What is methamphetamine?

Crystal methamphetamine

Photo by DEA – Crystal methamphetamine

Methamphetamine is a stimulant drug usually used as a white, bitter-tasting powder or a pill. Crystal methamphetamine is a form of the drug that looks like glass fragments or shiny, bluish-white rocks. It is chemically similar to amphetamine [a drug used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy, a sleep disorder].

Other common names for methamphetamine include chalk, crank, crystal, ice, meth, and speed.

How do people use methamphetamine?

People can take methamphetamine by:

  • inhaling/smoking
  • swallowing (pill)
  • snorting
  • injecting the powder that has been dissolved in water/alcohol

Because the “high” from the drug both starts and fades quickly, people often take repeated doses in a “binge and crash” pattern. In some cases, people take methamphetamine in a form of binging known as a “run,” giving up food and sleep while continuing to take the drug every few hours for up to several days.

How does methamphetamine affect the brain?

Methamphetamine increases the amount of the natural chemical dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is involved in body movement, motivation, and reinforcement of rewarding behaviors. The drug’s ability to rapidly release high levels of dopamine in reward areas of the brain strongly reinforces drug-taking behavior, making the user want to repeat the experience.

Short-Term Effects

Taking even small amounts of methamphetamine can result in many of the same health effects as those of other stimulants, such as cocaine or amphetamines. These include:

  • increased wakefulness and physical activity
  • decreased appetite
  • faster breathing
  • rapid and/or irregular heartbeat
  • increased blood pressure and body temperature

How Do Manufacturers Make Methamphetamine?

Manufacturers make most of the methamphetamine found in the United States in “superlabs” here or, more often, in Mexico. But some also make the drug in small, secret labs with inexpensive over-the-counter ingredients such as pseudoephedrine, a common ingredient in cold medicines. To curb production, the law requires pharmacies and other retail stores to keep a purchase record of products containing pseudoephedrine. A person may only buy a limited amount of those products on a single day.

What are other health effects of methamphetamine?

Close-up of rotted teeth brought on by prolonged methamphetamine use.
Photo by Dozenist/CC BY-SA“Meth mouth”


Long-Term Effects

People who inject methamphetamine are at increased risk of contracting infectious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis B and C. These diseases are transmitted through contact with blood or other bodily fluids. Methamphetamine use can also alter judgment and decision-making leading to risky behaviors, such as unprotected sex, which also increases risk for infection.

Methamphetamine use may worsen the progression of HIV/AIDS and its consequences. Studies indicate that HIV causes more injury to nerve cells and more cognitive problems in people who have HIV and use methamphetamine than it does in people who have HIV and don’t use the drug.1 Cognitive problems are those involved with thinking, understanding, learning, and remembering.

Long-term methamphetamine use has many other negative consequences, including:

  • extreme weight loss
  • severe dental problems (“meth mouth”)
  • intense itching, leading to skin sores from scratching
  • anxiety
  • confusion
  • sleeping problems
  • violent behavior
  • paranoia—extreme and unreasonable distrust of others
  • hallucinations—sensations and images that seem real though they aren’t

In addition, continued methamphetamine use causes changes in the brain’s dopamine system that are associated with reduced coordination and impaired verbal learning. In studies of people who used methamphetamine over the long term, severe changes also affected areas of the brain involved with emotion and memory.2This may explain many of the emotional and cognitive problems observed in those who use methamphetamine.

Although some of these brain changes may reverse after being off the drug for a year or more, other changes may not recover even after a long period of abstinence.3 A recent study even suggests that people who used methamphetamine have an increased the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, a disorder of the nerves that affects movement.4

Are there health effects from exposure to secondhand methamphetamine smoke?

Researchers don’t yet know whether people breathing in secondhand methamphetamine smoke can get high or have other health effects. What they do know is that people can test positive for methamphetamine after exposure to secondhand smoke.5,6More research is needed in this area.

Can a person overdose on methamphetamine?

Yes, a person can overdose on methamphetamine. An overdose occurs when the person uses too much of a drug and has a toxic reaction that results in serious, harmful symptoms or death.

Methamphetamine overdose can lead to stroke, heart attack, or organ problems—such as kidney failure—caused by overheating. These conditions can result in death.

How can a methamphetamine overdose be treated?

Because methamphetamine overdose often leads to a stroke, heart attack, or organ problems, first responders and emergency room doctors try to treat the overdose by treating these conditions, with the intent of:

  • restoring blood flow to the affected part of the brain (stroke)
  • restoring blood flow to the heart (heart attack)
  • treating the organ problems

Is methamphetamine addictive?

Yes, methamphetamine is highly addictive. When people stop taking it, withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • anxiety
  • fatigue
  • severe depression
  • psychosis
  • intense drug cravings

How can people get treatment for methamphetamine addiction?

The most effective treatments for methamphetamine addiction so far are behavioral therapies, such as:

  • cognitive-behavioral therapy, which helps patients recognize, avoid, and cope with the situations in which they are most likely to use drugs
  • motivational incentives, which uses vouchers or small cash rewards to encourage patients to remain drug-free

While research is under way, there are currently no government-approved medications to treat methamphetamine addiction.

Points to Remember

  • Methamphetamine is usually a white, bitter-tasting powder or a pill. Crystal methamphetamine looks like glass fragments or shiny, bluish-white rocks.
  • Methamphetamine is a stimulant drug that is chemically similar to amphetamine (a drug used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy).
  • People can take methamphetamine by inhaling/smoking, swallowing, snorting, or injecting the drug.
  • Methamphetamine increases the amount of dopamine in the brain, which is involved in movement, motivation, and reinforcement of rewarding behaviors.
  • Short-term health effects include increased wakefulness and physical activity, decreased appetite, and increased blood pressure and body temperature.
  • Long-term health effects include risk of contracting HIV and hepatitis; severe dental problems (“meth mouth”); intense itching, leading to skin sores from scratching; violent behavior; and paranoia.
  • Researchers don’t yet know whether people breathing in secondhand methamphetamine smoke can get high or have other health effects.
  • A person can overdose on methamphetamine. Because methamphetamine overdose often leads to a stroke, heart attack, or organ problems, first responders and emergency room doctors try to treat the overdose by treating these conditions.
  • Methamphetamine is highly addictive. When people stop taking it, withdrawal symptoms can include anxiety, fatigue, severe depression, psychosis, and intense drug cravings.
  • The most effective treatments for methamphetamine addiction so far are behavioral therapies. There are currently no government-approved medications to treat methamphetamine addiction.

Learn More

For more information about methamphetamine, visit our:


  1. Chang L, Ernst T, Speck O, Grob CS. Additive effects of HIV and chronic methamphetamine use on brain metabolite abnormalities. Am J Psychiatry. 2005;162(2):361-369. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.162.2.361.
  2. Volkow ND, Chang L, Wang GJ, et al. Association of dopamine transporter reduction with psychomotor impairment in methamphetamine abusers. Am J Psychiatry. 2001;158(3):377-382. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.158.3.377.
  3. Wang G-J, Volkow ND, Chang L, et al. Partial recovery of brain metabolism in methamphetamine abusers after protracted abstinence. Am J Psychiatry. 2004;161(2):242-248. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.161.2.242.
  4. Curtin K, Fleckenstein AE, Robison RJ, Crookston MJ, Smith KR, Hanson GR. Methamphetamine/amphetamine abuse and risk of Parkinson’s disease in Utah: a population-based assessment. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2015;146:30-38. doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2014.10.027.
  5. Bassindale T. Quantitative analysis of methamphetamine in hair of children removed from clandestine laboratories–evidence of passive exposure? Forensic Sci Int. 2012;219(1-3):179-182. doi:10.1016/j.forsciint.2012.01.003.
  6. Farst K, Reading Meyer JA, Mac Bird T, James L, Robbins JM. Hair drug testing of children suspected of exposure to the manufacture of methamphetamine. J Forensic Leg Med.2011;18(3):110-114. doi:10.1016/j.jflm.2011.01.013.
Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse; National Institutes of Health; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.



It’s an opioid.

Opioids are powerful painkillers.

Heroin is highly addictive and its users crave it.

In the 1960’s, most heroin users claimed they had not used other drugs before trying heroin.

In the 2000’s, 75% of heroin users in treatment programs said they first abused prescription opioids (Oxycontin, Hydrocodone, Vicodin, etc.).

During that time period, the most commonly prescribed and abused opioid pain relievers, such as oxycodone and hydrocodone, were involved in more overdose deaths than any other opioid type.

So the government cracked down “over-prescribing” painkillers.

As a result, addicts, including some of the everyday moms and pops who’d developed their addictions due to treatments for chronic pain, etc., then turned to the easier to get and less expensive heroin.

It’s believed that 1 in 4 people in Huntington, W. Va, for example, is addicted to heroin or some other opioid.

Heroin dealers, as an attempt to increase potency, up the profits, and possibly to increase the number of addicted users, began “cutting” their products with fentanyl, the most potent opioid available for medical use. Actually, Fentanyl that’s produced in illicit clandestine labs can be up to 100 times more powerful than morphine and 30-50 times more powerful than heroin. It’s lethal even at small doses.

Needless to say, heroin mixed with Fentanyl is a deadly combination. In Massachusetts alone, the number of opioid-related deaths in the first half of 2016 was estimated to be as high as 986, a 26 percent increase over the first six months of 2015.

Now, to further add to the trouble, there’s a new “elephant” in the room—Carfentanil, a synthetic opioid thats’s so potent that just a few granules the size of grains of salt can be lethal.

Carfentanil is an analog of Fentanyl, which means it’s sort of the same synthetic drug but with a twist, and in this case the twist is that Carfentanil is one of the most potent opioids known to man—10,000 times stronger than morphine (100 times stronger than Fentanyl). It is used as a tranquilizer for large animals, such as elephants. It’s use/abuse by humans is extremely deadly. But, dealers have turned to the synthetics because they’re easy and cheap to produce, unlike having to tend to poppy fields and the subsequent conversion to morphine and heroin.

To compound this new trend, users are often buying Carfentanil laced with heroin instead of heroin laced/cut with another substance.

According to a recent Times Magazine article on the subject, approximately 300 people in just four states have overdosed within the past 30 days from heroin laced with Carfentanil and/or Fentanyl. In Hamilton County, Ohio alone, 48 people overdosed in a single day.

Since only a few specks of Carfentanil can be deadly, first responders have a fear of accidentally ingesting the drug and overdosing when helping patients.

The problem has grown to such overwhelming proportions that many police and EMS personnel now carry Narcan, a powerful nasal spray that counteracts opioid overdose. It’s use has now become so commonplace that a new slang term—Narcanned—has emerged.

“Man, I was so out of it last night the cops ‘narcanned’ me.”

“I’ve been narcanned four times in the past thirty days.”

What’s the solution? Well, I wish I had the answer because this terrible trend is hitting us all, and loved ones are dying. Because, well,  sometimes “narcanning” simply doesn’t work.


Prince died of an opioid overdose.

Fentanyl was the drug that killed the Purple Rain superstar.

Prince Rogers Nelson, who was in the process of seeking help for his chemical dependence, died as a drug addict.

There are people in this country who suffer from chronic and severe pain yet their doctors no longer prescribe narcotic pain killers because of the crackdown by the U.S. government on those drugs. Some doctors used to advise patients to not take an abundance of Ibuprofen because of the stomach issues associated with taking too much. So they prescribed drugs such as Vicodin to alleviate pain.

Now, those same doctors avoid prescribing narcotics, telling patients to take Ibuprofen instead. Therefore, those patients now live with chronic pain with very little relief from it, combined with the stomach problems—fluid retention, hypertension, headache, heartburn, rash, bleeding, constipation, gastrointestinal ulceration, nausea and diarrhea—that comes with excessive ingestion of ibuprofen.

Doctors have the difficult task of managing effective pain management using drugs that easily cause addiction. It’s a darned if you do/darned if you don’t, catch-22 situation. And, with the government breathing down the necks of physicians, it’s become mostly a “you don’t” situation.

But, it seems as if patients with lots of money and fame, like Prince, are easily able to get their hands on prescription narcotics, such as Fentanyl and, of course, the doctor-prescribed propofol that took the life of Michael Jackson.

As with any profession, there are people who abuse their authority, and medicine is not exempt from bad people. So yes, unfortunately, there are indeed physicians who allow fame and greed to cloud their judgement, and it is those doctors who’ll open their prescription pads to the powerful and/or famous people under their care. With that said, I’m not saying that’s what happened in the case surrounding Prince’s death, but it’s possible. After all, he was an addict and the people around him knew this was so. It was no secret.


Heroin/Fentanyl pills

Fentanyl is a powerful but synthetic pain killer that’s far stronger than morphine. Ironically, though, it’s a schedule II drug, a step lower than marijuana on the DEA’s official list/schedule of dangerous drugs.

While used to manage and treat the pain of post-surgery patients and chronic sufferers, Fentanyl is also a popular street drug. For those users, the drug is often called names such as fent, China girl, dance fever, murder 8, and TNT.

Fifty times stronger than heroin, Fentanyl is a killer not totally unlike an armed assailant who targets a weak victim.

This killer drug is found both as a pharmaceutical and as a black-market drug. Users and addicts often mix Fentanyl with heroin for a more explosive experience. Some even squeeze the Fentanyl from prescription patches and then mix the extracted gel with heroin. Others place the patches into a microwave where they’re heated to the point that users are able to suck the melted Fentanyl directly into a syringe.

There are numerous methods of ingesting prescription fentanyl, including cutting the patches into thin strips and then placing those strips between the gums, lips, and cheeks. The absorption into the system is much like nicotine consumption when using the smokeless tobacco products that one places between the cheek and gum. There’s even a Fentanyl lollipop/lozenge available. One of the side effects of using the sugar-infused lollipops is dental decay, like that’s a major worry for addicts.

The High

  • A private joy.
  • A warmth that filled my body like no other.
  • Sheer pleasure.

The above are comments made by opioid users I’ve encountered over the years. But there’s one that stuck in the front of my mind and it was said to me by a man named Jerome, who I found sitting on a bench outside a courtroom door. Jerome was an addict who was no stranger to the courtroom. With a few minutes to kill before my first case was called, I asked him why he continued to use a drug that was ruining his life and could eventually kill him. His lips split into a faint grin and then he said, “Imagine the most intense orgasm you’ve ever had, then multiply it a thousand times. That’s how it feels just as the stuff starts winding it’s way through your system. Then it really starts to get good. So yeah, that’s why I do it.”

Jerome wore an orange jumpsuit and handcuffs and ankle chains. He was nervous, scared, and he was an addict. He was also once a dear friend of mine. Our bond began when we were teammates on our school football squad. We were the meanest linebackers around and together we were practically unbeatable. In fact, it wasn’t unusual at all for an opposing team to go scoreless against us, and part of that success was due to Jerome’s and my (mostly Jerome) hard hits at the middle of the line, along with our regular sackings of quarterbacks.

Back in the day, Jerome was big and muscular and could run as fast as a frightened deer. He also carried a high GPA. The guy was smart, bright, and popular. He didn’t smoke, nor did he drink alcohol. And he was quite outspoken when he came to condemning drug use. He had hopes of getting out of the projects and attending the University of North Carolina, and possibly a career in the NFL.

My friend was a bit vain, though. He spent a lot of time grooming in front of mirrors. He carried an Afro pick in his back pocket and frequently pulled it out to work on his hair, and he was forever mopping and rubbing lotion on his arms and face until his molasses-colored skin shone like new money. His perfectly-aligned teeth gleamed like the white keys on a new Steinway. And, for a big, beefy and manly guy, he smelled a bit like lavender garnished with a hint of coconut.

There in the courthouse, though, Jerome appeared weak and sickly. He was rail thin and his complexion was muddy. The whites of his once bright eyes were the color of rotting lemons. His hands shook, and his teeth, the remaining ones, were plastered with black pits of rot and decay. His breath smelled like a week-old animal carcass. His fingernails were bitten to the quick, and his hair was dry, uncombed, had bits of lint and jail-blanket fuzz scattered throughout, and it was flat on one side like he’d been asleep for days without changing positions. He smelled like he’d not showered for at least a month.

I took a seat beside Jerome, with my gun side away from him, of course. He clasped his hands over his belly, stretched his gangly legs out in front of him, and he started talking, telling me about the first time he got high and about the last time he used, and he spoke about everything between. He told me about about the things he stole to support his habit and he told me about breaking into his own grandmother’s house to take a few of her most prized possession, things he traded to his dealer in exchange for drugs.

Jerome told me he performed oral sex on men out at the rest area beside the highway. They, the many, many nameless truckers and travelers, had given him ten dollars each time he entered one of the stalls to do the deed. He described the urine smell and how disgusted he was with himself when he felt the knees of his pants grow wet from contacting whatever was on the tile floor at the time. But whatever it took to get the next high was what he’d do.

Once, a man asked him for anal sex. He was desperate, so he agreed. Jerome said he was to earn twenty-dollars for enduring that painful and humiliating experience, all the while knowing the people in nearby stalls could hear what was going on. He said he’d read the graffiti on the wall above the toilet as a means to take his mind off the obese man behind him. When it was over the man pulled up his pants and left Jerome in the stall, crying. The man didn’t pay.

Jerome told me that he wasn’t gay. Despised having sex with men is what he said, but he did it for the high, even though he often vomited afterward when recalling what he’d done. But the drug was more important. It was THE most important thing in his life.


My high-school buddy’s habit cost him a thousand-dollars each day, seven days a week, unless he wasn’t able to produce the funds. Then he’d grow sick with the sickest feeling on earth. He’d hurt to his very core. Even his bones hurt. He’d sweat and he’d vomit … and vomit and vomit and vomit until the hurt in his gut was like someone was using a hundred power drills and another hundred jackhammers to assault his insides. His heart would slam against his chest wall like a sledgehammer pounding railroad stakes into hard-packed Georgia clay.

Then he’d drop to his knees in another restroom, or steal another something that would help make it all go away until the next time. And he’d do it over and over and over again.

Jerome was lucky. He was caught by a deputy sheriff who was passing by a house and saw Jerome climbing out—feet first—from a bedroom window.

He was awaiting arraignment the day I saw him sitting on the bench outside the courtroom door. A dozen or so other jail inmates occupied the nearby seats.

Jerome asked if I would call his grandmother to tell her he said he was sorry for all he’d done, and that he was starting to feel better and was ready to seek help as soon as he was back on the outside. I told him I’d tell her. Actually, I went one step further and stopped by her house to tell her in person.

Now, I said Jerome was lucky, and I say this because going to jail prevented him from using the drug he grown to so desperately depend upon. His body ached for it, yes, but he beat the sickness and lived.

Unfortunately, Prince died because of that same ache.


Drugs, Not Money, Are the Root of All Evil – Chapter 11 of Police Procedure and Investigation



Top photo – A brick of fentanyl.

* Drug photos courtesy of the DEA.

We've come a long way baby


Country music legend Loretta Lynn knows how to step up to the mic and belt out a tune, and her songs normally tell a story of heartbreak, heartache, and every other “cry-in-your-beer” type of tale imaginable. She’s also crooned about change, especially where a woman’s rights are concerned. A great example is her song, We’ve Come A Long Way, Baby.

I’m thinking Lynn’s song title could also apply to the evolving laws in the U.S. regarding marijuana use, possession, and sales. After all, this country has come a long way since Nixon’s drug war began. A war that, in my opinion, hasn’t worked since day one. And this is especially true regarding marijuana. I say this because I was once soldier in that fight, spending countless hours trekking through thick woods, underbrush, poison oak and ivy, searching for pot growing operations. Sure, I like many investigators, was pretty darn good at finding the telltale signs and following them to plants as small as tiny shoots to nearly 20-foot tall green giants. Then, after I found what I was looking for, I’d set up surveillance on the sites and, when I had enough information and when the time was just right, I and a team of officers raided the operation(s).

In fact, the leaf pictured above is one from a rather large operation I found after seeing a man standing on the side of a country road. He was doing nothing wrong. Had nothing in his hands. Didn’t even look suspicious. But he was standing on the side of the road in an area where the nearest house was probably five miles away in either direction. Of course, I wasn’t driving a marked police car, nor did I look like a cop. So I stopped and asked if he needed a ride. He declined, saying he was walking to “the store” and that he expected his girlfriend to come by any second. To me he was a huge red flag. My intuitive radar was beeping in high gear.

So I continued on my way, but planned to come back after dark and see what I could find. I had someone drop me off near where I saw the man standing and off I went, creeping along through the woods. After two hours and a few dozen mosquito bites and cuts and scrapes from briars, I found what I was looking for, a creek. I knew growers needed a water supply, so I followed the narrow stream until I reached the “pot” of gold, a huge plot of marijuana plants.

A nighttime photo of me standing among the hundreds of marijuana plants I found that night. No, my head is not that tall. I quickly stuck the cap on top of my head so some sort of badge showed up for the evidence photo. Believe me, I totally disliked wearing a hat.

To make a long story short, I later arrested the growers, found a packaging operation on their property, along with numerous pounds of dried and drying marijuana. We go to court and the judge slaps them on the wrist and lets them go. No telling how much time, effort, manpower, technology, and money went into that one investigation alone. And there were, and still are, many of those police investigations going on today across the country.

You know, I’ve often thought I’d live to see the day when marijuana was taken off the list of illegal drugs. At the very least, I truly expected to see it reduced to a classification lower than Schedule I, the group that includes drugs such as heroin. Even cocaine is classified lower than marijuana. Why is marijuana at the top of the list? Who knows?

Well, as we all know, the will of the voting public has been heard in Colorado and Washington, with New York following at their heels. Those two states have legalized marijuana for recreational use. I expect we’ll see more states adjusting their marijuana laws in the near future.

I’m thinking pot smokers everywhere should, at the very least, think about Loretta Lynn as they fire up their newly-legal bongs, because, as her lyrics say, “Times have changed and I’m demanding satisfaction, too. We’ve come a long way, baby.”

How about you? Do you think the country is moving in the right direction? Should marijuana be made legal?


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The party was a blast and you drank a little of everything in sight, including a swallow from the host’s aquarium. Sure, it was a dare, and you spit the goldfish back into the tank, but that should’ve been the first hint that you’d consumed a wee bit too much alcohol. But it wasn’t. Neither was carrying on a conversation with the coat rack and kissing your boss goodbye before stumbling outside where you relieved yourself into a bed of pansies while singing a medley of Celine Dion tunes.

You weren’t drunk. No, not you. At least that’s what your lips were saying while your brain was doing its best to tread water in a whirlpool of beer, whiskey, rum, and tequila. So you got behind the wheel of your prized VW and headed for home. Where you ended up, though, was at the police station, thanks to a few wrong turns and “misunderstandings” with dancing streetlights, mailboxes that insisted on playing chicken with your front bumper, and the row of hedges that used to be a part of the new landscaping in the front yard of the mayor’s house.

So there you sat, quietly humming Lady Gaga’s latest, while a red-faced police officer who, by the way, couldn’t be much older than your kids, fiddled with some sort of gadget while asking you questions. Too many questions, actually. And why, you wondered, did he keep looking at his watch?

Now he’s asking you to…this is ridiculous. You refuse to cooperate with his little test. What’s the worst that could happen? Well…

The scenario above may sound a bit silly, but it happens more often that you’d think. Here are the steps to conducting a breath test on a person who’s suspecting of driving under the influence of alcohol (this is after all the roadside tests have been conducted and the driver is indeed suspected of being under the influence of alcohol).

*These steps apply to the Commonwealth of Virginia. As always, procedures and laws may vary in other areas. By the way, operators/officers conducting the tests must be licensed by the Division of Forensic Sciences. Not all police officers are licensed to conduct the tests.

The procedure:

– The officer must observe the suspect for a minimum of 20 minutes prior to the test. This is so the officer can be certain the suspect has not burped, belched, consumed any additional alcohol, eaten, or consumed beverages of any type.

– the operator presses the enter key on the device, starting a test sequence.

– operator swipes their license through the slot on the device, which then displays their individual information – name, agency, license number, etc.

– operator swipes the suspect’s drivers license, which records their information and enters it in the appropriate lines of the final certificate of analysis. Those without a license require manual entry of information.

– auto testing sequence and purging of the machine is complete at this point. If there is a reading outside the allowable values the testing must be terminated.

– after a few self-check messages, a prompt of “Please blow until the tone stops” begins flashing on the screen.

– the prompt flashes for three minutes, or until the subject blows into the mouthpiece.

– subject blows into the mouthpiece.

– a portion of the breath is then collected into a fuel cell where it is analyzed.

– the mouthpiece is removed and the device purges and waits for the next sample.

– after a two minute wait, and watching the subject to be sure he/she hasn’t burped, etc., a new prompt displays and the operator installs a new mouthpiece.

– the prompt “please blow” appears on the display

The machine provides the data from the two tests and the result used as the official number (blood alcohol content – BAC) is the lowest of the two tests. A certificate of analysis is printed.

Next on the agenda is usually a night spent in jail. By the way, refusing to take the breath test can result in a 12-month suspension of your drivers license and, you could still be found guilty of the DUI if the officer testifies to his observations of your actions during field sobriety tests, etc.

Driving is a privilege, not a right, and everyone who is issued a license to drive (in Va.) implicitly agrees to submit to a breath test when they’re suspected of driving under the influence. No exceptions.

Alcohol Facts

1. Between 90% and 98% of alcohol is oxidized in the liver.

2. Only a small amount of alcohol is excreted through perspiration, the breath, and urine – 2% – 10%

3. The body starts to eliminate alcohol the minute it enters the liver via the blood system. The rate of elimination from the body is between .015 to .018 g/210L per hour, depending, of course, on factors such as disease, drug use, and exercise. Urination and perspiration have no effect on the rate of elimination. Sex and weight also have little to do with the rate of elimination.


Terrorists moonlight


Is it possible that when not bombing, raping, and killing innocent people, terrorists are hard at work pruning, weeding, and planting? Have they secretly attended colleges and earned degrees in ornamental horticulture?

Well, law enforcement officials in some areas believe there’s a direct connection between terrorism and the flowering evergreen shrub Khat (pictured above).

The Texas Department of Public Safety launched a large scale investigation into the sales of Khat and its possible connection to African terrorist organizations such as al-Shabaab. They believe the sales of the chewable plant benefit and support the terrorist groups.

Khat (pronounced “cot”) is native to East Africa and nearby areas. The plant is legal to grow, possess, and ingest in many countries. However, it is illegal to possess in the U.S., Germany, and Canada. Khat produces the chemicals Cathine and Cathinone. Cathine is a Schedule IV drug, while Cathinone, which similar to some amphetamines, is classified as a schedule I drug. Schedule I drugs have no known medicinal value in the U.S. Heroin and LSD are also in the schedule I class of drugs. And, almost unbelievably, marijuana is still classified as a schedule I drug, while cocaine and methamphetamine are a step below in Schedule II.

Users of Khat chew the plant’s leaves, stems, and twigs, much like tobacco chewers use their product. Leaves are also brewed as tea, dried and sprinkled onto food, and they’re even smoked to achieve the desired result.

Khat seized by the DEA

Khat is a stimulant and the high from using it is similar to that produced by methamphetamine and cocaine.

A man prepares Khat for a night of chewing and tea drinking with friends

The effects of Khat on the body are an increase in blood pressure and pulse, a brown staining of the teeth (chewing), stomach and other gastric troubles, and like cocaine and meth use…insomnia. Users may also experience exhaustion, paranoia, hallucinations, difficulty breathing, loss of appetite, and mild to extreme hyperactivity.

Dried Khat leaves

Khat has been found in some bath salts, the synthetic drug once sold legally in many convenience stores other shops.

Bath salts are now illegal in the U.S.

Bath salts have been linked to suicide, homicide, self-inflicted injury, delusions, and child-endangerment.


Valerie Brown


Controlled substances fall under control of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration and the state police. Local police and sheriffs become involved when an incident falls under their jurisdiction – or when they are working with federal or state agencies.

Agencies and Organizations

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) enforces the controlled substances laws of the United States. The DEA investigates and prosecutes drug law violators through 226 domestic offices and through 85 international offices. Employees of the DEA include Diversion investigators, Special Agents, Chemists, and Intelligence Research Specialists.

State police regulate the dispensing, storing, and administering of all controlled substances. For example, a physician, pharmacy or researcher in Texas must obtain a Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) number to store and prescribe controlled substances.  The Texas Department of Public Safety maintains drug rules for them to follow. See Texas DPS Rules.


Laws and regulations

Drug schedules came from legislation and resulted in five categories. Each category depends on the severity of abuse of the substance and its legitimate use in the medical community. These schedules include I-V. Accordingly, each schedule corresponds to an offense for possession and distribution of the substance. 21 U.S.C. United States Code Sections 801, 801a,, 802, 811, 812, 813, and 814 determine when a drug can be placed under a schedule or removed from it.

The Drug Enforcement Administration – along with the Food and Drug Administration – make decisions about changes of the various schedules and substances that fall under them.

Amendments to the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), 21 U.S.C. Food and Drugs include, among others, The Domestic Chemical Diversion and Control Act of 1993 and The Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act of 2008.

Schedule I substances have a high potential for abuse. Drugs in this schedule include herion (diacetylmorphine), LSD (lysergic acid diethlylamide), marijuana, ecstacy (MDMA), mescaline and peyote, among other highly addictive and controlled substances.

Schedule II substances also have a high potential for abuse. Substances in this category include cocaine, Ritalin ®, opium, methadone, oxycodone, morphine, Adderall, codeine, hydrocodone, PCPC (Phencyclidine and pentobartital.

Schedule III substances lead to a lower potential for abuse than Schedule I and Schedule II substances. These substances include Katramine (a PCP replacement), Vicodin/Tylenol 3, Marinol (used during chemotherapy), anabolic steroids, and testosterone.

Schedule IV has a lower potential for abuse – in relation to drugs in Schedule III. Drugs under Schedule IV include Valium (diazepram), Klonopin (clonazepam), Xanax, Lunesta, Ambien, Phenobarbital, Tramadol, and Soma.

Schedule V substances have a low potential for abuse. They still, however, have to be dispensed for a medical purpose. These substances include Lyrica, cough medicine containing codeine, and Lomotil.

Pharmaceutical companies

Known now as “Big Pharma”, pharmaceutical companies patent drug names that may eventually become generic (as was the case with heroin). Any of these drugs developed for legitimate purposes can be abused or sold on the street level.

United States

Eli Lilly

Drug patents: Zyprexa (patent expired 2011), Prozac (fluoxetine) patent expired 2001

Merck & Co.

Drug patent: Ecstacy (methylenedioxymethamphetamine)

Johnson & Johnson

Drug patent: Concerta (patent expired 2011) – attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

Abbott Laboratories

Drug patent: Depakote (valproic acid) anticonvulsant and mood stabilizer for bipolar disorder

Bristol-Myers Squibb

Drug patent: Abilify (anti-depressant and anti-psychotic)


Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.

Drug patent: Copaxone (to treat multiple sclerosis)


F. Hoffman La Roche Limited

Drug patent: Pegasys (hepatitis C drug) – later the patent was revoked

United Kingdom


Drug patent: Paxil (Paroxetine Hydrocloride) – anti-depressant


Bayer AG

Drug patent: diacetylmorphine – trade named Heroin – for heroisch (German) heroic  (English), was first marketed as a cough suppressant and morphine substitute. Heroin converts to morphine, once metabolized. But because of its high rate of addiction, heroin was eventually no longer used for its original purpose.  It became a Schedule I controlled substance.

However, in Switzerland, clinics dispense free heroin to help users overcome their addition.

Drug paraphernalia

Profits come not only from the illegal sale of controlled substances on the street, but also from the paraphernalia associated with drug manufacturing, sale and use. These are sold mostly in head shops. However, head shop items are not necessary to process, cook, or consume controlled substances. For example, heroin users heat and inhale heroin using aluminum foil. Substances can also be heated using a household items such as a teaspoon or tablespoon.

Growing Threats


Not as common in the United States as in Russia is the flesh eating drug nick-named Krokodile.  Krokodile destroys flesh – leaving bones exposed and even leads to amputation of limbs because of its devastating effects.



Methamphetamine can be made from over-the-counter medications. Its use can be devastating – not only in a user’s appearance, but in their internal health. Users commonly end up with sores on their body and face, in addition to “meth mouth” where the teeth become brown and yellow shark teeth – or are eaten away altogether.

Methamphetamine – link before and after shots


Molly is the drug Ecstacy, now being used with a new name.


The Kratom Craze has created another threat to substance abuse.


Writing about controlled substances requires knowing about the Drug Enforcement Agency and the role it plays in enforcement of drug laws. In addition, it helps to become familiar with state police regulation of controlled substances through drug rules. Knowing Schedules I – V and how substances can change from one Schedule to another (over time) is also required.

And despite legitimate patents for controlled substances, there will always be street level drugs that combine controlled substances or at least ones that are used contrary to their original purpose.

Further reading

Rush by Kim Wozencraft

Go Ask Alice, Author Anonymous

Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Suzanne

One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest by Ken Kesey

On the Road by Jack Kerouac

Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson

*     *     *

Valerie Brown’s interest in law and law enforcement came from her experience with a Law Enforcement Explorers Group, in addition to a trimester law enforcement program. She continued her interest in government and law by graduating from the University of Texas with a B.A. in Government and by completing her M.A. in Legal Studies at Texas State University. She is inspired by her father who was a chief chemist at a major petrochemical company.

*Images – DEA and Wikipedia Commons public domain

One-eye'd Joe


Fall in the south is a welcome time of the year. It’s when searing temperatures and unbearable humidity finally give way to crisp breezes and crimson streaked sunsets. Air conditioners are switched off and windows raised. It’s a time for high school football, sweatshirts, and the harvesting of crops, such as cotton, soybeans, and tobacco. Peanut farmers also begin their harvests by digging into the soil, exposing their subterranean crops, the fruits of their summer labor. The scent of freshly turned dirt combines with the familiar fragrance of the sun-drying legumes. Together, their  earthy odor fill the air. For many, this is the first formal announcement that another summer has indeed passed.

On this particular autumn night, the night that One Eye’d Joe went on a binge of smoking crack and drinking more than his fill of Mad Dog 20-20, a heavy harvest moon hung low in the night sky, casting long shadows across fields, backyards, and empty parking lots. There was a nip in the still air, and blades of grass were stiff and brittle, coated with the first frost of the season.

Deep in the folds of the city, One-Eye’d Joe was desperate. He and a friend had spent the last their combined dollars on a few crack rocks, smoked them, and were now looking to sustain the high, any way they could. And, with each man suffering from a thousand-dollar-a day habit, there were no limits on what they’d do. None.

One-Eye’s nickname came about after he’d gotten into a rather nasty fight with his brother. The older sibling, Willie, was on the losing end of the battle, so he grabbed the nearest weapon at hand to even the odds—a small stick—and attempted to gouge his brother’s face. The stick penetrated Joe’s right eye, leaving him permanently blind on that side. The injured eye eventually turned dull and milky white, a very distinguishing feature in each of Joe’s many mug shots.

A few years later, during a three-day drinking spell, One-Eyed Joe returned the favor by jabbing brother Willie in the eye with a broken bottle. Willie now has the matching milky left eye to Joe’s right. To add insult to injury, and more irony than this story can stand, the brothers had a small dog that had only one good eye. I don’t know how that happened, and I dare not try to imagine.

One-Eye’s crack-smoking best friend was a male prostitute who resided in a rat-and-roach-infested, pay-by-the-week hotel, where he performed oral sex for other men. His fee was twenty-dollars for each sex act—enough for one rock. He and One-Eye had been close friends since junior high, and had been in and out of jail and prison throughout their entire lives.

One-Eyed Joe had been locked up at least once for nearly every crime imaginable, short of murder, but his specialty was B&E—Breaking and Entering. He liked to slip into homes while the owners were away on vacation or out for the evening. He was not normally violent, and he didn’t like confrontation. As a rule, Joe was very passive, but had been known to throw a punch or two, if cornered. Together, these two thugs didn’t weigh 220 pounds, and it would surprise me if they had a full set of teeth between them. Crack smokers are not known for their good hygiene habits, and the teeth are often the first thing to go. As a team, the two thugs reminded me more of Abbott and Costello than the hardened criminals they aspired to be.

On this night, though, the two had spent every dime they had on crack, and, as usual, they craved and needed more—a lot more—and Joe was struck with an idea as to how they’d get it. He thought about a job he once worked as a truck-stop fuel attendant. Yes, the two bumbling crooks decided to rob Joe’s old place of employment. Their plan in its entirety was to wait until the fuel-desk clerk was alone, and then rob her at knife-point.

The truck stop sits just outside the south edge of the city limits, just off the main highway. It had been in business for many years under the same ownership. The proprietors of this hole-in-the-wall truckers’ haven still believed customers should never have to pump their own fuel, and that an attendant should smile and wash the customer’s windows while they waited. That particular job had been Joe’s during his three-week tenure.

The company’s old-fashioned ways were charming, but added to their vulnerability when it came to hold ups, because they simply didn’t believe in computers or high-tech security. In fact, their only telephone, a wall-mount unit, was the old-fashioned, finger-holed dial type that takes just a little too long to ring up 911.

The truck-stop’s greasy spoon restaurant served breakfast twenty-four hours a day, and advertised a different lunch and dinner special for each day of the week. This particular Thursday night was liver-and-onions night, and the aroma of fried onions and greasy, brown gravy hung in the air immediately surrounding the restaurant. At approximately 10:30 p.m., business was so slow, the night manager sent the only waitresses home early, thinking she and the cook would be able to handle things for the rest of the shift.

The desk where the truck drivers paid for their fuel was in a separate building from the restaurant. That part of the business was enjoying a better-than-average night, and the lone clerk, a older woman with big hair and gnarled and twisted arthritic fingers, was managing the workload just fine. She was well-liked by the drivers, and they normally spent a few minutes shooting the breeze with her before getting back behind the wheel.

One-by-one, both long- and short-haul truckers swung their big rigs off the highway and into the lot for refueling. While they waited for their tanks to fill, they topped off their thermoses with fresh, hot coffee and stopped in at the desk to hear the latest gossip.

At 10:45 p.m., One-Eye’s partner-in-crime drove his beat-up, faded blue Chevy Malibu past the teal Kenworth at the pumps and into the far corner of the truck-stop parking lot, just out of reach of the amber light spewing from the rows of tall sodium-vapor lights. The car reached the end of the lot and its driver turned it around to face the truck stop. He shut off the motor.

The Kenworth pulled out, and a candy-apple red Peterbilt—the last truck in the lot—sat idling at the pumps while the driver said his goodbyes to the clerk. The two criminals, still high from hours of crack smoking, watched as the driver climbed into his rig and, with a whoosh from the air brakes and a grinding of low gears, he eased the Peterbilt out onto the roadway.

From where One-Eye and his partner sat, they could see the clerk through a window, soundlessly going about her routine, tallying fuel totals and taxes. Not once did she lift her head to look into the parking lot. Had she done so, she’d have seen the two men watching her every move.

The 911 call came into the police station at 11:00 p.m. on the dot. The frantic clerk said she’d been robbed by two men, one of whom wielded a six-inch steak knife. She said she didn’t recognize either of them, but one of the two had a bad eye. She said it looked as if he was blind in the bad one, because it was white and milky-looking. When they called me out to investigate the armed robbery, I first swung by my office to pick up a photo of One-Eyed Joe. I was pretty sure that it was he whom the clerk had described. Who else could it be?

I showed the clerk the picture and she positively identified One-Eyed Joe as the robber. So I drove to his house and found a car parked in the grass near the front door. It matched the description of the get-a-way car. The hood was still warm.

I had arrested One-Eye many times in the past for his various crime sprees, and not once had he ever shown any violence, much less had a weapon of any sort. However, since the clerk said he had brandished a knife this time, I didn’t take any chances and called for back-up to meet me at the house.

Once help arrived, I knocked on the door. In a matter of seconds, the door opened and a very high Joe stared me in the face. The good eye darted from side to side, looking first to my right eye, then to my left. The white eye eerily followed suit.

He spoke first, “I guess you come after me about what we done at the truck stop.” I told him that yes, that was my reason for being there.

“I done it,” he said. “At least me and him together done it.” He pointed inside the room to where his partner sat on the linoleum floor beside a short coffee table—the only piece of furniture in the house that had not been sold or cut up for firewood. On the table top was a broken-off boom box antenna, a makeshift pipe for smoking crack, and several bits and pieces of aluminum foil—the wrappings for the crack cocaine.

The two chatterboxes wouldn’t stop talking, an effect of smoking crack, and I didn’t want any problems in court with their unending, babbling confession, so I promptly advised them of Miranda, something I’d do a few times as their high dissipated, just to be sure they understood the words and their meaning (as if they didn’t already know the drill by heart).

I handcuffed each of them and drove them back to my office for further questioning. Along the way, One-Eye explained—between tears and sobs—that he was grateful for us catching him so soon. He went on to say he was scared and worried that he would have killed someone to get the next piece of crack. He told me he had no control over his life. I believed that statement to be true. The men were so high and so desperate for the next hit, that they would’ve done anything to get it, including murder, which, they’d said, was next on their list. They’d planned to go back to the truck stop to kill the clerk and then steal the company safe.

I often wonder just how many people have come that close to death, without knowing it. How about you? Has there been a “One Eye’d Joe in your life?” Someone who’d thought of killing you, but didn’t because of a last minute intervention. Or, will you meet your “Joe” tomorrow?

Today, perhaps?


Kill and eat someone

“I want to kill someone and eat them!” the woman yelled out as she lunged toward a New York City police officer, attempting to bite his face. She was subdued and taken to a hospital for psychiatric evaluation.

Later, officers were called to the home of Aubrey Vails, the young man who’d ripped a door from its hinges at his parent’s home, after threatening to kill them. Police found the crazed man in the driveway, violently and repeatedly punching a car.

In Georgia, a frightened mother called the police to report that her son, Matthew Hammond, was “acting crazy,” and was walking around with a knife threatening to hurt someone. When the responding officer arrived, Hammond charged the police car and began aggressively knocking on the doors and windows, challenging the officer to a fight. He still had the knife in his hand, and, in an even more bizarre twist to the case, Hammond had feces in his mouth.

Hammond continued to challenge the officer by pulling on the door handles of the police cruiser. The officer accepted Hammond’s challenge by drawing his service weapon, aiming it at the threat. Hammond dropped the knife and was immediately arrested by the officer.

But it doesn’t end there…

Miami – A man growled at approaching police, and then screamed. I want to eat you!”

Roanoke Va. – A man stripped naked and crawled across his back yard to escape from dozens of snakes he perceived were after him. In another Roanoke case, a man bit and chewed at his mother’s arms.

Munnsville – State police responded to a scene where a woman was violently punching and choking a child. Her husband managed to get the child away, so the woman then grabbed the family dog and began abusing it in a similar manner.  The woman starting spinning around in circles, stripped off her clothes, and then chased after a neighbor. As the police officers approached she began growling like a vicious animal. Pepper spray had no effect on the woman, so the troopers deployed a Taser. She died soon after. Witnesses agree that the officers had exhausted all means of restraint before utilizing the Taser.

Calgary – Witnesses observed a naked man bashing his face into a fence, attempting to take off his own nose. When the police arrived they found him sitting (still naked) staring at the ground and bleeding profusely. He became extremely combative, with what could only be described as having superhuman strength.

What could possibly make these people do the things they do? Bath Salts.

Bath salts, often labeled as an alternative to cocaine, are made from a variety of chemicals, such as methylenedioxypyrovalerone, mephedrone and pyrovalerone. The drug (not the stuff used for bathing) is typically taken orally, through inhalation or by injection. The finished product is a brain stimulant that produces an intense high, hallucinations, paranoia, intense cravings (rapid addiction to the drug), and extremely high body temperatures, which may explain so many naked abusers of the drug.

The effects of the drug are intense, and dangerous. In 2011, over 6,000 cases were reported to poison control centers.

What does the drug do to a user? Have a look at these police videos to see for yourself.

Drugs: What They're Called On The Street

Some say tomato, some say tomahto. I like potato, you like potahto. You say cocaine, he says…Aunt Nora? That’s right, Aunt Nora. And that’s just one of the street names for cocaine. And there are many.

Most undercover cops will tell you that their assignment is sometimes a strange one, because they not only have to learn to “walk the walk,” they also have to learn an entirely new language—the street drug language. If the UC (undercover) doesn’t use the correct terminology for a drug in specific area then his cover is almost certain to be blown. Therefore, it is imperative that the officer study his subjects and their mannerisms and speech before approaching them. Can you imagine what would happen if an undercover officer walked up to a drug runner and asked, “May I please purchase a large quantity of d-lysergic acid diethylamide? I believe you cats call it acid out here on the mean streets.” Yeah, that would work…

So, to help your characters fit in a little better than our guy above, here are a few street names for, or relating to, illegal drugs.


Aunt Nora


Aspirin (powder cocaine)

Balling (hiding packaged cocaine in body cavities).

Base crazies -desperately and frantically searching on hands and knees for small amounts of spilled cocaine or bits of crack cocaine.

Behind the Scale – selling or packaging cocaine.

Beiging – altering cocaine with chemicals to make it appear of a higher quality, or purity.

Bernie, Bernie’s flakes, Bernie’s dust

Birdie powder




Booster – inhaling cocaine

Brick – one kilo of cocaine



California cornflakes







Crack cocaine







African Black
















Chiba chiba


Clam Bake – sitting inside a small enclosed space ( a car, etc.) while smoking marijuana

Don Juan


Giggle smoke




Mow the grass – smoke marijuana



Oxycontin and Oxycodone

Hillbilly heroin





Forget Me Pill

Lunch money drug

Mexican Valium











Chalk (also refers to cocaine)







Hot ice



Pink elephants



Tick tick