Narc Ops
Greg Ferency  More Info

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Chasing Speed II of VII

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Part II of VII

            If you expect someone under the influence of meth (or other stimulant) check their pupils – they will be dilated. This is a completely non-controllable reaction to being under the influence of this stuff. This also makes them sensitive to light. As a safety measure if speaking to someone under the influence of meth make an attempt to avoid shining light into their eyes. Someone on the edge is likely to respond violently to this sudden stimuli that is taken in by the dilation of the pupils.

The only exception I can think of is if a police officer uses this as a tactical maneuver to conceal their actions in order to effect an arrest or tactical option. But, that (or those) officer(s) need to be prepared to react quickly to how the person responds to this action. You may also notice rapid and fragmented speech while speaking to a person on meth. Basically, the brain is going faster than the mouth and voice. They just cannot keep up with what the brain is trying to say. If they can regulate some type of speech, they may be difficult to understand and may become frustrated when asked to repeat themselves. In their minds they are speaking perfectly normal and you either cannot hear or are stupid, in their minds. The following fall under the “hyper” effects of meth use. They are hypervigilance, hyperventilation, and hyperthermia. I street definition of hypervigilance is that they are simply speeding their asses off. Thought patterns and physical characteristics are quick, choppy and jerky. As the drug stimulates the rest of the organ systems in the body one of the most apparent is the cardio / pulmonary. The user may hyperventilate because they are breathing so fast and heavy. The body temperature may rise, known as hyperthermia. A sort of heat stroke without the sun or weather being involved, although they may certainly aggravate it. Tachycardia may also become an issue. As the meth-invaded brain tells the heart to beat faster messages from each vital organ may get mixed up causing the heart to beat irregularly. Obviously, any time the heart is not beating as it should you have a serious problem.

            High intensity (long term) abuse indicators become an obvious red flag. This is not something that the user can hide after a certain amount of time. It is going to happen no matter what. When these indicators have kicked in, so to speak, medical and psychological intervention is usually the only way to reverse them. And even this intense treatment may have limited success. Weight loss – meth literally eats away at the body fat and tissue. It is not unusual to see the users lose thirty to one hundred pounds (depending on body stature). We have seen people that have looked like extras in a horror movie. Their faces are sunken in, their cheekbones (along with other skeletal joints) are protruding, they lose their hair and they are as skinny and unhealthy as a living person can be. Some are even impossible to recognize by others who haven’t seen them since their meth use started.

            Central Pallor – Meth raises the blood pressure and increases the pulse; this in turn constricts the blood vessels at the skins surface. The result is the center of the face becomes very pale. When added to the weight loss the distortion of the face can be remarkable.

            Sweating – As the body temperature increases after continual abuse the user begins to constantly sweat, most frequently on the upper lip and brows. High intensity meth abuse can throw the body’s internal temp regulator out of whack. There are only a minimal amount of degrees that our bodies can tolerate when it comes to temp regulation. Eight degrees over the normal 98.6 is severely life threatening. When you think about it that is really a very small margin of error.

            Body odor – The user will eventually lose interest in personal hygiene. It simply isn’t very high on the priories list. In addition to that meth is not a very clean drug. Have you ever been around someone who went out on a whisky binge the night before? If so you know that the next day you can often literally smell the booze coming off their bodies. The same can be said with the chemicals used to make meth. They can also be present in the users perspiration. They will tend to emit a putrid smell resembling glue and or mayonnaise, just to name a few.

            Bad teeth – The users teeth may turn gray then black. The acid structure of meth attacks the tooth enamel and gums. When you add the poor hygiene aspect the mouth really doesn’t stand a chance. From what I have seen the front teeth seem to be the first to go. 

            Scarring – As I said before meth bugs are very common if not outright inevitable. A sure fire indicator that someone is in the high intensity phase of abuse is when these meth bugs attempt to heal over an extended period of time. The scarring on the face and arms is most common.

            Now we aren’t done yet with the effects of this stuff on our bodies. We also have the mental characteristics to deal with. Some of these can be more severe than the physical ones and here is where they can become issues of police and the public safety. We will start off with neurosis, which can be best described as free-floating anxiety. Neurosis is hard to define, but it can be coupled with bizarre behavior to say the least. The meth user may (some might say will) experience paranoid behavior. This can range from an uncomfortable, vague but constant threat that they just cannot but their finger on. Or they may experience a paranoid rage where they are accusing everyone of being against them, a government agent or outright wanting to harm or kill them. This paranoia may be fueled by hallucinations of perceived threats.

I had an informant who relapsed once and called me for a week wanting to know why we were hiding in his trees and grass. As I was talking to him from my office he would describe each one us by name and what we were wearing as he was seeing us, including me, in his back yard. I would hear him talking to “us” from his back porch and respond like we were yelling back to him from our tree and grass positions. There was nothing I could say to convince him that I was speaking to him from my desk. He just couldn’t comprehend the fact that what he was seeing, hearing and feeling wasn’t true. We often hear from people we arrest that they heard and saw us in their backyards the night, week or even month before we arrested them. Odds were that every time they thought I was on their property sneaking and peeking I was probably home watching the Flintstones.

            Those under the spell of meth may appear grandiose. They may not have a problem or issue in the world. Everything is funny and superficial in their lives. This may also be accompanied by delirium. They may become delusional and have ideations that could be happy, sad or violent. They may tell you that they used to be the President of the United States, they may suddenly think that they have a terminal disease for no reason or they may think you are the devil and they must destroy you. They may misinterpret sensory impressions. An example would be a pan falling on the floor as absolutely the sound of a gunshot that was meant for them. They may mistake the fact that you put your hand in your pocket to pull out a knife and harm them, when in fact you may just be pulling out a piece of gum to offer them. Females should be aware that a wink or glance toward someone under the influence of meth may be interpreted as a sign that you are attracted to him and want or even expert a sexual encounter with him. The scenarios are endless. Flight of ideas can also be very common. The users thought patterns skip from one subject to another. Trying to maintain a relevant conversation with them can be complicated to say the least.

            Believe it or not the meth user may be in a constant state of stress. Paranoia about the police coming around, dealing with people that could just as soon as shoot you as look at you, questions about their behavior from family and friends and so on and so on makes for some stressful days and nights. Not to mention withdrawal and dodging shadows and beings that are not there. This leads us into hallucinations, which can include all the senses that we possess. What I am talking about here is visual, auditory, small and physical hallucinations inside and on the body itself (ie… meth bugs). Prior to becoming a police officer I worked at a mental health facility. I witness the sheer terror that those with mental illness experienced when hearing voices and seeing things jump out at them. Usually these people were experiencing one sensory hallucination at a time and it was rare that I witnessed them experiencing two or more types of hallucination. You can imagine someone experiencing two or more types of hallucinations at the same time. I can guarantee you that you have a dangerous person on your hands and you should be prepared to deal with that.

            Depression is almost a given after a certain level of abuse is obtained. You just cannot play with the brain and it neurotransmitters like that and not suffer the consequences. This can even lead to chronic depression where the brain is incapable of producing dopamine because the cells have simply burned out. Mood swings that extend to entire range of emotions will bounce around in the users emotional center of the brain. They will be desperate and depressed one moment and hyperactive and grandiose the next. You never know what you are going to get from one moment to the next. You cannot have the full gambit of emotions without including fearless, aggressive, impulsive and violent. Again, this is a dangerous combination and leads to innocent victims.

            After all this here is the bottom line. Meth abuse deteriorates the physical and mental state of the user. Hostile, paranoid and aggressive behavior is the norm, not the unusual. Police officer and civilian safety is always a concern when dealing with those involved in the meth culture. Remember ----- they do not care!

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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