A Brief History of Meth
Methamphetamine is a powerful central nervous system stimulant with a high potential for abuse and dependence. It is not a new drug - a Japanese chemist synthesized amphetamine in 1919. The Japanese and Germans gave amphetamines to soldiers and factory workers to help them stay alert during World War Two. The method they used to produce the drug became known as the Nazi or Birth method.
In the 1950s and ‘60s, 'uppers' were prescribed to help people lose weight. But the drug, with a street name of speed, grew in popularity as a means of getting a rush and a high. By the 1970's, it became a black market cure-all for people wanting to stay awake, for weight control, for increasing athletic performance and to treat mild depression. When intravenous Meth abuse began spreading through the “speed freak” sub-culture, violent and erratic behavior seen among chronic abusers led medical authorities to discontinue its use.
In 1980, the federal government put strict controls on Phenyl-2-propane, the precursor chemical for Meth. The action curtailed the home P2P Meth labs, but cooks on the West Coast soon discovered that ephedrine could be used to create an even more potent form of the drug - crystal Meth. The newest supply of speed was twice as potent as the old. Within just a few years, Meth manufacturing grew from small shops set up to supply biker gangs to multiple home labs, concentrated on the West Coast. Mexican drug runners supplied large amounts of ephedrine to the cooks.
By the mid-1980s, the Drug Enforcement Agency was searching for ways to stem the growth of Meth manufacturing and use. In 1988, regulations on the sales and imports of chemicals used to make illicit drugs, including ephedrine and pseudoephedrine. The original proposal covered both the raw materials and products made from them. Heavy lobbying by the pharmaceutical industry led to a compromise: the raw materials would be regulated, but not the over the counter medications made from them. Meth cooks simply switched from using the raw materials to buying the unregulated cold relief pills and adjusted their process to extract the ephedrine/pseudoephedrine from them.
The following decade ushered in a virtual explosion in make shift Meth labs, Meth use and addiction. Manufacturers became more adept at purifying their product, increasing its potency. Drug rehab centers began seeing more and more clients naming Meth as their primary drug of choice. Mexican drug lords stepped up their Meth manufacturing in Super Labs and increased their smuggling operations into the U.S. In the mid-90s, foreign ephedrine suppliers agree with the United State's request to stop exporting their product to the cartels. The supply tightened up and America's Meth became less pure.
By the late 90s, Meth manufacturing took strong hold in the Midwest. The easy access to anhydrous ammonia (used as a reagent in the process, please see The Science of Meth for details) made the region appealing. The low-populated rural areas also diminished the potential of discovery. In 1997, Darcy Jensen saw the alarming growth of Meth use and manufacturing in South Dakota as a major threat to the area. Jensen, a drug prevention and treatment counselor, spearheaded the development of MAPP-SD to combat the impact of Meth.
Canada joined Mexico as a major supplier of pseudoephedrine to traffickers by 2001. In 2003, the Canadian government steps up its licensing system to help cut back on the problem. Also in 2003, a National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that approximately 12-million Americans had tried Meth at least once. Mexican drug cartels increase the supply of Meth cooked in Super Labs and smuggled into the U.S. by 2004. The supply of Meth in America once again became more pure and potent. Oklahoma became the first state to regulate the sales of pseudoephedrine products in 2004. One year later, Congress passed the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005 as a part of the Patriot Revision Act.
Today's Meth is far more potent than the Meth sold years ago, and the infiltration of Meth in society continues. The recipe for homemade Meth is still in circulation and available over the Internet. It is cheap and easy to make, which when combined with the long lasting high makes Meth a popular substitute for cocaine. A new generation of users has made Meth their drug of choice, leading to an epidemic of Meth and Meth labs across the country.
(Adopted in part from Public Broadcasting Services - Frontline: The Meth Epidemic)