American Bread Basket: Crystal Meth

Methamphetamine is an addictive drug that is manufactured in home laboratories. When taken orally, snorted, injected, or smoked, it produces intense pleasure by releasing excessive amounts of the brain’s reward chemical dopamine. The high it produces lasts longer than even cocaine, and methamphetamine users are reluctant to give up this highly addictive central nervous system stimulant.

As one addict explains, “Sex became an endurance sport that I couldn’t get enough of; I felt so good most of the time that I couldn’t even think of a disadvantage.” If the perfect euphoria is the ultimate self-indulgence, then methamphetamine can be labeled chemical masturbation.

It is not enough for methamphetamine addicts to lose brain cells, but to go on living happily ever after; it is the wake they leave behind if they have been ‘cooking’ their own product.

We have proprietary legislation regarding mold and disclosure that covers asbestos and radon, but only voluntary warnings about exposure to contaminants that remain after a meth lab is dismantled. Home labs are disappearing, but not methamphetamine! Some states like Oklahoma are voluntarily labeling the addresses of former meth labs, but for most unsuspecting home buyers, this still has a “buyer beware” label.

Property owners are cautioned to exercise caution and use the safest possible cleaning practices when dealing with a former meth lab residence, as there is no guarantee that it will be 100 percent free of remaining contamination. Owners of apartments, mobile homes, sheds, garages, vehicles, and even hotels / motels are at risk. Tenants move in, set up their lab because it doesn’t take any chemistry expertise to make their own methamphetamine. Of the 32 chemicals that can be used in different recipes, a third are extremely toxic.

When they advance or the authorities close the laboratory, a special team with moon suits and breathing equipment is needed to transport the chemicals and equipment. Even with these measures, there is no guarantee that the place will be suitable for re-habitation.

The homeowner is contaminated by absorbent materials such as carpets, curtains and ducts that can accumulate vapors that are dispersed through the air during the cooking process. In addition, they are the waste products generated during the manufacture of methamphetamine. Some of these products are dumped on the sides of roads inside or in neighboring backyards, but most are flushed down sinks, drains, and toilets. They pollute sewage systems and seep into streams and rivers.

The innocent victims of a meth lab are twofold: Parents who are alcoholics or addicted to other drugs can keep their lives together for decades, but ice addicts rarely can. Children “ice” suffer neglect as well as undeserved beatings by addicted parents who are out of control. They play on carpets where methamphetamine residue is prevalent. Their bedding, clothing, and the very air they breathe is contaminated with methamphetamine; much more dangerous than secondhand cigarette smoke.

The second innocent victim is the unsuspecting home buyer or renter trying to live in a former meth lab house. It can start with a burning sensation in the respiratory tract, eyes, ears, or nose. Then comes a severe burning of the hands and feet accompanied by nausea and insomnia. As a tenant, the answer is simple, but the new home buyer is stuck in his mistake. If you want to live, your only option is to hang up the key and suffer the credit damage of a repository.

Even burning these buildings to the ground will not save the terrain the lab was operating on. Soil contamination is not yet measured and it will take years to determine the percentages that are supposedly “acceptable” for human occupation. What started in 1973 by Midwestern motorcyclists and truckers staying awake on long trips has now spread north to Oregon and east to Atlanta (now known as Meth City).

Looking back, one can study a map of nuclear contamination and see areas that cannot be inhabited for years. It looks like irregular spots like Chernobyl or Three Mile Island. A meth contamination map looks like measles. It’s becoming obvious that we can’t jail ourselves to get out of this meth problem. Meanwhile, Washington lawmakers don’t seem too concerned. They prefer to stand in line to report steroid use in the Major Leagues.

2006 Esther Smith

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