Sewage. Now there’s a topic that typically wouldn’t pop up during intimate dinner tête-à-têtes, nor would we expect to hear grandparents, cousins, and aunts and uncles discussing it at a family holiday party. And it is not a subject that’s often, if ever, found among the paragraphs of a crime novel.

However, sewage, aka wastewater, has a role to play in combatting substance abuse, a subject of significant importance that’s often the center of conversations since it affects the lives of so many. So maybe a discussion or two about the benefits of wastewater might be a good idea.

And, since drug use and abuse is sometimes featured in fiction, perhaps it’s also time for writers to add sewage to their research pipeline as a means to help flush out sticky plot points.

Therefore, to help get the creative flow started, it’s time everyone to meet Sammy Sewage of the Wastewater Police Department (WPD).

Sewage, the New Undercover Narcotics Agent


Like Agent Sammy, law enforcement officers in all cities, towns, and counties are familiar with the obvious and well-known areas of their jurisdictions where drug abuse and sales are prominent, and they respond appropriately with extra patrols, undercover operations, arrests, etc. Additionally, knowing where problems exist allows officials and community services to establish and provide support and prevention services for residents.

But what about the areas where illegal drug activity is not evident? These are often the locations where there’s very little crime, if any, and as a result police presence is often minimal, on an as-needed basis. Without police on-hand to spot the issues they often go undetected until something serious occurs, such as a death by overdose. In these areas of veiled drug abuse, structured community assistance for the users and addicts is often nonexistent. Once those zones are identified, though, prevention efforts may then be implemented within those areas. The issue at hand is how to discover these unknown trouble spots.

Therefore, some municipalities are turning to an unlikely colleague to help sort out the drug problem in their areas—sewage. Yes, good old number one and number two are the latest crime-fighting duo.

By testing sewage samples collected from various wastewater substations, authorities can detect cocaine and opioid use, as well as other drugs such as fentanyl and methamphetamine. Even the presence of nicotine can be detected. In addition, test results indicating a heavy presence of Narcan consumption is a strong indication that more people are overdosing than what is known and reported by responding EMS services.

Based on the data derived from sewage monitoring, officials can implement public health intervention programs in the areas where they’re most needed. The information is also used to inform citizens about the importance of proper disposal of medications. Flushing medications down the drain is not a method that should be used by anyone.

It’s possible to differentiate between drugs that were flushed and those that were ingested.

Wastewater treatment plants do a wonderful job of filtering sewage. In fact, they’re so good at their job that once all the “stuff” is removed the leftover liquid is so thoroughly processed, cleaned, and sterilized that it’s suitable for releasing into waterways, or usable as drinking water.

However, what these plants cannot do is remove 100% of the prescription drugs that are placed into toilets and flushed. Some of these medications, such as steroids, hormones, and antidepressants, cause serious reproductive problems when aquatic animals consume them. In addition, some of the filtered and treated water that still contains those chemicals could make it into drinking water.

A 2020 study of wastewater testing conducted by Mathematica and researchers at Montana State University (MSU) showed the effects on Montana communities after major raids and drug seizures by police, and the results were clear. After a large drug bust the levels of drugs, such as cocaine and heroin, substantially decreased in the wastewater. Fewer drugs available = fewer drugs consumed.

In addition, researchers were also able to compare levels of certain drugs detected in wastewater with the amounts of the same drugs sold in area pharmacies. The testing showed a much higher level in wastewater than the total sold by pharmacies; thus, indicating the extent of black-market drug sales and abuse in the areas tested.

Regular testing provides data on seasonality of drug use, and which drugs are most frequently used in specific areas.

Did You Know?

Examining human waste in public wastewater systems played a large role in determining and monitoring the presence of COVID-19 virus, and at what level for each area of a municipality. Those test results helped officials determine the COVID “hotspots,” enabling them to best position COVID testing sites and vaccination locations.




Are you interested in entering the world of digital publishing but don’t know where or how to begin? Well, I’m pleased to announce and offer an exciting Writers’ Police Academy Online course—Digital Publishing Academy. This class is a unique opportunity for writers to learn from and chat with a top industry professional, Commissioning Editor Susannah Hamilton of Bookouture, a division of Hachette UK. So, if you’ve wanted a foot in the door to a leading publisher, here’s your chance!

About the Course


Digital Publishing Academy

Date: June 24, 2023

Time: 1:00 – 2:30 p.m. EST

Registration: $15

Bookouture Editor Susannah Hamilton will talk about all things digital publishing, including what works well in digital, a look at the different stages of editing, and a brief foray into crime and thriller genre nuances for the digital market. Susannah will also give a brief overview of how Bookouture, a division of Hachette UK, works for its authors. There will be a Q&A at the end.

Click the link below to reserve your spot!

About Susannah Hamilton


Commissioning Editor Susannah Hamilton has over ten years of experience in the industry, and joined Bookouture in November 2021. Susannah’s list includes Kindle top 100 bestselling authors, such as Casey Kelleher, Elisabeth Carpenter and Amanda Lees, who have reached the charts in both the UK and the US. Susannah manages every element of the publishing strategy and process for her authors, supporting them every step of the way.

About Bookouture

We are a dynamic digital publisher of bestselling commercial fiction and a division of Hachette UK. We also publish commercial non-fiction under our Thread imprint.

Our unique publishing model and transformative campaigns have created unrivalled international author brands. We connect stories, authors and readers globally, publishing books that reflect the diversity of the societies we live in.

Our submissions are always open as we believe that everyone should have the opportunity to share their story. Over 60 million copies sold worldwide.

Here’s another fantastic opportunity to get your writing in front of a top publisher! Yes, Bookouture is the official judge of the 2023 Writers’ Police Academy’s Golden Donut 200-word Short Story Contest.

So sharpen your pencils and fire up the computers. It’s time to put your imaginations to work.

The contest rules are simple. Write a story about the photograph below using exactly 200 words, including the title. Each story needs an original title, and the image must be the main subject of the story. No clues as to the subject matter of the image or where it was taken. You decide. Let your imagination run wild. Remember though, what you see in the image absolutely must be the main subject of your tale.

Contest winner receives the Golden Donut Trophy!


Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid typically used to treat patients with chronic severe pain or severe pain following surgery.  Fentanyl is a Schedule II controlled substance that is similar to morphine but about 100 times more potent.  Under the supervision of a licensed medical professional, fentanyl has a legitimate medical use.  Patients prescribed fentanyl should be monitored for potential misuse or abuse.

Illicit fentanyl, primarily manufactured in foreign clandestine labs and smuggled into the United States through Mexico, is being distributed across the country and sold on the illegal drug market.  Fentanyl is being mixed in with other illicit drugs to increase the potency of the drug, sold as powders and nasal sprays, and increasingly pressed into pills made to look like legitimate prescription opioids.  Because there is no official oversight or quality control, these counterfeit pills often contain lethal doses of fentanyl, with none of the promised drug.

Clandestinely-produced fentanyl is primarily manufactured in Mexico

There is significant risk that illegal drugs have been intentionally contaminated with fentanyl.  Because of its potency and low cost, drug dealers have been mixing fentanyl with other drugs including heroin, methamphetamine, and cocaine, increasing the likelihood of a fatal interaction.

Producing illicit fentanyl is not an exact science.  Two milligrams of fentanyl can be lethal depending on a person’s body size, tolerance and past usage.  DEA analysis has found counterfeit pills ranging from .02 to 5.1 milligrams (more than twice the lethal dose) of fentanyl per tablet.

  • 42% of pills tested for fentanyl contained at least 2 mg of fentanyl, considered a potentially lethal dose.
  • Drug trafficking organizations typically distribute fentanyl by the kilogram.  One kilogram of fentanyl has the potential to kill 500,000 people.

One Pill Can Kill

DEA Laboratory Testing Reveals that 6 out of 10 Fentanyl-Laced Fake Prescription Pills Now Contain a Potentially Lethal Dose of Fentanyl

The DEA Laboratory has found that, of the fentanyl-laced fake prescription pills analyzed in 2022, six out of ten now contain a potentially lethal dose of fentanyl.

It is possible for someone to take a pill without knowing it contains fentanyl. It is also possible to take a pill knowing it contains fentanyl, but with no way of knowing if it contains a lethal dose.

According to the CDC, synthetic opioids (like fentanyl) are the primary driver of overdose deaths in the United States. Comparison between 12 months-ending January 31, 2020 and the 12 months-ending January 31, 2021 during this period:

  • Overdose deaths involving opioids rose 38.1 percent.
  • Overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids (primarily illicitly manufactured fentanyl) rose 55.6 percent and appear to be the primary driver of the increase in total drug overdose deaths.

Unless a drug is prescribed by a licensed medical professional and dispensed by a legitimate pharmacy, you can’t know if it’s fake or legitimate. And without laboratory testing, there’s no way to know the amount of fentanyl in an individual pill or how much may have been added to another drug. This is especially dangerous because of fentanyl’s potency.

Overdose Reversal Information

How does fentanyl affect the body?

Fentanyl, similar to other commonly used opioid analgesics (e.g., morphine), produces effects such as:

  • euphoria
  • pain relief
  • relaxation
  • sedation
  • confusion
  • drowsiness
  • dizziness
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • urinary retention
  • pupillary constriction

In the U.S., 136 people die every day from an opioid overdose

Overdose may result in:

  • stupor
  • changes in pupillary size
  • cold and clammy skin
  • cyanosis – blue discoloration of the skin
  • respiratory failure leading to death
  • coma

DEA Resources:

2020 National Drug Threat Assessment
DEA Fentanyl Drug Factsheet
Fentanyl: The Next Wave of the Opioid Crisis
Fentanyl Flow to the United States
Fentanyl-Laced Crack Cocaine a Deadly New Threat
Drug Education and Prevention
The Overdose Crisis in the Washington D.C. Metro Area
Heroin and Opioid Awareness Campaign
DEA Fentanyl Related Press Releases
Department of Justice Fentanyl Related Press Releases

CDC Resources:

Opioid Overdose
Provisional Drug Overdose Death Counts
Increase in Fatal Drug Overdoses Across the United States Driven by Synthetic Opioids Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Trends and Geographic Patterns in Drug and Synthetic Opioid Overdose Deaths — United States, 2013–2019
Increases in Drug and Opioid-Involved Overdose Deaths — United States

Department of Health and Human Services

National Opioid Crisis
What are Opioids
A Patients Guide to Fentanyl – National Library of Medicine

National Institute on Drug Abuse Resources

Addressing America’s Fentanyl Crisis
Fentanyl – Drug Topics
The True Deadly Scope of America’s Fentanyl Problem

If you or someone you know has a mental health condition or a substance use disorder, there are resources and services available to assist with screening, treatment, and recovery:

SAMHSA’s National Helpline

1-800-662-HELP (4357)
TTY: 1-800-487-4889


Also known as the Treatment Referral Routing Service, this Helpline provides 24-hour free and confidential treatment referral and information about mental health and substance use disorders, prevention, and recovery, in English and Spanish.

*The information and images above are a reprint/share from the DEA (United States Drug Enforcement Administration).

In the 1960s, during the time when the group Jefferson Airplane released the song “White Rabbit” from the Surrealistic Pillow album, lead singer Grace Slick’s haunting voice filled rooms and cars and vans and anywhere else equipped with 8-track or record players. Slick’s silky crooning, combined with the feel of the band’s music in the style of Maurice Ravel’s BOLERO, practically oozed from stereo speakers, entering spaces where it mingled with pot smoke and incense and people who wore bell bottoms and flowers in their hair.

Grace Slick credits the drug LSD, Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, and jazz musician Miles Davis’ version of Rodrigo’s classic piece Concierto de Aranjuez as inspirations for “White Rabbit.” Slick once told The Wall Street Journal that immediately before she wrote the song “she dropped a tab of acid and listened to Davis’ album over and over for hours.”

This was a period in time when someone who desired to purchase a bag of weed, LSD, or other drugs they simply visited their source, handed over some cash in exchange for “the goods”, and then went on their way to get high. Or, they knew a guy who knew a guy who’d make the connection and introduce the two. LSD, by the way, was legal until 1968, a year after the release of “White Rabbit.”

Today, like purchasing items from Amazon or other online merchants, social media and other e-commerce sites are often used for buying and selling illegal drugs, such as fentanyl, methamphetamine, heroin, and mushrooms. Dealers openly advertise but they do so in code. To disguise the their drug transactions, they often use emojis to depict services and products.

To help parents and others understand how the emojis are being used, the DEA and DOJ published and emoji drug decoder that shows each emoji and its corresponding meaning. For example, if someone wants a large quantity of marijuana they’d text a cookie emoji (symbol for large batch) and a tree, leaf, or fire emoji (symbols for marijuana).

Posted below is the DEA’s Emoji Drug code.



Presented by international bestselling author Robert Dugoni

Date: Saturday November 5, 2022

Time: 1:00 – 2:30 p.m. EST

Where: Writers’ Police Academy Online –

This is a live and interactive online course

Reserve your spot today!

“Today, American citizen Brittney Griner received a prison sentence that is one more reminder of what the world already knew: Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney. It’s unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates.  My administration will continue to work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home safely as soon as possible.” ~ President Joe Biden

 In February 2022, WNBA basketball star Brittney Griner was arrested in Russia for bringing to the country two vape cartridges containing 0.252 grams and 0.45 grams of hash oil, a total of 0.702 grams. Griner said the hash oil was for her personal use and that she’d mistakenly packed the cartridges with her other belongings.

Mistake or not, according to Russian law, bringing the 0.702 grams of hash oil into Russia is considered smuggling a “significant amount” of “narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances.” The penalty for such an offense is a sentence of five to 10 years in prison.

At her July 2022 trial, which took place over four months after her February arrest, Griner’s attorney presented the court a U.S. doctor’s letter recommending she use medical cannabis to treat pain. However, both recreational and medical use of cannabis is illegal in Russia, and like the United States, ignorance of the laws is no defense in Russia. Griner pled guilty to the charges and was subsequently sentenced to serve 9 years in prison.

But more on Griner and her situation in a moment. First …

What Are Vape Cartridges?

Pre-filled THC oil cartridges are mini containers filled with oils extracted from marijuana plants. This extract is often referred to as hash oil. To consume the oil, cartridges are typically attached/screwed to vape pens or other similar devices. These gadgets contain a small heating element/atomizer that transforms liquid (hash oil, etc.) into airborne droplets.

To activate the battery-powered heating element, users simply press a button on the side of the pen. Some vape pens switch on automatically when the user inhales through it. With either method, embedded software and sensors take over operations the moment the element is engaged. The battery controls the temperature of the oil as it’s delivered to the user; therefore, all a user needs to do is press and hold the button and inhale.

Most vape cartridges hold approximately ½ to 1 gram of THC oil, which equals around 200-400 puffs, or so.

Vape Pen


THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is found in the resin of the marijuana plant. Secreted by glands within the plant, it’s the chemical responsible for most of the effects experienced by users. These glands are abundant around the plant’s reproductive organs, more so than on any other area of the plant.

The human body naturally produces cannabinoid chemicals—endocannabinoids. Cannabinoid receptors situated within certain areas of the brain have a direct association with thinking, memory, gratification, dexterity.

When consuming marijuana products, users take in THC. THC then attaches to the cannabinoid receptors in the brain. As a result, the THC activates those receptors which, in turn, affects a person’s sense of pleasure, sensory and time perception, movement and coordination, thought processes and concentration, coordination, and sensory and awareness of time.

In addition, THC incites cells in the brain to release dopamine, creating the sense of euphoria. It also interferes with how information is handled in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for forming new memories.

Hash Oil

DEA Image

Hash oil comes from cannabis plants and, like other marijuana products, it contains THC. However, hash oil contains greater amounts of THC than typical marijuana, therefore it’s far more potent. For example, a few common forms of hash oil by name whose THC content are above 60%:

  •  batter, budder – 70-80 +/- % THC
  • butane hash oil (BHO), AKA butane honey oil, honey oil – 60 +/- % THC
  • wax, AKA earwax – 80 +/- %THC content

*THC percentages listed above vary depending upon the source.

For comparison, the average THC content in other marijuana plant products and plant material is roughly 12-20 % +/-.

“Hashish oil (hash oil, liquid hash, cannabis oil) is produced by extracting the cannabinoids from the plant material with a solvent. The color and odor of the extract will vary, depending on the solvent used. A drop or two of this liquid on a cigarette is equal to a single marijuana joint. Like marijuana, hashish and hashish oil are both Schedule I drugs.” ~ Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)

Marijuana/cannabis is a Schedule I drug in the United States and, according to federal drug trafficking guidelines, any person caught traveling/flying/transporting hash oil is subject to arrest and incarceration.

Below is the U.S. Federal Sentencing Guideline for merely possessing one gram or less of hash oil (Griner carried/trafficked 0.702 grams into Russia). Keep in mind, though, that some U.S. state laws may permit possession of hash oil. But remember, as previously stated, it is illegal to possess any form of cannabis according to federal law. And trafficking it into the U.S. is a big deal.

Federal penalties regarding possession of small amount of hash oil

Hashish Oil (small amount)
1 kg or less
First Offense: Not more than 5 years. Fine not more than $250,000
Second Offense: Not more than 10 years. Fine $500,000

Now, with this said, let’s circle back to President Biden’s statement for a moment.

“Today, American citizen Brittney Griner received a prison sentence that is one more reminder of what the world already knew: Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney. It’s unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates. My administration will continue to work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home safely as soon as possible.” 

Griner violated Russian law. So why is she wrongfully detained? What’s different about Griner’s arrest and incarceration that sets it apart from the arrest and incarceration of people in the U.S. who committed similar or identical crimes?

Again, Griner clearly violated Russian law. Why are President Biden and other government officials not offering the same help to the folks serving time in U.S. prisons and jails for similar or identical offenses?

What is it that makes Griner deserve her freedom over an individual who’s not of high-profile status? Why are U.S. prisoners who are/were convicted of violations of cannabis laws not wrongfully detained but Griner’s arrest and incarceration is woefully egregious?

Is this not a prime example of the double standard of what’s good for some is not so hot for others?

The Double Standard

Some say when the rich and famous use drugs it’s cool and chic and fun. However, when poor people use drugs they’re a blight on society and, well, lock ’em up.



What is methamphetamine?

Crystal methamphetamine

Photo by DEA – Crystal methamphetamine

Methamphetamine is a stimulant drug usually used as a white, bitter-tasting powder or a pill. Crystal methamphetamine is a form of the drug that looks like glass fragments or shiny, bluish-white rocks. It is chemically similar to amphetamine [a drug used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy, a sleep disorder].

Other common names for methamphetamine include chalk, crank, crystal, ice, meth, and speed.

How do people use methamphetamine?

People can take methamphetamine by:

  • inhaling/smoking
  • swallowing (pill)
  • snorting
  • injecting the powder that has been dissolved in water/alcohol

Because the “high” from the drug both starts and fades quickly, people often take repeated doses in a “binge and crash” pattern. In some cases, people take methamphetamine in a form of binging known as a “run,” giving up food and sleep while continuing to take the drug every few hours for up to several days.

How does methamphetamine affect the brain?

Methamphetamine increases the amount of the natural chemical dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is involved in body movement, motivation, and reinforcement of rewarding behaviors. The drug’s ability to rapidly release high levels of dopamine in reward areas of the brain strongly reinforces drug-taking behavior, making the user want to repeat the experience.

Short-Term Effects

Taking even small amounts of methamphetamine can result in many of the same health effects as those of other stimulants, such as cocaine or amphetamines. These include:

  • increased wakefulness and physical activity
  • decreased appetite
  • faster breathing
  • rapid and/or irregular heartbeat
  • increased blood pressure and body temperature

How Do Manufacturers Make Methamphetamine?

Manufacturers make most of the methamphetamine found in the United States in “superlabs” here or, more often, in Mexico. But some also make the drug in small, secret labs with inexpensive over-the-counter ingredients such as pseudoephedrine, a common ingredient in cold medicines. To curb production, the law requires pharmacies and other retail stores to keep a purchase record of products containing pseudoephedrine. A person may only buy a limited amount of those products on a single day.

What are other health effects of methamphetamine?

Close-up of rotted teeth brought on by prolonged methamphetamine use.
Photo by Dozenist/CC BY-SA“Meth mouth”


Long-Term Effects

People who inject methamphetamine are at increased risk of contracting infectious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis B and C. These diseases are transmitted through contact with blood or other bodily fluids. Methamphetamine use can also alter judgment and decision-making leading to risky behaviors, such as unprotected sex, which also increases risk for infection.

Methamphetamine use may worsen the progression of HIV/AIDS and its consequences. Studies indicate that HIV causes more injury to nerve cells and more cognitive problems in people who have HIV and use methamphetamine than it does in people who have HIV and don’t use the drug.1 Cognitive problems are those involved with thinking, understanding, learning, and remembering.

Long-term methamphetamine use has many other negative consequences, including:

  • extreme weight loss
  • severe dental problems (“meth mouth”)
  • intense itching, leading to skin sores from scratching
  • anxiety
  • confusion
  • sleeping problems
  • violent behavior
  • paranoia—extreme and unreasonable distrust of others
  • hallucinations—sensations and images that seem real though they aren’t

In addition, continued methamphetamine use causes changes in the brain’s dopamine system that are associated with reduced coordination and impaired verbal learning. In studies of people who used methamphetamine over the long term, severe changes also affected areas of the brain involved with emotion and memory.2This may explain many of the emotional and cognitive problems observed in those who use methamphetamine.

Although some of these brain changes may reverse after being off the drug for a year or more, other changes may not recover even after a long period of abstinence.3 A recent study even suggests that people who used methamphetamine have an increased the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, a disorder of the nerves that affects movement.4

Are there health effects from exposure to secondhand methamphetamine smoke?

Researchers don’t yet know whether people breathing in secondhand methamphetamine smoke can get high or have other health effects. What they do know is that people can test positive for methamphetamine after exposure to secondhand smoke.5,6More research is needed in this area.

Can a person overdose on methamphetamine?

Yes, a person can overdose on methamphetamine. An overdose occurs when the person uses too much of a drug and has a toxic reaction that results in serious, harmful symptoms or death.

Methamphetamine overdose can lead to stroke, heart attack, or organ problems—such as kidney failure—caused by overheating. These conditions can result in death.

How can a methamphetamine overdose be treated?

Because methamphetamine overdose often leads to a stroke, heart attack, or organ problems, first responders and emergency room doctors try to treat the overdose by treating these conditions, with the intent of:

  • restoring blood flow to the affected part of the brain (stroke)
  • restoring blood flow to the heart (heart attack)
  • treating the organ problems

Is methamphetamine addictive?

Yes, methamphetamine is highly addictive. When people stop taking it, withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • anxiety
  • fatigue
  • severe depression
  • psychosis
  • intense drug cravings

How can people get treatment for methamphetamine addiction?

The most effective treatments for methamphetamine addiction so far are behavioral therapies, such as:

  • cognitive-behavioral therapy, which helps patients recognize, avoid, and cope with the situations in which they are most likely to use drugs
  • motivational incentives, which uses vouchers or small cash rewards to encourage patients to remain drug-free

While research is under way, there are currently no government-approved medications to treat methamphetamine addiction.

Points to Remember

  • Methamphetamine is usually a white, bitter-tasting powder or a pill. Crystal methamphetamine looks like glass fragments or shiny, bluish-white rocks.
  • Methamphetamine is a stimulant drug that is chemically similar to amphetamine (a drug used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy).
  • People can take methamphetamine by inhaling/smoking, swallowing, snorting, or injecting the drug.
  • Methamphetamine increases the amount of dopamine in the brain, which is involved in movement, motivation, and reinforcement of rewarding behaviors.
  • Short-term health effects include increased wakefulness and physical activity, decreased appetite, and increased blood pressure and body temperature.
  • Long-term health effects include risk of contracting HIV and hepatitis; severe dental problems (“meth mouth”); intense itching, leading to skin sores from scratching; violent behavior; and paranoia.
  • Researchers don’t yet know whether people breathing in secondhand methamphetamine smoke can get high or have other health effects.
  • A person can overdose on methamphetamine. Because methamphetamine overdose often leads to a stroke, heart attack, or organ problems, first responders and emergency room doctors try to treat the overdose by treating these conditions.
  • Methamphetamine is highly addictive. When people stop taking it, withdrawal symptoms can include anxiety, fatigue, severe depression, psychosis, and intense drug cravings.
  • The most effective treatments for methamphetamine addiction so far are behavioral therapies. There are currently no government-approved medications to treat methamphetamine addiction.

Learn More

For more information about methamphetamine, visit our:


  1. Chang L, Ernst T, Speck O, Grob CS. Additive effects of HIV and chronic methamphetamine use on brain metabolite abnormalities. Am J Psychiatry. 2005;162(2):361-369. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.162.2.361.
  2. Volkow ND, Chang L, Wang GJ, et al. Association of dopamine transporter reduction with psychomotor impairment in methamphetamine abusers. Am J Psychiatry. 2001;158(3):377-382. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.158.3.377.
  3. Wang G-J, Volkow ND, Chang L, et al. Partial recovery of brain metabolism in methamphetamine abusers after protracted abstinence. Am J Psychiatry. 2004;161(2):242-248. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.161.2.242.
  4. Curtin K, Fleckenstein AE, Robison RJ, Crookston MJ, Smith KR, Hanson GR. Methamphetamine/amphetamine abuse and risk of Parkinson’s disease in Utah: a population-based assessment. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2015;146:30-38. doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2014.10.027.
  5. Bassindale T. Quantitative analysis of methamphetamine in hair of children removed from clandestine laboratories–evidence of passive exposure? Forensic Sci Int. 2012;219(1-3):179-182. doi:10.1016/j.forsciint.2012.01.003.
  6. Farst K, Reading Meyer JA, Mac Bird T, James L, Robbins JM. Hair drug testing of children suspected of exposure to the manufacture of methamphetamine. J Forensic Leg Med.2011;18(3):110-114. doi:10.1016/j.jflm.2011.01.013.
Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse; National Institutes of Health; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.



It’s an opioid.

Opioids are powerful painkillers.

Heroin is highly addictive and its users crave it.

In the 1960’s, most heroin users claimed they had not used other drugs before trying heroin.

In the 2000’s, 75% of heroin users in treatment programs said they first abused prescription opioids (Oxycontin, Hydrocodone, Vicodin, etc.).

During that time period, the most commonly prescribed and abused opioid pain relievers, such as oxycodone and hydrocodone, were involved in more overdose deaths than any other opioid type.

So the government cracked down “over-prescribing” painkillers.

As a result, addicts, including some of the everyday moms and pops who’d developed their addictions due to treatments for chronic pain, etc., then turned to the easier to get and less expensive heroin.

It’s believed that 1 in 4 people in Huntington, W. Va, for example, is addicted to heroin or some other opioid.

Heroin dealers, as an attempt to increase potency, up the profits, and possibly to increase the number of addicted users, began “cutting” their products with fentanyl, the most potent opioid available for medical use. Actually, Fentanyl that’s produced in illicit clandestine labs can be up to 100 times more powerful than morphine and 30-50 times more powerful than heroin. It’s lethal even at small doses.

Needless to say, heroin mixed with Fentanyl is a deadly combination. In Massachusetts alone, the number of opioid-related deaths in the first half of 2016 was estimated to be as high as 986, a 26 percent increase over the first six months of 2015.

Now, to further add to the trouble, there’s a new “elephant” in the room—Carfentanil, a synthetic opioid thats’s so potent that just a few granules the size of grains of salt can be lethal.

Carfentanil is an analog of Fentanyl, which means it’s sort of the same synthetic drug but with a twist, and in this case the twist is that Carfentanil is one of the most potent opioids known to man—10,000 times stronger than morphine (100 times stronger than Fentanyl). It is used as a tranquilizer for large animals, such as elephants. It’s use/abuse by humans is extremely deadly. But, dealers have turned to the synthetics because they’re easy and cheap to produce, unlike having to tend to poppy fields and the subsequent conversion to morphine and heroin.

To compound this new trend, users are often buying Carfentanil laced with heroin instead of heroin laced/cut with another substance.

According to a recent Times Magazine article on the subject, approximately 300 people in just four states have overdosed within the past 30 days from heroin laced with Carfentanil and/or Fentanyl. In Hamilton County, Ohio alone, 48 people overdosed in a single day.

Since only a few specks of Carfentanil can be deadly, first responders have a fear of accidentally ingesting the drug and overdosing when helping patients.

The problem has grown to such overwhelming proportions that many police and EMS personnel now carry Narcan, a powerful nasal spray that counteracts opioid overdose. It’s use has now become so commonplace that a new slang term—Narcanned—has emerged.

“Man, I was so out of it last night the cops ‘narcanned’ me.”

“I’ve been narcanned four times in the past thirty days.”

What’s the solution? Well, I wish I had the answer because this terrible trend is hitting us all, and loved ones are dying. Because, well,  sometimes “narcanning” simply doesn’t work.


Prince died of an opioid overdose.

Fentanyl was the drug that killed the Purple Rain superstar.

Prince Rogers Nelson, who was in the process of seeking help for his chemical dependence, died as a drug addict.

There are people in this country who suffer from chronic and severe pain yet their doctors no longer prescribe narcotic pain killers because of the crackdown by the U.S. government on those drugs. Some doctors used to advise patients to not take an abundance of Ibuprofen because of the stomach issues associated with taking too much. So they prescribed drugs such as Vicodin to alleviate pain.

Now, those same doctors avoid prescribing narcotics, telling patients to take Ibuprofen instead. Therefore, those patients now live with chronic pain with very little relief from it, combined with the stomach problems—fluid retention, hypertension, headache, heartburn, rash, bleeding, constipation, gastrointestinal ulceration, nausea and diarrhea—that comes with excessive ingestion of ibuprofen.

Doctors have the difficult task of managing effective pain management using drugs that easily cause addiction. It’s a darned if you do/darned if you don’t, catch-22 situation. And, with the government breathing down the necks of physicians, it’s become mostly a “you don’t” situation.

But, it seems as if patients with lots of money and fame, like Prince, are easily able to get their hands on prescription narcotics, such as Fentanyl and, of course, the doctor-prescribed propofol that took the life of Michael Jackson.

As with any profession, there are people who abuse their authority, and medicine is not exempt from bad people. So yes, unfortunately, there are indeed physicians who allow fame and greed to cloud their judgement, and it is those doctors who’ll open their prescription pads to the powerful and/or famous people under their care. With that said, I’m not saying that’s what happened in the case surrounding Prince’s death, but it’s possible. After all, he was an addict and the people around him knew this was so. It was no secret.


Heroin/Fentanyl pills

Fentanyl is a powerful but synthetic pain killer that’s far stronger than morphine. Ironically, though, it’s a schedule II drug, a step lower than marijuana on the DEA’s official list/schedule of dangerous drugs.

While used to manage and treat the pain of post-surgery patients and chronic sufferers, Fentanyl is also a popular street drug. For those users, the drug is often called names such as fent, China girl, dance fever, murder 8, and TNT.

Fifty times stronger than heroin, Fentanyl is a killer not totally unlike an armed assailant who targets a weak victim.

This killer drug is found both as a pharmaceutical and as a black-market drug. Users and addicts often mix Fentanyl with heroin for a more explosive experience. Some even squeeze the Fentanyl from prescription patches and then mix the extracted gel with heroin. Others place the patches into a microwave where they’re heated to the point that users are able to suck the melted Fentanyl directly into a syringe.

There are numerous methods of ingesting prescription fentanyl, including cutting the patches into thin strips and then placing those strips between the gums, lips, and cheeks. The absorption into the system is much like nicotine consumption when using the smokeless tobacco products that one places between the cheek and gum. There’s even a Fentanyl lollipop/lozenge available. One of the side effects of using the sugar-infused lollipops is dental decay, like that’s a major worry for addicts.

The High

  • A private joy.
  • A warmth that filled my body like no other.
  • Sheer pleasure.

The above are comments made by opioid users I’ve encountered over the years. But there’s one that stuck in the front of my mind and it was said to me by a man named Jerome, who I found sitting on a bench outside a courtroom door. Jerome was an addict who was no stranger to the courtroom. With a few minutes to kill before my first case was called, I asked him why he continued to use a drug that was ruining his life and could eventually kill him. His lips split into a faint grin and then he said, “Imagine the most intense orgasm you’ve ever had, then multiply it a thousand times. That’s how it feels just as the stuff starts winding it’s way through your system. Then it really starts to get good. So yeah, that’s why I do it.”

Jerome wore an orange jumpsuit and handcuffs and ankle chains. He was nervous, scared, and he was an addict. He was also once a dear friend of mine. Our bond began when we were teammates on our school football squad. We were the meanest linebackers around and together we were practically unbeatable. In fact, it wasn’t unusual at all for an opposing team to go scoreless against us, and part of that success was due to Jerome’s and my (mostly Jerome) hard hits at the middle of the line, along with our regular sackings of quarterbacks.

Back in the day, Jerome was big and muscular and could run as fast as a frightened deer. He also carried a high GPA. The guy was smart, bright, and popular. He didn’t smoke, nor did he drink alcohol. And he was quite outspoken when he came to condemning drug use. He had hopes of getting out of the projects and attending the University of North Carolina, and possibly a career in the NFL.

My friend was a bit vain, though. He spent a lot of time grooming in front of mirrors. He carried an Afro pick in his back pocket and frequently pulled it out to work on his hair, and he was forever mopping and rubbing lotion on his arms and face until his molasses-colored skin shone like new money. His perfectly-aligned teeth gleamed like the white keys on a new Steinway. And, for a big, beefy and manly guy, he smelled a bit like lavender garnished with a hint of coconut.

There in the courthouse, though, Jerome appeared weak and sickly. He was rail thin and his complexion was muddy. The whites of his once bright eyes were the color of rotting lemons. His hands shook, and his teeth, the remaining ones, were plastered with black pits of rot and decay. His breath smelled like a week-old animal carcass. His fingernails were bitten to the quick, and his hair was dry, uncombed, had bits of lint and jail-blanket fuzz scattered throughout, and it was flat on one side like he’d been asleep for days without changing positions. He smelled like he’d not showered for at least a month.

I took a seat beside Jerome, with my gun side away from him, of course. He clasped his hands over his belly, stretched his gangly legs out in front of him, and he started talking, telling me about the first time he got high and about the last time he used, and he spoke about everything between. He told me about about the things he stole to support his habit and he told me about breaking into his own grandmother’s house to take a few of her most prized possession, things he traded to his dealer in exchange for drugs.

Jerome told me he performed oral sex on men out at the rest area beside the highway. They, the many, many nameless truckers and travelers, had given him ten dollars each time he entered one of the stalls to do the deed. He described the urine smell and how disgusted he was with himself when he felt the knees of his pants grow wet from contacting whatever was on the tile floor at the time. But whatever it took to get the next high was what he’d do.

Once, a man asked him for anal sex. He was desperate, so he agreed. Jerome said he was to earn twenty-dollars for enduring that painful and humiliating experience, all the while knowing the people in nearby stalls could hear what was going on. He said he’d read the graffiti on the wall above the toilet as a means to take his mind off the obese man behind him. When it was over the man pulled up his pants and left Jerome in the stall, crying. The man didn’t pay.

Jerome told me that he wasn’t gay. Despised having sex with men is what he said, but he did it for the high, even though he often vomited afterward when recalling what he’d done. But the drug was more important. It was THE most important thing in his life.


My high-school buddy’s habit cost him a thousand-dollars each day, seven days a week, unless he wasn’t able to produce the funds. Then he’d grow sick with the sickest feeling on earth. He’d hurt to his very core. Even his bones hurt. He’d sweat and he’d vomit … and vomit and vomit and vomit until the hurt in his gut was like someone was using a hundred power drills and another hundred jackhammers to assault his insides. His heart would slam against his chest wall like a sledgehammer pounding railroad stakes into hard-packed Georgia clay.

Then he’d drop to his knees in another restroom, or steal another something that would help make it all go away until the next time. And he’d do it over and over and over again.

Jerome was lucky. He was caught by a deputy sheriff who was passing by a house and saw Jerome climbing out—feet first—from a bedroom window.

He was awaiting arraignment the day I saw him sitting on the bench outside the courtroom door. A dozen or so other jail inmates occupied the nearby seats.

Jerome asked if I would call his grandmother to tell her he said he was sorry for all he’d done, and that he was starting to feel better and was ready to seek help as soon as he was back on the outside. I told him I’d tell her. Actually, I went one step further and stopped by her house to tell her in person.

Now, I said Jerome was lucky, and I say this because going to jail prevented him from using the drug he grown to so desperately depend upon. His body ached for it, yes, but he beat the sickness and lived.

Unfortunately, Prince died because of that same ache.


Drugs, Not Money, Are the Root of All Evil – Chapter 11 of Police Procedure and Investigation



Top photo – A brick of fentanyl.

* Drug photos courtesy of the DEA.

We've come a long way baby


Country music legend Loretta Lynn knows how to step up to the mic and belt out a tune, and her songs normally tell a story of heartbreak, heartache, and every other “cry-in-your-beer” type of tale imaginable. She’s also crooned about change, especially where a woman’s rights are concerned. A great example is her song, We’ve Come A Long Way, Baby.

I’m thinking Lynn’s song title could also apply to the evolving laws in the U.S. regarding marijuana use, possession, and sales. After all, this country has come a long way since Nixon’s drug war began. A war that, in my opinion, hasn’t worked since day one. And this is especially true regarding marijuana. I say this because I was once soldier in that fight, spending countless hours trekking through thick woods, underbrush, poison oak and ivy, searching for pot growing operations. Sure, I like many investigators, was pretty darn good at finding the telltale signs and following them to plants as small as tiny shoots to nearly 20-foot tall green giants. Then, after I found what I was looking for, I’d set up surveillance on the sites and, when I had enough information and when the time was just right, I and a team of officers raided the operation(s).

In fact, the leaf pictured above is one from a rather large operation I found after seeing a man standing on the side of a country road. He was doing nothing wrong. Had nothing in his hands. Didn’t even look suspicious. But he was standing on the side of the road in an area where the nearest house was probably five miles away in either direction. Of course, I wasn’t driving a marked police car, nor did I look like a cop. So I stopped and asked if he needed a ride. He declined, saying he was walking to “the store” and that he expected his girlfriend to come by any second. To me he was a huge red flag. My intuitive radar was beeping in high gear.

So I continued on my way, but planned to come back after dark and see what I could find. I had someone drop me off near where I saw the man standing and off I went, creeping along through the woods. After two hours and a few dozen mosquito bites and cuts and scrapes from briars, I found what I was looking for, a creek. I knew growers needed a water supply, so I followed the narrow stream until I reached the “pot” of gold, a huge plot of marijuana plants.

A nighttime photo of me standing among the hundreds of marijuana plants I found that night. No, my head is not that tall. I quickly stuck the cap on top of my head so some sort of badge showed up for the evidence photo. Believe me, I totally disliked wearing a hat.

To make a long story short, I later arrested the growers, found a packaging operation on their property, along with numerous pounds of dried and drying marijuana. We go to court and the judge slaps them on the wrist and lets them go. No telling how much time, effort, manpower, technology, and money went into that one investigation alone. And there were, and still are, many of those police investigations going on today across the country.

You know, I’ve often thought I’d live to see the day when marijuana was taken off the list of illegal drugs. At the very least, I truly expected to see it reduced to a classification lower than Schedule I, the group that includes drugs such as heroin. Even cocaine is classified lower than marijuana. Why is marijuana at the top of the list? Who knows?

Well, as we all know, the will of the voting public has been heard in Colorado and Washington, with New York following at their heels. Those two states have legalized marijuana for recreational use. I expect we’ll see more states adjusting their marijuana laws in the near future.

I’m thinking pot smokers everywhere should, at the very least, think about Loretta Lynn as they fire up their newly-legal bongs, because, as her lyrics say, “Times have changed and I’m demanding satisfaction, too. We’ve come a long way, baby.”

How about you? Do you think the country is moving in the right direction? Should marijuana be made legal?


background: #bd081c no-repeat scroll 3px 50% / 14px 14px; position: absolute; opacity: 1; z-index: 8675309; display: none; cursor: pointer; top: 596px; left: 20px;”>Save



The party was a blast and you drank a little of everything in sight, including a swallow from the host’s aquarium. Sure, it was a dare, and you spit the goldfish back into the tank, but that should’ve been the first hint that you’d consumed a wee bit too much alcohol. But it wasn’t. Neither was carrying on a conversation with the coat rack and kissing your boss goodbye before stumbling outside where you relieved yourself into a bed of pansies while singing a medley of Celine Dion tunes.

You weren’t drunk. No, not you. At least that’s what your lips were saying while your brain was doing its best to tread water in a whirlpool of beer, whiskey, rum, and tequila. So you got behind the wheel of your prized VW and headed for home. Where you ended up, though, was at the police station, thanks to a few wrong turns and “misunderstandings” with dancing streetlights, mailboxes that insisted on playing chicken with your front bumper, and the row of hedges that used to be a part of the new landscaping in the front yard of the mayor’s house.

So there you sat, quietly humming Lady Gaga’s latest, while a red-faced police officer who, by the way, couldn’t be much older than your kids, fiddled with some sort of gadget while asking you questions. Too many questions, actually. And why, you wondered, did he keep looking at his watch?

Now he’s asking you to…this is ridiculous. You refuse to cooperate with his little test. What’s the worst that could happen? Well…

The scenario above may sound a bit silly, but it happens more often that you’d think. Here are the steps to conducting a breath test on a person who’s suspecting of driving under the influence of alcohol (this is after all the roadside tests have been conducted and the driver is indeed suspected of being under the influence of alcohol).

*These steps apply to the Commonwealth of Virginia. As always, procedures and laws may vary in other areas. By the way, operators/officers conducting the tests must be licensed by the Division of Forensic Sciences. Not all police officers are licensed to conduct the tests.

The procedure:

– The officer must observe the suspect for a minimum of 20 minutes prior to the test. This is so the officer can be certain the suspect has not burped, belched, consumed any additional alcohol, eaten, or consumed beverages of any type.

– the operator presses the enter key on the device, starting a test sequence.

– operator swipes their license through the slot on the device, which then displays their individual information – name, agency, license number, etc.

– operator swipes the suspect’s drivers license, which records their information and enters it in the appropriate lines of the final certificate of analysis. Those without a license require manual entry of information.

– auto testing sequence and purging of the machine is complete at this point. If there is a reading outside the allowable values the testing must be terminated.

– after a few self-check messages, a prompt of “Please blow until the tone stops” begins flashing on the screen.

– the prompt flashes for three minutes, or until the subject blows into the mouthpiece.

– subject blows into the mouthpiece.

– a portion of the breath is then collected into a fuel cell where it is analyzed.

– the mouthpiece is removed and the device purges and waits for the next sample.

– after a two minute wait, and watching the subject to be sure he/she hasn’t burped, etc., a new prompt displays and the operator installs a new mouthpiece.

– the prompt “please blow” appears on the display

The machine provides the data from the two tests and the result used as the official number (blood alcohol content – BAC) is the lowest of the two tests. A certificate of analysis is printed.

Next on the agenda is usually a night spent in jail. By the way, refusing to take the breath test can result in a 12-month suspension of your drivers license and, you could still be found guilty of the DUI if the officer testifies to his observations of your actions during field sobriety tests, etc.

Driving is a privilege, not a right, and everyone who is issued a license to drive (in Va.) implicitly agrees to submit to a breath test when they’re suspected of driving under the influence. No exceptions.

Alcohol Facts

1. Between 90% and 98% of alcohol is oxidized in the liver.

2. Only a small amount of alcohol is excreted through perspiration, the breath, and urine – 2% – 10%

3. The body starts to eliminate alcohol the minute it enters the liver via the blood system. The rate of elimination from the body is between .015 to .018 g/210L per hour, depending, of course, on factors such as disease, drug use, and exercise. Urination and perspiration have no effect on the rate of elimination. Sex and weight also have little to do with the rate of elimination.


Terrorists moonlight


Is it possible that when not bombing, raping, and killing innocent people, terrorists are hard at work pruning, weeding, and planting? Have they secretly attended colleges and earned degrees in ornamental horticulture?

Well, law enforcement officials in some areas believe there’s a direct connection between terrorism and the flowering evergreen shrub Khat (pictured above).

The Texas Department of Public Safety launched a large scale investigation into the sales of Khat and its possible connection to African terrorist organizations such as al-Shabaab. They believe the sales of the chewable plant benefit and support the terrorist groups.

Khat (pronounced “cot”) is native to East Africa and nearby areas. The plant is legal to grow, possess, and ingest in many countries. However, it is illegal to possess in the U.S., Germany, and Canada. Khat produces the chemicals Cathine and Cathinone. Cathine is a Schedule IV drug, while Cathinone, which similar to some amphetamines, is classified as a schedule I drug. Schedule I drugs have no known medicinal value in the U.S. Heroin and LSD are also in the schedule I class of drugs. And, almost unbelievably, marijuana is still classified as a schedule I drug, while cocaine and methamphetamine are a step below in Schedule II.

Users of Khat chew the plant’s leaves, stems, and twigs, much like tobacco chewers use their product. Leaves are also brewed as tea, dried and sprinkled onto food, and they’re even smoked to achieve the desired result.

Khat seized by the DEA

Khat is a stimulant and the high from using it is similar to that produced by methamphetamine and cocaine.

A man prepares Khat for a night of chewing and tea drinking with friends

The effects of Khat on the body are an increase in blood pressure and pulse, a brown staining of the teeth (chewing), stomach and other gastric troubles, and like cocaine and meth use…insomnia. Users may also experience exhaustion, paranoia, hallucinations, difficulty breathing, loss of appetite, and mild to extreme hyperactivity.

Dried Khat leaves

Khat has been found in some bath salts, the synthetic drug once sold legally in many convenience stores other shops.

Bath salts are now illegal in the U.S.

Bath salts have been linked to suicide, homicide, self-inflicted injury, delusions, and child-endangerment.