traffickers in Mexico and California. Since then, authorities have discovered increasing numbers of small-scale methamphetamine labs all over the United States, mostly in rural, suburban, or low-income areas. Indiana state police found 1,260 labs in 2003, compared to just 6 in 1995, although this may be partly a result of increased police activity. As of 2007, drug and lab seizure data suggests that approximately 80 percent of the methamphetamine used in the United States originates from larger laboratories operated by Mexican-based syndicates on both sides of the border and that approximately 20 percent comes from small toxic labs (STLs) in the United States.

Mobile and motel-based methamphetamine labs have caught the attention of both the U.S. news media and the police. Such labs can cause explosions and fires and expose the public to hazardous chemicals. Those who manufacture methamphetamine are often harmed by toxic gases. Many police departments have specialized task forces with training to respond to cases of methamphetamine production. The National Drug Threat Assessment 2006, produced by the Department of Justice, found "decreased domestic methamphetamine production in both small and large-scale laboratories", but also that "decreases in domestic methamphetamine production have been offset by increased production in Mexico." They concluded that "methamphetamine availability is not likely to decline in the near term."

In July 2007, Mexican officials at the port of Lázaro Cárdenas seized a ship carrying 19 tons of pseudoephedrine, a raw material needed for methamphetamine. The shipment originated in Hong Kong and passed through the United States at the port of Long Beach prior to its arrival in Mexico.

Methamphetamine is distributed by prison gangs, outlaw motorcycle gangs, street gangs, traditional organized crime operations, and impromptu small networks.[citation needed] In the United States, illicit methamphetamine comes in a variety of forms with prices varying widely over time. Most commonly, it is found as a colorless crystalline solid. Impurities may result in a brownish or tan color. Colorful flavored pills containing methamphetamine and caffeine are known as yaa baa (Thai for "crazy medicine").

An impure form of methamphetamine is sold as a crumbly brown or off-white rock, commonly referred to as "peanut butter crank". Methamphetamine found on the street is rarely pure, but adulterated with chemicals that were used to synthesize it. It may be diluted or cut with non-psychoactive substances like inositol, isopropylbenzylamine or dimethylsulfone. Another popular method is to combine methamphetamine with other stimulant substances such as caffeine or cathine into a pill known as a "Kamikaze", which can be particularly dangerous due to the synergistic effects of multiple stimulants. It may also be flavored with high-sugar candies, drinks, or drink mixes to mask the bitter taste of the drug. Coloring may be added to the meth, as is the case with "Strawberry Quick".

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