In Mar 2016, it was reported in Nigerian Newspapers that four Mexicans and four Nigerians were arrested in Asaba, a town in south of Nigeria for producing methamphetamine in the country. Their drug factory produced between 3,000 kg to 4,000 kg of methamphetamine per production cycle. I recently found out most Nigerians don’t know about methamphetamine mainly abused as Crystal Meth or the implications of producing it in Nigeria.
What is methamphetamine?
Methamphetamine is known by different names – meth, crank, chalk or speed. It is a synthetic (man-made) chemical, unlike cocaine, for instance, which comes from a plant. It is commonly manufactured in illegal, hidden laboratories, mixing various forms of amphetamine (another stimulant drug) or derivatives with other chemicals to boost its potency.
It is a white crystalline drug that people inhaling through the nose, smoking, injecting with a needle or take orally. It develops a strong desire to continue using it because the drug creates a false sense of happiness and well-being—a rush (strong feeling) of confidence, hyper-activeness and energy. One also experiences decreased appetite.
These drug effects generally last from six to eight hours, but can last up to twenty-four hours. The first experience might involve some pleasure, but from the start, methamphetamine begins to destroy the user’s life.
The laboratory discovered
According to head of the country’s drug law enforcement agency, NDLEA, Muhammad Mustapha Abdallah, the drug cartel used the synthesis method of production, a more complex method that does not need ephedrine which has a similar chemical structure to amphetamines and is a methamphetamine analogue. He noted that methamphetamine laboratory, which is similar to the ones found in Mexico, is the first to be discovered in the country.
Effect of methamphetamine abuse
This drug is new to Nigerians and many do not know about it so most of the methamphetamine produced in the discovered laboratory are meant to be trafficked out to countries that have high demand for the drug. How never mass production of methamphetamine in Nigeria could increase the rate of abuse of the drug in the country. According to Drug Free world, methamphetamine abuse can cause short-term effects like:
- Loss of appetite and Increased heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature
- Dilation of pupils and Disturbed sleep patterns
- Nausea and Bizarre, erratic, sometimes violent behaviour
- Hallucinations, hyper-excitability, irritability, Panic and psychosis
- Convulsions, seizures and death from high doses.
And long-term effects like:
- Permanent damage to blood vessels of heart and brain, high blood pressure leading to heart attacks, strokes and death
- Liver, kidney and lung damage
- Destruction of tissues in the nose if sniffed
- Respiratory (breathing) problems if smoked
- Infectious diseases and abscesses if injected
- Malnutrition, weight loss and Severe tooth decay
- Disorientation, apathy, confused exhaustion
- Strong psychological dependence
- Psychosis and Depression
- Damage to the brain similar to Alzheimer’s disease, stroke and epilepsy
Public and environmental health concerns
Pollution linked to methamphetamine production poses a grave danger to humans as the production process requires some toxic chemicals. The NDLEA boss noted that, “Methamphetamine dump pollutes the environment. This is because, for every one pound of methamphetamine produced, about three to six pounds of toxic waste is created. This can contaminate the water table within 500 meters radius from the laboratory. Even plants close to the dump were found to be dead. The laboratory contains highly poisonous solvents and gasses,”. He explained that some of the materials used in the drug’s production are capable of an explosion while other are linked to cancer.
The NDLEA stated that funds would be required to enable the agency to detect laboratories producing illicit drugs, to acquire protective kits for its agents, and to decontaminate production sites. Colonel Abdallah estimated the cost of cleaning up the laboratory in Asaba at N35 million.
The NDLEA explained that a methamphetamine laboratory could be identified by its secretive operations or detected by the irritation and smell caused by chemicals as well as colored water appearing in sewage. The agency warned that any houses used for methamphetamine production should be avoided while chemical containers must not be put to domestic use.