Christine Stuart photo
Methamphetamine, known on the street as crystal meth, ice, or crank, is not the drug of choice in Connecticut and state officials want to make sure its stays that way. “We are fortunate that the meth epidemic has not taken a foothold in Connecticut,” U.S. Attorney Kevin O’Connor said Thursday. State officials joined others across the nation in raising awareness about the drug Thursday.Connecticut has had incidents of meth production, distribution, possession, and addiction, but the state as not suffered the public health and safety consequences that many states west of the Mississippi have experienced.
O’Connor used the map to illustrate the dramatic increase in the problem across the nation. The map on top shows how many people per 100,000 were receiving treatment for meth abuse in 1992 compared to the bottom map which shows meth addiction treatment in 2004. Public Health Commissioner J. Robert Galvin said rehabilitation for meth addiction is on average around six-months. But the danger of meth effects more than the user. Galvin said the production of the drug generates toxic fumes and is highly explosive. Unlike heroin and cocaine, two more popular drugs in Connecticut, meth does not come from a plant but is manufactured in labs. Often small labs are set up in home kitchens or garages. Through a cooking process everyday chemicals like pseudoephedrine, lye, acetone, paint thinner, and battery acid are combined to make meth. The process generates up to five pounds of toxic waste for every pound produced. The smell created by the cooking process is one of the reasons the drug is less prevalent on the densely populated East Coast. O’Connor said rural areas are “much more condusive to labs.” That’s not to say they don’t exist in the state. Drug Enforcement Special Agent Brian Crowell said last year three labs were shutdown and this year two labs were shutdown in the state. The Connecticut labs were box labs meaning all the materials found in the lab would fit in a box. The amount of meth that can be made in these labs is minimal and most is consumed by the addict in charge of the lab, which leaves little for street distribution.But homegrown labs aren’t the only way meth finds its way into the state. Crowell said some of the meth found in the state comes from “superlabs” in Mexico. He said there was a time when traffickers only handled one kind of drug, but now that’s no longer the case and meth has found its way into the United States through the same distribution routes established for heroin and cocaine. In 2005 the DEA seized 0.9 kilograms of meth compared to the 51.9 kilograms of cocaine. For those unfamiliar with the effects of the drug, Galvin said it makes users excited and alters their moods. Like cocaine it is a stimulant, but unlike cocaine it lasts much longer than a few hours. Sometimes the high from a small amount of meth can last for days and the most devastating effect is it “tricks your brain into thinking your fine,” Crowell said. Gov. M. Jodi Rell said she would reintroduce legislation for those involved in the distribution and consumption of meth. “I still believe we need to get tougher laws here in Connecticut,” she said. Rell proposed a 15-year jail sentence for a first offense possession charge and a 30-year sentence for a second offense. She said currently its a class A misdemeanor for those caught in possession of the drug and class D felony for those possessing the materials to manufacture it.