Methology - Part I

Arizona is awash in crystal methamphetamine, a highly addictive stimulant that makes the weak strong, the lazy motivated, the fat thin, the trivial profound. Abuse it enough, and it can also make you psychotic.

It started when a friend told him he knew two girls who wanted to score meth. Dan was game. The four drove from Tempe to a mobile-home park in Apache Junction, where they bought $50 worth of meth--enough to last a weekend--and snorted on the spot.

After the requisite burning, crying and gagging, Dan says, "My breathing seemed suddenly very clear and strong. I decided that felt pretty good, so I did another line. Then I felt my whole body sort of lurch forward, and I broke out in a sweat, and I just started talking shit."

Dan and company went party-hopping for hours.
"At this point, I still felt like Superman. We killed a half-ounce of pot and we were slamming beers, and I didn't feel anything but the speed. I said to myself, 'Why didn't I ever do this before?' and I started wondering what I could actually accomplish."

He lost track of time. "It was night, then it was day."
By Saturday afternoon, Dan "started feeling a little rubbery. I noticed my pee was orange. My pupils were extremely dilated, and my vision was weird."

It didn't stop Dan from doing more meth early that Sunday morning. He spent much of the day watching sports on television, wired.

On Monday morning, one of the young women went to work.
"She worked at Motorola, assembling modems. She didn't even blink an eye. It was like seven in the morning. She did a line and said, 'Gotta go.'"

Dan says he did his last line of his inaugural binge that Monday morning. "By now, I'm really tired. My vision is distorted. My skin is very dry. I kept grinding my teeth, and realized I'd probably been grinding them all along."

His friend took him home that afternoon.
"I stayed up all night. I just chilled out with my dog. I took a shower, and it was awesome. And then I finally went to sleep about four [Tuesday] morning."

Dan says he slept for 14 hours, then slept some more. He estimates he repeated his meth binging about six more times before quitting.

"I got some bad-quality stuff. It was fun for three or four hours, then you'd start feeling crappy. Your gumlines itch. [I said], 'I'm never going to do it again because it makes my body feel too bad.'"

And, he says, he hasn't.

Note From the Underground
Of all the separate realities, legal landscapes and metabolic metropolis that thrive beneath the surface of the Cleaver's USA, no subculture seems as pervasive or uniform as the nation's wide-eyed, high-dosage methamphetamine club. . . . This group is a tribute to the idea that some things stay the same across time and space. The members come and go, some leave quietly, to go snitch, croak or disappear, some hang in there after their lights have gone out, and quite a few are dragged off at 6 a.m. Friday morning by blue Windbreakers with yellow writing.

--Speed Phreak magazine, 1995

Drug Court
My first use of chemicals was 21 years of age. The drug was cocaine. I used it on weekends for five or six years. . . . Since moving to Phoenix--the methamphetamine capital of the world--I have used meth.

--a 35-year-old electrician's "autobiography," completed earlier this month for county drug court

The Maricopa County Attorney's Office has filed felony methamphetamine charges against about 2,500 people this year, a record.

On one mid-November afternoon, the docket for the county's "drug court" lists 74 defendants. They cram into Superior Court Commissioner Carey Hyatt's courtroom, filling the gallery, jury box and available floor space. Some wait in the lobby.

The court was established to give certain drug offenders a chance to erase their felonies, provided stern conditions are met. Those who've sold drugs or been violent don't qualify for drug court; they're lumped in with the rest of the felons.

The drug court offenders enter into "contracts" with the court, vowing to complete drug testing, community service, counseling and other requirements. Those who complete the program are awarded "diplomas" in front of their peers and, more crucial, have their felonies erased.

Commissioner Hyatt and her drug court counterpart, Judge Susan Bolton, heap praise on those who do well and chide those who fall short. Sometimes, the jurists do more than chide.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I don't want to go there," begs an emaciated methamphetamine user from Glendale after the commissioner orders her to jail for the weekend. A sheriff's detention officer slaps handcuffs on the woman, who broke her contract by missing drug tests.

New Times perused the files of the 74 defendants scheduled to appear. Of that number, 27 have pleaded guilty to meth-related offenses. That's about 36 percent, a ratio drug court officials estimate is the norm since 1996. All but a handful of the meth users are white, and most are employed.

Among those on today's docket:
* A 21-year-old Camp Verde resident busted after police stopped her vehicle because of a broken taillight. The unemployed woman turned over a plastic bag containing meth. "Do it every day," she told police.

* A 44-year-old west Phoenix father of four on whom police found meth during a traffic stop. The housepainter said it was his wife's, but admitted he also uses the drug heavily.

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