Crystal Meth

Crystal methamphetamine

WINCHESTER — While fentanyl and heroin remain the deadliest drugs in the area, methamphetamine has increasingly become the drug of choice.

Through September, the Northwest Regional Drug and Gang Task Force seized 3,435 grams of meth, according to Joshua T. Price, task force coordinator and a state police special agent. That's down nearly 37% from the 5,444 grams seized through September of last year — about 6,000 grams were seized for all of last year — but 408% higher than the 675 grams seized in all of 2017. Besides Winchester, the task force covers Clarke, Frederick, Page, Shenandoah and Warren counties.

A gram of meth costs about $80 on the street, according to the website rehabcenter.net. A single dose, about a quarter of a gram, costs $20.

Price told the Northern Shenandoah Valley Substance Abuse Coalition at its Sept. 26 meeting that stricter regulation of pseudoephedrine sales (an ingredient often contained in nasal/sinus medications and other over-the-counter drugs) has had unintended consequences. Rather than using home-cooked meth, of which pseudoephedrine is a main ingredient, addicts are increasingly using crystal meth  — defined as methamphetamine with an 80% or higher purity rate — smuggled in from Mexico.

He said the task force has only made two seizures involving homemade meth this year. The task force has also seen an increase in crack cocaine use and seizures of it in the last few years.

The meth increase is part of a national trend in regions designated as High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas. Winchester and Frederick County are part of the Washington D.C./Baltimore HIDTA region.

Last year, 67,757 kilograms of meth were seized in HIDTA regions, according to National Public Radio, which cited numbers provided by HIDTA task forces. The seizures were a 142% increase from 2017. A July 10 report by the Drug Enforcement Administration on increasing Midwest seizures said crystal meth has made a "deadly resurgence" in the U.S., with large loads smuggled in from Mexico each day. 

"Gone are the days of domestic super-labs and one-pot labs whose product often averaged 60% purity with potency varying upon the manufacturing method," "Today's methamphetamine from Mexico comes from mega-labs capable of producing hundreds of pounds of the drug in a single cycle, all with a purity in the upper 90th percentile and potency not far behind."

Amphetamines have been around over a century. They were created in Germany in 1887 and synthesized into methamphetmine in 1919 in Japan. Due to their ability to allow subjects to have high energy and go without sleep, amphetamines were used by Allied and Axis soldiers in World War II.

Amphetamines were prescribed in pill form as a diet aid in the 1950s and 1960s in the U.S. and truckers used them to stay awake on cross-country trips. Amphetamine and methamphetmine use was banned in the U.S. in 1971 due to its highly addictive nature and deadly long-term effects. Meth use effects include violent behavior, changes in brain structure, extreme weight loss, anxiety, memory loss and paranoia.

"I would lose my mind," said Brenna, a Jefferson County, W. Va., resident who didn't want to give her last name, about her meth-using days. "I would go into the psych ward and be acting like a crazy person and it wasn't that I was crazy, it was that my brain was mush at that point."

Brenna, sober since 2014, said she went from 150 pounds when she first used meth in 2008, to 92 pounds when she stopped. She her first meth use was smoking crystal meth — nicknamed "ice" for its resemblance to glass shards — in Texas when she was 17.

Brenna said the initial high made her feel euphoric and indestructible and the high lasted four to eight hours. But within weeks, her body built up tolerance and she had to switch to snorting and then injecting to still get high.

Brenna recalled once going without sleep for 14 days. Her body began easily bruising and she saw "shadow people" — hallucinations of people or objects coming at her out of the corner of her eyes — and she experienced extreme paranoia. After three relapses, she got sober at rehabilitation clinics in Florida. She moved to West Virginia to sever her ties to people connected to meth in Texas.

In addition to wanting to survive, Brenna, a mother of three, credits wanting to be a good parent for being able to maintain sobriety. While withdrawal isn't like the excruciating experience of heroin withdrawal, Brenna, now a drug recovery coach in Martinsburg, said she still experiences side effects from meth.

"It settles in your brain," she said. "I have 5½ years of sobriety and I still see shadow people. My memory is awful and I have problems with my eyes from the continuous dilation."

— Contact Evan Goodenow at egoodenow@winchesterstar.com

(13) comments

Erinanderson

Does anybody know why the Va Attorney Generals Office and the Cruelty to Animals Task Force got involved in the big local cockfighting case. Is there a conflict with the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office or the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office? It doesn’t make sense as they very rarely step in.

CoDep

Drugs should be the number one priority for Frederick And surrounding Counties; we focus on Cigarettes, traffic enforcement and training. In order to stop it, we would have to deploy most assets forward to this issue. That won’t happen here under this administration. When you back Herring and Northam you know the results are not going to be about stopping crime. Clearly illegal immigration has an impact on illegal drugs as well, you have to make this County a bad place to do business if you are in the drug trade.

LG

Are you saying illegal known gang members should be deported before they are given a chance to commit a local crime and victimize someone? Well now there is a thought. The way it looks though we would have to get a new Sheriff in Frederick County.

CRT

Most meth (and other drugs) comes in via cargo containers on ships, not carried over the border.

Spock Here

Is that what Donald Vito Corleone uses to stay so peppy? Asking for my country

FrankJr

Remember Sheriff Millholland said Local law enforcement isn’t going to help round up people who haven’t broken any local laws. (yet) “It’s not going to happen in Frederick County,” he said. “Not so long as I’m sheriff.” ”A nation that cannot control its borders is not a nation” – Ronald Regan



Also there is a simple enforcement solution - just tell Lenny the meth dealers are dealing untaxed cigarettes. It appears Millholland has more investigators working civil cigarette cases than he has assigned to the main drug task force. I think he has his investigative priorities messed up. Just my 2 cents.

Spock Here

Reagan.

Chupacabra

"...addicts are increasingly using crystal meth — defined as methamphetamine with an 80% or higher purity rate — smuggled in from Mexico..." But I thought those illegal aliens were coming here for a better life? That's what the msm keeps telling us, so it must be true.

Admiral Emluk of Borbistan

Now you and I both know, because the media tells us so, that nothing but positive things cross that border. Hard working heroes on unicorns.

Valerie78

ridiculous. everyone knows that meth can and is made right here in the us. ever heard of the show 'breaking bad'? sure you have. ever purchased claritin or sudafed with pseudoephedrine and had to show your identification to the pharmacist? the dea could stop the entire flow of meth from any foreign country and there would still be meth manufactured and consumed in this country. attempting to make america's meth problem about illegal immigration is ignorant and takes us further away from actually solving the problem.

Steve Cunningham

Who was Walter White making his meth for in Breaking Bad? He went into operations with Gus Fring who was working for the Mexican Juarez Cartel, mainly because his product was so much better than what was being shipped in from Mexicao. So you are partially correct, some meth is produced in the US, but a majority is being brought in across our southern border. Trying to separate our Illegal Immigration problem from our drug trafficking issue is silly and takes us even further away from solving both issues!!

Chupacabra

Armed guards on top of border crossing areas and bombing tunnels that are full of drug and human smugglers. Or flood them. I don't care either way.

CoDep

Excellent post... the issues are somewhat tied together and a lack of enforcement and focus on this just helps it fester; but hands are tied. It’s not the key focus for FCSO.

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