More people in Hamilton are becoming addicted to crystal meth.
According to statistics obtained by CBC Hamilton from the Drug and Alcohol Treatment Information System, admission rates for local methamphetamine withdrawal programs have doubled since 2008.
From Jan 1. To Nov. 7 of this year, 192 people entered meth withdrawal programs in Hamilton. In 2008, only 76 people sought the same help.
'Breaking Bad is what made me want to try it. The show changed people’s perception of the drug — and I love the show, too.' - Jim, former drug user
While the synthetic stimulant hasn’t reached the upper echelons of abuse in Hamilton like prescription painkillers, crack and alcohol, it can nonetheless be found on the streets, says Hamilton police vice and drugs Staff Sgt. Paul Downey.
“It’s here. Crystal Meth is here,” Downey told CBC Hamilton. Five to 10 years ago, finding meth was almost unheard of in Hamilton – but that’s not the case anymore, he said. “It’s around, though not creeping up into the high numbers, yet.”
“But where are we going to be in five years?”
Crystal meth affects the central nervous system and creates a euphoric high that lasts around eight to 10 hours. It’s considered extremely addictive, and is usually smoked, snorted or sometimes injected.
Jim, a former drug user who asked his name not be published, says he’s seen an increase in meth use in the city. “It’s all over and people are switching to it,” he told CBC Hamilton.
Shake and bake
Price is a big part of why, he says. While $40 worth of cocaine might last a person for two hours of intense use, $40 worth of crystal meth can last a person one to two days.
Jim says the relatively new “shake and bake” method of production is making the drug more popular, too. Recipes for shake and bake meth can easily be found online. All you need are a variety of household items.
Street chemists can mix the chemicals fairly easily — though the process is dangerous. The mixture can easily catch fire, explode or create toxic vapours.
A U.S. man who was arrested last March after police found him cooking meth in the back of his car on the east Mountain would likely have been using this method. Glass bulb meth pipes can also be found in corner stores alongside marijuana paraphernalia, Jim says. “You just have to know where to look.”
Local dealers are also capitalizing on Breaking Bad’s success, he says. The award-winning TV show just wrapped up to massive ratings and huge popularity. Dealers are doing their best to exploit that to sell to young people, Jim says.
“Dealers know it,” he said. “Breaking Bad is what made me want to try it. The show changed people’s perception of the drug — and I love the show, too.”
“Young people are influenced by everything, like a sponge. If I hear a song about coke, I always think about it after. It makes me want to party and drink and do lines in a club with girls, but that’s not how it turns out — it just ends up being you alone in your room, paranoid.”
Downey has experienced a similar effect — albeit with a different TV show. At the height of CSI’s popularity, cops had to deal with what they call the “CSI effect.” Thanks to that show’s immense popularity and less than realistic depiction of how long it takes to do forensic work, jurors often ended up in courtrooms with some off-kilter expectations.
“They kept asking ‘what’s taking you so long to do this?’” Downey said. “It was brutal.”
Downey says he hopes people in Hamilton stay away from meth, if for nothing else because it is so volatile, he said. But if there’s one thing that’s certain in his line of work, it’s that if one drug goes away, a new one pops up to fill the void.
“Some other tap is always going to turn on,” he said.