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Crystal Methamphetamine

Crystal methamphetamine or "ice" first appeared in Hawaii during 1985 but was not recognized as a problem until 1987. During that time, local Filipino gang members were the principal distributors for ice.

Methamphetamine has often been called the poor man's cocaine and has traditionally been the drug of choice of outlaw motorcycle gangs. It is commonly called meth, crystal (powder form), or crank (long time street term for speed usually referring to the pill variety). In Honolulu, crystal or ice is referred to as the rock methamphetamine, while crank is the term used for the powder form.

Methamphetamine is normally found as a white powder, but is also available in the form of a translucent crystal similar in appearance to "rock candy" or "Hawaiian salt." Ice found in Hawaii is a very pure form of methamphetamine (98 percent to 100 percent purity). See figure 7-14.

Methamphetamine can be injected, inhaled, smoked, or taken orally. In the Honolulu area, the most common method has been to smoke the drug using a glass pipe. Figure 7-15 is an illustration of a meth pipe. It is said that a person can obtain approximately 10 to 15 hits from 1 gram of ice.

Information gathered in the Honolulu area reports that several forms of crystal meth are being used. Most prevalent is the translucent or clear rock crystal. This form of meth is said to be water based and burns quickly leaving a milky white residue on the inside of the bowl. Reports also show that a yellowish crystal meth is also available. This form of meth is said to be oil based. This form of yellow meth is also said to burn slower and last longer leaving behind a brownish or black residue in the pipe.

Crystal meth (ice), is presently being sold in quantities ranging from .10 gram to an ounce. The price for .10 gram is about $50, with the cost of an ounce going for approximately $7,000.

Figure 7-14.-Crystal methamphetamine (ice).

Figure 7-15.-Meth pipe.

Users feel an intense wave of physical and psychological exhilaration. The effects of the drug may last from 4 to 6 hours for a single dose and with repeated doses lasting much longer. Although entering the bloodstream rapidly, large doses may be excreted into the urine, unchanged, up to 72 hours after ingestion. The use of methamphetamine tends to keep the user awake and alert and provides temporary mood elevation; continued use causes the body to deplete its stored energy. This lack of sleep or rest prevents the replenishment of these reserves. Insomnia is usually followed by sleeping for long periods of time.

The drug tends to overtax the body and causes the body to literally burn itself up. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies are common due to inadequate nutrition as the user keeps pushing beyond what the body can tolerate, which may lead to a rapid and noticeable loss of weight. There is lowered resistance to disease and prolonged use will cause damage to organs, particularly to the lungs, liver, and kidneys.

Continued use of methamphetamine can cause a heavy degree of psychological dependence on the drug which leads to a psychotic state, insomnia, anxiety, depression, and fatigue. Toxic psychosis similar to paranoid schizophrenia or delusional states can result from heavy short-term or long-term use. Prolonged use can also produce a heavy degree of psychological tolerance and users find they have to use heavier dosages.

Withdrawal from methamphetamine does not involve physical discomfort but can involve acute depression and fatigue. Impression can with critical proportions, in which life seems boring and unpleasant and may lead to thoughts of suicide or attempted suicide.

Progressive toxic effects are talkativeness, irritability, insomnia, anxiety, delirium, panic states, paranoid ideation, palpitation, cardiac arrhythmias, hypertension, circulatory collapse, dry mouth, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, convulsions, coma, and death.

Other dangers include the rapid deterioration of physical and psychological health, since methamphetamines can erase feelings of periods of time and create the same sort of stress to the body that any long period of exertion creates. However, the user does not let his or her body recuperate and permanent damage or death is the result.

Common carriers for meth are opaque glass vials, paper bindles, or more commonly in Honolulu, clear heat-sealed cellophane packets. Common paraphernalia include syringes for the user who injects his or her drugs or glass smoking pipes (bongs).

There is a difference between a pipe used for cocaine and that used by the meth smoker. The basic difference is in the construction of the pipe.

The meth or ice pipe has only one section where the methamphetamine is placed and heated. There are no screens and no coolants in the meth pipe. The pipes used for smoking meth usually have a hole on the top of the bowl leading to the main chamber and may have a vent hole on the stem between the chamber, where the crystal is placed, and the mouthpiece. See figure 7-15.

The ice is first placed into the chamber and heated with a lighter or other heat source until it turns to a gas. The opening in the chamber and vent hole are sealed, usually with a finger, while the crystal is being heated. Once the crystal has turned to gas, it is inhaled by the user. A telltale sign of a meth user are burn marks on the finger(s) used to seal the hole in the main chamber.

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