Drug enforcement officials are putting out a warning: there’s a powerful and dangerous substance spreading across the country. It’s methamphetamine. And experts say the drug presents more than law enforcement and public health challenges – they say it even puts the Environment at risk. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Wendy Nelson reports:
Drug enforcement officials are putting out a warning: there’s a powerful and
dangerous substance spreading across the country.
It’s methamphetamine. And experts say the drug presents more than law
enforcement and public health challenges – they say it even puts the
environment at risk.
The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Wendy Nelson reports:
(sound of car)
This isn’t the first time Detective Lieutenant Scott Nichols has made the
rounds through this mobile home park near Portage, Michigan.
As he drives along, he points out trailers where he’s busted methamphetamine
and a site where he arrested a dealer who was making the drug.
“He had actually had a methamphetamine lab behind a hidden compartment
– or a hidden wall, actually. He had brought out his wall of his bedroom by
about six feet and then put stud boards down and put up more paneling. And
back in there he had a methamphetamine lab that was operational.”
Nichols is with a special drug enforcement unit of the Michigan state police.
In his eleven years as a cop, Nichols has seen plenty of trafficking in
But he says he’s never seen a drug as insidious as methamphetamine…
Methamphetamine goes by many names, including meth … Crank… Crystal…and
It’s a powerful stimulant that can be snorted, smoked, injected or eaten.
and it’s more addictive than heroin or cocaine.
Users say it eliminates the need for sleep or food. And it gives them an
overall sense of well-being.
I got this burst of energy type feeling. And I remember it felt
Paula – which is not her real name – didn’t count on becoming addicted.
She tried meth for the first time, she was a young mother…
“You know, I could accomplish anything, everything was organized. The
kids were bathed, they were fed, the house was spotless, you know, and I
could still hold that job, too. So I felt like superwoman, and this was,
this was the miracle drug.”
But Paula soon needed the drug all the time. She eventually gave up her
children and her house to spend all her time getting high.
It’s a tragic story, but it’s not unusual.
According to the U.S.Drug enforcement administration, methamphetamine use
is spreading rapidly across the country, from the west coast, eastward.
And as the drug becomes increasingly popular, more and more math labs are
popping up to meet the demand.
They’re being discovered in hotel rooms…storage facilities…barns…and even
The drug is simple to make. It can be done right at home, using ingredients
like cold medicine, drain cleaner and lighter fluid.
But the process of boiling down the mixture can be extremely dangerous, often
leading to fires or explosions.
And, there are other dangers…
“It’s claimed that for every pound of methamphetamine that’s produced,
six pound of hazardous waste are generated. So depending on the size of
the operation, there’s a potential to generate significant amounts of hazardous
Bert Webb is with BLDI environmental and safety management in Grand Rapids,
Companies like his are often called in after a meth lab bust to collect and
dispose of the hazardous waste.
But even before the bust, Detective Lieutenant Scott Nichols says cops have
to take special precautions.
“This is not the normal police investigation.”
Nichols is flipping through a stack of photos from a recent meth lab bust…
“You can kind of see what’s happening here. This is actually a haz-mat
The officers are all wearing special protective suits, double layer gloves
It almost looks like they’re headed to the moon…
“What it comes down to is, we’re investigating!! And area that could be
chemically contaminated. And therefore OSHA says you will be wearing
this type of protective clothing.”
But the risk doesn’t stop at the site of the lab. The people who make the
methamphetamine – cookers, as they’re called –
typically pour the chemicals down drains, bury them in fields, or dump them
in streams. The result can be contaminated ground and surface water…and fish
Scott Nichols says it’s nearly impossible to trace where all the toxic waste
“They’re not going to say, ‘Yeah, I was putting it all down the sewer,
and it’s all now in the septic field.’ Or they’re not going to say, ‘Yeah, I
was taking it all out to someone’s field and dumping it.’ And that’s some
of the hardest information to get out of these people – is what did they do
with the byproduct?”
Nobody knows the extent of the dumping.
The problem is so new, most states have not yet dedicated resources to combat
But some states – like Kansas – have taken action. They’ve created meth lab
clean-up programs within their environmental agencies.
Kansas has been hit particularly hard. Scott Nichols says last year, more
than five-hundred labs were shut down in the state.
So far, methamphetamine hasn’t reached epidemic proportions around the great
But experts say it’s just a matter of time, before the region catches up.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Wendy Nelson in Portage, Michigan.