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There is something off-setting about a tweaker itching away at their scabs, smiling with their missing teeth and frantically running around. They talk to me in a kind matter but all I can say to them is, “Thank you for providing nothing but destruction to my life as well as my community.” In their eyes they are just going about their daily routines like everyone else. To them, it is just another day full of side effects of their drug of choice, their fix and their life path, but, to me, it is a problem more personal. It is one that has affected my life as well as the hearts and lives of millions of loved ones across our state and nation.

If you don’t know what a tweaker is, that’s good — I am here to enlighten you. Tweakers are people who are high on the drug methamphetamine, also called meth.

Most of the community knows about meth’s existence, but they do not know much about it. Meth is a stimulant drug related to amphetamine but has stronger effects on the central nervous system. According to a drug encyclopedia, it releases high levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine. With repeated use, meth can "turn off the brain's ability to produce dopamine, leaving users unable to experience any kind of pleasure from anything other than meth.”

Sadly, Arizona has a major problem with the drug. The Arizona Meth Project, which was launched in 2006 as a “large-scale exercise in prevention aimed at significantly reducing meth use in Arizona,” found that 37 percent of teens and 53 percent of young adults said it would be easy for them to get meth. One of their studies found that a “substantial number of Arizona teens and young adults perceive benefits from using methamphetamines, including energy boosts, dealing with boredom, escaping problems and losing weight.”

Personally, I think the reason why Arizona, and particularly its young citizens, have such a significant meth problem is because most people haven’t educated themselves on the drug and its severity. Meanwhile, meth usage is having destructive consequences on our community, state and nation.

For one, the crime rate in Arizona has a correlation with meth usage in the state. A survey done by the National Association of Counties found that 47 percent of sheriffs reported meth as their number one drug problem — more than cocaine and marijuana combined. According to the Attorney General’s office, meth is the number one crime problem in Arizona, with 65 percent of child abuse cases and approximately 75 percent of property and violent crimes linked to meth use. Furthermore, the Grand Canyon State ranks No. 1 in the nation for meth-related identity thefts, according to the Arizona Meth Project.

Another one of the scary realities of meth is that it can be made in any home by anyone. The chemicals that are used to make the drug aren’t safe for just any brain-dead person wanting to make quick buck to be play with, yet the items used to make meth are almost all items you can buy at any store without any sort of prescription.

Although Arizona has made a key ingredient Sudafed only available over the counter, the result has been a higher amount of the drug being trafficked.

“As we started cracking down of meth being made in mom and pop houses, and with Sudafed being put behind the counter now, it’s not as easy to cook now. So what is happening, especially since Arizona is a border state, we’re seeing a lot of it come across the border from super labs in Mexico,” said Amy Rex, director of the Arizona Meth Project.

Though it’s a positive step to have Sudafed more difficult to access, there are so many more ingredients that cannot be regulated. Some of the dirty ingredients of meth, according to the AMP, include “base chemicals ephedrine or pseudoephedrine found in over-the-counter medicine, acetone, iodine, anhydrous ammonia (fertilizer), hydrochloric acid (pool supply), lithium (batteries), red phosphorus (matches or road flares), sodium hydroxide (lye), sulfuric acid (drain cleaner) and toluene (brake fluid).”

Perhaps if more people knew what was in the drug, they would be more concerned with stopping its usage. How many people in the general public know what is in it? If you asked people if they wanted to have someone mix them up a milkshake of fertilizer, matches and drain cleaner, would they give an enthusiastic “yum?” I highly doubt it.

Still, the drug is everywhere. Most of us have walked by or driven by meth labs, or have heard tweakers yelling at their kids in the downstairs apartments and haven’t thought twice. Maybe people think it’s their life and they should be able to do what they want.

But perhaps we should be more aware. The consequences can go far beyond the meth users themselves and can start affecting the safety of children and the community.

Rex informed me that a sign of a meth lab is the slight smell of cat urine and that if you suspect community members of producing meth or drug trafficking, you should report it. The more reports the police get, the more they will be able to focus on the problem.

And nobody, not even ASU students, are insulated from the troubles caused by the drug. “Absolutely, it does affect [ASU students] because of the increase cost in the criminal justice system, increased health care and insurance cost,” said Rex. This money is being spent in a large amount due to meth users and the cost it is costing the taxpayers to pay for their destruction.

Counties in Arizona have started to take a strong stance against meth and I feel it is time for cities like Tempe — and maybe even ASU — to step up and join in. Community safety and alertness should be a top priority and it isn’t hard to spot a house that is producing meth, its vibe, its people and its appearance isn’t hard to miss.

It is our duty as citizens that can see the bigger picture to do what we can try and stop the ever-expanding meth problem in our state and nation.

If you want to get involved with controlling this problem go to and find your local coalition or contact Krista at

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