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The new way of making meth is strik ingly simple, and, as a result, a human scale conversion has taken place beside the chemical one. Users become cooks almost as easily as Sudafed is trans formed into crank. “I equate it to the old moonshiners, that’s what we’re deal ing with now,” says Bill Coombs, a chemical dependency counselor who works with people on probation in Clay, Archer, and Montague counties. styrofoam cup, and finally got around to the subject of Nazi meth. Who had heard of it? What was it? Did anyone have friends or family members with drug problems? “I’ve heard about it,” volunteered an older man. “The stuff’s readily available. It’s hard to catch it, to my understanding.” “It used to be cocaine that everybody thought was the biggest problem,” said another man, “Now it’s meth. Drugs are the biggest problem facing Clay County right now.” Rush proceeded from person to person, and about every second or third one said that a close friend or family member had a drug or alcohol problem. At least half of those mentioned methamphetamine. “A friend of mine from high school has a big drug problem.” “My brother’s into speed. He’s in denial about it.” “I have a cousin who’s on meth right now and it’s broken up the family.” “I’ve got friends who make the stuff.” “My baby brother is in prison for it.” “I had some employees who stole from me. They were involved in drugs.” “Some very close family members have a problem with meth. I’m not sure I can be objective about it.” The trial itself never happened: After jury selection, Rush managed to have Seale’s confession to the police excluded on a technicality. The assistant D.A. lowered the state’s plea offer , to 20 years from 25, and Seale took it. I later remarked to Rush that, given all the personal stories they’d told, the jurors had seemed as if they might have extended some sympathy toward Sealewho’d had marital problems, sunk into a depression, started taking speed with a neighbor, and then started making it himself. “Yeah, I think I could have gotten 30 to 40 years for my client,” she said, noting that because Seale had a prior conviction for shooting with intent to injure, the jury’s store of sympathy would have been limited. Then Rush said she’d been surprised by the extent of the courtroom testimonials. “It is bad in Clay County. I’ve never gotten almost half of the prospective jurors. And most of these, it was meth.” Methamphetamine itself is not new to the region. From the time of their introduction in the 1920s until the 1970s, amphetamines were liberally prescribed by doctors and marketed by pharmaceutical companies all over the country. \(The pharmaceutical company Smith, Kline, and French introduced amphetamine in the 1920s as a substitute for ephedrine, which was already in use as a decongestant. Methamphetamine was introduced a few years later. Over the next couple of decades, accepted clinical uses for amphetamines included treatment of schizophrenia, addiction to painkillers, head injuries, infantile cerebral palsy, radiation amounts of the drugs were diverted into the black market, which swelled in the 1960s as speed use escalated, prompting Congress to enact laws to stem illicit sales in 1965. It was then that clandestine labs really started to proliferate, many of them large-scale. The region between Dallas and Oklahoma City, with its ready access to interstate highways and its miles of unpatrolled farm and ranch lands, became home to more than its share of “P2P” labs, named after one of the precursor chemicals, phenyl-2-propanone. Back then the manufacturing process required some chemical savvy, it smelled much worse than the Nazi method, and it took a few days; speed cooks would go out into the country and come back with a pound or two. In North Texas it was, i4 part, a kind of oilfield supply business: Roughnecks commonly took speed to get through their shifts of 12 hours and longer. “Up through the early ’90s North Texas was the methamphetamine capital of the world, back when they made the `good meth,'” says Bill Coombs, the chemical dependency counselor. “Then the precursors were made illegal, and so the supply of methamphetamine almost dried up. It was fairly expensive until this new method came about.” \(The changes in speed manufacturing techniques over the years are a textbook case of regulation-inspired evolution. Each time the government manages to clamp down on one version of the drug, an easier manufacturing method emerges, often affected not just the drug’s availability, but its palpability, the sense of its presence in small communities. Because the 5/11101 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 11