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October 21, 1987 - Image 40

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1987-10-21

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f -wi. i C F mu

Speeding Along Today's Fast Track

T he message "speed kills"
seems never to have'taken
hold in some college towns.
When these powerful am-
phetamines are mentioned in
many student circles, they're
usually dismissed as danger-
ous relics from bygone druggie
days. But in Austin, Texas, for
example, home of the flagship
campus of the University of
Texas, police say that street
sales of crystal methamphet
amine-a.k.a. crank, go and
meth-run neck and neck
with the No. 1 seller, cocaine.
And it appears that the buy-
ers are not just street people
but UT students. (All names of
students in this story have
been changed.) Crank, recalls
John Stewart, a grad student
and self-described former ad-
dict, "made it easier to write.
The words really flowed." Sen-
ior Bill Thomas regards speed
as "a great study aid ... I al-
ways think of it as a utilitar-
ian drug."
Many of today's "frequent
fliers" insist they use the drug
only to achieve, and indeed,
they often don't fit
the frizz-brained stereotype of
speed users. Thomas, for in-
stance, is majoring in econom-
ics; Stewart earned admission
to Phi Beta Kappa and is
a former teaching assistant.
Since such users claim to
make speed "runs" more for
academics than fun, they usu-
ally don't concede they have a
drug problem. And they can be
found at campuses across the
nation, although schools in the
Southwest seem to be the cen-
ter of crank usage. (Texas ac-
counted for more than a third
of illicit speed -labs discovered
by the Drug Enforcement Ad-
ministration last year.) "I
don't like to party, and I don't
speed up for recreation," says
Peter, a graduate of the Uni-
versity of California, Santa
Barbara, who is now in law
school. Even though he regu-
larly buys crank so he can stay

awake for cram sessions, Peter
claims he is no abuser: "I'm not
out there on Friday night
snorting lines ... It's a study
thing for me."
Many who would never
dream of using crank to
get through even the hair-
iest prefinals night turn to
legal stimulants. There's a
vast difference, of course, be-
tween speed and such over-
the-counter pills as NoDoz
and Vivarin, which consist
largely of caffeine. (Every 100
mg in tablet form packs about
the same punch as one cup of
coffee.) Doses of these drugs
are likely to keep one awake,
and any side effects from over-
use, which can include nau-
sea, vomiting and irregular
heartbeat, are usually tempo-
rary. Most consumers consid-
er the pills basically harm-
less, but some use them as a
crutch. Sally Arnold, a sopho-
more studying economics at
Oklahoma State, pops Vi-
varin every morning to keep
up with a schedule that in-
cludes 4-H Club, church activ-
ities and maintaining a 3.7

GPA. Says Arnold: "I don't
consider myself a person who
would do drugs. It's just to get
through school."
Speed gets a wider berth.
Tighter federal regulation has
drastically limited the amount
of genuine prescription up-
pers available, such as black
(Biphetamine) or yellow mol-
lies (Ionamin) or methamphet-
amine white crosses (Desox-
yn). Once they were available
from assorted diet doctors or
"Dr. Feelgoods"; now legiti-
mate use is largely limited to
treatment of narcolepsy, the
sleeping disease, and hyperac-
tivity in children. So-called
look-alike drugs, illegal tab-
lets or capsules that closely
resemble prescription am-
phetamines, are also avail-
able. However, they usually
contain caffeine and other sub-
stances, never the real thing.
Easy cooking: These days
speed usually means crank.
Churned out in crude labs us-
ing industrial and household
chemicals, the stuff is often
highly impure, sometimes in-
cluding corrosive products

that are meant to unstop
drains. Crank can be a pow-
dery white substance or. a
moist pink or brown paste.
Producing it is relatively sim-
ple. "I knew a chemical engi-
neering major who made it in
his kitchen," says Evan, a UT
graduate who has amassed
a collection of amphetamine
"recipes" photocopied from
chemistry texts in the univer-
sity libraries. He's not alone;
last year DEA agents shut
down a record 375 illicit speed
labs nationwide. Crank prices
in the Southwest generally
run $80 to $100 for a gram and
around $25 for a quarter gram.
Both crank and legitimate
amphetamines work by stimu-
lating alpha and beta recep-
tors in the brain, exciting the
body's fight-or-flight respons-
es. The drugs spur respiration
and heart rates, making the
user feel more alert. After
the rush wears off, however,
the side effects can be
nasty. They range from diar-
rhea, rashes and insomnia to
potentially fatal heart at-
tacks. Addiction-both physi-
cal and psychological-can set
in. Most people who use crank
may also suffer temporary dis-
orientation and paranoia.
Not everyone gets into deep

4

4

GREATER AUSTIN AREA ORGANIZED CRIME UNIT
Busted: Austin lab after police seized 33 gallons of ingredients worth about $12 million

4

8 NEWSWEEKONCAMPUS OCTOBER 1987

S NEWSWEEK ON CAMPUS

OCTOBER 1987

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