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Chasing Speed IV of VII

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Part IV of VII

            Addicts will often try to self medicate themselves during the tweeking phase of their use. It is very common to find what we would call “downers”, or central nervous system depressants, on meth users during searches. When the user begins to feel the effects of the tweeking phase of abuse they will take the downers in an attempt to control the side effects. The most common drugs used are the various types of benzodiazapines, such as valium and ativan, or the various types of muscle relaxing medications. Some addicts are able to talk their doctors into prescribing these drugs, but most get theirs on the illicit drug market on the street.    

            Then we have the crash, which is exactly what it sounds like. The addict’s body and mind just shuts down in exhaustion. People can stay awake without sleep for over two weeks. The human body just isn’t built for this type of abuse. They sleep for days at a time and are basically unarousable. You could drive a semi-truck through their house and they would never respond. We have actually had problem buying off of meth dealers because we could not get a hold of them for extended periods of time to seal the deal, sort of speak. They were crashed out and simply not available to us or anyone else. It is easy to see how a person could and would lose their jobs when descended into the crash stage of their meth use. The just don’t show up for work for days at a time and the bosses that try to get a hold of them and cannot. After so many times of this type of behavior they are fired by their employer and are left seeking other employment. That is if they even have the motivation to do so now.

            Now imagine that somebody in the crash mode has responsibilities such as providing for their child or children. If the parent is crashed out for days (and nights) at a time who is making sure the kids are being fed, taken to school, transported to important social events and providing for their safety and security. If arrangements haven’t been made the likely answer is nobody. This is neglect at best and child endangerment at worst. Family members may or not may not recognize the pattern that is going on here. If the child is lucky family (and friends) be provide these basic needs and they can become the primary parental figure.

              Methamphetamine is actually methamphetamine hydrochloride. What this means is that it has an acidic structure. What that means is that it will go into our bodies anyway that we put in. It can be swallowed, snorted, smoked and injected. On the absolute vaguest of guesses we may get some idea how severe an addiction is by how the person is putting meth into their bodies. This is by no means absolute or a scientific fact on the addiction level and it should never be assumed that an addiction isn’t serious by how a person is putting this stuff into their bodies. However, injecting something directly into your veins is certainly a more efficient way to get its desired effects to the brain. When meth is swallowed the two preferred ways are to mix it in a drink or wrap it in toilet paper. The contents are then swallowed. The body knows that it doesn’t need or want this stuff in. A natural filtering system kicks in. Stomach acids will attempt to destroy the meth, simply because that is what they do. The dope then needs to be absorbed in the digestive tract into the bloodstream. The bloodstream then must carry the meth to the brain where it does its work. This is not the most efficient way to put something with specific desired effects that costs $100.00 per gram.

 They then may quickly move on to snorting meth through the nasal cavity. With its acidic structure the dope is absorbed through the nasal membrane into the bloodstream and carried to the brain. Again the filtering system starts right away and it takes time for the drug to produce the desired effects. Someone swallowing or snorting meth may have the false impression that they really are not on a highway to destruction. Their thinking may be “well, I’m not smoking the stuff out of dirty pipe or slamming a needle in my arm. I’m doing okay, I got control of this stuff.”

Smoking meth transcends into a whole new level of the addiction process. The lighter (for lack of a better phrase) methods of use no longer are getting our user high and raising the bar is the only other alternative. Meth usually contains various types of cutting agents. Meth vaporizes at a fairly lower temperature than the normal items used as cut. Hence, when our user smokes meth they are much more likely to get pure meth into their system. Smoking meth is also just a more effective way to get high. The drug enters the bloodstream through the alveoli in the lungs and makes a rapid trip to the brain causing a rapid and intense rush. They then ride the high out on the dopamine wave.

Injection has always been the most effective way to get any substance into our bodies. That is why if someone sustains a gunshot or other traumatic injury they inject pain killer, like morphine, into the patient instead of cramming a bunch of pills down their throat. Drug users, and especially meth addicts, picked up on this a long time ago. A direct introduction of meth bloodstream will take the drug directly to the brain without any other detours through any of the bodies systems. This is considered the highest form of abuse in just about any of the drug cultures. There is no other place to go. You are at the end of the line. Aside from the direct damage done by the drug itself the user is also subjecting their bodies to every infectious disease on the market, with the top two being HIV and hepatitis. The hepatitis bug is ravaging our local meth addicts, and most don’t care as long as they can maintain the high they are searching for. Syringes are shared out of convenience and passed on from user to user, in one sitting. We have names for the addicts that are injecting meth; we call them “hypes” (for the hypodermic needles they use) and “slammers” (as in slamming the needle into their veins). Those who have been slamming for any length of time develop what we call tracks at the injection sites. Scar tissue quickly develops and they move up or down the vein in order to find a way to puncher the skin (and vein) at the point of least resistance. When that area scars up they move a little further and so on. Tracks begin to form up and down the vein, hence the name. I have seen tracks leading from the inner elbow all the up the bicep.

The favorite type of syringe for injecting meth is the diabetic syringe. There are two reasons for this. They hold a sufficient amount of the drug and they are available at local pharmacies. I once spoke with a meth addict who did a fairly long stint in state prison on various charges ranging from drug crimes, to crimes against property and people (including shooting at a police officer). He told me that his cellmate was a diabetic and he had to inject himself with insulin everyday. Our addict stated that he got a rush just by watching the cellmate use the syringe on himself. This is how much the drug had taken over this particular person. I don’t even know how to explain how scary this type of statement is. Someone who needs or loves a drug that much (or however you want to explain it) probably isn’t going to have much of a problem doing whatever they need to do to get the stuff. Hence, the violent drug related crime is born.

One of our biggest issues with first time users is that they are drastically increasing the addiction process by circumventing the way they are putting the drug into their bodies. As I said before most people are introduced to meth by someone they know and / or trust. The fact of the matter here is there is a chance that the person introducing them to meth is probably already involved in the culture to a certain extent and already gone up the ladder, so to speak, on how they are putting this stuff in their bodies. Hence, our first time user is more than likely going to ingest meth in the same manner that the person giving or selling it to them is. So instead of swallowing or snorting meth the “new guy or gal” jumps right to smoking phase of ingestion. Their chances of falling for meth has just increased three fold without ever giving themselves a chance. There is an awfully good chance that injecting the drug is not far behind. And after that there is no other place to go.  This is especially true of the younger crowd, who believe they are invincible anyway. I met a female who said that she had been using meth for a couple of years. She started right off with smoking it and quickly moved on to injection. She had literally used up all her injection points on her body. Tracks were everywhere they could be on her nimble little body. I then noticed a laceration scar on her the back of her forearm. I asked her if it was a suicide attempt, which she vehemently denied. She stated that she was tweaking so bad one night that she couldn’t find a vein good enough to “pop” (inject) into. In order to get a better and easier angle on it she slit her arm open with a knife to get to the vein. When that didn’t work she just stuck the needle under the flap of the cut and squeezed the meth into the wound itself. I asked her if it worked and she couldn’t remember.

About the Author

Greg Ferency has been a police officer for the Terre Haute Police Department (Indiana).  His assignments have included a county-wide Drug Task Force. He has extensive experience in drug related crimes as both an investigator and undercover officer. Greg Ferency has specialized training and experience in methamphetamine related investigations.


He has certifications from the DEA Clandestine Laboratory Enforcement Team in the area of Basic, Site Safety and Tactical Operations. Greg has been at the scene of over 550 methamphetamine lab scenes as both lead investigator and site safety officer since 1999. He is a court certified expert in methamphetamine and its associated clandestine labs. Greg has trained law enforcement, civilian groups, educational system employees, medical staff and correctional personnel in methamphetamine and other drug related topics. Greg Ferency is the author of Narc Ops: A Look Inside Drug Enforcement.

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