WASHINGTON — A relatively cheap drug once used mainly by motorcycle gangs but now growing in popularity is becoming a priority target of the Clinton administration's anti-narcotics strategy.
Methamphetamine, a home-brewed concoction known by the nicknames meth, crank, and speed, is the fastest-growing drug problem in much of the far West and Southwest. With roots in California, the drug has quickly spread into Oregon, Washington, and Arizona.
President Clinton announced the crackdown at a press conference yesterday. Some authorities say the drug is to the 1990s what cocaine was to the '80s. But meth is cheaper than cocaine and more available.
Officials blame meth for a panoply of health risks as well as greater incidence of domestic violence and child abuse in users' families. They also point to danger to public health and the environment from labs that "cook" the drug.
Use is heaviest in areas around Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Diego, and San Francisco, but the drug also has become available in wholesale quantities in some Midwestern areas and is encroaching on the South. Most is smuggled into the US from Mexico by gangs.
Law-enforcement seizures of the drug were up about eightfold between 1991 and 1995.
Mr. Clinton's new antidrug strategy includes a specific battle plan against meth.
"The entire problem needs a comprehensive, frontal, and immediate attack," an administration official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "This is something that can be contained and better than that, even reduced."
Meth is a mix of many common materials, including asthma medicine, and other chemicals readily available in gasoline, rubbing alcohol, pool-cleaning supplies, or drain cleaners.