What is the size of a gram of meth

All that is white is not snow

A maximum of five hours of sleep, doing your best at your job every day - and don't make any mistakes - the requirements are extremely high in many professions. Anyone who achieves a lot also needs to rest regularly and recharge their batteries. But globalization and ever new technologies make everyday working life fast-moving. In addition, there is an increasing workload. In order to persevere, many resort to an emergency solution: brain doping. At first, 70-hour weeks can be compensated for by hard work and motivation, but over time the body and mind drain. The consequences are irritability, poor concentration, anxiety and sleep disorders.

But the fear of not performing well or even losing the job does not drive those affected on vacation, but into constant exertion. In Germany, around two million people in employment regularly take drugs or medication - without any actual illness, just to improve their daily performance and ability to concentrate. While LSD and heroin stood for revolt and otherness in the 1970s, crystal meth stands for today's zeitgeist: performing in all situations. More than ever, we define ourselves through performance. Better, faster, more efficient at work. More beautiful, smarter, fitter in private. While in the past we were only interested in what our neighbors were doing, today we measure ourselves against the whole world.

Performance-enhancing drugs like crystal fit as well as iPhones and burnout into our performance-based society. Young people consume crystal to party for days. Construction workers keep themselves performing to do a few extra jobs after work. Young women rely on the anti-hunger substances to lose weight quickly. The motives are diverse, but all consumers pursue one goal: to be able to persevere and keep up better. To ensure that this works in all situations, more and more people are turning to drug cocktails. A stimulant in the morning to perform at your best, a sleeping pill in the evening to relax. One substance offsets the undesirable side effects of the other. This is how you always work perfectly.

The willingness to manipulate oneself for the purpose of self-optimization has increased. Cosmetic surgery and doping in recreational sports are normal. We chase ideals that simply cannot be achieved in a normal state. With performance-enhancing drugs you get a little closer to these ideals and your own weaknesses disappear - at least temporarily.

The white powder, which stands for having fun and dancing, is also interesting for those people who cannot imagine getting a syringe. The apparent similarity to speed and coke reduces the inhibition to try it out.

It is the mixture of fascination and belittlement that makes crystal so dangerous.

Crystal meth is a synthetically produced substance from the group of phenylethylamines. Methamphetamine belongs to the amphetamine class of substances; it is a stimulant and indirect sympathomimetic, i.e. it stimulates the sympathetic parts of the autonomic nervous system. It can be smoked in its crystalline form, but mostly it is snorted as a powder or swallowed as a tablet. Then the high is less intense, but lasts longer. If you dissolve the drug, you can also inject it, which drastically increases the risk of addiction compared to the other methods.

Fig. 1: Structural formula amphetamine, synonyms: (S) -N-methyl-1-phenylpropan-2-amine (IUPAC), N-methylamphetamine (MA), (S) -2-methylamino-1-phenylpropane, deoxyephedrine, crystal Meth, Crystal Speed, Ice, Pervitin, Yaba (Thailand), Wint (Russia), Crank (USA), Shishe (Iran), Sisa (Greece), Tik (South Africa), Pee (New Zealand). Molecular formula: C10H15N.

In principle, every drug leads to addiction, but with Crystal there is hardly a way out. This is mainly due to the fact that it is purer than other addictive substances. Whereby “pure” is of course a relative term for a chemical mixture of battery acid, paint thinner and other such substances. What is meant here is not a purity that relates to physical tolerance, but rather the purity with regard to the so-called active ingredients - that part of the content that determines the effectiveness of a drug. In the case of cocaine, for example, a degree of purity of around 25% is generally assumed, the remaining 75% is made up of a wide variety of extenders. In the case of crystal, the degree of purity is at least over 70, often even around 90%. Often the first consumption of crystal sets a cycle in motion that can hardly be stopped.

But the drug is not a new invention, on the contrary. In 1893 the Japanese chemist Nagayoshi Nagai produced the psychoactive liquid for the first time; In the 1920s, chemists used hydrochloric acid to crystallize the solid that is now known as crystal meth, methamphetamine hydrochloride, in crystalline form. With the development of hydrochloride, the substance became usable for medicine - and for war: as "tank chocolate" it kept soldiers awake during the Blitzkrieg on the western front and served to dampen feelings of fear. It increased the performance and concentration ability of soldiers, vehicle drivers and pilots. In the USA, methamphetamine was banned in 1970 (with a few medical exceptions such as for the treatment of attention deficit / hyperactivity disorder in adults and children from 6 years of age, narcolepsy and as an anorectic for morbid obesity), but in Germany the substance remained under the trade name Pervitin still available until 1988.

When an article appeared in the Münchener Wochenschrift (MMW) in October 1940, in which Pervitin was recommended for almost all illnesses, the Reich Health Management felt compelled to commission the psychiatrist Ernst Speer, a well-known critic of the drug, with a counter-statement, which was also included in the MMW appeared. A subsequent analysis of Adolf Hitler's health records suggests that Hitler was also addicted to pervitin from 1943 at the latest.

The use of the drug was noticeably reduced from 1941 onwards, as the amended Reich Opium Act meant that it was only available on prescription, but both the Bundeswehr and the National People's Army stored Pervitin "in case of emergency" until the 1970s. It was part of the paratroopers' meals and was given out during exercises. For pilots it was intended for emergencies and the NVA's first-aid kit even contained pervitin until 1988. And even after 1945, the active ingredient was still used by the US military to improve performance, for example during the Vietnam War.

The return of methamphetamine to the world of drugs was basically due to an accident: In America, an attempt was made to suppress the spread of other drugs and thus opened the door wide to Crystal. In the early 1970s, drugs were part of the lifestyle of many here. One of the common drugs was amphetamine, usually called speed. Especially on the west coast of the USA, mainly motorcycle gangs with their drug cooks produced the material and brought large quantities of it to the people. A simple and above all lucrative business, which, however, came to an abrupt end when the state restricted the sale of the raw material 1-phenyl-2-propanone or phenylacetone required for production and subjected it to strict rules.

The criminal heads of the gangs naturally did not want the state to destroy their dazzling business and looked for alternatives. These even emerged surprisingly quickly when some of the speed cooks got the idea to give ephedrine a try. This substance is contained in countless non-prescription drugs - especially cold remedies, which use its decongestant component.

This removed the greatest problem for the gangs, because ephedrine could be obtained in large quantities. There was also another advantage: What the drug cooks produced with the help of the ephedrine was no longer the well-known amphetamine, but chemically they produced an amphetamine with an additional methyl group. So they fabricated a substance that was twice as effective as amphetamine. But that's not all, not only the ephedrine, but also the other necessary additives can be obtained completely legally from budget funds, without coming into any conflict with the law. In addition, the drug was given an unusual and, above all, handsome appearance: instead of powder or pills, methamphetamine came on the market in the form of crystals. This laid the foundation for a new successful drug.

Fig. 2: Typical private crystal meth kitchen

The next level of spread was reached when the Mexican José de Jesu’s Amezcua Conteras contacted the gangs with his brothers Adam and Luis. Up until then, the Conteras family had mainly earned their money by smuggling cocaine across the Mexican-American border, but now wanted to get into the ephedrine trade and supply the bikers with the raw materials they needed. The deal was closed, but the real winners were the Mexicans. They were soon procuring insane amounts of ephedrine. They sold some of it on, but used the majority of them to produce methamphetamine themselves, smuggle it across the border and sell it. The brothers' business soon became known as the Colima Cartel, and they rose to become arguably the largest ephedrine dealers and crystal producers.

The US drug enforcement agency, Drugs Enforcement Administration (DEA), found that the Amezcua cartel alone had brought 170 tons of ephedrine to the US within 18 months - enough raw material for two billion sales of crystal.

At that time, crystal was just like countless other drugs in terms of manufacturing and distribution: professional and criminal organizations took care of production and sale, unsuspecting addicts bought the substance from them.

That changed when the American chemist Steve Preisler had a strange idea: The eccentric scientist, to put it mildly, wrote a book in the 1980s called "Secrets of Methamphetamine Manufacture" and published it under his pseudonym Uncle Fester . He got this nickname during his studies because he was passionate about blowing up things that reminded his fellow students of the character Uncle Fester from the Addams Family. Preisler knew what he was writing about, the work did what it promised: It explained how easy it was to make crystal - and extremely extensive at that. He elaborated on six ways that anyone could cook crystal from home. The instructions were structured like cooking recipes. At the beginning there was the list of ingredients, then the explanation of the production. The book did not become an international bestseller, but the knowledge it conveyed spread like wildfire, especially in the United States. In countless places, home cooks started producing methamphetamine because it was so easy and cheap. The low price and the available quantity encouraged the spread of crystal in circles that had previously given up cocaine and heroin for lack of money. Across the country, methamphetamine kitchens repeatedly burned out or exploded because the young producers made mistakes.

Fig. 3: Possible forms of administration of crystal meth

In many western countries, 1968 was seen as a year of new beginnings and unrest. In Czechoslovakia, the government under Alexander Dubcek wanted to make the ruling communism a little more human and free. The population was overwhelmingly enthusiastic about the Prague Spring, but the overwhelming Soviet Union in particular wanted nothing to do with it. In August 1968, the Soviet Union, Poland, Hungary and Bulgaria marched into Czechoslovakia with half a million soldiers and occupied the country. 98 Czechs and Slovaks were killed and 50 soldiers were killed. As a result, all reform efforts were stopped. The citizens saw themselves deprived of a great opportunity and now hardly dared to express public opinion. People fell into a real depression.

This short excursus should clarify why the Czech Republic in particular became the European country of origin of modern crystal meth. Some saw the escape in drugs as the only way out of an increasingly unbearable everyday life. Some people tried again and again in different ways to create narcotic or at least temporarily happy substances. One of them was the Czech Pavel Gregor - and in the 1970s he had the idea of ​​trying something that had inspired young soldiers in the war decades earlier. Today Gregor is considered the father or rediscoverer of Pervitin in the Czech Republic. It was never his intention that he also created a fashion drug with it. He never saw the sale of pervitin as a business and only manufactured the drug for the consumption of his clique; Little did he know that drug-making was so widespread.

For many years, the authorities in the Czech Republic tolerated the possession of small quantities of drugs for personal use. The catch: the size of the tolerated drug ration was not precisely defined. The uncertainty finally led to the creation of a new legal regulation on January 1st, 2010, in which this amount was precisely regulated. The new law made drug addicts cry for joy while foreign politicians clapped their hands over their heads. Because the new rules put even the Netherlands, which are extremely liberal when it comes to drugs, in the shade.

Since 2010 it has only been considered an administrative offense in the Czech Republic if someone smokes cannabis, owns up to 15 grams of marijuana or tends up to five hemp plants. Also possible without the threat of harsh penalties: Possession of 1 gram of cocaine, 1.5 grams of heroin, 4 ecstasy pills, 5 units of LSD, 2 grams of amphetamines or 2 grams of methamphetamine. Assuming that a mostly careless first-time user starts with a dose of 70 to 100 milligrams of crystal, then 2 grams of methamphetamine mean no less than a 20-day continuous high.

Politicians and experts in Germany and Austria, which also borders the Czech Republic, feared that drug smuggling would take on completely new dimensions, since border controls had already been dropped in 2007. How right they were supposed to be right about that, they probably had no idea at the time.

It is assumed that around 7 tons of methamphetamine are produced in the Czech Republic each year. But today the Czech Republic is no longer the only major source of crystal, the problem has spread internationally as well. Africa has developed into a considerable player in production and trade. Attempts are being made from Nigeria to smuggle fabric via Germany to Asia, in particular to Malaysia and the Philippines.

Between 2008 and 2010 the Vietnamese markets came up in the Czech Republic. As a result, they cooked / produced less and less their own crystal. People get everything they want in the markets in the quantities they want. Today there is still “insane quality” - a degree of purity of 90 and more percent - at dumping prices. The goods are therefore not stretched and are still traded very cheaply: The purchase price is around € 15, while they are then sold on the other side of the border with a profit of 300% and more.

According to the Federal Criminal Police Office and the drug commissioner, the number of those who tried crystal for the first time in Germany rose by 51% within a year, and the trend is rising. With this, Crystal has long since ousted heroin as the most popular hard drug among beginners. And that's just the tip of the iceberg - by no means everyone is caught and ends up in the statistics, and the number of unreported cases should not be underestimated.

As early as 2006, the United Nations spoke out on the subject: According to the UN World Drug Report, crystal was the most widely used hard drug in the world even then. The total number of 26 million addicts corresponds to the sum of all cocaine and heroin users, it said.

In 2011, Maryland's National Institute on Drug Abuse announced that around 13 million people in the United States had used crystal at least once in their lives, according to recent surveys. Two thirds of all drug beginners even start with crystal and are thus driven into addiction. Anyone who has consumed crystal once cannot do anything with normal amphetamines. It no longer works as it should. Even if many long-term addicts still have “old” drugs like heroin in the first place - the “offspring” rely on speed or crystal. For this reason alone, further spread seems inevitable.It is also frightening that the average age of crystal users who have seen it for the first time is the lowest compared to other drugs.

In Germany, according to Annex II of the Narcotics Act (BtMG) and the 21st Narcotics Amendment Ordinance of February 18, 2008, methamphetamine is a marketable (since the substance serves as a starting material for the manufacture of drugs and should therefore remain marketable), but non-prescription narcotic, any possession Without the permission of the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (Federal Opium Agency) is therefore punishable. The reclassification to "not prescribable" was justified with the ever increasing abuse of methamphetamine.

Because methamphetamine is also popular in sports. Before his fight for the European Championship against Juan Carlos Duran in 1968, the German boxer Jupp Elze got upset with Pervitin and went down in history as the first German professional athlete to die as a result of doping. Elze had suffered almost 150 hits in the head, which he was probably only able to endure because of the reduced pain sensation caused by pervitin, fell into a coma and died of a brain hemorrhage. Several celebrities such as John F. Kennedy or Marilyn Monroe are said to have allegedly consumed methamphetamine.

Higher, faster, deeper. Crystal robs its addicts of their outward appearance and clear head. The skin becomes ashen, the cheeks collapse, pimples and purulent ulcers litter the face, the hair becomes strawy, the teeth fall out. But the active ingredient also leaves its traces inside the body. It damages nerve cells in the brain, addicts suffer from paranoia and cannot sleep for days. You no longer feel hunger, thirst or pain. You lose weight and sense of time. And they get aggressive. Other consequences range from abnormal sexual behavior to cardiovascular problems.

Sequel follows.


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The author:
Laura Isabel Koch, senior MTA for functional diagnostics
Neurological Clinic Wetzlar, Lahn-Dill-Kliniken GmbH
Forsthausstrasse 1–3
35578 Wetzlar
Email: mtaf.woelf[email protected]


Taken from MTA Dialog 12/2015

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