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West, Midwest in Grip of Cheap, Easily Purchased Meth.

It's cheap. It's readily available. And it makes you feel real good. The West and Midwest are firmly in the grip of a deadly new drug--methamphetamine--which is concocted from such bizarre ingredients as Drano, liquid fertilizer, iodine, lighter fluid and cold medicine.

Known as "crank," "ice" or "meth" and with longer lasting effects than cocaine, the drug's popularity continues to rise. The drug's rush is that, as a stimulant, it mimics adrenaline, increasing heart rate, blood pressure and breathing, and energizes the brain. The downside is it can also produce feelings of panic, paranoia and rage, and create hallucinations. After prolonged use, it takes more and more of the chemical to get the initial pleasurable feeling.

Reducing the traffic is difficult because it's sold on a "closed market," according to Susan Pennell, a criminal researcher who was one of the authors of a federal study on the drug. Users usually go to someone's home or a motel room to buy it, compared to cocaine and crack cocaine users who buy from various street sources, often strangers.

The manufacture of methamphetamine has led to increased thefts in Kansas, Mississippi and Oklahoma of liquid anhydrous ammonia. To combat the drug, Missouri law enforcement is in line for nearly $12 million this year for the fight against its use and manufacture. Much of the money would go to the Missouri Highway Patrol, which has taken an increasing role in the war on drugs.

Troopers shut down 615 meth labs in Missouri last year, according to Representative Harold Selby, and 126 by March of this year. Police from all jurisdictions closed down 900 Missouri labs last year. The state is considered second only to California in production of the drug. In Iowa, law enforcement officers were reporting they had discovered three times as many meth labs and sites where the chemicals to make the drug had been dumped--170--by April 1999 as in April 1998 when 50 were found.

Wyoming put $3 million into the fight; Missouri allocated a total of $1.3 million last year; while Oklahoma added $500,000 additional funds this spring to help law enforcement "clean up meth labs." In Arizona, where a Drug Enforcement Administration officer called the drug's use "an epidemic," the cost to taxpayers for busting the illicit labs, then cleaning up the property of toxic chemicals, as well as the locations where surplus and used chemicals were dumped, was put at $2.6 million. Meanwhile, Michigan has issued public warnings via brochures and radio ads about the dangers of meth found in the "club drug" Ecstasy, obtained at raves and underground parties, and in diet pills.

And in Kansas, law enforcement took 511 meth labs out of operation last year, up from only four in 1994. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI) projects that 732 more labs will be busted this year.
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Publication:State Legislatures
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2000
Words:475
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