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Chasing Speed III of VII

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Part III of VII

            Meth also has its social effects or I should probably phrase it anti-social effects. Meth users / dealers tend to be somewhat cult oriented, with the “master” being the drug itself. The rest of us that are not involved in the culture are simply shunned away from and even preyed upon. For whatever reason we often find exotic pet ownership among those involved with meth. It is not uncommon for us to find animals outside the usual dog and cat circle. Now this ownership in no way involves any criminal activity, as long as the proper permits and licenses are obtained, its just a little tidbit that is interesting. We did however have a case several years ago where a guy was hiding his meth stash in his mountain lions den to prevent others, including law enforcement, from getting to it. We also notice that many involved in the meth culture are driven to collecting and displaying artwork and memorabilia from the Native American culture. I really have no explanation for this or why they would be interested in this stuff, but we often notice dream catchers, paintings and other Native American artifacts on the walls and displayed in prominent places around the house. Again, in no way is this criminal, it is just an odd little fact. If it is not Native American items that are collected then it is often items that I would term as Middle Ages or even somewhat gothic memorabilia. This is usually in the form of oddly shaped knives, swords, shields and whatever else they can get their hands on. Paintings, pictures and statues of dragons, knights and wizards are strewn around the house. At the very least many of these items make formidable weapons that can be used against law enforcement and others.

            Meth users and dealers usually don’t make the best neighbors, which is a social problem. Police may often get called to the meth person’s residence on non-drug related calls. Neighbors will often get fed up with the loud music, constant traffic of people coming in and out of the residence being loud, the yard in disarray, complaints of children not being supervised, just to name a few. Some of these complaints can lead to arrests, even drug related arrests, but most are a chronic call for service to the local police. However, it is not uncommon for some of these altercations to become much more serious and even violent on the part of either side of the fence.

            For whatever reason it is hard for meth users to throw stuff away. They are constantly collecting things, taking them apart, putting them back together and so on. We often find boxes of TV remote controls, broken watches and other gadgets that are full to the brim with these useless items. The user has a lot of time on their hands when under the influence. When it is 4:00am and the world is asleep, they are wide-awake and always in need of something to do. “Knick-nacking” is a very common practice among these people and they become profession knicknackers.

            Some users will tell us that they started using meth so they could get things done around the house. Let me tell you this they never get anything done. The attention span of someone under the influence is practically non-existent. They just cannot concentrate long enough to follow anything though to its completion. We are always in houses of meth users that have walls that are half painted or they start fixing the refrigerator and leave it in pieces on the kitchen floor or have a motorcycle / car engine stripped half way down and has been lying there for weeks. You get the point. This meth abuse characteristic can carry through to taking care of kids, pets and other exceptionally important tasks and responsibilities.      

            As we now know methamphetamine is a central nervous system stimulant. This alone is appealing to many people in our society right off. Americans like to do two things and do them very well. We like to work hard and play hard. At the first phase of use meth gives us the illusion that it can help us with both these causes. We can work all day and party all night or vise versa. When someone uses this drug for the first time they feel so good and have so much energy they must feel like a higher spirit gave them a gift from above. The old phrase if something is to good to be true there is a catch and meth has a very big catch or I should say consequence.

            I may shock you a little by this next sentence, but here it goes. Meth does not get us high. All meth is doing when we ingest it is cause the brain to produce massive amounts of dopamine, one of our feel good neurotransmitters. The same can be said with MDMA (ecstasy) and seratonin. Meth squeezes the life out of these dopamine producing cells and delays the absorption of it back into the body. Hence, we have an eight to twelve hour high. By comparison cocaine begins to reabsorb in an hour. This is probably how meth got the name “the poor mans cocaine”. Both cause the brain to produce the massive amounts of dopamine but after an hour you must re-consume cocaine and the meth just keeps going and going and going. Our brains are fragile little things. It is an organ that doesn’t reproduce damaged cells and messing with it in this manner is unwise to say the least. Our body (brain) knows how much dopamine we need and gives it to us when appropriate. When we circumvent this natural process we are playing with fire in the most serious of consequences and not just for the person using the stuff.

            From what I can tell there are basically three stages as meth use. I call the first one the recreational stage. Basically, what we have here is a person who gets introduced to the drug, which leads into their first time use. This may be at a party or just hanging out with a person who has become involved in the meth culture. The person that introduces them to meth is probably going to be a person that they trust. That introducer is more than likely going to be a family member or friend, at the very least they are going to be a person that the new user is comfortable with. I got not guarantee you that this is going to be the scenario. But I can tell you that meth isn’t sold on street corners where you can simply walk up to the dealer and order your poison (at least not in my area). So our new user is introduced to this stuff and takes the their first hit. In all likelihood they are going to feel an explosion of everything that meth advertises. They are going to feel a rush like they have never experienced, even if they have experimented with other types of stimulants. They party all night and do whatever first times users do. The next week they try meth again and then again the next week.

            Odds that a person in this stage of use will not have any law enforcement contact, unless they have other issues that lead to the seizure, thus the added charge of a meth arrest. They may have an alcohol problem, which leads to a DUI arrest and hence the meth discovery. They may beat someone up, which leads to a battery arrest and hence the meth discovery. They may commit and traffic violation, which somehow leads to their arrest and hence the meth discovery. You get the idea. What I am saying is that the meth use in this stage usually (and I stress usually) doesn’t get them involved with law enforcement. They are spending their own money, they avoiding other secondary crimes that are meth related and as a general rule they are still functional in society. 

 Here is when the addiction portion of meth begins to take over and our new user then begins to straddle the next stage of meth use, the intermediary stage.

The intermediary stage is a bridge that connects the non-addict with the addict. Instead of using once a week for social reasons, they start using for no apparent reason. I will give an example. Lets say our recreational user uses meth on a Friday night. Then they use again the next Friday night and then the next Friday night. As they progress into the intermediary stage they will start using meth on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and then the next Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and so on. The point is they are using meth when it doesn’t involve a recreational or social purpose. Law enforcement contacts are a very real possibility now. The users name may start appearing as a suspect in police reports. They may start to begin making irrational decisions in their personal life. Family members and non-user friends may notice personality quirks and changes. A change in physical appearance may also become noticeable here. They may start to become aggressive with others and the withdrawal of meth will start working its way into the users lifestyle. We call this tweaking, which I will get into later. Our user may start to deplete their monetary funds. Bank accounts may start to dwindle down; they may start selling personal items to fund what is now a habit and family members may start to notice cash and property missing from the home. If treatment is going to be effective now is the time to get it, because the downward spiral of addiction has started and it is gaining speed.

            As they progress into the addiction phase the drug has truly taken a hold of their body, mind and spirit. Their meth use can and more accurately will develop into its own pattern that we can identify and name. They are the following: The rush, high, binge, tweaking and crash. The rush is the initial feeling the user can have soon after ingestion of meth. It can last anywhere from five minutes to a half hour. This is a very intense feeling of everything meth has to offer the user and it usually can never be as good as the last time. The rush turns over into the high. This is the steady high that can last up to ten hours. The burning of the brains dopamine is on cruise control here. As the high begins to wear off the user will bump up with the drug in an attempt to maintain the high and hopefully even obtain that rush feeling for a dismal amount in time. The binge stage is exactly what it sounds like. Short rapid bursts of the original high with equal amounts of our next phase, the tweeker phase. In the tweeker phase one or two things are happening (or maybe even both). The first of these is that the user simply runs out of meth and has no means of getting anymore. This may be for various reasons. They may not have the money to buy more, they may not be able to get a hold of their dealer or they may be in jail just to name a few. The second is that the dopamine has been depleted and all the meth in the world isn’t going to accomplish the infamous high.

            In the tweaking phase the central nervous system is basically rebelling against itself and it is bringing the entire body with it. Many law enforcement officers will tell you that a tweeker, as they are called in the meth culture, is a very dangerous person And not just to cops, to friends and family alike. Agitation turns into rage, hallucinations can be violent and acted out on, rational thought processes are non-existent, paranoia rules their process of thinking and during this the body itself may be twitching, jerking, rocking and convulsing. Tweaking will mimic the most serious of mental and physical disorders.

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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