Meth in the News
Professor Nicholas E Goeders
The topics for this week’s Meth in the News column are quite varied, and as is often the case, also have an international flare.
First of all, the North Koreans are at it again.
I have several posts on my website, and I may have also mentioned North Korean meth production in past columns. If you really look, you will soon discover that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (the official name for North Korea) has had a hand in the production of narcotics for many years.
How can that be, you might ask! Well, how do you think that Kim Jong-un is able to finance the development of the rockets and missiles that he has used to try and intimidate the free world? It’s not from selling corn and rice!
In the past, methamphetamine production in North Korea was overseen by Bureau 39 (or was it Office 39 or Room 39?). Anyway, Bureau 39 is a secretive component of the Kim regime that is said by some to add up to $1 billion each year to Pyongyang’s (the capital of North Korea) illicit economy via the sale of narcotics, counterfeit currency, knockoff pharmaceuticals and cigarettes, among other things.
Most of the meth produced in North Korea makes its way to China, although Chinese officials are reluctant to confirm that China has a meth problem. It does, by the way.
Some sources claim that Bureau 39 got out of the meth business a few years ago for a variety of reasons. But the slack was subsequently picked up by Asian crime rings that were able to seamlessly move large shipments of meth into northeastern China via regular trade routes.
Defectors from North Korea suggest that 80 percent of the residents of some towns have used meth. That’s a rather high number, but it may not be all that unrealistic.
You see, earlier this year, Kim Jong-un decided that he would thumb his nose at the world for the economic sanctions put onto North Korea for testing nuclear weapons by authorizing the construction of a 70-floor skyscraper in Pyongyang with more than 60 apartment blocks.
To get these projects done according to Kim’s unrealistic schedule – reported by some to be as rapid as another floor framed every 14 hours – hundreds of thousands of “citizens” have been coerced into working on them.
Phil Robertson, Asia director for Human Rights Watch, has suggested that this practice resembles forced labor.
According to Mr. Robertson, “It is a throwback to the Second World War when governments regularly resorted to forcing labor of their citizens.”
Some even claim that project managers are under so much pressure to finish the job on time that they have resorted to openly providing workers with a methamphetamine-based drug in the hopes that it will “speed up” construction.
This claim was attributed to a construction source in Pyongyang by Radio Free Asia earlier this month and was reported by several news outlets in Great Brittan.
If these claims are proven true, they will lead to even more international condemnation of the draconian Kim regime. Not only will meth have been used to fund the various projects, it will have been fed to what are no better than “slave laborers” to ensure that the projects were completed on time.
Closer to home in the United States, people also continue to do dumb things with or on meth.
Layton is a city of approximately 70,000 people located in Davis County, Utah. On Monday, August 8, 2016, a Layton Police sergeant stopped at a local Subway restaurant for lunch, and he ordered a lemonade drink with his food.
As he was driving away, he noticed that his drink “tasted funny” as though it contained foreign chemicals. The sergeant also had trouble breaking properly at a red light and knew something was amiss, so he drove to the Layton Police Station.
Other officers there could tell that he was obviously impaired, so they rushed him to a nearby hospital. There the drink was found to test positive for methamphetamine and THC.
The police were able to obtain surveillance footage from the Subway restaurant, and they subsequently arrested Tanis Lloyd Ukena, 18, on charges of surreptitious administration of a substance, which is a second-degree felony.
Layton Police Sergeant Clint Bobrowski told reporters, “The suspect [Ukena] was seen taking the sergeant’s order, filling his drink. The suspect left the sergeant’s drink on the counter and left the picture frame. In the video you can see him returning with something in his hand and then leaning over the sergeant’s drink for an unusual amount of time. The suspect then provided the sergeant with the drink.”
Mr. Ukena “denied putting anything into the drink,” according to reports from the Davis County jail.
Didn’t anyone tell him that there were surveillance cameras in the restaurant?
Surprisingly, this case is not all that unusual. It just so happens that on August 10, Jose Daniel Calvillorios, 42, of Redwood City, Calif., pled not guilty to putting methamphetamine in a co-worker’s Snapple drink at the Torres Auto Repair Shop in San Mateo County.
Mr. Calvillorios is accused of slipping the meth into the victim’s drink to “help him relax” and have “longer-lasting sex” on Monday, August 8, the same day that Mr. Ukena was accused of poisoning the police sergeant in Layton, Utah.
San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe told reporters that the felony poisoning charge carries a maximum sentence of five years in state prison.
Happily, both victims made a full recovery. A 22-month-old baby girl in Phoenix was not so lucky.
According to reports from the Phoenix police, Natalie Renee Russell, 30, found her young daughter, Adalynn, unresponsive and not breathing. Apparently, a bottle of liquid methadone was left within reach of Ms. Russell’s three children, and Ms. Russell found the bottle empty next to Adalynn.
Methadone is an opioid, like heroin, morphine or oxycodone. Overdoses with each of these opioids can be treated in the emergency room with the antidote, naloxone (Narcan).
But instead of taking little Adalynn to the emergency room or seeking medical attention, Ms. Russell looked for answers on the Internet.
A witness told the police that Ms. Russell then did the unthinkable – she gave her baby daughter methamphetamine to “treat” the suspected overdose on methadone. I guess that she just happened to have some meth lying around in case of an emergency!
The baby girl was pronounced dead the next day by the Phoenix Fire Department.
I’m a pharmacologist, and I know better. But I even looked and tried to find somewhere on the Internet where it is suggested that meth is an appropriate treatment for an opioid overdose, but I could not find anything like that anywhere.
The Maricopa County Medical Examiner’s Office reported that an autopsy showed that the baby girl was found to have “toxic levels of methadone and methamphetamine in her body.”
On July 26, Ms. Russell was arrested and charged with first-degree murder and two counts of child abuse in the death of little Adalynn.
The Arizona Department of Child Safety (DCS) had previously investigated at least four allegations of neglect involving Adalynn and her two siblings. Unfortunately for Adalynn, DCS was never able to substantiate any of the claims. With her death, however, DCS finally took custody of Ms. Russell’s two other children. Thank God!
Remember, no one is immune from the effects of meth. Don’t try it – not even once!
If you are an IV meth user, especially a woman, I want to hear from you. I want to learn more about what meth does to you and your body to better determine what needs to be done to help you. I also want to know your story – how you started using meth and whether or not you also appreciate the differences between smoking meth and slamming it. Please contact me in complete confidence at firstname.lastname@example.org. You will remain completely anonymous. I will never print anything about you that will betray your trust in me, and I will never judge you.