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Mutant drug the American nightmare
The Dominion
Wellington, New Zealand
January 7, 1997

San Jose- KRT

The drug is the stuff of nightmares, reportedly driving an Arizona father to hack off the head of his teenage son because he thought the boy was a devil.

A Californian, who family members say is a loving son, stabbed his76-year-old father repeatedly, thinking aliens had invaded his body.

A drug-crazed thief committed point-blank shotgun murders of two teenage companions he mistaken thought had cheated him, according to Alameda county authorities in California. He denies the killing but said: "I can tell you that that drug makes me the evilest person in the world."

The drug is methamphetamine, but in an alarming new form that is twice as potent and, experts say, more likely to provoke such violence. Because it is cheaper and easier to make than in the past, today's methamphetamine is flooding California and spreading across the United States.

Stifled in the 1980s by laws regulating the most popular precursor chemicals, methamphetamine "cooks" created a new formula in the early '90s, which now makes up 90 per cent of the "crank" confiscated by state agents, who, last year, hauled in almost 9000 kilograms -- a 10-fold increase from 1991 -- and closed one clandestine laboratory every 19 hours. The easy-to-follow recipe is on the Internet and in books and requires very little equipment, which can be stored anywhere: motel rooms, bathrooms, storage lockers or even a backpack.

Ingredients and supplies to make a batch of home-made methamphetamine can be found at variety stores for about US$200 (NZ$285). Highly toxic and volatile, the chemicals can also be bought in larger quantities, legally, from chemical companies.

"There's no doubt we have an epidemic of this new meth," said Alex Stalcup, who runs a drug rehabilitation centre in Contra Costa county in California. "And where meth goes, violence follows." The new methamphetamine produces extreme euphoria, increased alertness and a sense of boundless energy. Users call it a phenomenal high, lasting hours, days, even weeks. But there's a dark side. High dosage or chronic use can lead to nervousness and irritability. It's not uncommon for users to hear voices, hallucinate and become paranoid, Dr Stalcup says.