Urban drug myth: Fruit-flavoured methamphetamine
NEW ZEALAND DRUG FOUNDATION
28 June 2007
Advisory to media on urban drug myth: Fruit-flavoured methamphetamine
Over the past week an email has been circulating warning parents, schools and drug treatment workers about fruit-flavoured methamphetamine. The email says drug dealers are adding artificial fruit flavouring, such as strawberry, to methamphetamine to make it more attractive to children.
This email originates from the United States of America (US), but has quickly made its way across New Zealand’s email networks. The Drug Foundation has received numerous enquiries from our nationwide membership about the validity of the warning. It appears at least one newspaper has reported this story.
The Drug Foundation has made investigations about the veracity of this story with colleagues in the US. Despite wide media reporting in the US, including quotes attributed to drug law enforcement officials, our colleagues say the story is an urban myth, which distracts from larger alcohol and other drug problems confronting youth.
Boston University’s School of Public Health say, “Flavoured methamphetamine is somewhat akin to the Loch Ness Monster: everyone has heard of it, but firsthand sightings are hard to track down and verify. Various media reports around the U.S. have raised the alarm about the dangers of this new drug, but invariably concede that no cases have been reported locally.”
They note the following stories:
- A breathless report from WAVE-TV in Louisville, Ky., is illustrative: “A dangerous new form of methamphetamine is headed to the area and it’s aimed at kids. It’s called Strawberry Quick, but unlike the popular breakfast drink, this drug can kill,” according to reporter Shayla Reaves. “Strawberry methamphetamine looks and tastes a lot like the candy known as ‘pop rocks.’ It’s got a strawberry flavour and scent, and it even pops in your mouth, just like the candy. While no cases have been reported in Kentucky, police say it’s not a matter of if it arrives, but when.”
- Meanwhile, in Evansville, Ind., Kim Dacey of WFIE-TV reported, “Across the country, law enforcement are tracking a new type of methamphetamine designed for young users, and it’s headed for the Tri-State. The taste of this new methamphetamine is changing. Police across the country are noticing a new type of methamphetamine, made with different colours, and flavours, like strawberry. Police say it’s made using products you can find in any grocery store.”
The WFIE story quotes Gibson County Sheriff Allen Harmon saying, “One of the things they’re using is the powdered strawberry quick mix, chocolate mix that’s a powder they put in milk to make it flavoured. We’ve been told they’re using that, and melted Lifesavers.” In the next breath, however, Harmon adds that the flavoured version of the drug hasn’t shown up locally.
Both the US Drug Enforcement Agency and the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) have said they have not been able to identify a single confirmed seizure of flavoured methamphetamine.
It appears that US officials are confusing coloured methamphetamine (which is relatively common) with flavoured methamphetamine. Some ingredients used in the manufacture of methamphetamine colour it a light-pink colour because of the dye used in the pills. The drug can also appear greenish or blue.
Boston University’s David Rosenbloom says these stories about phantom flavoured drugs distracts from well-established problems with youth alcohol and other drug use, and also ignores the very real marketing of flavoured alcohol and tobacco products.
“Alcohol and tobacco manufacturers have used sweeteners to trap young people into using their products, so it’s no surprise there may be stories about illicit drug makers trying the same technique,” said David Rosenbloom, “We need to be vigilant, but the real and present danger that parents and policymakers must act on are the alcohol and tobacco companies peddling sweetened drinks and cigarettes to our children.”
“We just don’t want this to distract from the real problems out there,” said the Methamphetamine Foundation Project’s Jeanne Cox. Tom McNamara, an Illinois methamphetamine law-enforcement trainer, added, “The concern I have is that there will be a situation where people get all excited about something that didn’t happen, and won’t get involved when something serious does happen.”
An ONDCP spokesman said he recently got a strawberry-methamphetamine alert from a Washington, D.C., area school. “I’ve never gotten anything from them about alcohol or marijuana,” he said. “Those are the substances that have, by far, the largest impact on teens.”
The Drug Foundation trusts editors find this information useful when considering similar stories in New Zealand.