Methamphetamine is one of the more dangerous drugs on the street. The manufacture of meth in clandestine labs uses acids, ammonias, and a host of other dangerous chemicals. During the process, things like phosphene gas and yellow phosphorus can be produced with deadly results. It is a nasty process.
As dangerous as the meth lab operation is, for most police officers the danger from meth comes from dealing with the methamphetamine user. Meth users are responsible for violence toward themselves, family members, friends, strangers, and each other. Headlines such as “Father Beheads 14-Year-Old Son” are, unfortunately, a by-product of meth use.
The abuse of methamphetamine tends to go in a cycle, with the user being most dangerous when they are tweaking. During the “tweaking” phase, the abuser is driven into a severe depression, followed by extreme paranoia and aggression. The tweaker’s behavior is very unpredictable, and the effects of tweaking are intensified by other depressants, such as alcohol.
A tweaker may appear normal at first blush. Their eyes are clear and their speech is concise. However, their eyes are moving at about 10 times faster than normal. Their may be a quiver to their voice. Often the tweaker’s movements will be jerky. The tweaker may be saying weird, delusional, or paranoid things.
If you, a police officer, encounters someone you believe is tweaking, here are a few tips that can help keep you safe:
- Get backup enroute. If violence erupts, you want your backup officers already on-scene or already enroute.
- Maintain a reactionary gap. A seven to ten foot gap is a good minimum. This allows you slightly more time to react if the tweaker becomes violent. Almost as important, this does not “crowd” the tweaker. Keep in mind that he is paranoid, and by standing close to him, he feels crowded and his feelings of paranoia are intensified.
- Slow your rate of speech and lower the pitch of your voice.
- Slow your movements. Try to avoid any sudden moving.
- Avoid shining lights in his face. Bright lights can be very frightening to a tweaker. Bright lights can cause a tweaker to spontaneously fight or run.
- Keep the tweaker talking. If he is talking, he is not listening to the paranoid voices in his head. A silent tweaker often means his paranoia has encroached into reality. You are now part of his paranoid delusions, which could mean violence against you is imminent.