Flavored Meth Poses New Dangers
> 3/26/2007 1:38:22 PM

The Drug Enforcement Agency warns that new crops of crystal methamphetamine currently making their way across the country have been altered to smell and taste like fruit, soda or candy in order to appeal to younger teens. These new shifts in the meth market may force us to take an even closer look at an expanding epidemic.

There is no question that the manufacture, distribution and consumption of meth makes up one of the most significant drug crises in this country and the world - it is reportedly very popular throughout Asia and the United Nations names it as the most widely abused hard drug in the world. Estimates place the number of habitual users at 26 million, a sum greater than the combined total of heroin and cocaine addicts. And a drug which one can manufacture from common store-bought items using a list of instructions found on any number of websites has the potential to become even more of a public health threat. While meth labs are frequently discovered in raids across the western United States and most associate its use with working and lower-class caucasians in the midwest, it has also led to serious health problems among certain subsets of the populations of major urban areas like New York and San Francisco. Since it first attracted the attention of the DEA in the early 80's, meth has seen its use grow exponentially, especially over the last fifteen years. Major drug cartels, based both inside this country and in Central and South America, have also become heavily involved in the meth trade. The organized crime component is much more difficult to address than a series of amateur labs in isolated semi-rural areas.

The newest scares arise from a particular type of meth that has begin to surface in raids in California and Nevada - one example is a reddish, sweet-smelling variety called "strawberry quickie," and law enforcement officers in the San Francisco area also report arresting teens with quantities of meth designed to taste like chocolate. Some argue that these newer, less offensive varities will appeal to younger kids who want to try the drug but have been taught to fear it. Another concern is that its more palatable taste will lead users to ingest larger amounts and increase their risks of overdose. Meth dealers and manufacturers have previously added color and flavor to distinguish their product from that offered by the competition, and some believe that the new crop is simply derived from this marketing strategy rather than a direct attempt to ensnare younger users. Whether the new meth crop is flavored to appeal to kids or simply to negate its naturally repugnant taste is less important than the fact that any move to make illegal drugs more user-friendly is an unwelcome development.

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