[disinfo ed.’s note: this original essay was first published by disinformation on January 16, 2002. Some links may have expired.]
War generally brings with it a civilian incendiary known as propaganda. This tool may best be described as a clever combination of fact, exaggeration, and imagination designed to stir the emotions of the masses and America’s War on Drugs is no exception to this blight.
Myth #1: Speed Kills
This slogan, borrowed from the Department of Transportation, was introduced following the 1968 “Summer of Love” in Haight-Ashbury and is perpetuated to this day. In reality, the only correlation between meth and death is the two words happen to rhyme. A closer look at the raw data from which government agencies like the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration derive their “statistics” reveals the truth.
According to the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), an office of the US Department of Health, there were 1,206 “mentions” of drug deaths attributable to amphetamines in 40 metropolitan areas in 1999. However, this figure includes individuals with chronic and acute diseases of the heart, kidneys, and liver as well as people who mixed amphetamines with other drugs (usually depressants). 
Clearly, one cannot objectively blame amphetamines for the death of individuals who used them hap hazardously with pre-existing conditions any more than one can blame a pin prick for causing the death of a haemophiliac. In addition, those few individuals foolish enough to mix meth with other drugs die from the accumulative effect of the depressant family of drugs, or in rare cases, from the synergistic effect of depressants mixed with stimulants. If one subtracts these cases from the total:
21 people died (representing less than 1% of total drug deaths) as the direct result of using amphetamines in 41 metro areas in 1998 and even these numbers appear suspect when one considers that there were only 43 documented speed related deaths in the entire world in the thirty year period between the end of World War II and 1975. 
The Merck Manual, one of the most respected medical publications in the world, reports: “Even massive doses are rarely fatal. Long-term users have reportedly injected as much as 15,000 mg. of amphetamines in 24 hours without observable acute illness.” 
Myth #2: Meth Is Linked to Violent Crime
Because it is a powerful stimulant which increases energy and libido along with its early association with motorcycle gangs, meth has been unfairly accused as the underlying cause in numerous rape, assault and murder cases. Even liberal poet Allen Ginsberg in his 1965 interview with the Los Angeles Free Press complained, “All the nice gentle dope fiends are getting screwed up by the real horror monster Frankenstein speed freaks.”  Even today sensationalist stories like the following persist:
- Father beheads 14 year old son he believes was possessed by Satan. 
- Four-year-old girl discovered beaten to death by her parents. 
- Ex-National Guardsman steals tank . . . crushes cars. 
In each of these cases, Meth was deemed the culprit. Grisly details of the above were used by the DEA in testimony before Congress and the Attorney General of California in his re-election campaign. Anyone even remotely familiar with the effects of meth know such accusations to be ludicrous. Even the US Department of Justice was forced to admit no such link exists. The findings were reported in Meth Matters – a study of abuse of the drug in five western cities, issued by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) in 1999 during a meeting of the Methamphetamine Interagency Task Force. It revealed that meth users were “significantly less likely than other drug arrestees to be charged with a violent offense.” Jack Riley, director of the NIJ’s drug-abuse monitoring efforts, said the results were not surprising. It’s a common misconception that methamphetamine is concretely linked to violent crime. I’ve never seen that before, just as it was never observable with cocaine,” Riley said. 
Myth #3: Meth Causes Psychosis & Schizophrenia
These two mental diseases are generally permanent, incurable and require large doses of strong medications in order to keep them under minimal control. Amphetamines do not cause these diseases. They can, however, cause the user to temporarily suffer symptoms (hallucinations, paranoia) which are associated with psychosis and schizophrenia. These are generally brought on by inducing large quantities and/or taking them for several consecutive days. Hallucinations are brought on not so much by the direct action of the drug but by sleep deprivation.
For those who still remain unconvinced as a result of this clarification, we can look to Japan for answers. They invented meth in 1919 and endured an epidemic of abuse during the post-war American Occupation the likes of which this country will hopefully never have to experience. Like most of the major combatants in World War II, the Japanese pumped amphetamines down the throats of soldiers and industrial workers. At the end of the war, huge stockpiles were found in cities all over the country. The quantity of the drug was exceeded only by the quality. Unlike the present day American meth – manufactured in clandestine labs with shortcut recipes and then laced with adulterants – the Japanese counterpart was synthesized in government facilities under the strictest quality controls. With the exception of Korean and Taiwanese free base, more commonly known as “Ice”, it is probably the most potent meth ever produced.
More importantly, the subsequent research on the drug, like their meth, was untainted by politics. A thirty-year timeframe along with huge cross sections of research on sub-populations make for ideal longitudinal studies, the consensus of which was: that in cases where permanent schizophrenia and psychoses has been attributed to addiction, it appears that the underlying ailment was either latent or had existed all along and the meth use had simply exacerbated the symptoms to a degree where it could be finally diagnosed. 
Myth #4: Meth Is Addictive
If speed is so addicting, where are the “addicted” recipients of over 200 million amphetamine tablets consumed by GIs in World War II? If there were any problems then it is extremely doubtful that Uncle Sam would upgrade to meth (six times stronger) and churn it out in even greater quantities in Korea and Vietnam? The only veteran-related drug concern that came out of the latter was the use of high-grade heroin – a physically addicting drug. Today, the term ‘addiction’ is a controversial catch-all that has subjective meaning and is all too frequently used in objective scientific contexts. But prior to 1994, addiction had two qualifiers: physical and psychological dependency, with the former being more the more severe of the two.
A physically dependent drug was one that provoked specific observable effects if the subject significantly decreased or stopped use of the drug . These could range all the way from flu-like symptoms such as vomiting, sweating, and high fever from cessation of heroin to shaking, delirium tremens and death from alcohol withdrawal.
Psychologically addictive drugs bore none of the severe physical aggravations, only cravings, irritability and depression. These aggravations tended to diminish with abstention.
Everyone seemed content with this dichotomy until the early nineties when central nervous system (CNS) stimulants such as meth and cocaine made a huge comeback. There was a problem though for the purveyors of drug abuse propaganda. These two drugs were not physically addicting, thus their use appeared far too harmless in their eyes. They were not ones to let facts get in the way. So it came as no surprise in 1994, when the largest science-related entity in the world, the World Health Organization, solved the problem by simply redefining the term ‘addiction’. The distinctions were simply done away with altogether!
One very simple definition of addiction is “the degree to which one can stop using a drug once regular use has been established. Consider then the case of meth use by US troops in Vietnam. More amphetamines were used – and abused – by American soldiers in Vietnam in 1965-68 than by the combined Allied and Axis combatants in World War II. Concerned by the impact of drugs on combat readiness, then President Nixon commissioned a study. Its subjects included every US Army enlistee returning home from the war in the year 1971 – some 13,760 men. Of these 1,400 were found to have tested positive (by urinalysis) for either amphetamines, barbiturates or opiates. The director of the study, Dr. Lee Robbins of Washington University, then retested them eight to twelve months later. The results revealed that 92% were drug free – a fact that is even more remarkable when you consider the political climate of that time period -one in which returning vets received little in the way of welcome or empathy. As one vet recalled, “I was actually booed by junior high school students – It was enough to drive you to drink!” Maybe so, but not enough, apparently, to use drugs.
Myth #5: “Metamphetamine Is The Most Dangerous Drug This Nation Has Ever Seen!”
~~ Gen. Barry McCafferty (ret.), Drug Czar, Clinton Administration
It is evident that meth is far from the most dangerous drug especially when compared to nicotine, cocaine, heroin, and alcohol, all of which are physically addicting, and can and do kill whether from cancer, overdose, cirrhosis, or vehicular homicide. However, it certainly must be the most embarrassing drug especially if your job is to formulate something as important – or rather impotent – as US drug policy.
Interdiction of drugs, or any other substance, can be controlled in two ways: demand and supply. Despite the Herculean efforts of the US departments of Education, Health, and Justice to change the American public’s attitude towards drugs, the demand for amphetamines, cocaine, and heroin increased throughout the Nineties. Harsh drug laws have failed miserably and are the primary reason why this country has more people per capita in prison than any other. Drug offenders account for nearly 60 percent of all federal inmates and almost a quarter of state prison populations.
We have also failed on the supply side as well. In regards to heroin and cocaine, the other members of the “Big Three” of controlled substances, our government can easily shift the blame to the third world countries that manufacture and distribute these drugs. Farmers there receive from two to eight times as much money to grow coca shrubs and opium poppies than they do from rice and beans. Little if anything is done by their respective governments because they are clandestinely “facilitating” the drug trade, which in all likelihood, represents the largest portion of the GNPs of Colombia, Bolivia and Peru as well as the Golden Triangle. Short of declaring war on half the countries in Southeast Asia and Latin America, there is little we can do in the realm or supply.
Then there’s the meth. This drug does not require the cool mountain slopes of the Andes nor the rich soils of Thailand to flourish. It can be synthesized from Phenly-2-Propylene, a common chemical which the DEA via Congress finally managed to control in 1989 then discover to their horror they merely paved the way for an alternative recipe which yields the ‘d’ isomer of the methamphetamine molecule – several times stronger than the previous form. In addition to being more potent, its synthesis is accomplished via a “cold method” with only three primary ingredients: ephedrine, red phosphorous, and iodine crystals. Once again the DEA sought to control these precursors only to find that they can be easily extracted from over-the-counter cold remedies, matchbooks, and tincture of iodine, respectively.
In regards to meth, the War on Drugs is being fought exclusively at home. With the exception of rapidly declining Mexican import, this drug is produced, distributed, and consumed “by the people and for the people” of this country. There are no Noriegas, lack of extradition agreements or other jurisdictional scapegoats. If the government cannot win this war it has only itself or its constituents to blame.
So does all this mean meth is safe to do. Absolutely not. It is a potentially dangerous psychoactive substance which, if misused in the long term can lead to heart attack, stroke and in extreme cases – death. It should be researched and respected. Long-term high-dose use has been proven to be the cause of irreversible depression in users of the now almost extinct ‘dl’ isomer of the drug. In addition, recent studies have discovered a correlation between axon/dendrite damage of nerve cells due to use of the drug and damage done to the cells of victims of Parkinson’s Disease. The drug, however, can be used safely in moderation (limited dose, non-intravenous, non-continuous) to effectively prevent fatigue, lose small amounts of weight, as well as enhance sexual pleasure. Research its effects. Consider the sources. Learn the truth.
Just Say – Know
“Nothing is more destructive of respect for the government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be enforced. It is an open secret that the dangerous increase of crime in this country is closely connected with this.”
~~ Albert Einstein, “My First Impression of the USA” (1921).
 Table 2.14 “Percentage Distribution of Drug Mentions by Cause of Death.” Annual Medical Examiner Data. 1999. Drug Abuse Warning Network, Substance & Mental Health Services Administration. US Department of Health.
 Kalant, H. and Oriana J. Kalant. “Death in Amphetamine Users: Causes and Rates.” Canadian Medical Association Journal. 1975.
 “Amphetamine Dependence”, The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy, Section 15. Ch. 195. Drug Use and Dependence, Merck & Co. Inc.
 Art Kuning interview with Allen Ginsberg. Los Angeles Free Press. December 1965.
 Donnie R. Marshall, Acting Administrator, Drug Enforcement Administration Senate Judiciary Committee. United States Senate. 28 July 1999.
 Dan Lungren, “Methamphetamine: The Triple-Headed Monster.” The Coastal Post. April 1998.
 Dan Lungren, “Methamphetamine: The Triple-Headed Monster.” The Coastal Post. April 1998.
 Bill Romano, “Justice Department Report Contradicts Common Perception.” San Jose Mercury News. 5 May 1999.
 D.S. Bell. “The Experimental Reproduction of Amphetamine Psychosis.” Archives General Psychiatry. 1973. In. Everett H. Ellinwood, George King, Ph.D., Tong H. Lee, M.D. “Chronic Amphetamine Use and Abuse.” The American College of Neuropsychopharmacology Psychopharmacology: The Fourth Generation of Progress.
[The views expressed above are those of the author alone and publication does not imply any endorsement by the publisher. Caveat lector.]