Thursday, August 30, 2007

Recent Articles of Interest

From time to time, I find an article on the internet that I find interesting enough or relevant enough that I’m compelled to share it with others - assuming that anyone other than myself is remotely even reading any of these entries! These few are worthy of mention to be sure. The first two focus primarily on methamphetamine but I’m sure, for the first article anyway, that could be substituted with any other drug of addiction. Ok, not so much the second one. The third article was one that I discovered approx two years ago but feel compelled to mention it once again. It kind of covers the whole gamut of drugs.

You Do the Meth

By Joel Warner

Published: June 28, 2007

Someone was at the front door. Miranda’s two-year-old daughter rushed toward it, figuring that her father was home. But then the door burst open, narrowly missing her, and the toddler saw that it wasn’t Daddy after all. It was a SWAT team. Armor-clad police officers stormed inside, weapons drawn. They pushed a shocked Miranda to the floor and fastened her hands behind her back with zip ties. While her three children - her daughter and five- and nine-year-old sons - sat beside her, the SWAT team quickly scouted the rest of the two-bedroom basement apartment. After that, narcotics operatives from the North Metro Task Force took over, led by Detective Rob Lopez. He’d received a tip several months earlier that folks had been scoring methamphetamine from this residence, located in a shabby stretch of low-lying apartments near U.S. 36 and Federal Boulevard in Westminster. He’d sent a wired informant there to buy meth - once from Miranda and once from her husband, Vince. Each time, there were children at home. Combing through the apartment on this evening in December 2004, Lopez and his colleagues found half a gram of meth in a vitamin bottle and a fifth of a gram in a plastic baggie. In a sealed box in a closet, they discovered meth pipes and other drug paraphernalia, plus digital scales and various plastic baggies presumably used to sell meth; elsewhere, they found two stashes of marijuana.

The detectives asked about Vince, and the oldest boy said that his father was at the apartment building next door. They found him there, along with 26 grams of meth in a throat-lozenge container.

As the three children were handed off to representatives of the Adams County Social Services Department, Lopez read Miranda her rights, which she waived. Flustered and defensive, she admitted that she and Vince sold meth out of their home four to five times a day, making $20 to $50 per deal. She smoked meth, too, she said. Lopez asked if she realized what she was doing to herself, to her family. There was more to life than this - didn’t she see that? But it was impossible to know if any of that got through.

Lopez then talked to Vince, who was scruffy and skinny, with a goatee; Lopez was scruffy and built, with his long hair in a ponytail. Under different circumstances, in a different life, the two wouldn’t have looked out of place sitting down together for a beer. But now Vince said he sold meth to supplement his income - and used it himself. He was already on probation for a previous misdemeanor drug charge, so he was probably facing jail time. Vince seemed resigned to his fate, maybe ready to turn things around, but Lopez didn’t buy it. "When you have them at the jail, they’re willing to give up the world," he says. "In this instance, I just thought it was more of the same."

As a narc, it was Lopez’s job to find the drugs and bust the perps. He wasn’t operating a daycare center. The three kids might go to friends or relatives, but who knew if those new caretakers would be addicts? Or they could stay in the social-services system and bounce from one foster home to the next. Either way, they were just collateral damage in the drug war.

"So I dumped Vince off in jail and turned around and went home," Lopez remembers. "And that’s usually where it ends."



By Alan Prendergast

Published: September 4, 2003

Randy Goin remembers his first visit to a methamphetamine lab six years ago. It was the beginning of a long and disturbing chemistry lesson.

A Thornton narcotics detective assigned to the North Metro Drug Task Force, Goin didn’t know quite what to expect. He’d heard the horror stories about crazed meth-cooks and their paranoia, guns and booby traps. He knew something about the ingredients they use, a vile brew of cold pills, household solvents and acids, iodine, phosphorous, ammonia -- which, if inexpertly combined, can produce flash fires, deadly gases and toxic spills. But all of his training couldn’t prepare him for his first lab bust.

The target was an old barn on a 25-acre property in rural Adams County. Goin’s team found a fully automatic machine gun but no cook in progress; to their relief, the chemicals and glassware appeared to be neatly stored. What caught Goin’s attention, though, was the sink that the lab operator had used to dump his waste chemicals.

The sink wasn’t connected to the sewer system, and the waste simply oozed from a pipe outside -- near a well pump and a trampoline where kids played. It was easy to trace the discharge as it trickled down a hill to a catch-pond. All you had to do was follow the ever-widening kill path in its wake, a swath of bare ground where the surrounding weeds just stopped.

"Nothing would grow there," Goin recalls. "Nothing."

The scene was his first intimation that he was dealing with something beyond the grasp of conventional law enforcement. What kind of dipstick could so casually poison the land around him -- and possibly his children and his own water supply in the bargain?

Over the next three years, North Metro began to encounter meth labs with alarming frequency. The task force was soon hitting a couple a month, then one or two a week -- labs in apartments, motel bathrooms, cars. Goin was in on 35 or 40 of those busts. In almost every case, his protective gear consisted of a pair of latex gloves.

Goin saw pristine apartments turned into iodine-stained dumps, a once-tidy mobile home scarred by unreported fires. He saw kids scavenging for whatever food they could find after their parents had been passed out for days.

"It’s all about the meth," he says. "Kids get ignored, the property falls apart. Meth becomes their whole world."

At first, few people -- aside from the haz-mat teams that customarily made the initial entry -- gave much thought to the dizzying vapors that permeated the labs. Even after the joint had been aired out, you could smell the chemicals and sometimes taste them -- a sweet yet acrid smell, not unlike the odor of a hardware store stacked high with pesticides and fertilizer. Goin emerged lightheaded a couple of times. Other team members complained of headaches that lasted for days.

Goin saw one co-worker chase down a suspect and cuff him bare-handed. The cook’s clothing was saturated with chemicals; a few minutes later, the skin on the officer’s palms started blistering.

In time, Goin thought less about what the labs were doing to the weeds in Adams County. He began to worry about what they were doing to him.


Generation Rx

By Glenna Whitley

You couldn’t miss him: a teenager dressed always in black, with Elvis sideburns and a hard-charging way of bounding up the stairs, as if life were moving too slowly for him. In the same class as my oldest son at the Science and Engineering Magnet at Townview, occasionally at our house for all-night LAN parties, Luke Stone was likable, smart and had an appetite for adventure, the guy willing to try anything once. He was a natural leader, a person who drew people from all walks of life into his orbit with his energy and enthusiasm. He also had a sweet side. He’d grown up going to church and carried a picture of Jesus in his wallet. He was drawn to beautiful, troubled girlfriends who needed rescuing. Luke Stone was your basic good kid. But on May 14 a year ago, when Luke was a 20-year-old student at the University of Texas at Dallas, his daring nature killed him. The coroner’s verdict: accidental drug overdose. This isn’t another “drugs are bad for you” story. It is a trip into another world, one far different from that of Luke’s parents-even though they’d grown up in the ’60s and ’70s and had their own encounters with illegal drugs. David and Sondra Stone viewed their experimentation, particularly with marijuana, as a normal part of growing up. They didn’t want their kids to become addicts, of course, but as long as they stayed away from “hard drugs” like cocaine and heroin, they figured the kids would come out all right, just like they had.

Luke Stone’s parents know that isn’t true anymore. They didn’t realize the landscape of substance abuse has radically changed.

Today, kids Luke’s age swim in a sea of psychotropic pharmacology-pills, potions and powders legally prescribed for everything from depression to attention deficit disorder. When they want to get high, they’re more likely to turn to benzodiazepines, a class of drugs like Valium that treat anxiety and panic attacks. Instead of shooting heroin, they score synthetic opiates such as Vicodin, Percocet, Dilaudid or Tylenol with codeine. To get a buzz or pull an all-nighter for an exam, they pop pills like Ritalin and Adderall, amphetamines that treat ADD.

It makes sense. You don’t have to find a drug dealer to get Xanax. You just have to rummage in Mom’s medicine chest. You don’t need to sneak around to score Adderall. A pediatrician prescribed it because you were driving your teachers crazy. Why not trade a few Adderall to your roommate, under the care of a psychiatrist for panic disorder, for some of his Xanax?

If you get caught-well, parents who discover a kid snitching a Lortab react differently from those who find a crack pipe or syringe. The explosion in pharmaceuticals has been magnified by the Internet. Not only are there more psychotropic drugs to choose from, it’s easier than ever to learn what to take, how much to take and what effects to anticipate. Luke scoured sites like”documenting the complex relationship between humans and psycho actives”-for information and “trip reports” on everything from peyote to Percocet. From there, teens are one click away from an illegal online pharmacy, a cyber medicine cabinet offering quick, discreet delivery.

A 2004 study at Columbia University found that only 6 percent of 157 Web sites selling medications actually required a prescription. And last month the DEA arrested 20 people, from Tyler, Texas, to Bombay, India, as part of “Operation Cyber Chase,” targeting an illegal international ring that used more than 200 Web sites to distribute prescription narcotics, amphetamines and steroids. Web sites to replace them will pop up overnight like psilocybin mushrooms sprouting in a cow patty.


No comments: