Crystal Meth, which is short for methamphetamine in its crystallized form (as opposed to being either in a powder or rock formation), has become a very popular drug both in the United States and around the world. This drug, which was used almost three times more than crack cocaine in 1999, is not just a new fad. Crystal meth has been in existence close to one hundred years.
In 1893, Methamphetamine or crystal meth was first developed from ephedrine. A chemist by the name of Nagayoshi Nagai was responsible for this creation. It wasn’t until 1919, that methamphetamine was turned into its crystallized form by Akira Ogata. Ogata was able to do this by reduction of ephedrine using iodine and red phosphorous. Amphetamine, which is a related drug, first came into existence in 1887 by a Lazar Edeleanu in Germany. Methamphetamine manufacturing initially began in the United States in Hawaii in the 1960s.
The “Flyer’s Chocolate”
One of the earliest uses of methamphetamine occurred during World War II. The German military dispensed Pervitin which was methamphetamine. It was freely administered to both tank crews and aircraft personnel. Chocolate was often dosed with methamphetamine and was known as Fliegerschokolade or "flyer's chocolate". Panzerschokolade or "tanker's chocolate" was given to tank crews.
Hitler and Crystal Meth?
For last three years of Hitler’s life, 1942 - 1945, Adolf Hitler received daily IV injections of methamphetamine by his doctor, Theodor Morell. This was done as treatment for depression and fatigue. Historians have speculated that this was done to treat Parkinson’s disease. However, it is unsure as to whether Hitler had Parkinson’s or if the Parkinson like symptoms (pill rolling finger movements, ataxia or unsteady gait) were due to abuse of methamphetamines.
The Advent of Shabu
After World War II, what became known as “Shabu” or amphetamine became largely available in Japan. This occurred because the Japanese military no longer utilized the drug. In 1951 Shabu became prohibited by the Japanese Ministry of Health banned. The banning of the drug is thought to have contributed to the overproduction of methamphetamine in Japan. Even today, crystal meth is strongly associated with the Japanese underworld and has a strong social taboo associated with it.
After the War
In the 1950s methamphetamine became a more commonly prescribed drug. It was often prescribed for the following:
- Treatment of obesity
- Post encephalitic Parkinsonism
By the 1960s there was a more significant use of illegally manufactured methamphetamines by users within their own homes. Since Crystal meth is made from everyday household chemicals and common household components, it makes it easy to manufacture. Today, instructions for making crystal meth can be viewed on websites and until quite recently, Sudafed, a major component of crystal meth can be purchased in bulk without question. An ounce of crystal meth worth up to $1000 can be made with just eighty dollars of products from your local hardware and pharmacy.
In the 1980’s use of methamphetamine peaked. In fact, San Diego, California was considered the methamphetmine capital of the North America by The Economist magazine.
If There Was Any Doubt, Crystal Meth is Illegal
The United States passed laws in 1983 prohibiting possession of equipment and precursors for methamphetamine production. Shortly thereafter, Canada passed a very similar bill. The Controlled Substance Analogue Enforcement Act was passed by the government in an effort to decrease the growing rate of designer drugs, both in use and production. Regardless of said efforts, use of Crystal meth expanded all throughout the United States especially in the South and Midwest. It is in rural places that clandestine labs are often set up. This is because production of crystal meth causes toxic smells. Since for every pound of crystal meth there is five to six pounds of toxic waste produced, being in a clandestine area is ideal. If there is no one around, waste can be dispersed throughout the yard and surrounding areas. This is also why police officials have become more observant regarding crystal meth production.
There have been five federal laws and many state laws written since 1989 in order to try to curb production of methamphetamine. Pseudoephedrine or ephedrine, sales have been restricted in order to reduce the amount of the main ingredient of methamphetamine available to the general public. The Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005 was written especially to combat the sales of pseudoephedrine and ephedrine that an individual may purchase in a specified time period. In addition, there are other requirements regarding storage of these products in order to prevent theft.
Is It Going Anywhere, Anytime soon?
Despite efforts by law enforcement, crystal meth use is still alive and raging throughout the United States and the world. It is a serious issue which will take much more work and effort to combat. For this reason, it is quite feasible that in a few more years, crystal meth will have again appeared in the news yet again, creating an even more interesting history for itself than it has now.
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