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Recognizing Methamphetamine Use

Greg Ferency / SWAT Digest

When a drug like methamphetamine (“meth”) hits an area, all rules are thrown out the window. Meth use and abuse will ultimately result in delinquent and criminal behavior, often in the form of secondary crimes to fuel the use/addiction. Families are usually the first victims out of convenience, but after awhile, general crime (including violent offenses) will be the end result. As a narcotics detective I regularly receive calls from frantic parents who think their kids are under the control of meth. I ask them what they are seeing (and hearing) to make them believe that. They give me a quick run down of their observations and in less than a minute I can tell them “yes, it sounds like meth has entered your world.” Had they taken the time to learn a few simple signs of meth use/abuse early on, they might have been able to intervene before their child’s addiction kicked in.

It is important to realize that unlike the paraphernalia associated with “club drugs” such as ecstasy, which are related to maximizing the high itself, meth paraphernalia is associated with the ingestion of the drug. Here are a few examples of the same: Meth is sold and transported in corner cut plastic bags. This is exactly what it sounds like, the corners cut off plastic sandwich bags. They are in the shape of a triangle. Don’t believe the excuse that they are for a stamp collection. Garbage bag twist ties cut in halves or thirds are used to contain, open and close the corner cut plastic bags. Hollowed out ink pens and straws cut in half or thirds are used for snorting or smoking meth. Strips of aluminum foil (may be creased down the middle) are used to smoke meth. The drug is placed in the crease and a heating source (flame) placed under the foil. When the meth evaporates, it is sucked into the lungs with the hollowed out pen or straw. You find these strips of foil rolled into balls. Hollow glass tubes, chipped or melted on one end (may have bulb at the end) are used for smoking meth. Meth is placed at one end of the tube and smoked through the other. Used glass tubes will have burn residue at one end. Don’t believe that it is being used to smoke marijuana. Light bulbs with internal pieces taken out are also modified for this purpose. It will have a chipped or melted hole on top of the bulb.

When used, burn residue will be obvious. Syringes are indicative of hard-core meth use. Medical science knows this is the most proficient way to get a drug in the body and so do users. Spoons are used to melt meth in water prior to injection. Again, look for burn residue. Small pieces of cotton or cigarette filters are used to filter the meth/water solution for injection. Meth melts at a fairly low temperature and most of the cutting agents remain solid. This helps ensure the user is getting more meth than “cut.” Torch lighters are popular as a heating source to smoke and inject meth. They work a little better than standard lighters.

These are just some of the paraphernalia associated with methamphetamine use/abuse, but not all. Parents must learn to recognize them. Many of the parents that I speak to tell me they saw these items long before they knew their child had a problem. But they did not know what they were until I told them. Had they known, they may have been able to intervene before they were forced to make contact with me, which was usually the result of a negative incident that happened to their child either as a suspect or victim of a crime.

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