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Article Summary

Crystal Meth Info

High purity crystal methamphetamine, commonly known as ice or glass, is becoming increasingly available in the United States. Asian criminal groups that traditionally distributed crystal methamphetamine in Hawaii and on the West Coast are now distributing the drug in other areas of the country as well. Moreover, Mexican drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) and criminal groups are becoming increasingly involved in the production and distribution of crystal methamphetamine, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and many state and local law enforcement officials.

Crystal methamphetamine is a colorless, odorless form of d-methamphetamine, a powerful stimulant. It resembles glass fragments or shiny blue-white "rocks" of various sizes. Street names for the drug include batu, crystal, glass, hiropon, ice, shabu, shards, Tina, ventana, and vidrio. Crystal methamphetamine and powdered methamphetamine both contain the same active chemical compound; however, crystal methamphetamine typically has a higher purity level and may produce longer-lasting, more intense physiological effects. In small doses crystal methamphetamine can heighten alertness, stimulate physical activity, and suppress appetite. Chronic abuse can cause psychotic and violent behavior characterized by intense paranoia, visual and auditory hallucinations, and out-of-control rages.

Crystal Meth Vs Crack Cocaine

Crystal methamphetamine often is compared to crack cocaine. The drugs produce similar physiological effects, are highly addictive, and typically are smoked using a glass pipe. Crystal methamphetamine also may be injected. Immediately after smoking or injecting crystal methamphetamine, abusers experience a brief, intense sensation, or rush, that is followed by a high that may last 12 hours or more. Crack cocaine abusers experience the same effects for only 20 to 30 minutes. Withdrawal symptoms associated with both crystal methamphetamine and crack cocaine include drug cravings, paranoia, and depression.

How Crystal Meth is Made

Crystal methamphetamine is produced using a "washing" technique that involves dissolving powdered d-methamphetamine in a solvent such as acetone or denatured alcohol. The mixture is allowed to evaporate, causing crystals to form around the edge of the container in which it is being mixed. Large crystals form when the solution evaporates at room temperature, and small crystals form when the solution evaporates in a cold environment such as a refrigerator or freezer. The crystals then are collected and dried, typically on a paper towel. The purity of the finished product varies depending on the amount of washing and the laboratory operator's level of experience.

Risk of Explosion

Law enforcement personnel should exercise extreme caution when opening refrigerators and freezers found at crystal methamphetamine production sites. The vapors from the solvents used to convert powdered methamphetamine to crystal methamphetamine are extremely volatile and can accumulate in a refrigerator or freezer during the evaporation process. These vapors may explode when the appliance's inside light activates as the door is opened. Law enforcement personnel should immediately unplug all refrigerators and freezers found at crystal methamphetamine laboratories to avoid this risk.
Source: Central Valley California High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA).

Crystal Meth Distribution

Crystal methamphetamine production and distribution traditionally have been associated with Asian criminal groups. These groups either produce the drug in the United States or smuggle it into the country from laboratory sites located in countries such as China, the Philippines, South Korea, and Taiwan. Since the mid-1990s Mexican DTOs and criminal groups have supplied powdered methamphetamine to Asian criminal groups in Hawaii and on the West Coast for conversion to crystal methamphetamine. Mexican DTOs and criminal groups now produce crystal methamphetamine in Mexico, California, and southwestern states and use their established transportation networks to distribute the drug throughout the United States.

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